Luke 13.10-17 presents a contrast between the thinking of Jesus and those who are merely religious. In this account, Jesus heals a woman who was physically disabled. Luke indicates that her condition was due to a “disabling spirit” – that is, it was due to evil, spiritual forces that caused her to be severely bent over at the waist. Today, we might attribute such a physical problem to scoliosis (curvature of the spine). Yet, we must allow in our world-view the reality that not every physical problem is entirely physically based. There are spiritual issues that can manifest themselves in serious physical disorders (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30). Satan and his forces can have their hand in people’s lives when they deny God his rightful place.
Here, Luke wants to highlight the power of Jesus to overcome any such opposition. And so, he reveals that her real problem is a spiritual problem. He powerfully heals the woman. Luke’s description of Jesus freeing the woman is both physical and spiritual – with a word and a touch she is “made straight”. The word is used elsewhere for the setting up of a building or the restoration of a ruin. We should not miss the imagery. Jesus has just asked her up to the front as an object lesson of what can happen when the kingdom works and frees us from sin, self and Satan. Here is a woman who has literally been looking at the dirt for 18 years! When Christ heals and sets her free she has a totally new view. What a picture of what Jesus does with a life!
Because it happens to be on the Sabbath however, the Jewish synagogue ruler is indignant. In short, he is furious about what Jesus has done by healing on a Sabbath. However, his reaction is addressed to the crowd, not to Jesus. He intends to put Jesus ‘on the spot’. But, Jesus sees through the hypocrisy and blows this Jewish leader’s religious cover. Jesus word is so convicting and effective that Luke tells us: “ALL [Jesus’] adversaries were put to shame” (emphasis mine). He powerfully challenges the religious leader’s thinking and those like him (note the plural, “hypocrites”). How could anyone have more compassion on an animal to free it than they would to free a person made in God’s image? Jesus rightfully puts that attitude to shame. His power comes out of compassion and reveals how God thinks (cf. Mt. 9.13).
As a consequence of this healing (“he said therefore”), Jesus teaches us how the kingdom works. Just like the healing of the woman, the kingdom has the power to transform life in ways we could never imagine. Sometimes, the kingdom looks “deceptively weak and impotent” but it possesses the ability to free us from bondage. Steve Andrews offers these practical words regarding the freedom we have in Christ:
Spiritual freedom is not dependent upon physical circumstances that may have led or contributed to your bondage. Jesus can set you free in your marriage without causing a divorce. Jesus can set you free when you are overdrawn in your checkbook without making a deposit. Jesus can set you free from past or current failures without loading a U-haul truck. Don’t misunderstand this concept to mean something it doesn’t. We may need to make, and Christ may lead us to make, some physical or circumstantial changes. But, one of the main truths of divine freedom is Jesus is more concerned about setting your soul free than defeating the Roman Empire or some other external force in your life.
The kingdom is Christ’s rule and reign. Jesus uses two parables to explain what just happened to this woman and to those who experience the kingdom like she did. So, a small seed is planted and ultimately becomes a tree. A bit of leaven is put into dough and eventually works all the way through it. In the same way, what starts out small and possibly unnoticed in terms of the kingdom, is due to expand and grow and permeate your life and mine as God does his work. Small beginnings can have great endings. This is what happens when we allow the kingdom to work effectively in us. Transformation occurs. When we look back, we are amazed at where it all started and how God has brought us to a new place in Christ. The possibilities are as large as the kingdom. As Paul states later in his letter to the Colossians, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1.13). This is a good place to be.