Lectionary Reflection for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 13:10-17:

Luke BTCBIn this bent-over woman, the beauty and dignity of her created humanity have been defaced for eighteen years. The proximate cause is described by Luke as “a spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11), a term that can cover considerable territory.

Jesus looks at her, calls her to come to him, simply says, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity” (13:12), lays hands on her, and “immediately” (parachrēma), as Luke likes to say, she straightens up and, now erect, gives glory to God (13:13). There is here no address to sin and forgiveness—just a compassionate, instant healing. It must have been stunning for those present.

But not for one, namely the ruler of the synagogue. He is angry; perhaps, as Cyril says, “He condemns the miracle that he might appear jealous for the Sabbath.” Of his sympathy for the woman in her suffering, gratitude for her healing, or empathy with her giving praise to God, there is not a hint. . . .

There may or may not be a direct personal cause in her own life, but there cannot help but be a cause of evil and suffering to which she is heir as a member of the human race: she is one “whom Satan has bound . . . for eighteen years.” Now she is “loosed” on the Sabbath, symbolically the day of rest for creation that returns it to God’s intended šālôm, his health and peace (13:16).

There are here echoes of the deep meaning of the Sabbath that had become lost, it seems, to such as this synagogue ruler; the Sabbath spirit of Exod. 20:8-11—which suggests a renewal of and delight in God’s creation, its beauty and fruitfulness (isa. 58:13-14)—should have set the tone for his response to what he saw. . .

Augustine’s allegorical or spiritual reading of the woman herself in this light is most appropriate. At one level, she symbolizes Israel, bowed down with the burden of its iniquities. But at another, he suggests, “the whole human race is like this woman, bent over and bowed down to the ground” (Sermon 162).

At the personal or immediate level, it makes little difference, as Cyril says, whether she suffered “because of her own crimes or for the transgression of Adam”; Satan often, as Cyril notes, receives authority over certain persons because of their sins, and, as Augustine has it, this certainly applies to the human race as a whole—even to the very creation itself, which, in Paul’s words, “groans and labors with birth pangs together until now . . . waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22-23).

In this added light we can see the healing of the bent-over woman anagogically, as a sign of the ultimate Sabbath rest, the final redemption of those for whom Christ died.


©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.