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Sunday 21st January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Third Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant and Preacher: Rev'd Nathanial

Sunday 28th January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant: Rev'd Nathanial
Preacher: Jack Noonan

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21st August 2016 – Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity – Rev’d Nathanial Nathanial

Bible Readings: Isaiah 58. 9-14; Hebrews 12. 18-29; Luke 13. 10-17


Three passages from the Bible have been read before us; from the book of Isaiah, book of Hebrews and Gospel according to Luke. I would mainly focus on the Gospel passage (Luke 13:10-17). Luke has been showing the mounting division between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus is resolutely heading toward Jerusalem and the cross (9:51). Luke has repeatedly emphasized Jesus’ teaching ministry (4:16-21, 31-32, 43; 5:17; 6:6, 17-49; 8:1; 9:11). Here, again, we find Jesus teaching. It must have been wonderful to listen to Jesus expound the Word of God! But even though Jesus was the most gifted Teacher who has ever spoken, those with hardened hearts resisted His message. On this particular Sabbath, there must have been a special excitement at the synagogue, where the crippled woman might have regularly visited the worship. A Galilean preacher and prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, had arrived in town and would be teaching there. She and the others in town must have heard about Jesus–how he talked about God’s reign arriving soon and how he healed sick people.

Our weaknesses/ deficiencies shouldn’t lessen our faith

Let us think about her a little. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. The woman had been crippled like this for 18 years! She could not stand at all, could not sit comfortably and could not lie down except on her side. Walking was difficult for her. But what had caused her illness? She was crippled by a spirit. This was a satanic attack that affected her body. Certainly, she must have suffered emotionally and spiritually. She might have often felt discouraged and depressed. Yet she still worshipped, she still was there in the synagogue on the Sabbath. She still listened to God’s Word. She still had faith. Probably the woman was a sincere believer in the Lord. Jesus refers to her as ‘daughter of Abraham’. The woman’s decided faith is probably indicated by the fact of her presence. Think of the many excuses that she could have come up with to stay away! But in spite of these and many other potential excuses, she was there to worship God.

We must be aware of Satan’s devices

Luke mentions that her condition was caused by a demon. There are many different symptoms mentioned in the Bible that were caused by demon activity: Matthew 9:32-33, dumbness; Matthew 12:22, blindness; Matthew 17:14-18, seizures; Luke 4:33, 8:26, mental disorders, insanity, and abnormal strength. This, of course, does NOT mean that these conditions are ALWAYS demonic in source. But the Bible clearly says that this condition was. This should teach us that Satan is a real and very busy enemy.

So we must be aware and armoured, because Satan does not play fair or come out in the open. He sets traps, hides behind fun games, self, development philosophies, even religion. He actively works to fragment our families, to destroy relationships, to cultivate selfishness and independence from God, to make us doubt God’s Word and distrust God’s character.

This woman had been the target of demonic attack for 18 years but it had not destroyed her faith. She was still worshipping God on the Sabbath.

Peter warns us of that: 1 Peter 5:8. Likewise, Paul tells us about our armor—our protection— in Ephesians 6:10-14.

Luke 13:12 I want to draw your attention on Jesus’ words which He spoke to this woman in the last part of verse 12 Then He spoke:“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” He spoke these few words; let us notice the words Jesus used? He did not say healed. He used a word that is translated in other places, “put away, let go, set at liberty and released.” She had been bound by Satan and Jesus set her free. (We will come back to this later)

The chairman of the board of elders (the ruler of the synagogue) was very displeased and scolded the people. I think he was just a little afraid of openly attacking Jesus directly after such a display of supernatural power. God had made the Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week, our Saturday, a holy day, set apart to worship Him. There were 3 major reasons given for Israel to keep the Sabbath.

  1. It followed God’s example of doing the work of creation in 6 days and resting on the seventh. (Exodus 20:8-11)

  2. It commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, where they never had a day off and could not worship their own God. God gave them the Sabbath to show them that they were free people, free to rest from their labour and free to worship their God. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

  3. It was a sign of the covenant given from Sinai between God and Israel. God had given them a day-off a week for worship, joy, freedom and rest. (Exodus 31:13)

But 1500 years later it had evolved, by the addition of hundreds of restrictions, into a legalistic bondage that was more concerned with external behavior than with human freedom. The religious leaders watched Jesus like a hawk because He was always violating their man-made rules of Sabbath.

Jesus healing on the Sabbath and Jewish Opposition is one of the themes of the Gospels

Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12).

Another time, He reminded them that, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, NIV)

Jesus claimed authority over even the interpretation and observation of the Sabbath. Why not? Was not He the One who had established it in the first place?

Now here, He was doing it again! The ruler had rebuked Jesus by scolding the people and Jesus answered him. HYPOCRITES! (Originally, a “hypocrite” was an actor who wore masks in Roman amphitheatre plays.) They pretended to be passionate for God, to be righteous but they were not interested in what God could do in their lives. Their hearts were cold in the face of human need. They had more compassion on their oxen and donkeys than on this poor woman. They released their animals so they could drink but objected when Jesus released this woman from the bondage of the enemy on the day that commemorated their freedom from bondage. I want to go back to the verse 12 where Jesus said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment”. Here we find Jesus restoring the true spirit of Sabbath and fulfilling the words of prophet Isaiah which were spoken concerning him. Here he fulfils His Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4 :18-19) by delivering the captives and releasing the oppressed. How wrong these men were! They claimed to represent God but they were completely the opposite. Jesus revealed the true heart of God. Jesus exposed their hypocrisy by His true revelation of the invisible God.

Let’s follow the footprints of our compassionate Lord

The leader of the synagogue probably hadn’t noticed the condition of this woman. After all, she was a woman, and the Jews ‘only’ tolerated women in religious matters. He didn’t care about the fact that this poor woman had just been healed from 18 years of a terrible affliction. What bothered him was that it had been done on the Sabbath!

By way of contrast, our Lord was full of compassion for those who hurt, especially for those who were being neglected or abused by the religious leaders. He saw the multitudes and “felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). While the men of Jesus’ day had a low view of subalterns (weak sections of the society) that led them to shut them out from spiritual matters, Jesus always had time to spend with them, to teach them the things of God and to show concern for their problems. Even though this woman was stooped over and perhaps hidden by the taller people in the crowd, Jesus saw her and took the time to call her over and deliver her from this illness. If we follow the example of our Lord we will be growing in seeing people through His eyes of compassion. Although Jesus concentrated His time on the twelve, He always had time for those who needed His tender touch.

Personal Refection

Before I end, I would like to focus on particularly two important things from the passage for personal reflection:-

First, He hates the hypocrites. So be real all the time – Live a life of transparency.

Second, let’s analyse if we are crippled in any way, be it physically, emotionally, or spiritually. We are in his House, like that woman and he will not resist healing us this time.