Authored by Lou Geense
Read: Luke 13:10-17
vs.12 – When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”
I remember well speaking at the Anglican Church in Mwanza, Tanzania. The structure of the church was built in such a way that you could feel like you were speaking to two congregations, yet they could not see each other. That morning I was speaking to the English congregation, mostly a white crowd. Part was through the message she walked in looking very dishevelled. It was fairly evident that she was a street person. Unfortunately, she was gone before the service was over.
I wondered how many times she had dawned the doors of the church building, and I wondered if anyone ever spoke to her. She was much like the woman in our text today. Everyone probably knew the woman as the bent-over woman. She came to worship at the synagogue regularly. But she was recognized by her condition, not her identity as a child of God or even by her name.
Her neighbours most likely saw her through eyes of pity. The religious leaders saw her as an example of someone who was not right with God and deserved her plight. It is not stated, however I believe she came to the synagogue every Sabbath, crippled with pain, bent over in shame. She was thirsty for being known as a person, a person who longed for God and for the living water of healing from God. Yet no one paid attention or really saw her. For eighteen years the religious leaders failed to pray with her on the six days when they had every opportunity to anoint her with oil and pray for God’s healing. They were more focused on keeping their religious rules than seeing the need to bring a daughter of Israel before the mercy seat of God.
But Jesus saw her. She was not just another face in the crowd or the bend over woman. When he called her forward, she might have thought he meant someone else. But Jesus was speaking to her, and I imagine she slowly shuffled toward him, who saw her as a prisoner in need of being set free from her burden. How do we see people? Do we see people that are burdened and distressed? Do we bring them to Jesus for healing? In what ways can you offer comfort and prayer for someone like that today? We have the right and privilege of praying for and believing that Jesus is willing to bring healing to all their needs.
Jesus, so often we work hard to keep up appearances, and we sidestep opportunities for compassion. Forgive me and help me to see people as they are and to show mercy to people in need. In your name, Amen.