The woman has suffered from bodily and social pain for eighteen years. She has been victimized and abused as a sinner by the religious leaders. She has been exiled, rejected, despised, and denied her full humanity.
When Jesus sees her, he lifts her up to the highest status in Jewish society. He declares her a “daughter of Abraham” and names the source of her suffering as not her own sins but the binding of Satan. When Jesus is rebuked for healing on the sabbath, he shames the religious leaders for their lack of compassion—that they would value rules over human life and suffering. He calls them hypocrites. He teaches them and all of us that keeping sabbath is about more than refraining from physical labor. Jesus teaches that sabbath is the practice of shalom—love in action. God’s reign comes into our midst on the sabbath to divinely and outrageously interrupt our lives.
Walter Brueggemann writes in his book Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now that sabbath requires being neighbor to all without distinction. Sabbath means joining with God to co-create in God’s reign. Jesus’ healing of the unnamed woman reminds us of God’s great reversal, that the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40) become the first to receive God’s grace. When others see Jesus putting God’s reign into action, “the entire crowd, rejoic[es] at all the wonderful things that he [is] doing.”
How might you live sabbath beyond just obeying it?
Lord of sabbath, may I rest in you for the rest of my days, when sabbath is fulfilled in me. Amen.
The readings in Jeremiah and Psalm 71 are repeated in a pair from earlier in the year (January 28—February 3). They describe the authors’ confidence that God has had plans for their lives since even before they were born. God similarly knows each one of us and has a calling on our lives. The reading in Hebrews gives us confidence in the permanence of the kingdom of God, to which we have access through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are not to take this lightly; we should worship God with due respect. In a synagogue on the sabbath, Jesus teaches a lesson about mercy. When he encounters a woman in need, he places her need above religious regulations. If religious traditions trump mercy, then our priorities are out of alignment.
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10. How do the children in your life live out God’s call on their lives?
Read Psalm 71:1-6. How do you continually praise God as your refuge?
Read Hebrews 12:18-29. How do you discern what is required of you in praising God in the new covenant?
Read Luke 13:10-17. How do you observe the sabbath now? What sabbath practice might you start that puts God’s reign into action?
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