Sermon Series: Lord, I want to be better
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
Have you ever wondered why should I go to church? Well, according to the Bible there are many reasons why we should go to church, but I will lift up three primary reasons. The first reason comes from David in 1 Chronicles 16:29, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.” David like his ancestors before him recognized that the church is the house of God and the place where God dwells. God invites us into His house to spend time in His presence to glorify and celebrate Him for who He is and what He has done in the lives of His people. When we come we are not to come empty handed, but we are to bring a gift, the same as if we visited the home of a friend, as a tangible expression of our gratitude to God for His goodness to us. The second reason we should go to church is found in Ephesians 4:11-13, “It was He (Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” According to the apostle Paul it is important for God’s people to receive regular teaching and training so that they can be equipped to carryout God’s work. We discover a third reason in Hebrews 10:25, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” The writer underscores the need for coming together or fellowship with one another. Fellowship provides the forum for us to encourage, draw strength and hope from each other so that collectively and individually we can face and fight the various challenges we encounter.
A greater sense of purpose is one of the benefits to knowing and understanding the Biblical perspective or rationale for why we are here. When you and I understand why we need to do something it makes it easier to do. Problems, issues, and confusion arise when we are not clear about our purpose or the goals and objectives we are striving toward. This much is clear the woman in the synagogue in Luke 13 knew and understood why she was in church. In addition to glorifying God, receiving Christ’s teaching, and coming together with other believers, she also had a condition that she believed Jesus could heal and deliver her from. What we know about her condition is that she “had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years” and “She was bent over and could not straighten up.” As we read Dr. Luke’s description of the woman’s malady at least two pictures emerge. The first is of a woman who was suffering from a debilitating physical condition. The second is that Satan had a hand in causing her condition and keeping her in her condition. The prevailing thought in Judaism was that sickness and illness was the work of the devil. However, in the gospel of John chapter nine Jesus helps us to understand that not every infirmity is the work of the devil. Some illnesses just happen or occur. In other words, there are some instances where illness is part of the normal course of life. However, in this woman’s case Satan had a hand in and was a contributing factor to her condition.
One of the challenges and shortcomings within western culture is the disavowing of the influence, power and presence of Satan. Perhaps this is a reason why Dr. Luke includes the caveat about Satan in this text. Luke is attempting to aid believers in raising our level of awareness regarding the devil’s activity within our affairs. C.S. Lewis in the “Screwtape Letters” points out, “It is funny how mortals always picture us (devils) as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. In another citation, Screwtape says to his devil assistant “Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves.” Satan understands that if we ignore, fail to acknowledge, or disregard his influence, power and presence he can continue to wreak havoc in our lives and world without any opposition. According to the apostle Peter believers should “Be wary of your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”
The text goes on to highlight that because the woman was in the place where God in Christ dwells she was seen. “Jesus saw her.” Some say, “I don’t have to go to church to praise God, I can worship God on my couch at home.” This is true, but can God see you? When you and I want someone to see us, don’t we do everything possible to put ourselves in the best possible position to be seen? Positioning and repositioning both involve movement of some kind. There has to be some adjustment on our part so that we can be in the right position to be seen. When you and I make the effort to be in the presence of God in His house it sends a message to God. When God looks out and sees us in the place God has designated and prepared for us to meet Him our presence communicates to God that we want and need to see Him.
Jesus called out to the woman because He could see her. The woman responded to Jesus’ call because she was in a place free from distractions where she could hear Him. Jesus called the woman because He had something for her. When she came to Him, Jesus proclaimed and declared her to be healed. Jesus then proceeded to facilitate her healing through the laying on of hands. There are times when all you and I need to do is to just show up, and when we do we discover the God in Christ has something for us. If you and I just show up we will find out that God will reward our efforts and we will not be disappointed. Jesus teaches us that all healing and deliverance comes from God through Him. However, we have to be prepared to go and get our healing. Jesus called and the woman came to Him. Supernatural healing can be a challenge for some to wrap their minds around, because it is outside the scope of human explanation and understanding. Things that cannot be visibly seen, logically understood or explained can be difficult and challenging to grasp. We must be open to the reality that Jesus is a healer and dispenses healing through whatever means He deems necessary, or whatever way He chooses.
Why would anyone object to the manifestation of God’s healing power? It seems that the law prohibited certain activities from being performed on the Sabbath. The objection from the religious leader was in accordance with the letter of the law, but it failed to recognize the spirit of the law. Jesus responded swiftly and directly – don’t be ridiculous. Actually, Jesus called into question the hypocrisy of the religious leader’s objection and application of the law. The religious leader’s promoted strict adherence to the law and any violation was punishable under the law. The problem with this approach was that it was legalistic and a form of legalism. Legalism is being a slave to a law, set of principles or code in the belief that by doing so you will earn merit or favor. The legalist believes that he or she can earn God’s favor through strict adherence to the law. The legalist is wed to their ideology and does not care whom or how many are harmed in the process, nor are they concerned with the debilitating application and disenfranchisement of others not in their position. In the legalists attempt to legislate behavior or use a literal interpretation of the law to get people to conform there is usually an uneven application of the law. Legalists are good at enforcing the law, but they seem to have a difficult time abiding by the same law.
Whereas the religious leader sought to use the law to block access to something this woman needed, Jesus turned the tables on them by forcing them to examine themselves. Jesus raised the question what about you? Jesus pointed out the same law you are using to deny this woman is the same law you are benefiting from. Jesus also posed a second question, He asked shouldn’t this woman who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years receive what God has for her on the Sabbath?
This raises another question, what exactly should happen on the Sabbath? We have already identified why we should come to church, but what is suppose to happen after we get there? How are we supposed to feel and what should we expect to experience while we are there? When we revisit the text, we see at least three things that should happen on the Sabbath. They are:
1. Divine and Human interaction – The Bible says, “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward…then he put His hands on her.” Jesus encountered the woman and she experienced Jesus. The Sabbath is a time when the people of God experience the manifestation of God’s presence through divine human interaction. Through the songs that are sung, through the scriptures that are read, through the prayers that are prayed and the word that goes forth God reaches down from heaven and touches us leaving an impression on us that – yes, my God is real
2. A Response to God and the things God has done, is doing, and what we expect God to do in the future – The text says, “Immediately she straightened up and praised God…the people were delighted with all the wonderful things He (Jesus) was doing. The Sabbath is a day when the people of God recount all of the things God has done throughout the course of the past week, month, year, lifetime and we respond to God by offering God praise and worship. As we think about things that God is currently doing in each of our lives we should be moved to express our joy through celebration that God is answering our prayers, dispensing His healing power and is ever present. As we look ahead we should be filled with excitement and a sense of expectation as we wait for what God is going to do next in our lives, our church, our homes, etc.
3. Change – The Bible says, “She straightened up.” This woman came into the house and presence of God one way, but during the course of worship she received her change. I have always maintained that if we do not experience some kind of difference after spending time in the presence of God something is terribly wrong. This woman’s narrative informs all who read it and see it that God is in the change business. God is in the business of bringing correction to the crooked places in our lives and straightening out our affairs. Listen, while will may not always receive a physical change, after we have had an encounter with the God in Christ, we will we different. There will be a difference in our perspective, attitude, behavior, or even the way we relate to each other, but something will be different.
While we should not judge worship we can measure what happens in worship. How? After we have left worship let us ask ourselves:
a) Did I experience the presence or closeness with God today?
b) Did I receive what God has for me today in worship?
If the answer is no to one or both of these questions, let me suggest doing what the woman in the text did, she came to worship looking for Jesus and expecting Him to do something for her. In other words, the woman in the text came to church because she knew that if she could just make it into the presence of God something was suppose to happen.