Editor’s Note: This article is the lightly edited manuscript for the accompanying audio message that Vickie delivered.
Have you ever sat in church, listening to the soaring music or the impressive sermon, and your thoughts were all turned inward?
Thoughts like: No one here cares that I am hurting desperately. When I first was widowed or divorced or when this illness first was diagnosed, or when my child became a problem, people prayed for me, called me on the phone, visited me, sent me notes. But now that time has passed and everyone is used to me, I guess they expect that I do not need anyone, that I am coping with my problem and that I not really hurting anymore. Maybe they even think that if I were really depending on the Lord, I would be able to handle my situation without any difficulty. But I am in pain and I do not think anyone cares. I sometimes wonder if even God cares!
There was a woman in the synagogue one Sabbath morning when Jesus was teaching there that might have been feeling just like that.
Think about her a little. She was probably middle-aged. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. She had been crippled like this for 18 years! Can you imagine what her life was like? She could not stand at all, could not sit comfortably, could not lie down except on her side. Walking was difficult. Eating could not have been pleasant. Her appearance was pitiful, her face etched with pain. But what had caused her illness? She was crippled by a spirit? This was not a form of arthritis. This was a Satanic attack that affected her body. But do not you think that she also suffered emotionally and spiritually as well? She must have often felt discouraged, depressed, and even abandoned by God. Yet she still worshipped, she still was there in the synagogue on the Sabbath. She still listened to Gods Word. She still had faith. I have to give her credit for just being there.
It is interesting 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. Over and over it is recorded that Jesus cast out demons of all kinds. He came to defeat Satan and to make him powerless against believers, and he clearly demonstrated his ability to do this while here on earth. We have to realize that His power and authority over the spirit world has not diminished one iota.
That is why we can have confidence that Jesus will protect us. He has authority over everything in heaven and earth. But we must be alert and armored, because Satan does not play fair or come out in the open. He masquerades, 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.
Peter warns us of that: 1 Peter 5:8. Likewise, Paul tells us about our armor—our protection— in Ephesians 6:10-14.
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. As she stood there, bent over, with her head lifted as far as she could, listening to Jesus, and looking at Him, suddenly he noticed
He stopped in the middle of His teaching, pointed to her and called to her to come forward. She shuffled up to Him, surely wondering what He wanted her for. Then He spoke: “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”
He spoke these few words, He touched her and she straightened up instantly. She was totally healed and she immediately praised God. Did you notice the word Jesus used? He did not say healed. He used a word that is translated in other places, “loosed, put away, let go, set at liberty and released.” She had been bound by Satan and Jesus set her free.
Can you not imagine the joy she felt and the excitement that ran through the spectators as they realized what had happened? The noise level must have risen as the people turned to each other in their enthusiasm. Suddenly a stern cold voice broke through the furor.
The chairman of the board of elders 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.
Exodus 20:8-11 (10 Commandments)— It followed God’s example of doing the work of creation in 6 days and resting on the seventh.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15— It commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. 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 a free people, free to rest from their labor and free to worship their God.
Exodus 31:13— 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. 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 need. The religious leaders watched Jesus like a hawk because He was always violating their manmade rules about the Sabbath. They had had several sharp confrontations with Him and had always come out the losers. In one incident when He healed a man with a withered arm, He reminded them that they would rescue a sheep who had fallen into a pit and a man was more valuable. Then He said: “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12, NIV)
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)
God gave the day of rest because people need time to relax, regroup, Change their routine, worship and serve God without the pressure of other responsibilities.
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? His restoration of the true spirit of the Sabbath had enraged these men so much that they plotted to kill Him because of it. (Mark 3:6)
Now here He was doing it again! The ruler had rebuked Jesus by scolding the people and Jesus answered him. He is a wonderful Defender. Have you ever been unjustly accused or misunderstood and the only thing you could do was to say to Him, Lord, You must be my Defender. You must reveal the truth. There is nothing I can do but trust You. HYPOCRITES! (Originally, a “hypocrite” was an actor who wore masks in amphitheatre plays.) They pretended to be zealous 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, a Jewess, from the bondage of the enemy on the day that commemorated their freedom from bondage. 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. He hated their pretense and they hated Him for exposing it.
Earlier in Luke He gave a stinging analysis of the Pharisees and experts in the law where He accused them of being only concerned with being externally clean, but inwardly they were full of wickedness. He accused them of injustice and pride. Then He said,
“Woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. ...you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering. (Luke 11:46-53, NIV)
Do not you have to wonder what He must think of the greed, lust, and crimes that have been done and are being done in His name today? He still hates hypocrisy. Yet closer to home. Do we make a distinction between what the Bible actually says and what other people say it means? Do we make our application as binding as God’s? That is how legalism flourishes. Always check to see if our applications are consistent and Biblical. When we have a lot of rules about what we can or cannot do in order to make little loopholes that violates the very spirit of God. The religious rulers did that. For instance, they had a rule that you could not journey farther from home than 3000 feet (1/2 mile) on the Sabbath. So the day before, they would go ahead and deposit some food by a stone a half-mile away. That would then become their home temporarily and they could go another half mile, where they had deposited another sandwich, so they could travel another half mile. In this way they found ways around God’s law about the Sabbath, and violated the spirit of this holy day. This is just one example. They had 60 columns of regulations about the Sabbath.
Maybe you are wondering at this point if we should keep the Sabbath today. The Sabbath was given to Israel. It is the ONLY ONE of the Ten Commandments that is NOT repeated in the New Testament. The disciples and the early church worshiped on Sunday, the first day of the week to commemorate the Lord’s resurrection. Sunday is the Lord’s day.
We do not have rules about it in the New Testament. But we do know what they did on the Lord’s Day. They met together, studied God’s word, prayed, celebrated communion, and gave their offerings. Surely the Lord’s Day should have some special meaning for us. It should be a day of worship, learning God’s Word, service, praise and thanksgiving, giving our offerings, joy and rest and a time with family and friends. It should be different from the other six days of the week. After all, we have so much more to commemorate than Israel did: the resurrection of our Savior from the dead.
Look at the effect Jesus had on the people in the synagogue.
Can you imagine what His power and His authority meant to the common people who were under the burden of religious oppression as well as political oppression.
But now I want to go back to verse 12. Woman, you are set free from your infirmity. The word for “infirmity” is translated in other places as “diseases, sickness, weakness.” It means literally, “without strength.” Very few of us are sick all the time, but all of us know what it is to be without strength.
We ALL have weaknesses. Do not you have things that fill you with dread when you have to face them? Fear of flying, fear of anything. Do not you have areas where you have consistently failed? Are there not relationships that you just cannot handle, people that rub you the wrong way? Maybe your weakness is a sense of worth that you have let someone else impose on you. Maybe your weakness is a habit you have not been able to break. Maybe your weakness is a disposition that always sees the bad side of everything.
Maybe your weakness is a crippling sin that keeps you from going on to maturity in your Christian life. Is it love of money and the things money can buy? Is it a desire to please people more than God? Is it a thought life that you would be ashamed to have projected on a screen for all to see? Is it a selfishness that keeps you from making a commitment to anything that will interfere with your own plans? Is it self-pity, pride, hypocrisy, a violent temper? I have suggested a lot of things to stimulate your thinking, and I may have missed your issue. But you just thought of it, did you not? Jesus came to set us free from our weaknesses. How does He do it?
First, we must come to Him for help.
We come to one who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He was a human being living on this earth, subject to all the temptations we face and He did not sin. He will give mercy and grace to overcome.
He may not remove our weakness, because then we would be independent. My weakness is given me to teach me to depend moment by moment on His power. His power is demonstrated where I am powerless. This changes my attitude towards my weakness.
Instead of hating myself for failing, I can see this as God’s opportunity to work in my life. God becomes real. Jesus really does live out His life in me. But it is only when I admit my weakness and depend on Him that I will experience His strength.
The Lord Jesus Christ wants to say to each of us today, “Woman, you are set free from your weakness.” He calls you to come to Him for freedom and strength. Will you come?