Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-10 • Psalm 71:1-6 • Hebrews 12:18-29 • Luke 13:10-17
This week’s theme is God our deliverer. God told Jeremiah he had formed him from the womb to be a prophet and there was nothing to fear. God would provide the words he needed. The Psalm reminds us that God is our refuge when we cry out for deliverance; he is our hope and confidence. The author of Hebrews tells us we’ve not come to the burning mountain like the Israelites, but to Mt. Zion—the city of the living God. In Jesus we receive a new kingdom that cannot be shaken. The sermon focuses on the passage in Luke. Here we learn that Jesus frees us from whatever prevents us from standing tall in him.
Freedom to Straighten Up
Luke 13:10-17 (NRSV)
Introduction: Read or have someone read Luke 13:10-17 NRSV.
This story in Luke takes place in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Although Jesus is teaching, it is his healing of a crippled woman that takes center stage. The woman who appears on the scene serves as a picture of creation and humanity in need of straightening out. Luke articulates the typical Jewish mindset in making her condition connected with Satan. Although this woman is not demon-possessed, Luke’s audience would automatically bring a spiritual dimension to her crippled condition. The ancient Jewish mindset would not have separated all that’s wrong in the world from the influence of evil in the world. Satan and sin are connected to the brokenness of all creation and humanity. Luke’s telling of this story is more than just the healing of one woman. It is Jesus’ proclamation of victory over Satan and sin and the straightening out of all that is crooked and bent.
If the “Speaking of Life” video is played, this is a good place to reference it.
Some theologians in the Middle Ages coined the term “cor curvum in se” meaning “curved in on ourselves” as a description of the fall. C.S. Lewis used the word “bent” to articulate the same thing. Sin essentially is like the crippled state of this woman. We are bent over in on ourselves, navel-gazing and unable to do anything about it.
Created in the image of God, we were designed to be outward focused in sharing life with God and one another. Being created in God’s image, humans were made to be lovers of God and lovers of one another; this is what Jesus taught as the first and greatest commandment. After the fall, humans did not cease being lovers, but being turned in on themselves, they became lovers of themselves. Or as Paul describes, “lovers of themselves, lovers of money… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:2-4). This is the dire situation and distortion that Jesus came to straighten out.
Jesus sees us
Jesus is the only one 1n this narrative who is not curved in on himself. His words and actions are outward focused, seeing the woman and calling her forward. Notice how Jesus didn’t heal her in some impersonal way; he first saw her. When we are turned in on ourselves it’s easy to believe no one sees us, and in our self-absorbed world, we do not see the gaze of others turned our way. Thus, our condition worsens. But Jesus see us and does not turn away. He calls us to himself like he called the crippled woman. His voice cuts through our twisted and gnarled existence and speaks an invitation of love. You may be hearing his voice right now. As Jesus called her over, he wasted no time in healing her. He heals her with his words and his touch.
Jesus reaches out to us
Jesus’ actions in this story reveal to us the nature of the Trinity. Father, Son and Spirit are outward focused. They live in a face-to-face relationship, seeing one another and giving themselves to each other. This is the life we are created to belong to. This is the life Jesus invites us into. As Jesus touches and heals the woman, we see his touch extends out to all creation and humanity—healing and straightening us back to live outwardly in face-to-face relationships. Whatever state of “cor curvum in se” you may find yourself in today, Jesus is calling you to himself. He doesn’t point a finger with harsh words and tell you to straighten up. He proclaims the truth that “you are set free from your ailment.” In his hands we find ourselves “stood up straight.” The woman’s immediate response was praise. Here we get a picture of a woman who has been restored to being a daughter created in the image of God. She was seeing God face-to-face and enjoying him. God does not intend to leave us turned in on ourselves. Our truest joy and wholeness in life is to live in a face-to-face relationship with the Father, through the Son in the Spirit. It is here we rise to the full stature of what it means to be human.
Jesus teaches us
This healing on the Sabbath angers the synagogue ruler. Instead of addressing Jesus, he turns and gives the people a basic do-and-don’t-do sermon. This message is spoken in anger and aims to control. Jesus’ message in contrast is spoken in love and aims to release. This release comes from the proclamation on Jesus’ lips that “you are set free from your infirmity.” Jesus exposes the synagogue ruler’s hypocrisy by stating the practice of untying an ox or donkey on the Sabbath so it can get water. If this untying is permissible for an animal, his argument goes, then how much more is it proper to release a “daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years.” This argument humiliates the synagogue ruler, but the people “were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.”
We find here that the woman was not the only one who was crippled. It is proper to look up to our spiritual leaders, but it is not proper to let them look down on you. Jesus has harsh words for the synagogue ruler; he too needed to be straightened out.
We are not told what happened to the synagogue ruler or the future life of this particular synagogue. But let us conclude with this thought. After this event, we could expect the people of this synagogue, and especially the woman who was healed, to return to the synagogue with an outward focus of praise and worship. This outward focus may in time serve to restore the synagogue ruler. We can’t say for certain, but we can see in this story a picture of all creation and humanity with an end goal of restoration and straightening up to share in the outward focused life of Father, Son and Spirit.
As we participate in that life, we can help one another receive the healing touch of Jesus and be reminded of his proclamation that we “are set free” from our “cor curvum in se” condition. As we receive this good news, we are straightened up to respond in praise. Hallelujah!
Small Group Discussion Questions
- How does the understanding of “cor curvum in se” inform you view of sin?
- Have you ever felt like the crippled woman who couldn’t straighten up? Does her experience with Jesus give you hope? Discuss.
- How has this story informed your understanding of God as Trinity? Do we see God as a self-focused God or as an outgoing God of love? What difference does this make in our daily lives?
- Why do you think the synagogue ruler was angry for healing on the Sabbath? Are there times we get angry with Jesus when his works of healing interrupt our religious routines?