In our study of Luke’s gospel we have seen Luke record events that show who Jesus is. In the first half of the gospel that is the question Luke is answer: Who is this Jesus? This is notable in scenes like when Jesus calms the storm and the disciples ask, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25). Luke records another miracle in the thirteenth chapter, but this is not the point. It is easy for us to approach the miracles of Jesus and think that the author’s point is to simply show the power of Jesus. When we carefully read this miraculous event you will notice that the emphasis is not on the miracle but on the meaning of the miracle in terms of the kingdom. With these things in mind, let’s look at the miracle Jesus performs.
Jesus is teaching in the synagogues on one of the Sabbath days. The Jews would gather to the various synagogues on the seventh day of the week in the first century where they would pray, sing, and listen to a reading of the scriptures. In the synagogue is a woman for has been bent over for 18 years and could not straighten herself. Imagine this scene as this woman walks into the synagogue. Verse 12 says that Jesus saw her and called her over. Listen to what Jesus says. “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” Then, laying hands on her, she was immediately made straight. Then she began glorifying God in the midst of the synagogue. What a great event and what a great miracle to happen in the midst of the synagogue. This would be similar to someone here having a disability and on this Lord’s Day Jesus healed that person. How exciting! This should have propelled the worship that day. This miracle should have intensified their prayers, songs, and scripture readings.
However, the leader of the synagogue becomes indignant with Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath. The Jews considered healing a work and you were not supposed to work on the Sabbath. While the Jewish people were not to work on the Sabbath, they had imposed ridiculous human rules such that they are upset when the hand of God moved on the Sabbath day. We can understand why Jesus becomes upset when he sees this kind of reaction. Rather than praising God, the synagogue leader is indignant. Jesus calls them hypocrites. You will untie your oxen or donkey so that they can drink water but you cannot be joyful over the healing of this disabled woman! Later in this lesson we will tie in the meaning of this event to the parable Jesus will tell. But before we can observe the parable, we need to see the meaning of this miracle and what it means in terms of the kingdom.
There are three things to notice in this miracle and its explanation. (1) Luke does not simply state that this woman is disabled (13:11). Notice that she has a disabling spirit. This does not mean that she is demon-possessed, necessarily, but she has been directly afflicted by Satan. (2) Jesus says that she has been bound by Satan for 18 years (13:16). This problem has been for a long time. (3) This woman is a daughter of Abraham (13:16). Luke is putting pieces together for us that we must not fly by without first contemplating. Verse 16 is teaching us something very crucial about the kingdom. This woman is a daughter of Abraham. She is part of God’s covenant family. But she has been bound by Satan for 18 years. Carefully notice the language in this verse. Look at verse 16. What did Jesus say happened? She has been loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day. She’s been released from her enslavement. Look back in verse 12. What did Jesus say happened? She had been set free. Through Jesus this woman has been freed from her bondage.
This is why Jesus calls them hypocrites. They have failed to see what has just happened. They have failed to see the significance of this event. They will set their ox or donkey free to lead it to water but cannot see this woman has been set free from Satan. In this miracle we are seeing that Jesus is fighting Satan. Satan has people in his grasp. Satan has directly afflicted people, and this disability was a visualization of that truth. Jesus is fighting Satan and winning! Eighteen years have passed and this woman could not be set free. There was nothing she could do to break free from Satan’s grasp. There was nothing others could do for her to release her from her slavery. This truth reveals the great power of Satan. But there is one who is greater. Jesus has come and he is fighting against Satan and winning. Jesus’ healing shows the collapse of Satan’s power over people. The leader of the synagogue is not seeing the great winning of the war. Jesus is battling and beating Satan. Further, the Abrahamic promise is being fulfilled. It is notable that this woman is called a “daughter of Abraham.” Luke is calling to mind the promise God made to Abraham that the nations were going to be blessed. A deliverer would come and set the world free. This healing shows that freedom has come to the world through Jesus.
But Jesus is not done. Please notice a key word in verse 18, “Therefore.” The parable he tells is an explanation of the event that has just happened. Jesus is telling this parable in direct connection to this woman’s healing. Notice how Jesus begins this parable: “What is the kingdom of God like?” This is the theme of these chapters in Luke. From Luke 13-18 we are reading about what the kingdom of God is like. Who is in this kingdom? What is the nature of the kingdom? Luke is no longer explaining who Jesus is but who is in the kingdom and what is this kingdom like.
The first parable is of a mustard seed that is planted in a garden. The seed grew, became a tree, and the birds made nests in its branches. There are two points from this parable that Jesus teaches us about this kingdom. First, the kingdom will begin small but will experience immense growth. What will begin as a small seed will turn into a tree. Second, the kingdom will provide rest and comfort to all peoples. Not only is the kingdom picture as a great tree, but it is a tree that provides shade and shelter for the birds. This image is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
22 Thus says the Lord GOD: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. 24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:22–24 ESV)
The context of Ezekiel 17 is the destruction of Israel for their sins and covenant breaking. But there is this prophecy of hope that God will take a little twig from the tree and plant it. It will become a great tree and bear fruit (recall last week’s lesson about Jesus calling for his people to bear fruit). All the birds will rest in this tree. The kingdom of God is a pleasant place to dwell and protects those who live under its shade. All peoples from all over the globe can come into this kingdom to find rest, comfort, and protection.
The final point comes from the parable of the leaven that a woman hid in three measures of flour until it was all leavened. What is beginning small is going to permeate the world.
Putting It All Together
What appears to be tiny and insignificant will prove to have been the beginning of God’s mighty kingdom. The rule and reign of God has returned visibly in this miracle. Jesus is battling Satan and winning. The shackles that Satan has on people is being released. God has returned to his people. This woman and her healing is the visible sign that the children of Abraham are being set free from Satan’s power. How dare the religious of the day cry foul when God is battling Satan’s rule and is displaying his victory through this woman! The Sabbath is the perfect day for this healing, battling Satan, and setting this woman free. Remember the commanded purpose of the Sabbath:
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15 ESV) The Sabbath was to remember that they were slaves in Egypt. The Sabbath is the perfect day for setting the children of Abraham free from Satan because this was the day the people of Israel to remember that they were enslaved in Egypt and had be set free by God. Therefore, the people are hypocrites for not understanding the meaning of freedom in the miracle. How dare the leader of the synagogue say that this should have been done on another day but the Sabbath! The Sabbath is the only day this should have happened!
There are three lessons I want for you take with you today that must change your life from this text.
(1) The children of Abraham have been set free. Jesus has come to free us from our enslavement to Satan. Listen to the apostle Paul:
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22–23 ESV) You were enslaved to Satan and sin but in Christ you have seen set free to eternal life. The children of Abraham have been set free. The apostle Paul tells us how to be children of Abraham.
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29 ESV) We must belong to Jesus. We must give our lives to him.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:25–27 ESV)
(2) Praising God is the response to our freedom. What does the woman do when Jesus heals her of her disability in which she had been bound by Satan? She praises God. Immediately she is glorifying God (13:13). That is what our lives must look like. Our response to being set free from sin and being welcomed into the kingdom of God is a constant praise to God. We must declare what God has done for us. We must with joy and enthusiasm praise God through prayer, praise God through song, praise God through meditation, and praise our Savior all day long.
(3) Nothing is more important than the kingdom. The ruler of the synagogue is more concerned about their traditions and rules rather than the fact that Jesus is conquering Satan. Nothing is more important than the kingdom and belonging to this kingdom. Nothing can interfere with our work in the kingdom. Our causes and things that we think are important cannot be elevated above or hinder the work of the kingdom. This kingdom must grow and spread. The kingdom is permeating the earth. We must take responsibility for that growth. We must see this kingdom spread in our community and in our spheres of influence. We are witnessing the kingdom of God setting people free from sin, bringing them into the light, and coming to the fountain of living waters. The people you see in this room today are a small group of the millions who belong to the kingdom of God. Nothing can interfere with our working together, joining together, teaching together, worshiping together, studying together, praying together, and loving our Lord together as we experience the victory in the glorious kingdom of God.