Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 3, 2018
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
— Luke 13:10-17, ESV
Conflict courted Jesus from the inauguration of His public ministry until the grand three-part finale at the cross, empty tomb, and ascension. The closer He got to the end, the more the conflict intensified between the Lord and His enemies. Christ’s enemies are our enemies, and the conflict continues.
This story most likely occurred in the early part of Jesus’ ministry, but Luke chose to use it closer to the end of his semi-chronological Gospel. It fits well with what we have just read and the ever-shortening road Jesus is traveling to the cross. It is a Christological feast of divine power and human compassion, and it is a practical lesson for Christians on the continuing conflict we face when we follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Continuing Conflict with Satan
One of the most insidious things about Satan is that he is a great imitator, a cold, calculating, copy-cat. God alone is omniscient, but Satan mimics this by playing mind games, planting temptations, and otherwise getting into the heads of believers and unbelievers alike. God alone is omnipresent. While Satan can only be in one place at one time, he always chooses the places where he can cause the most trouble. And while God sends angels to convey acts of ministry, Satan sends demons to cause madness and mayhem. God alone is omnipotent, but Satan has great power, greater than mere human strength, and he uses it to inflict physical, emotional, and spiritual harm.
Satan lurks onto the battlefield with Jesus in this story, and a certain woman is caught in the crossfire. She is a woman of good faith, “a daughter of Abraham,” the father of faith. Like Job in the Old Testament, her faith did not shield her from the fiery darts of Satan. God, for His own perfect and providential reasons, allowed her to be “bound for eighteen years” until this great showdown in the synagogue.
Medical science would argue that all sickness, disability, and death arise from bad genes, bad germs, bad injuries, or just bad accidents. They would be correct, of course. But just what, or whom, is behind all the bad from the beginning?
According to the trustworthy tale of creation in the Bible, the old slewfoot himself, the Devil, or Satan, is personally responsible for introducing the human race to sin and its subsequent consequences. Every man, woman, boy, and girl is a victim and an accessory to the crime. Satan and sin have fatal spiritual effects, result in disastrous environmental evils, and cause the biological clocks of the sons and daughters of Adam and Even to beat downward. All creation and all Christians know this, and groan (ref. Romans 8:22-23).
Jesus, with a touch and a word, delivered this woman from her physical trauma caused by the work of the devil. As with all Gospel miracles, this one is a parable of the greatest miracle of all, salvation. God comes to us with grace, we accept Him with faith, Christ covers our sin and provides for our future where we will be like Him and with Him, forever.
Enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and God will always be with you. So will the conflict with Satan and sin. Even Christians can get wounded, imprisoned, slandered, hurt, sometimes even killed. The worst that Satan can do is to hurt you, temporarily. The best God can do is to give you salvation, permanetly. The gospel promises ultimate victory for all who have repented and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Satan is a conquered foe, but the conflict continues.
The Continuing Conflict with Religion
In addition to conquering Satan in this story, Jesus also had to deal with a cocky religious leader. A “ruler of the synagogue” in Jesus’ day would be equivalent to a church boss in our day, some unregenerate elder or deacon or committee chair who enjoys ruling the roost and enforcing his own ways and means upon the pastors and people. Apparently they’ve been around for over two thousand years. This is not as long as Satan, but it is satanic nonetheless.
Religious rulers make up their own rules while being ignorant of God’s. God made the Sabbath Day to be an honor for Himself and a blessing to His people, old covenant and new. The religious rulers of Jesus’ day had created an algorithm to honor themselves and stress the people of God. Our Lord especially delighted in breaking their rules while He kept God’s.
This faithful and disabled woman is once again victimized. As a woman in those days, she would have been forced to sit in the back of the synagogue, a misogynistic humiliation not unlike the racial discrimination endured by Rosa Parks. As a person who obviously needed some compassionate healthcare, she was denied it by the synagogue because of its extra-biblical rules about not working on the Sabbath. She was treated by the religious ruler like cattle, actually worse, according to Jesus. And all of this was done in the name of religion.
I have often said that Christianity is more than a religion but never less. We do hold to certain rules and regulations, like public worship on the Lord’s Day. God blessed this woman for being a shining example of keeping her appointment with God on the Sabbath in spite of persistent pain and an imperfect synagogue. We must endeavor to keep our appointments with the Lord on the Lord’s Day, too, for there are blessings we need and receive when the word is preached, the sacraments are observed, and the people pray and praise Him.
But religion without faith is the enemy of the gospel and is in constant conflict with Jesus. It can be clothed with a Jewish synagogue, a Catholic cathedral, or a Baptist church building. Yet any religion that mandates man-made rules at the expense of the gospel and the word of God is an abomination to God and a danger to mankind. Such religion promotes pride over repentance, legalism over faith, power over service, and cruelty over compassion. It has the appearance of godliness, but deny its real source and power (ref. 2 Timothy 3:5).
Satan loves religion. He uses it constantly in his conflict with the Lord Jesus Christ and true Christianity. Satan plus religion minus faith equals the third source of our continuing conflict.
The Continuing Conflict with Shame
At the end of this event, “All his adversaries were put to shame.” Jesus wins, always and ultimately. So do those of us who are benefactors of His grace, who love and trust and obey Him. But those who do not follow Jesus, or who are not following close enough, have to deal with the conflict of shame in their own souls.
I have thought lately that the shame about our modern world is that there is no longer any shame. Panhandlers who could obviously work dot our street corners, certain politicians lie with every breath, and a couple in our own conservative state was recently arrested for traveling to public places to have sex in front of God and everybody. There seems to be no shame anymore, at least not outwardly.
Satan has no conscience, so he has no shame. And there are a few human beings whose conscience is so craven they have lost the ability to blush. But remember, human beings in general are made in God’s image. We all have a conscience. We all sin. When sin is suppressed instead of confessed, it brings shame, deep down inside.
The gospel fights against shame. Shame can make even a Christian freeze in their walk with the Lord and choose codling and hiding rather than repentance and renewal. Shame can blind unbelievers and deceive them into thinking that God could not love nor forgive them for some things they have done, which is a lie from the pit of you know where. Shame keeps us from communicating honestly with God and often with one another, and communication is the key to relationship. Remember the gospel! Believe the gospel! Shame is washed away.
If you choose to fully follow Jesus Christ, however, the pain of shame is replaced by the reality of rejoicing. Joy is the alternative to shame. Many in the synagogue that day embraced it and “rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by Him.”
Still, the conflict continues. Satan fights and too often wins battles, even if he has already lost the war. Religion wears callouses on people’s hearts worse than worn out shoes disfigure the feet. Shame lives within more hearts than we know. Only Jesus has the power to overcome an evil devil, bad religion, and soul-crushing shame.
Grace, faith, and the Lord Jesus Christ win the conflict. Believe, remember, and never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He will never be ashamed of you. And one fine day, the conflict will be over.
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