Story 130: The Wild Beauty of Truth: Images of Grace and Wrath

Luke 13:10-17

Woman Dancing Silhouette

There are some things that are so purely beautiful that the goodness in them is obvious. There is no need to explain that a night of brilliant stars against an inky black sky is glorious, that crashing waves are magnificent, or that a rose is an image of elegance.

When a person who has suffered from long years of pain is set utterly free, it is a profound, deeply rich good. It is obvious. There is something about it that rings of eternal rightness, and any arguments that come against it fall flat against the reality of what has happened. Only those whose hearts are extremely hardened against the concerns of others can stand by unaffected by a miracle.

One Sabbath day, Jesus was preaching in a synagogue. Imagine the crowd of townspeople listening in rapt attention to the radical young preacher who was causing such a national stir.

In the midst of the people, there was a woman there who was crippled by an evil spirit. Her back was bent over and she could not stand up straight. She had been that way for eighteen years. Imagine her discomfort and grief. How could she help her family?  How could she look people in the eye?  Imagine the pain in her back and body as it carried her in such an unnatural state for so many years.  Who could help her in her pain?

Jesus saw the woman and called her to Himself in front all the people. When she came forward, He said, “‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’” Then Jesus took His hands and laid them on her body. She stood up immediately under the power of His touch and began to give praise to her Lord.

Wow. Can you imagine if this little, broken woman was your neighbor? Can you imagine how her discomfort would sadden you as you watched her back bend lower and lower each year? How helpless those around her must have felt. But then, right before your eyes, this Jesus, the One that all the rumors were about, was able to change all that. In a moment and with a Word, she was able to stand!

Can you imagine the whispers of awe across the room?

It is a joy worth pondering…Can you imagine her cackle of delight as she gave praise to God? Can you imagine the smile on Jesus’ face?  The shalom blessing of God had come to this woman! It was a sweet and true sign of God’s ultimate plan to bring restoration to the world through His Son.

Can you imagine the depth of your joy if you had any love for this woman at all? Can you imagine the electric power in the room as the miracle of life totally transformed began do dawn on the people?

What would you do? Would you clap or sing or shout? Wouldn’t you want to dance?

Well, that is not how the ruler of the synagogue felt. He was angry that Jesus healed her on the Sabbath. Though this woman was probably his neighbor, and though he was her spiritual leader, her relief did not penetrate the hardness of his heart. There was no compassion in him to overwhelm his bondage to the rules. He told the people, “‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’”

When Jesus heard this, He was enraged. And as usual, He was fearless. He looked right at the ruler and said, “‘You hypocrite!’” Gulp. Wow. Can you imagine the power of His wrath bearing down on you? It must have been a sight to see! “‘Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 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?’”

Imagine the silence…the tension in the room.  Imagine the people staring back and forth between Christ and their leaders, wondering what would happen next.  Imagine how right the ways of Jesus would have felt in that moment as the absolute beauty of His grace stood side by side with the total rightness of His stern, stark judgment against sin.

Jesus’ rebuke left His opponents utterly humiliated. Their pathetic, petty game was exposed for all to see. They cared less about the dear, crippled woman whose need was so great than their own animals. They pretended that their passion was for the Law of God and the Sabbath, but it was really to use the Law to control the people and destroy the Man who threatened their power. It was hypocrisy on the most revolting level.

But the people, those who had to live under the oppressive leadership of these men, were delighted by wonderful things that Jesus said and did…and they rejoiced!  Oh how He let the glory of truth out to shine!

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