"Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from her bond on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 13:16)
Permit me to paint a picture for you. Jesus is speaking to a packed assembly in one of the local synagogues. The people are listening closely as He talks to them about the Kingdom of Heaven and His Father's plan for them.
In the middle of His teaching, Jesus notices a woman there in the group. She cannot stand upright, but is bent over at the waist, face down to the ground. Without anyone telling Him so, Jesus perceived that she had been this way for eighteen years.
Jesus senses His Father moving, stirring within Him. His words trail off and He lapses into silence, appearing to be lost in thought as He fixes His eyes on her.
The people are waiting. What is He looking at? They all look at one another and then follow Jesus' gaze towards the back of the long hall.
There is the woman, hunched over and face down to the ground, oblivious to the attention she has generated, but wondering why it has grown so quiet.
Now Jesus calls her to come to Him! What? Yes, dear woman, you are the one. Follow the sound of My Voice and come here to Me.
Slowly and with great difficulty she walks towards the source of this gentle but powerful Voice, still bent over at the waist, trembling with fear.
What is He going to do?
"Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity!"
Cradling her face in His hands, He gently begins to raise her up so He can look her in the eye. And, for the first time in eighteen years, she stands up straight!
"I am healed!" she whispers. Then, as the reality of the moment sinks in, she finds within herself a voice she never knew she had, and begins to cry out, hesitatingly at first, then louder and louder:
"G-G-Glory to... the God of Israel! Hosanna... to the S-S-Son of David! Blessed be the Name of the Lord!! Praise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!!!!"
But the celebration is short-lived.
The ruler of the synagogue (the man who invited Jesus to speak) gets up from his seat, glares at Jesus, and then looks at the people. "There are six days for working," he hisses to the crowd. "Come back some other day to be healed. No work is to be done on the Sabbath day, not even a miraculous work!"
There is an uncomfortable silence. The woman who was healed begins to bow herself down again in shame, as if she has been punched in the stomach. But Jesus catches her, shakes His head "No," and with a smile encourages her to stand up straight and tall, which she does. He puts an arm around her to indicate that she should remain there with Him.
Then He turns to face the ruler of the synagogue.
The look on Jesus' face is indescribable, but I will try to describe it: He has the appearance of a Good Shepherd Who discovers a wolf in the act of devouring one of His little sheep. His eyes are passionate, penetrating, piercing, and determined, "like a flame of fire".
"You hypocrite!" Jesus says to the man in charge. "Don't each of you loose your ox or your donkey and lead them away to be watered on the Sabbath day? Then ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed from her bond on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 13:15,16).
The leader opens his mouth to protest, but he can't utter a sound. The blood rushes to his face and he clenches his fists in frustration, yet he can't make a move. He can only take his seat again, silently hating himself for ever allowing Jesus to speak to his congregation, and vowing never to have Him back again.
"And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him" (Luke 13:17).
* * * *
This is not just a miracle. It is a sign, and it is present truth for this day, this time, and this season.
We see that the Lord Jesus is on the side of liberty, freedom, deliverance, healing, setting free, releasing, and restoring that which is bound.
Religion, on the other hand, is on the side of bondage, tradition, conformity, uniformity, control, and manipulation.
This woman was indeed a "daughter of Abraham", a child of the covenant, and entitled to a rich spiritual inheritance in Christ! But eighteen years of "Sabbath day religion" had left her unchanged. She attended the services, she sang, she gave, she listened to the sermons, but she left out of there each week the same way she came in - hunched over.
What kept her bound? What exactly was this "spirit of infirmity"?
Some would automatically say she had a demon that needed to be cast out, and THAT was the spirit of infirmity.
But things aren't always as they appear.
In most cases Jesus rebukes the demon and then sets the captive free. In this case, He sets the captive free and then rebukes the demon. Why?
I submit to you that though the woman was indeed bound by satan for eighteen years, the spirit that kept her bound was not living in HER, but was living in the religious ruler who wanted to keep her in her place.
It was the ruler of the synagogue who had the demon - not the woman.
All the people rejoiced - but their spiritual leader was indignant! The spirit behind him is clearly revealed in his attempt to regain control of the people, dampen their newly discovered joy, make the healed woman feel guilty for being healed, and even rebuke the Lord Himself - all the while hiding behind something religious, "the Sabbath", as his excuse.
Only satan enjoys keeping people in bondage. Only an evil spirit resents it when they are set free. Only a religious demon hates to see someone stand upright and look them square in the eye. So it resists and fears anything that it cannot control, working feverishly to maintain its own preeminence in the eyes of the people.
At work here is something more than just a physical healing. There is a spiritual confrontation taking place also.
So when the demon within the religious ruler protested that she should not be set free, Jesus spoke to its willing host directly:
"You hypocrite! Ought not this woman be loosed?"
Not only loosed from the thing that controlled her body, but the thing that controlled her spirit and her soul with its religious hypocrisy, demonic manipulation, and desire that she be kept "down".
"Ought not this woman be loosed?" To Jesus, anything less was unacceptable. She must not be bound! She must not be oppressed any longer! She must not be hunched over! Eighteen years of bondage is long enough! Loose her, and let her go free!
And in ten seconds, Jesus did something that eighteen years of religion had been unable and unwilling to do.
As I travel about I see many in the Body of Christ who are "bent over" with this same malady, held captive by that "spirit of infirmity" which prevents them from being able to stand upright, all because they are bound by religion and kept in place by the traditions of men, by their own "spiritual leadership".
But I also see Jesus calling to multitudes of hunched over people, calling them to Himself (just as He called that woman), that they may be set free from the things which have had them bound for so long.
How difficult it must have been to hear the voice of the Lord and then defy the leadership and go directly to Jesus, knowing that it would bring instant condemnation and criticism from that spirit of Antichrist. Had she "checked with the leadership" first, she would still be hunched over, because they would have told her it's illegal for Jesus to heal people on the Sabbath day.
Her first act of rebellion was to take those baby steps towards Jesus and away from religion and man-worship. But in taking that first step, she threw off the shackles that had bound her for nearly two decades. When she responded to the call of the Lord, He set her free from her bondage - spiritually as well as physically.
But SHE had to take that first step, however halting, however painful, and however uncomfortable it must have been.
I am glad she found freedom in Christ. I am sad that the religious ruler went home still bound.
This is the word of the Lord to us individually, and it is also the word of the Lord to the Bride of Christ. We hear Him saying to us:
"Ought not this woman - My Bride - be loosed?"
And we say, "YES!"
May it be so, and may all His adversaries be ashamed. Amen.