Rule Followers Beware

crippled woman

Luke 13:10-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

As a school principal, I have to confess I love some rules!  I crave order in my crazy, mixed-up world.  Rules make things more predictable and help keep us safe from the more crazy things that can happen when chaos erupts. Rules help me navigate life and keep away from those things which stand in the way of progress .

Jesus had a different view of rules in this passage and in many other stories from his time teaching the people.  His healing of the crippled woman seems at the surface to be a glorious miracle that should have been celebrated and used to reinforce the power of Christ to do things that humans just can’t do.  But instead, the synagogue leader gets caught up in the fact that the miracle occurred on a day not sanctioned for any work – even the miracle kind of work, apparently.

I think it is possible to love rules and structure and still think the synagogue leaders who tried to shame Jesus to the crowd after the woman was healed is a stick in the mud.  That is one of the things I love the most about the New Testament stories – the highlighting of hypocrisy embedded in the rules.  The rules that I love only work well in our society when they offer structure and safety.  The rules that just seem to stand in the way of progress are just maddening – and Jesus not being able to heal on the Sabbath is one of those ridiculous “rule for the sake of a rule” situation.

So, fellow rule followers – the lesson for me is to be a critical participant in my life.  What rules are helping me be all that God needs me to be and which ones are standing in my way?  How can I be within the rules and also help to evolve the rules to better support our kingdom work?

Dear God, thank you for giving structure to the world where there would be chaos.  Help us discern the best way to live in you and for you, while creating structures that keep your creation safe.  Your kingdom is glorious and we praise your name forever.  AMEN.


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