Luke 13:10-17 (NRSV)
10On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 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?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
What’s in your closet? I know this has the sound and familiarity of the popular Capital One commercial that speaks to the added pressures of the credit card industry and their attempts to prey on our need to belong to this group and that group. But, since this speaks to our message today…I’ll ask the question another way. What’s in our closet that would segregate us from those that have seemingly already accepted us?
What is the one thing that is buried so deep in that dark dusty closet that we’ve made a solemn vow to never reveal the events or the issues or the implications that surround it?
We spend so much time, money and effort trying to fit in to the crowd, that no matter what we do, they “The Crowd” will never truly accept us. So, we go through life being less than honest with them and ourselves, but especially to God.
But we don’t have to continue to degrade ourselves. We don’t have to continue to deplete the person God created. We are unique individuals and we were created for a purpose.
Our narrative today speaks to the injustice of the marginalized. Our character today was a woman that understood the particulars of a man’s world. Reveled in verse 12, Luke speaks to the distance that she, our woman, had to travel to become a part of those that had gathered, the men. Interestingly, the scripture doesn’t say that, but the culture of the temple life does.
Luke revealed to us that Jesus called her forward. Either this could mean she was in the back of the room and he asked her to join the men up front, or it could mean that our female character was in the rear of the crowd that had gathered to hear Jesus teach. Either predicament placed the woman outside the circle of any religious assembly—the circle that everyone would have liked to be a part.
And, we haven’t even begun to talk about Luke’s description of our character, the fact that she ‘s not mentioned by name but by disability. How would you like to be called the “crippled woman,” and not just physically but spiritually? It seems as if the only acceptance she found up till now was Satan’s hold on her for eighteen years.
Can you remember the times when you felt alienated from the group? Whatever the reason? Our lives scream out for people to accept us. Our life, our stuff and our devotion cries that we are less than perfect and everyone else holds the key to happiness.
Our youth pressure parents to purchase certain jeans, shoes and phones so that they won’t be made fun of in the different groups at school. When they start to drive they feel as if they deserve a certain make or model car so that they can make a great first impression of wealth.
While in high school they are recognize as being popular, or not. Athletic, or not. Smart, or not. They may or may not become exposed to a physically challenged student challenging them yet again.
In college, we sometimes pledge ourselves with sororities or fraternities so that we can assure ourselves of being a part of a group, but sadly even in social intentional groups there are those that are marginalized.
When we get married, if were lucky to have dated the perfect husband or wife, when it comes time to buy our first home we extend ourselves financially because we think we have to have a house as nice as our mom and dad’s because it will define us as being successful, putting us in yet another group.
I assure you we have all felt the sting of being marginalized in one form or the other. Maybe not like the woman in our scripture, but in a sad way, even greater. She probably knew what others thought of her. We go through life wearing many different masks trying to belong here and there.
She might have ushered everyone to the front of the room knowing where her place was. Because of her deformity all she could do is listen anyhow. So, she sat in the back waiting for nothing other than to be healed.
Have you wondered what she might have been thinking as Jesus called her forward…within the circle of people? Then without notice she heard something about freeing her from her infirmity, and just at that point she felt the warmth of a Savior’s hand.
Before she knew it…color filled the room and the weight of her chest was lifted as she began to see the faces of those around her for the first time. She noticed her breathing was better because she found herself standing upright and her diaphragm was free of the weight of her ribs. Her vision became better and she realized that she no longer needed to support herself from toppling over because of the imbalanced weight of her body. She was not the same.
Through this healing she felt for the first time in her life like she truly belonged. In Jesus’ voice and in his touch she was no longer on the outside looking in. She experienced a God that freed her from the painful grip that had once seized her.
This is not just a healing story, it is our story. It’s the promise of the healing kingdom for all who are demeaned, denied and oppressed by religious and social restrictions. It is the story that is set up for the last, before those that think they are to be first. It is the message of Jesus’ love for those marginalized that have forgotten what true love feels like. So, Jesus trades our dark dusty closet for the key to the kingdom.
It doesn’t matter what’s in your closet.
This is a story for you and me.