Encounters with Jesus - Part 2
Luke 13:10-17
By Paul Robison

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!”  “Think back to 1988, that's when Bush and Dukakis were going at it, but do you remember Bonnett and Crossbeak?  No, they weren't politicians; they were California whales who were fighting for their lives.  These gentle giants of the sea overlooked the fact that winter arrived early that year in Alaska.  This mistake left them trapped, stranded inland by the ever-increasing covering of solid ice that prevented them from swimming to the freedom of the open ocean.  Some compassionate Eskimos were the first to try to help them.  They used chain saws and long poles to make breathing holes for the whales.  But the weather didn't cooperate, and the sub-zero temperatures caused the surface water to freeze.  So some other rescuers brought in a device to churn the water to keep it from freezing.  Other volunteers came on board, and then the national media got into the picture.  The rescue plan wasn't moving fast enough, so an enormous vehicle was brought which inched out a path.  But this was too slow, so Coast Guard helicopters were brought in and dropped 5-ton concrete bashers to break up the ice and accelerate the journey.  If you can believe it, the Soviets arrived next with two ships: a 20-ton 11-story-tall icebreaker and a smaller vessel with similar equipment.  In fact, for perhaps the first and only time, the ships were flying the U. S. and Russian flags side by side.  All political contrasts, economic differences, and military conflicts were set aside for this unusual mission—so a couple of whales could be free.  Eureka!  Freedom was found at Point Barrow, Alaska, and the world cheered as the exhausted creatures silently slipped out to the open ocean” (Swindoll 218-219).  What a glorious word—freedom.  That's what our text and our sermon are about this morning.  Isn't it amazing that the world was worried about the freedom of those whales Bonnett and Crossbeak, but we often have so little concern for the freedom of other human beings?  We are looking at some encounters with Jesus that we find in the Gospels.  Today's encounter is one that is unique to the gospel of Luke.  Read with me from 13:10: “Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.  And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.  But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, 'Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.'  And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, 'There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.'  The Lord then answered him and said, 'Hypocrite!  Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?  So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?'  And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame, and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.”  Let's consider some kinds of freedom to be found among various groups in this passage.
 
First look at the woman.  First of all, she was given physical freedom.  She had been hunchbacked and bent over for 18 long years, being unable to stand up straight.  She probably didn't like this deformity, but she had learned to live with it and carried on.  One thing is for sure: she didn't let it embitter her and stop her from gathering with God's people to worship Him on the Sabbath!  The text says that Jesus laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight!  As the Great Physician, Jesus gave her physical freedom, the freedom to walk normal once again.  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!”    Another kind of freedom for her was social freedom.  Don't you know that she must have felt very conspicuous in any public situation?  This woman probably suffered much ridicule because of her deformity.  Maybe she felt that the synagogue was the one place where finally the taunting would stop.  Some Jewish people may not have even given her the time of day since she was deformed, and such deformities were often seen as a punishment for some particular sin.  But Jesus changed all that by giving her social freedom.  Now she was walking tall again in more ways than one!  She would never have to hang her head in public again nor hear any more put downs!  Another preacher comments: “When He first sees the woman, He addresses her as woman.  By the time she is healed, He addresses her as a daughter of Abraham.  This is one of the rare times that this title is used.  It elevates the woman onto a level with men and her relationship with God is [restored]” (Ruffcorn)!  She could experience social freedom!  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!”  Lastly, she was given supernatural freedom.  Notice that Luke says that this woman had a spirit of infirmity.  This wasn't just a normal infirmity; it had its roots in the supernatural.  How do know this?  Notice that in verse 16, Jesus says that this daughter of Abraham had been bound by Satan.  If this is the case, then the spirit referred to earlier was probably a demon who had brought about this deformity.  There was the physical, but there was something or better some being beyond the physical.  Jesus links it to the supernatural.  When Jesus brings about the healing, note again what He says: “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”  You are loosed; you are set free from that which has been binding you!  And what had bound her were supernatural beings, according to Jesus.  You know, sometimes miracles in the New Testament can serve as visual indications of deeper realities.  For example, a miraculous catch of fish once helped Peter better understand that he could be a fisher of men.  The feeding of the 4000 and 5000 tried to help others see that they needed to live their lives to obtain the bread which does not perish.  And here in this miracle we see Jesus going head to head in combat with the forces of evil and showing His tremendous power.  Another preacher made this observation: “... a woman’s bent over state is healed by Jesus and while this was a very REAL physical healing, the deeper reality is that Jesus is powerful to free us from whatever causes US to live life bent over—so we can stand tall and straight in front of everybody no matter what our past because of Jesus!  He is not just powerful, but compassionate and loving as well” (Devilder)!  For the woman, we see physical freedom, social freedom, and supernatural freedom!  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!”  “As Christians, we are called to carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ.  We do this in a number of ways.  We set people free by our participation in [our Spirit of Service program] and [by singing at the nursing homes].  We set people free by donating [food through our Soup Brigade, or by participating [in clean-ups to help people in need after a storm.]  We set people free by a smile and a word of encouragement.  We can ease their burdens and lighten their loads through a listening ear and a [compassionate heart]” (Ruffcorn).  We set people free by giving generously each week and on fifth Sundays.  (By the way, Bobby has said that our budget never looked better.)  We set people free by opening up the Bible to others and helping them to understand their spiritual needs.  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!” 

The woman, however, was not the only one who was in bondage.  Next let's look at the ruler of the synagogue.  “God intended the Sabbath to be a day of rest and worship.  But the religious leaders of Jesus’ day had turned this blessing into a burden.  Because of their legalistic approach to God’s commands, the religious leaders had developed an elaborate written code of all the actions that were prohibited on the Sabbath, including any type of work.  They considered healing to be part of a doctor’s line of work, and practicing one’s vocation on the Sabbath was forbidden.  Therefore, according to their religious regulations, Jesus was breaking the law. ... Earlier Jesus explained, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 ESV).  The point is—all of God’s commands are important, but they were designed for our benefit, [but] when we legalistically insist on the letter of the law, overlooking the needs of real people, God is not pleased.  In fact, the [Gospels record] seven times that Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, challenging these religious leaders to look beneath their rules and regulations to the true purpose of the God’s laws—to glorify God by helping those in need, [and this was especially appropriate during a worship service]” (Bayles).  You see, the ruler needed some mental freedom because his religious traditions were binding him to view the situation in only one way.  There is something wonderful that can help people who are under mental bondage.  It is called truth!  Remember how Jesus had told the woman: “You are loosed from your infirmity!”?  Now listen to the Master Teacher as he uses truth to try to bring freedom to the ruler of synagogue in verses 15-16: “Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?  So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound [think of it] for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?'  “Dear ruler, if loosing an animal and leading to water is permitted on the Sabbath Day, then why can't I loose a person who has suffered so long on the Sabbath as well?”  Touche', there is the Voice of truth trying to reason with one under mental bondage!  Remember Jesus' words in John 8:31-32: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  As those who follow in Jesus' steps, we also must uphold the truth, Jesus' teachings, to help break the mental bondage that others are in.  Our friends and neighbors hear statements like this all the time: “One church is just as good as another”; “Accept Jesus into your heart to be saved”; “Say the Sinner's prayer and you'll be right with God”; “Works has nothing to do with your salvation.”  Brethren, when are we going to challenge these folks with the truth?  All of those statements are religious lies, and you cannot find a one of them in New Testament.  In fact, the truth found in God's Word is the only sword that can cut the cords of this mental bondage.  “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)!  We need to be helping others to have mental freedom by sharing the truth of God's Word with them!  How horrible it was that the woman in our text was in bondage to Satan for 18 years, but how much longer had synagogue rulers been in mental bondage under Satan by believing the lies of his religious tradition?  Jesus tried to set him free.  Will we do the same with our friends and neighbors?  Here we see that Jesus tried to bring mental freedom through the truth.  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!” 
 
The ruler of the synagogue was in mental bondage.  Now let's look at the worshiper. Some in that multitude were rejoicing because they knew that woman; they were her friends, and Jesus had healed her and made her stand tall!  Some in that multitude were rejoicing they were hearing truth.  Finally, one rabbi was going against the oppressive traditions and was giving grace and acceptance to others like themselves.  Some in that multitude were rejoicing because God was being exalted.  The text says that after the woman was healed, she glorified God (v. 13).  Some were rejoicing because a unique power had been demonstrated.  Someone commented: “God’s priority of love was affirmed to the crowd. They realized that God was not a divine cop waiting to write them a ticket or arrest them.  Rather, they understood that God was a loving God who wanted to set them free” (Ruffcorn).  But verse 17 states that ALL were rejoicing for all the glorious things that were being done by Jesus!  Jesus had done other glorious things during that worship service which are not revealed to us, but whatever they were, they touched an emotional chord with the audience, and joy was the result.  Luke is often very fond of showing when others recognize and know more about Jesus, joy is often the result (especially is this true in the book of Acts).  So, here we see emotional freedom.  It's amazing that we live in the richest nation on earth, but so many people live in emotional bondage.  Loneliness, despair, fear, rejection, and depression are so prevalent in our society.  People will go to great lengths to try to find the false happiness that our culture promises.  This text reveals that real emotional freedom comes when we are in God's presence sharing and learning and hearing about His will and noticing the glorious things that Jesus has done.  Here are some questions.  When was the last time that you shared with someone else a glorious thing that Jesus has done?  If we are the church of Christ, then how real is Jesus' work today to us?  What percentage of the time do we leave our worship services rejoicing?  Are we good models of emotional freedom?  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!”
 
Someone else was in real bondage.  Let's look at the adversaries.  Verse 17 reports: “And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame.”  We don't think much about shame, but shame was a big deal in the Jewish culture of the first century.  A scholar notes: “First-century Mediterraneans, for the most part, live their lives in public.  Honor comes from public acknowledgment of worth.  An attack on honor … requires a forceful defense, a response that might put the attackers on the defensive” (Manila).  You see, the synagogue ruler was trying to shame Jesus before the audience when he told the crowd they should only come six days for healing.  Jesus does give a forceful defense, and that response does put His attackers on the defensive.  In fact, it was now their turn to respond, but they do not do so.  That same scholar adds: “As mentioned earlier, a dishonored person must attempt to restore honor.  It is the attempt that counts, not the actual restoration of the status previously held.  We might call this attempt 'satisfaction,' and satisfaction is not the same as a triumph. … What is required and suffices for satisfaction in our honor society is (1) that the one dishonored has the opportunity to achieve satisfaction, and (2) that this person follows the rules of the game in doing so. … If the dishonored person … [does] not follow the socially approved rules, then the challenge-response game is over, and feud or war results” (Ibid.).  The adversaries try to give Jesus the ultimate shame by crucifying Him, but the only trouble was that He shames them once again by coming back to life!  The adversaries are in spiritual bondage.  Isn't this a sad and tragic situation?  They see themselves as the defenders of law, but Satan controls their lives, and they don't repent when Jesus presents the truth to them so clearly!  Ultimately, every individual is either serving Jesus or Satan.  To live for money, popularity, the world, and carnal pleasures is to live for Satan.  Jesus is the only One who can free us from Satan's slavery.  “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.  For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).  Jesus Himself challenges us with these words in John 8:24: “... for if you do not believe that I am He [He has been added so it really is saying if you do not believe that I am the “I Am” of the Old Testament], you will die in your sins.”  If we believe that Jesus is not God in the flesh, then we will remain in our spiritual bondage.  Spiritual freedom comes when we are buried with Jesus in baptism, and then rise to walk living a new life free from the shackles of our past sins.  When we reenact Jesus' resurrection, then we experience true spiritual freedom!   “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!”
 
Lastly, we look to the One who was completely free, Jesus our Lord.  He is the great and gracious Liberator.  “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1)!  Someone observes: “The kind of love Jesus demonstrated made a difference and makes a difference.  The kind of love that Jesus demonstrated made and makes a difference because it has the power to change the hearts of people. ... The early Latin writer, Tertullian of Carthage, declared [about 150 A. D.] that the one thing that converted him to Christianity was not the arguments they gave him, because he could find a counterpoint for every argument they would present.  'But the Christians demonstrated something I didn’t have. The thing that converted me to Christianity was the way that they loved each other'” (Williams III).  An unknown author rightly observes: “Love is the spark that kindles the fires of compassion.  Compassion is the fire that flames the candle of service.  Service is the candle that ignites the torch of hope.  Hope is the torch that lights the beacon of faith.  Faith is the beacon that reflects the power of God.  God is the power that creates the miracle of love” (Ibid.).  We saw at the beginning of this sermon, those who gave time, money, and energy to bring about the freedom of whales.  When are we going to give time, money, and energy towards the freedom of human souls?  “Bondage and freedom are themes of our lives” (Ibid.).  We have seen that Jesus gave many kinds of freedom: physical freedom, social freedom, supernatural freedom, mental freedom, emotional freedom, and spiritual freedom.  As we've considered Jesus’ actions towards others and how they were freed, we are invited to admit our bondage and turn to Jesus in order to be set free.  The old hymn has it right: “Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night, Jesus I come, Jesus, I come.  Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light.  Jesus I come to Thee” (Sleeper).  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!”