Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath and a crippled woman was there. An evil spirit had kept her bent for eighteen years so that she could not straighten up at all. On seeing her, Jesus called her and said, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” Then he laid his hands upon her and immediately she was made straight and praised God.
But the ruler of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus had performed this healing on the Sabbath day and he said to the people, “There are six days in which to work; come on those days to be healed and not on the Sabbath.”
But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Everyone of you unties his ox or his donkey on the Sabbath and leads it out of the barn to give it water. And here you have a daughter of Abraham whom Satan had bound for eighteen years. Should she not be freed from her bonds on the Sabbath?”
When Jesus said this, all his opponents felt ashamed. But the people rejoiced at the many wonderful things that happened because of him.
Let us imagine the complete scene of the Gospel.
It is Sabbath and Jesus is teaching. He is acknowledged as Rabbi. But one crippled woman is there with a painful condition for many years. Jesus calls her and frees her from the infirmity attributed to an evil spirit. Still more, he lays his hands upon her and immediately the cure is done. She praises God. We stress the powerful compassion of Jesus in his spontaneous healing.
The conflict arises soon after. To heal is work. The sabbatical rest is strict. The ruler of the synagogue is indignant. For him, in the house of the Lord there is a violation of the Law.
The reaction of Jesus is however illuminating. He uses the common sense of farmers with their animals. He compares it to the moment wherein a farmer is to untie an ox or a donkey, yet here is a “daughter of Abraham” (the honorific title of an Israelite) needing to be healed. The Sabbath is the day to do good works.
For us, the attitude of Jesus is a permanent corrective warning of our tendency to narrowness of spirit and a lesson for the Christian celebration of Sunday.
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