Tag Archives: fig tree

Luke 11-15

origin_4654599511   Courtesy of Stephen Cuyos

Monday, May 19, Chapter 11

What a way to start the week, with the Lord’s Prayer.  First, forget the prayer most of us memorized; it came from Matthew.

Luke does not even bother with our; just Father will do.  Jesus wants us to think of his Father as our Father.  Jesus even called him Daddy.

Having started on familiar terms, add hallowed.  It means:  holy, sanctified, blessed, consecrated, deified, sacred, revered, respected.  God is our Father, but He is beyond our knowing.  He has created and continues to create a universe that we can see (perhaps others we cannot see) that contains millions of trillions of stars, planets, asteroids, black holes, and at least seven billion humans.  Show Him respect.

Your Kingdom.  That is what we long for, whether we realize it or not.  Every one of the seven billion people want that Kingdom.  Let it come

Give us our daily bread; daily, like the manna.  Bread, as in the Bread of Life.  Give us the Bread and Water of Jesus, daily.  We need it EVERY day.

We sin.  That is a given.  That is who we are; sinners living in a sin filled universe.  If we could travel a million light years to another planet, it would be the same.  As beautiful and awesome as this universe is, it is not perfect, nor are we.  Father, forgive our sins.

But, better yet, forgive all those other eight billion people.  We all need Your forgiveness and Your Love.  Help me to forgive them too.

I am easily tempted.  Things that are bad look so good.  Give me strength to avoid what is hurtful.

That is it.  The ending we remember from Matthew was added centuries later.  It sounds good so do not worry about saying it, but it is not necessary.  In fact, when we pray, ninety percent of the time we say too much.  Most of our prayer time should be spent listening to our Father.

Notice that Luke places this lesson on prayer just after Mary and Martha’s different approaches to working in the Kingdom.  As we know from Acts, taking care of the day-to-day activities in the fellowship of believers involves such chores as taking out the trash.  Martha was doing what she did best.

But Mary was closer to the eternal things.  We cannot allow the business of living to distract us from the eternal.

With the eternal in mind, consider the parable of the friend at midnight.  It is about prayer so we should look to the prayer Jesus just gave as an example.  Go back over the things Jesus suggested we pray for.  Notice the lack of big houses and fancy cars.  When we pray we need to focus on God, on things eternal.

Jesus warns us about failing to replace the bad with the good.  When we make the decision to change our ways we cannot be satisfied to just get rid of the old ways, we must put Jesus’ ways in their places.  Evil will find the empty spots in our lives and take over.  I have to have Christ-like relationships with my spouse, my kids, my co-workers, my friends, my enemies.

This is a wicked generation.  Those words could be spoken of every generation, but Jesus was issuing a warning to his own people in his own time.  Jonah was in the ‘grave’ for three days.  That is the sign his people will get.  Jesus is saying, the Queen of the South (Sheba) believed in God because of Solomon and the Ninevites believed in God because of Jonah, why will you not believe in God because of me?  Notice too that the Queen and the Ninevites were both gentiles.

The eye beholds light.  If the eye is covered with sin, it will not see the light.

The six woes are patterned after the prophets.  See Isaiah 1:10:17.  The key word in all is justice.

Tuesday, May 20, Chapter 12

With the large crowds, Jesus warned his disciples not to become impressed.  They were no doubt smiling and thinking that Jesus was well on his way to taking the throne of David with them as his loyal lieutenants. The prophets were killed, John the Baptizer was killed, do not expect different treatment.  The word in verse 5 for hell is Gehenna, referring to the valley on the east side of the Temple where the garbage was dumped, along with criminals and the unclaimed.

The Parable of the Rich Fool is based on a specific request made to Jesus to act as the judge in a dispute between two brothers.  Most likely their father died without a will and the older brother was not willing to share with his younger brother.  It was normal in the case of two boys for the younger to be given one half to one-third of the estate.

The younger brother is asking for justice.  Jesus responds with a parable.  Your answer, younger brother, do not concentrate on things of this earth.  For Jews of the First Century the body and soul were one; they could not be separated.  What our bodies do affects our souls.

The statement about eating and drinking was not the problem.  That was based on Ecclesiastes 8:15; So, I’m all for just going ahead and having a good time—the best possible. The only earthly good men and women can look forward to is to eat and drink well and have a good time—compensation for the struggle for survival these few years God gives us on earth.  The problem was that the rich man never considered other people, never considered, as Augustine wrote, that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns.

We always have to ask ourselves, have I put away the right amount of money for college, for starting that business, for retirement?  It is not easy to know how much is needed.

In verse 22 Jesus states two common concerns, eating and clothing, then responds to the first in verse 24 and the second in verse 27.  Jesus is not telling us not to eat or wear clothes.  He is telling us that what we have is enough, if we are close to God.

We need to willingly share what we have with those who have little.  The only treasure we need to consider storing is Kingdom Treasure.

Verse 35 begins a section on the need to prepare for Christ’s second coming.  To enter the Kingdom of God requires first entering the Kingdom of Service.

Verse 51 is often a stumbling block.  Of course Jesus brings peace to the earth.  The Message puts it this way, Do you think I came to smooth things over and make everything nice? Not so. I’ve come to disrupt and confront!  Jesus demands that people make decisions.  We cannot join the Kingdom if we remain rooted in the world.  The world does not like the peace that Jesus brings.

Wednesday, May 21, Chapter 13

In 1934 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was pastor of a church of German speaking people living in London.  The sermon was delivered just a week after the SS killed several hundred of Hitler’s followers, mostly those leaders of the SA, the Brown Shirts.

He used the first five verses of this chapter as his text.  Perhaps this text frightens you, and you think it sounds only too much like the news of the day—too dangerous for a worship service…. But it can never do any good to fool oneself into ignoring the truth….

Let us take a simple example:  suppose we see an accident happen in the street.  We see someone get run over.  We are unspeakably shocked and stand there stunned for a moment.  But then our first thought is:  Whose fault is it?….  Human beings are moralists through and through.  They want to accuse one person and exonerate the other.  They want to be the judges of what happens….

It is immeasurably valuable for us that Luke—alone among the gospel writers—has preserved for us the report of how Jesus reacted to such news of a catastrophe that had hit his country, a sensation for the newspapers, we might say, and what he had to say about it….

And now Jesus begins by joining them in the idea that in any case one cannot separate God from this terrible event….  But this very thought, that the hand of God is in this, means for Jesus something entirely different from what it means for public opinion.

Jesus does not say which side is right….  Jesus says No to the devout, he says No to their attempt to deal with this dreadful event by judging….  God is at work here….this is God’s holy mystery, and human beings are not meant to presume upon it.

Jesus said, Unless you repent, you too will all parish.

Jesus follows that call for repentance with the fig tree.  The fig is a common image of Israel.  Here, Jesus is saying that this wicked generation has not produced fruit for the Kingdom, but God will give more time to repent.

The crippled woman in the synagogue was just like the fig tree, bent and unable to bear fruit.  Jesus did something that stunned everyone in the room, he called the woman forward.  When a man entered the synagogue, he went to the front while his wife sat in the back.  A Pharisee would not even walk to the synagogue with his wife, nor would he look at her in public.

Jesus called on a woman he did not know and brought her into the men’s section of the synagogue.  He said to her, you have been untied.  And then he touched her.

To the hypocrites he said, you will untie a donkey on the Sabbath, why not untie a woman?

Luke several times has Jesus give pairs of parables, one with a man and the other with a woman.  Here Jesus takes two items so small as to be overlooked, showing how they become huge.  The Kingdom grows from the little things.

The narrow door is a clear teaching that getting into the Kingdom of God is not an easy thing.  In verse 26 he has the people saying, but we listened to you teaching in the streets.  It is not enough, you must respond in repentance.

Jesus is invited to stay away from Jerusalem, probably to avoid upsetting the Romans.  But Jesus points out that a prophet must die in Jerusalem.  Go tell that fox….  Jesus is ready for a fight.  Today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.  I am on my way to die and you cannot stop me.

Thursday, May 22, Chapter 14

Luke seems to go out of his way to record Jesus eating with Pharisees and healing people on the Sabbath.  No doubt it happened, but Luke seemed to see it as significant.  Here, Jesus is probably set up, again, with a man with dropsy, a swelling of the arms and legs from excess fluids.  Without much fanfare he heals the man and sends him on his way.

The lesson comes with the question, would you save your son?  There is only one possible answer and they cannot bring themselves to agree with Jesus, so they remain quiet.  Jesus then points out the seating arrangement and suggests none of us should assume we are the center of attraction.  He concludes the parable by suggesting service to those in need, if only to serve a meal.

One of the Pharisees thought to redirect Jesus’ thinking by referring to the Kingdom of God.  Jesus pulled out another parable about a banquet.  Do you want to eat at the banquet table in the Kingdom of God?  If so, you need to repent your ways.

The teaching of Jesus was in direct conflict with traditional teaching about the banquet of God in the Kingdom of God.  The Targum was the most important commentary on the Scriptures of the time.  In it we read, Yahweh of hosts will make for all the people in this mountain a meal.  And although they supposed it is an honor, it will be a shame for them and great plagues, plagues from which they will be unable to escape, plagues whereby they will come to their end.  The expectation was that only the most devout Jews had any hope of entering heaven.  No one else need apply.

The Book of Enoch, one of the most important books aside from Scripture in the First Century, described a banquet in which gentiles were present only to be slaughtered.  The saved Jews had to wade through their blood.  The writings of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran reject any possibility that a gentile could enter the Kingdom.  God would never allow a sinner or non-Jew into Heaven.

Jesus, in this parable, has God searching the streets for every beggar and thief to come into the Great Banquet.  Jews and Gentiles alike will sit together.

Connected to the theme of the banquet is the section starting at verse 25.  The only way to be a disciple is to love God more than anything or anyone.  Following Jesus involves giving up my personal rights, choices, desires, hopes and dreams.  We must be willing to pay the price.

 

Friday, May 23, Chapter 15

Luke has been leading up to this chapter since chapter 9 and he will provide similar events and lessons from chapter 16-19.  This chapter, then, is the center of a long lesson.  These three parables (stories) share the same four themes: joy, burden of restoration, gracious love, and repentance.

The lost sheep is an easy one for starters and sets the themes.  Nearly everyone in Jesus’ day had some understanding of sheep and shepherds.  Sheep were sacrificed by the thousands every day and provided the bulk of what little meat the average person ate in a week (generally one day a week only).

A young shepherd by the name of Muhammad ed-Deeb counted the goats in his care at 11 in the morning and saw that one was missing.  He left the other 55 goats in the care of his two assistants to search for the missing one.  He noticed the mouth of a cave on the cliff below him and thought the goat might have gotten in it.  Throwing a rock into the cave he heard a hollow thunk.  Investigating, he discovered the first of thousands of Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946.

The lost coin has a woman featured again.  It is the same idea as the lost sheep.  We will search for what is valuable to us.

The two stories are the introduction to the gem.  This parable should be called the two lost sons because the older son is just as lost as the younger.

This story is filled with images that strengthen its meaning.  Normally, a son would receive property only when the father died, so the son is really saying, “I wish you were dead, give me my share.”  The son turned his back on his people and the village would have held a qesasah, a kind of disowning of the young man.  To them he was dead.

To strengthen that image, Jesus has the youth go far away to a gentile country where he ends up feeding the most disgusting animals alive for Jews.  There are two types of carob pods in the Middle East.  One is sweet and sold even today as treats.  The other cannot be digested by humans, even if they could stand to eat it.

Verse 17 does not describe repentance, only a change in strategy.  In verse 18 he designs a crafty opening line sure to please the old man.  In verse 19 he sounds contrite by saying he is willing to give up being a son.  That happened with the qesasah.  He will become a hired man, not a slave, so he can earn enough money to leave again.  The boy is still thinking he is in control.

Now Jesus really throws some curve balls in the story.  The father is standing on the roof of the house (I know it does not say that, but it could be) and he runs to meet the son.  Throughout the Middle East then and now, no male over the age of 12 runs in public (though now it is done for soccer and other sports); un-hurried and dignified at all times, something like the old English stiff upper lip.  To add to the disgrace the father heaps on himself, he has to pull up his gown to run, exposing his lower legs in public.

The father runs to get to the son before the villagers have a chance to stone the boy for daring to return from the dead.  By kissing the boy, in public, he acknowledges him to everyone that the boy is his much loved son.

We can be sure that the father was a man of some wealth in the village just from the list of items given to the son.  Jesus’ listeners would have understood that the robe was the special one that the father wore on occasions of importance; the ring was the signet ring used to mark important documents and the fatted calf was a prize only the wealthy could afford.  All these things told both the villagers in the story and Jesus’ listeners that the son was to be treated as though he were the father.

The calf along announced to the whole village that there was to be a party.  A wealthy man might have a lamb or goat roasted for a special meal for family and a few guests, but a calf would have twenty times as much meat, enough for everyone.

We are not told of the younger son’s response, but it is easy to assume he dropped his pretense and genuinely repented.

The older son now comes into the scene, probably having been in the fields overseeing the work to be done on what was left of his father’s property (probably two-thirds).   He refuses to enter the house, a major insult to his father.  His father embarrasses himself again by going out to his son.  Those were the days when sons obeyed their parents.

The son equates himself to a slave instead of the number one son and builds a case against the rebellious son, possibly thinking of  Deuteronomy 21:18-21:  If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him,  his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.  They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”  Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.  He heaps more shame on his father by refusing to do his duty as the elder son, to be the host of the party so his honored father can enjoy his guests.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Matthew 19-23

Things to watch for as you read these chapters.

Monday, January 27, Chapter 19

When it comes to divorce, the Old Testament is not very clear.  In Malachi 2:16, we read that God hates divorce, but other statements allow divorce.  Jesus goes to the heart of the issue.  God created humans as equals, as companions to one another.  After the fall, men and women had to procreate, so began to marry.  Jesus always argues from the point of perfection.  In Heaven, there is no need to marry; on earth, there is a need.  Within that need we must always seek perfection, meaning in this case, equality.  Jesus rejected both the major schools of thought of his day because they both assumed that only men could or should seek divorce.  As Paul wrote later, men and women must treat each other equally within the marriage.

Verse 10 brings up another issue and Jesus’ response seems to cloud the picture.  Jesus and John the Baptizer, as far as we know, did not marry because their mission required all their time and attention.  Most of us do marry because our missions are not as demanding.  God will let us know if we are to remain celibate.

What about becoming a eunuch?  Jesus dismissed that as something that happens sometimes, but is not to be sought.  Men and women, alike, become eunuchs in practice by not marrying, no surgery necessary.  Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD) in youthful enthusiasm, operated on himself to become a more committed Christian.  He later wrote that it was foolish and unnecessary.  And while we’re at it, don’t poke out your eye either.

It is sad that the disciples tried to keep the children away from Jesus.  You would think that they would have understood, just having heard his comments about being as innocent as a child.  By laying on his hands, Jesus blessed them.  That had a stronger meaning in Jesus’ day than it does for us now.  A blessing was a powerful gift from God.

This brings us to the rich young man.  Jesus told him to sell his possessions; he went away sad.  In his defense, we must realize that in that culture, still true today, he was responsible for all his relatives, servants, and slaves.  He may also have been in charge of the village, more responsibilities.  That was a great deal to put at risk.  He did not understand that he would gain so much more by taking up that particular cross.  We Americans are rich.  A billion people in this world live on $2 or less per day.  Can we give up our wealth for Jesus?

The eye of a needle.  Just read it as written.  Only God can get a camel through something that small.  Can a rich man get into Heaven?  Yes, the same way a camel goes through a needle.  If I can give all I have to Jesus, God will still have to pull me into Heaven through the eye of a needle.  Doing good deeds is not enough because I am still a sinner.  When I get to the Heavenly banquet, I plan to head to the table in the back, next to the kitchen.

Tuesday, January 28, Chapter 20

The parable of the Vineyard Workers is found only in Matthew.  It is a parable of Grace; an expression of God’s willingness to save all of us, even if we return to him late in the day.

A denarius was a small silver coin used throughout the Roman Empire to pay Roman soldiers as well as unskilled workers for a day’s work.  No one who heard Jesus even paid attention that routine amount.  Notice what the man says in verse 4, ‘what is right’.  Now, his listeners were thinking several of the lesser bronze coins and fewer coins as the owner hired additional men.  At the last hour, he hired the remaining men without suggesting that they would be paid.

At sundown, three surprises occur.  First, the master sends his foreman to make the payments.  Then he tells him to ‘pay the wage’.  That is the direct Greek reading.  Jesus’ listeners would have understood it to mean a denarius.  In a couple of sentences, Jesus has started to turn the parable on its ear.  The third surprise is that the men should be paid in reverse order, allowing those who worked 12 hours to see the one hour workers getting a denarius each.  Now the crowd is thinking that everyone will get a raise, but no.

This is yet another story of the Grace of God.  As an eleventh century scholar wrote, Simeon held the baby at the beginning of Jesus life and the thief hung beside him at the end.  They both joined him in Heaven.  Those who suffer the most in this world can look forward to ‘going to the front of the line’ in Heaven.  Not to worry, the rest of us will receive the same pay.

Once again, Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon die.  To ‘drink the cup’ is a common euphemism generally referring to suffering.  Judas aside, James was the first of the Twelve to drink the cup when he was beheaded.  His brother was the last.  His cup was different that the others who are believed to have been killed.  John watched them all go and died of old age, probably in his 90’s.

Verse 26 gives us a basic lesson in being a follower of Jesus: be a servant to everyone.  Jesus followed that verbal lesson with a visual one when he healed the two blind men.  Taken together, the two lessons tell us that we must open our eyes to the Love of God before we can enter with him into the New Jerusalem.

Wednesday, January 29, Chapter 21

Before Creation, God and His Son planned every day of the life of Jesus.  Once the Son became a human, he had to grow and mature the same as the rest of us.  The difference is that he was always able to hear the still small voice of God.  From my readings of the Gospels, I believe that Jesus was given knowledge when he needed it.  Why else would it take him 30 years to prepare for his ministry?  Additionally, if he knew everything, he would not be human.

Regardless, Jesus did know that a donkey was waiting for pickup.  He may have arranged it.  What is important is that it fulfilled Zechariah 9:9.  The two men sent to pick it up could have been any of his regular followers.  Matthew is alone in saying the colt was with its mother.  He also has the strange image of preparing both animals for riding, as if he could.  Mark and Luke write that he rode the colt.

Spreading the cloaks on the street was only done for royalty.  The reason for the branches is not known. There is some evidence that large groups of pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem would stage just such a parade to celebrate and perhaps even encourage the long-expected Messiah’s arrival.  It would have been a bit like a Santa parade today.  In that case, most of the people watching would have failed to note that the One True Messiah had indeed arrived.

The quotes in verse 9 come from Psalm 118:25-26 and Jeremiah 31:7; shouted in no particular order.  While Jesus had not visited Jerusalem in two years, he was well-known by reputation.  As people learned who the rider really was, the buzz of excitement must have increased.  They may not have seen him as the Messiah, but they knew he was a famous teacher.

His first move had most of those same people rethinking their opinion of Jesus.  For him, it made perfect sense; he had to clean his Father’s House.  There were two main targets, the money changers and the sellers of animals for sacrifice.  Both activities were allowed and necessary.  The problem was that they were being done inside the Temple walls in the Court of the Gentiles.  Jesus did not put a stop to them; they continued to the destruction of the Temple nearly 40 years later.  It was a symbolic cleansing.  In fact, every step, every word of Jesus in the last week carries powerful symbols.

Cursing the fig tree is another of the hard sayings of Jesus.  Yet, when we look at it as a symbol, it becomes easy.  If I do not bear good fruit, I will face punishment.

The question of authority is important.  It is a fair question, then and now.  Either Jesus is the Messiah or he is an impostor.  The leaders were seeking proof; fair enough except that Jesus had given them three years of proof already.  Jesus knew they were really only trying to trick him, so poised his own question.  John was baptized by God to announce the Messiah, so Jesus put the leaders on the knife’s edge.

The two parables illustrate what was about to happen.  In the first, both sons are disobedient, but the one who repents is saved from judgment.  The second parable gives us a picture of what will happen to the second son.  The second son is anyone who says he follows God, but never takes care of the needy, always lives for himself.  Jesus is talking to you and me, not just the Pharisees.

Thursday, January 30, Chapter 22

The next parable makes it clear that Jesus includes all of us who do not respond to his call. It is also in agreement with the vineyard workers of chapter 20; the lost ones of society will be brought into the kingdom.  Reread the Beatitudes of Chapter 5.

Verse 11 begins another difficult section.  On the surface, a man is punished for wearing the wrong clothes.  But the symbolism is that some people say they want to join in the wedding with Jesus, but are not willing to do what is required to be his Bride.  We say we are followers, but our dress proves we are not.

In verse 15, we learn how desperate the Pharisees are becoming; they join forces with the hated followers of Herod.  Because Jesus is not himself a trickster, he deals only in the Truth.  ‘Use physical goods in the physical world and spiritual goods in the spiritual world.’

Having fended off the combined assault of the Pharisees and Herodians, he faced the Sadducees.  You should know that most priests and all Temple leaders were Sadducees.  They were all about the Temple and their power ceased to exist after it was destroyed.  Their question for Jesus stayed, they thought, with his spiritual theme.  Who will she be married to?  The answer is: the only marriage in heaven will be all of us married to the Messiah.

Next, for whatever reason, the Pharisees threw him a softball.  The greatest command?  Deut. 6:5 and the second is Lev 19:18.  Why did you even ask?

Jesus turns the tables and asks the Pharisees a tough question.  David, in Psalm 110:1, called the Messiah, Lord.  The title was never used for one’s children, yet David clearly did that, why?  The leaders gave up and left Jesus alone, at least until his arrest.  The answer: the Messiah is superior to even King David, having existed with God before Creation.  Jesus made a backhanded claim of Messiahship.

Friday, January 31. Chapter 23

This entire chapter is an attack on hypocrites.  Jesus begins by pointing to the obvious for his followers, that the men attacking him were the leaders of the synagogues; that is, they sat in the Seat of Moses in the front of the meeting house.  Jesus himself was often invited to sit there and never failed to impress people with his teachings.

God gave us the following: Lev 11:10 “But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to detest.”  Eating shrimp is an abomination to God.  Therefore, Pharisees believed they had to make sure they never came in contact with such things.  They would never wade in the water or get near a fisherman for fear of accidental contact.

 

With that picture in mind, read verse 3 and reread 16:12.  Jesus spends this entire chapter heaping condemnation of those leaders.  It is doubtful that he intends for us to listen to them.  It is much more likely that he is saying, ‘You are supposed to obey those who sit in Moses seat, but these hypocrites do not deserve your attention.’  They are busy creating cumbersome rules that do nothing to keep us close to God.

A phylactery is a small box tied to a man’s forehead while in prayer.  The box contains four small scraps of paper, one each for the words of Ex. 13:1-10, Ex. 13:11-16, Deut. 6:4-9, and Deut. 11:13-21.  They are words we should carry with us in our hearts.

A man’s outer garment also served as a prayer shawl by pulling up a kind of hood.  Each of four corners had tassels attached.  Each tassel contained a blue thread that symbolically connected the man to the priests of the Temple and thus to God.  It did not mean their prayers had to go through the priests, but rather that they had the same standing with God as did the priests.

The meaning of verses 8-10 is made clear by verses 11-12.  We cannot take the words literally.  Call your parents father and mother.  Jesus wants us to shy away from unnecessary pride in titles.  Jimmy Carter follows that idea in down playing his rank of President.  I have more respect for people who do not bother to add ‘PhD’ to their signatures.

Compare the seven woes to the six woes of Isa. 5:8-25, 28:1-35, & 10.  Also the five woes in Hab. 2:6-20.  Pride is the major issue.  I am a worm before God.  I cannot puff myself up to anything else.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Second Chances

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

Luke has done something very interesting by placing this event immediately after the fig tree parable which starts in verse 6.  Farmers understand the idea that a fig tree, or any other plant, that does not yield fruit has to be eliminated to make room for those that do yield.  Yet, in the parable, the tree was given another chance.  The main point being that God gives Israel and each of us second chances.
Now Luke places Jesus in a synagogue on the Sabbath with a woman.  Picture a room perhaps the size of the average Seven-Eleven.  There are benches along the sides, but most of the men are standing or sitting on the floor.  The elders use the benches.  At the very back, or if it is a well-to-do synagogue, in the balcony are the women.  Jesus, as a visiting rabbi, has been invited to read the scripture and comment on it, so he is near the front of the room where the ark is positioned.  The ark is the cabinet containing the Holy Scrolls.
So, Jesus is teaching and people are either enthralled or repealed by his words, when he spots the woman who can barely lift her eyes high enough to see him.  Jesus did the unthinkable.  No other Jewish man on earth that day would have done what he did.  His Twelve Apostles probably gasped out loud.  He asked the woman to come forward.
You have to understand that in the synagogue on Saturday, a man would not even look at his wife, even if she went into labor.  The other women would take care of her.  He probably wouldn’t even turn around for fear of catching a glimpse of her or any other woman.  And that was not just the Pharisees.  Even Jews who seldom went to synagogue would have known the rule.
I’m sure men were suddenly interested in the floor.  Let’s hope it has a beautiful mosaic to help them focus their attention away from the woman.  We wouldn’t want them to be defiled. Jesus, on the other hand, ignored all decorum.  He first spoke to her, then touched her.  I imagine some men hurried away at that point.  This was not a small infraction.  Jesus chose to do something that hit people between the eyes. He worked on the Sabbath by healing the woman.  He brought a woman to the front of the synagogue.  He spoke to a woman in the synagogue.  He touched a woman in the synagogue.  Tisk, tisk.
What was going on?  Why did Jesus make such a public display?  He had the power to heal the woman without even pausing in his teaching.  No one would have known the woman could now walk upright because of Jesus.
Which is the point; the people needed to know that Jesus had that power.  Psalms reads, “Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness.”  In Jeremiah, a pre-Messiah, God says, “I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”  The author of Hebrews writes of God saying, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.” The Messiah is the power of God on earth to heal and fulfill.  The Messiah can take a bent, unfruitful fig tree and nourish it until it is as good as new.  He can un-bend a woman and give her new life.  He can untie her and lead her to living water.
The word “set free” in the NIV literally means “untie” which is instructive in verse 15 where the animals are untied to be watered. Two more notes about the healing.  Even the synagogue ruler believed that Jesus could heal the woman.  He simply wanted him to do it tomorrow, and not in his synagogue, thank you.  Which brings us to the last point I will make here; nothing is said about faith.  Many of the healing accounts have Jesus mentioning that faith healed the person, but not here.
Why?  I think the woman’s response tells us.  The woman already understood what had happened.  She praised God.  Not Jesus.  Healing comes from God as she knew.  We Christians sometimes forget God in our passion for Jesus.  Jesus never did.  He always gave God the credit, even when he hinted at or accepted the possibility that he might be God or the Son of God.  God is the source of all, period.
Be righteous and do good.
Mike Lawrence