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So, Jesus is teaching and people are either enthralled or repealed by his words, when he spots the woman who can barely lift her eyes high enough to see him.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.