|Healing an infirm woman on Sabbath (J. Tissot)|
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the gracious Kingdom.
Pray and Read: Luke 13:10-21
Since the beginning of his Gospel, Luke has focused on the importance of walking in faith and not in unbelief. Luke’s Gospel makes a major shift at Luke 9:51 where Jesus leaves his Galilean ministry and turns resolutely toward Jerusalem and His coming Suffering, Death, and Resurrection. Luke’s message of trusting Christ sharpens, and his warning against unbelief hones in on the very religious yet unbelieving Jewish leadership.
Luke shows us that new resolute focus in chapters 10 and 11, calling us to realign our own priorities to those of our resolute Lord: First, the priority of His Gospel to the nations (Luke 10:1-24); second the priority of our love for our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37); third, the priority of His Presence (Luke 10:38-42) walked out a higher priority of prayer in our lives (Luke 11:1-13); fifth, the priority of Jesus’ authority in our lives (Luke 11:14-28) which calls us to a high priority on repentance (Luke 11:29-36).
Luke 10:1-24 The Priority of His Gospel (for the nations)
Luke 10:25-37 The Priority of Your Love (for your neighbor)
Luke 10:38-42 The Priority of His Presence
Luke 11:1-13 The Priority of Your Prayer
Luke 11:14-28 The Priority of His Authority
Luke 11:29-36 The Priority of Your Repentance
First, Jesus condemns the wrong kind of religion – dead religion that is devoid of relationship with Him (Luke 11:37-54). Then he warns his disciples of hypocrisy and points away from the fear of man to the right kind of fear, the fear of God (Luke 12:1-12). Jesus next warns against materialism but instead to focus on being rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21), then warns against worry and encourages his disciples to trust the Lord for provision (Luke 12:22-34). The right kind of focus follows (Luke 12:35-59), then Luke’s outline calls us to the right kind of religion, one of repentance and grace (Luke 13:1-19).
Luke 11:37-54 The Wrong Kind of Religion (without relationship)
Luke 12:1-12 The Right Kind of Fear (not of men, but of God)
Luke 12:13-21 The Wrong Kind of Focus (not greed, but God)
Luke 12:22-34 The Wrong Kind of Fear (not worry, but trust)
Luke 12:35-59 The Right Kind of Focus (on eternity, not this world)
Luke 13:1-9 The Right Kind of Religion (with repentance)
In a series of illustrations, Jesus reminds us that the world is rushing toward Christ’s Second Coming. To be ready, believers must serve God actively (Luke 12:35-53) and unbelievers must make peace with God before it is too late (Luke 12:54-59). Jesus’ urgent warnings about the end times must have gotten some of his listeners thinking (Luke 13:1-9), and they told him about the Roman procurator’s brutal actions against the Galileans in cutting them down in cold blood as they sacrificed in the Temple, of all places. Surely this indicated the seriousness and urgency of the times. What was this world coming to? That the government would cut down people who were peaceably worshipping in the Temple courts? And Jesus answers them by turning the discussion to his main point: A warning to repent of sin.
1. Embrace the freedom of the Kingdom of Grace (Luke 13:10-17)
2. Embrace the peace of the Kingdom of Grace (Luke 13:18-21)
Exposition: Note well,
1. EMBRACE THE FREEDOM OF THE GRACIOUS KINGDOM (Luke 13:10-17)
a. Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11-13 is now interrupted with a healing miracle on the Sabbath day. Every Gospel shows a conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus over the Sabbath (Luke: Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; Mark 3:1-6), and this one is typical. So once again the Sabbath controversy demonstrates the religious leadership’s insensitivity to human need and their own need for faith. In Jesus’ last recorded incident in a synagogue, Jesus gives a vivid picture of dead religion. They are more concerned with custom than caring (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus labels the synagogue ruler’s response as hypocrisy.
b. Luke 13:10 – It was customary for a visiting rabbi to be invited to give the sermon for the synagogue service, and the synagogue ruler must have had some respect for him since he allowed Jesus to teach.
c. Luke 13:11- Women were not allowed in the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem, but they participated in local synagogue worship. The Greek text says she was “having a spirit of infirmity/weakness.” The condition caused her to be stooped over and not able to stand upright. Verse 16 blames the condition on demonic oppression too. Luke attributes many illnesses as a doctor to demonic activity (madness Luke 8:29; epilepsy Luke 9:39; muteness Luke 11:14; lameness Luke 13:11), yet illness is not always considered demonic Matt 4:24.
d. For 18 years that devilish spirit had oppressed her, hunching her over, pressing her face down. As she shuffled to the synagogue that day, all she saw was where to step, the dirt and gravel at her feet. That was her world. No one could help, and apparently no one really cared. But Jesus noticed her in the crowd. With one touch, she lifted her face to the Son and stretched her arms to the sky in praise to God.
e. Luke 13:12-13: “Woman, thou art loosed!” Christ called this woman to Himself and healed her, setting her free of her spirit of infirmity. While the woman glorified God because of the deliverance granted to her, the synagogue ruler openly repudiated Christ because He performed the miracle on the Sabbath day.
f. APPLICATION: Why hasn’t your loved one (or even you yourself) been healed like that, even though you have prayed and asked the Lord? Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. All our bodies will be healed and changed when Jesus returns. If you are like that bent-over woman, bearing a load of physical disabilities, for anyone whom Jesus has not yet touched, don’t lose hope. One day you will close your eyes and wake to his loving touch. One day even your body will bloom eternal.
g. Luke 13:14 – The Sabbath: The synagogue ruler reminds the congregation that the Torah / Ten Commandments established the seventh day as a day of rest (Exod 20:9-11; Deut 5:13). Notice that he does not deny the healing and that he speaks to the people, not to Christ, perhaps to avoid a direct confrontation or out of respect to his position. Over centuries the Jewish legal experts debated what exactly constituted “work” and established many rules restricting activity on the Sabbath. It eventually got pretty silly. It was OK to spit on a rock, but not on loose earth because that would be plowing. Tying some knots was work, but tying others to prevent animals from wandering on Sabbath was OK. And there were ways around the rules. One could travel only six-tenths of a mile (2000 cubits) from home on the Sabbath, but if a person left a personal possession at the limit of a Sabbath day’s journey, that place became “home” to him and he could travel an equal distance further. They could build a crude structure around a well so that it would be a “home,” and then they could water their animals. These rules were binding on good Jews.
h. Luke 13:15 – The Savior points out their sheer hypocrisy and selfishness. They would no doubt care for (their own) needy animal on the Sabbath. How much more important to care for a needy person. Jesus is making an argument in the rabbinical style of arguing lesser to the greater. The word play Luke uses is telling. The same verb is used for the woman who was “loosed/set free” is used for untying an animal (luo; Luke 13:15).
i. APPLICATION: Legalism always smothers and kills spontaneity. It confines God in a box and tells Him what He can and cannot do. Legalism values rules more than the people the rules were meant to serve. Instead of joining hands in celebration with this freed woman, he wanted to put her and the congregation back in bondage. That is what control does. It kills the work of the Spirit. The Lord can break the power of life-killing legalism in our lives. He did it in Paul’s life (1 Tim 1:12-16).
j. Luke 13:16 – Daughter of Abraham: She was not a bad woman. She was not just a human being. She was a chosen one of blood and faith. Satan: Jesus refers to Satan recalling the inbreaking of the Kingdom in Jesus’ ministry (Luke 4). Jesus also emphasizes that Satan has kept her bound “ten and eight years.”
k. Luke 13:17 – Humiliated: In both Greek and Jewish rabbinical debate, a wise and skillful orator was one who could baffle and silence his opponents. Apparently Jesus drove home the point so sharply that even his opponents were forced to recognize he was right. Everyone celebrated (Exod 34:10). The phrase, “They were put to shame,” echoes Isaiah 45:15, 17, where the shame of those who make idols are contrasted with Israel’s God, who saves with an everlasting salvation. But there is a huge difference between realizing one is wrong and repenting. The word for humiliated is also used in Rom 5:5 of one who finds his faith is in vain.
l. This woman, also a type of Israel, crippled and bent over for years, unable to walk uprightly before God. If we would only come in hope to Him, He is prepared to heal any nation which will turn in faith to Him.
m. APPLICATION: Second Corinthians 7:10 tells us the difference between worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow. Notice in that verse that Godly sorrow leads to repentance without regret. Worldly sorrow leads to death. A dear friend named Fern Noble taught me what I am about to tell you. Worldly sorrow looks like the oppressed woman, bent over, focused on self and my own wounds. Godly sorrow looks like the healed woman, standing upright, hands raised praising God. When we focus on ourselves, our problems, our navels, it leads to self-centeredness, depression, and death, the Scripture says. When we focus on Christ, His person, His work, we are led to praise, joy, contentment, and wholeness. You make the decision what your attitude will be. Where are you going to place your attention? Focused down on self or focused up on Him? One leads to death. One leads to repentance and leaves no regret.
2. EMBRACE THE PEACE OF THE KINGDOM OF GRACE (Luke 13:18-21)
a. Jesus then warns his listeners not to misunderstand God’s kingdom. Rather than coming glory, the Kingdom enters humbly and will only later become glorious (Luke 13:18-21). In contrast to their expectation of a dramatic and cataclysmic event to bring in the Kingdom, Jesus says that it happens gradually, almost imperceptibly, but then with overwhelming growth permeating and transforming hearts globally (Mark 4:26-29).
b. Luke 13:18-19 – Mustard Seed: The mustard seed was used proverbially among the Jews for something very small. The mustard plant could grow in one summer from a planted seed into a plant large enough for birds to light in its branches – usually about 4 feet but could grow to 10 to 25 feet. Just like the mustard seed, the Lord can grow the Kingdom through a humiliating death of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:1-12; Psalm 118:22-23; Phil 2:6-11). With this parable, He taught that from a small number who had put faith in Him, there would come great growth. The picture of the birds’ peace and security in the bush is characteristic of the Kingdom, and Jesus uses the imagery of Ezekiel and Daniel to identify the birds as the nations of the world (Ezek 17:22-24; 31:6; Daniel 4:9-11, 18).
c. Luke 13:20-21 – Yeast (Leaven): Yeast is usually used as a negative image (Luke 12:1), but here it is positive. Yeast was used every day for baking bread. Yeast works quietly, pervasively, and irreversibly in the flour, here three sata (a saton was a dry measure equal to 3 gallons) about 20 pounds. So it is with the Kingdom which starts small and grows large and quietly permeates the entire world.
d. ILLUSTRATION: Within forty years of the Resurrection, there were churches in every major city of the Roman Empire. Within two and a half centuries, the entire Roman Empire was Christianized, not by a sword like Islam did it, but by the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Today we see the last remaining 6000 people groups on earth which have been unengaged with gospel contact being prayed for, strategically chosen, and engaged with the Good News.
Do you have peace? Is your eternal future secure? Are you submitted to Christ and trusting Him for whatever is coming in our world and in this nation? Won’t you respond to Him right now?
F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1210-1211.
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 629-630.
S. MacLean Gilmour, “Luke.” George Arthur Buttrick, gen. ed., The Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952), 8:241-245.
Paul John Isaak, “Luke,” Africa Bible Commentary, Tokunboh Adeyemo, gen. ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 1231-1232.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 227-228.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 320-321.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton: Victor, 1994), 187.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 664.
David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, gen. eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 333-334.
Alfred Plummer, International Critical Commentary on Luke, 5th ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 28: .
A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary. Vol. 4 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 4:335-338.
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 126-127.
Mark Strauss. “Luke.” Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:434-435.
Charles R. Swindoll and Bryce Klabunde, The Declaration of Something Mysterious: A Study of Luke 10:38-16:18 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), 92-98.
Harold L. Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 1999), 541.