Crippled by Pain
Aug 21, 2016
Frank and Mabel had been married for 40 years. Frank had turned 60 in April; it was now June and the family had gathered to celebrate Mabel’s 60th birthday. During the birthday festivities, Frank took a walk into another room and was surprised to see his fairy godmother. The fairy godmother said, “Frank, this is your lucky day. I am here to grant you one wish. So what would you like?” Frank thought for a moment and said, “Well, I would really like to have a wife who is 30 years younger than me.” The fairy godmother said, “No problem.” She waved her wand and poof. What do you think happened? The fairy godmother turned Frank 90 years old.
Today’s gospel text is about the time Jesus healed a crippled woman. He stepped outside the limitations of tradition, and beyond the customs of the Sabbath, and performed a miraculous healing. Through Jesus, we see that God’s word is alive and active, not dead or static. My text is Luke 13:10-17.
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
When Andrew “Bum” Phillips was the football coach of the old Houston Oilers and the New Orleans Saints back in the 1970’s and 80’s, he would often wear cowboy boots, blue jeans and a white ten gallon cowboy hat to all the practices and the games. Coach Phillips once made this comment. “There are two types of coaches in the NFL. Them that have been fired and them that are going to be fired.” His statement sort of applies to our topic as well.
There are two types of people in the world: those who have been hurt and those who will be hurt. Hurt is something we cannot escape or avoid. Even though we make a profession of faith to follow Christ, it does not make us immune from these struggles or shield us from the pain we will face. However in the midst of conflict, Jesus offers real hope.
In our gospel lesson, we are introduced to a woman in the synagogue who had been bent over in pain for 18 long years; she could not stand up straight. There are certain medical people who speculate that this woman might have suffered from a condition known as Marie Strumpell Disease, which is a fusion of the vertebrae within the spinal column. In the early stages, people with severe back pain would often lean forward to gain some relief from the pain. If a person continued to do that, let’s say over a period of years, the spine would gradually begin to fuse to the point where the person would stand in a bent like position. I knew a lady in my first church who had a similar condition; she told me that her internal organs were affected as well.
There is no doubt that this woman in our gospel text suffered greatly. Add to that there were people who stared and perhaps avoided her. Back then in the Jewish culture, some rabbi’s taught that a person received a medical defect or condition after having committed some secret type of sin. Regardless of the cause, life was intolerable for this daughter of Abraham.
But you have to give her credit: in spite of her physical appearance and limitations; she was faithful to the house of the Lord. I believe she is symbolic of our hurts and needs and the compassion that Jesus showed is similar to the care in which he will respond to us.
Joni Eareckson Tada is a woman who is well known in Christian circles. Joni had become paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident when she was a teenager. Shortly after her accident, there were a number of Christians who told her that it was God’s will and desire for her to be healed. Those conversations convinced Joni that she too would receive a miraculous cure, just like the type she read about in the gospels. So she assembled a group of ministers where they anointed her head with oil and then offered fervent prayers that she would get out of her wheelchair and walk. Joni said “A week went by, then another, then another. My body still had not gotten the message that I was healed. Fingers and toes still did not respond to the mental command. You can imagine the questions that began to pop up into my mind. Is there some sin in my life? Did I have enough faith?” And for the next six years, Joni searched the Bible for answers. Then she came to this conclusion. “God certainly can and sometimes does heal people in a miraculous way.” But she also learned that “God reserves the right to heal or not to heal as he sees fit.” Joni continued: “From time to time, God in his mercy, may grant us healing from disease as a gracious glimpse, a sneak preview of what is to come. But in view of the fact that the kingdom has not yet come in its fullness, we are not to automatically expect it.”
In our gospel story, there was no known medical cure, but that was not a problem for Jesus as He healed this crippled woman. For Joni Eareckson Tada the healing was spiritual, not physical. Therefore if we have a physical need, we should pray and trust God will answer our prayers in the manner he chooses.
Our final hymn in church this morning is called “He Touched Me.” It shows how the Lord can change lives and minister to our hurts. The lyrics are below:
Shackled by a heavy burden
Neath the load of guilt and shame
Then the hand of Jesus touched me
And now I am no longer the same
Since I met this blessed Savior
Since he cleaned and made me whole
Oh I never cease, never cease to praise Him
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls
Oh He touched me, oh He touched me
Oh He touched me, oh He touched me
And oh what a joy that floods my soul
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole
There is a difference between a physical cure and healing. During the “Joy and Concerns” portion of our service, we share news of people who are hurting and reports of people who have been physically cured. As we pray for them, we know that if they have not been cured, they will be revived in soul and spirit. Let us be open to the different ways of the Lord.
Now there is another aspect to this–compassion. Consider this story: A number of years ago, six young men lined up for the 100 yard dash competition in the Special Olympics in Seattle, Washington. When the starting gun went off, all the men took off in a sprint. Halfway down the track, one of them stumbled and fell. The other five men stopped and helped him up. After they brushed him off, they decided to finish the race together, holding hands. None of the judges could tell who won the blue ribbon; since they all came in together. When the race ended, the crowd stood and cheered for 10 minutes. These remarkable people showed more concern for an injured competitor than a trophy.
As Christian believers we too may play a part in the healing or helping of others. Many times we are called to serve as the hands of God as we minister to the hurts of others. I’ve learned over the years that Jesus can directly minister to us, but he can also use us in various ways.
When it comes to human condition, we are like this nursery rhyme, “Humpty Dumpty.”
Humpty Dumpty, sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the King’s horses and all the King’s men; could not put Humpty together again.” People do hurt easily and none of the self-help books or different programs can fix broken lives. Pastor David Dykes of Discover Ministries wrote this stanza in relation to Humpty Dumpty, “Jesus Christ came to your wall; And on the cross, he died for your fall. Regardless of death and in spite of your sin; Through grace he can put you together again.”
If there are any hurts in your life, come to Jesus and let him minister to your hurts. Pray and see how the Lord will answer. And be open to the possibility that you too could be used as instruments of God.