Luke 13:10-17 (CEV)
10 One Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by an evil spirit for eighteen years. She was completely bent over and could not straighten up. 12 When Jesus saw the woman, he called her over and said, “You are now well.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and right away she stood up straight and praised God.
14 The man in charge of the meeting place was angry because Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath. So he said to the people, “Each week has six days when we can work. Come and be healed on one of those days, but not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord replied, “Are you trying to fool someone? Won’t any one of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath? 16 This woman belongs to the family of Abraham, but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years. Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?” 17 Jesus’ words made his enemies ashamed. But everyone else in the crowd was happy about the wonderful things he was doing.
Most of you see me in my wheelchair each Sunday.
Many of you lovingly ask how I’m doing – and I know and you know that we’re both hoping the answer might one day be ‘better’. (For the record, I am doing better than in February – thanks in large part to your collective love and care!)
But if someone showed up at church one Sunday – even if it was in the middle of Nathan’s sermon – and interrupted us all to call me over, lay hands on me and see me completely healed, I’m pretty sure I know what your response would be. There would be clapping and cheering and jumping up and down, and then I’d challenge all you Tough Mudder crazies to a race – and win! (If you’re going to use your imagination, you might as well use it to its fullest extent!)
But somehow, that’s not the response of the crowd in the synagogue this day.
Somehow, something had happened that made the leadership afraid.
Somehow, something had happened that meant that when the amazing and miraculous healing of this woman occurred right in their midst, all they could see was that a rule had been broken – all they could think about was that God might be mad.
How did they get from there to here? From excitement about the amazing, wonderful, miraculous things that God is doing right here, right now to worried that God might be mad about good God-stuff happening?
I think it can happen quickly. Something terrible happens – they lost their beloved partner at an early age, they buried a child, their farm got repossessed, their home was consumed in a devastating fire, the enemy marched over their borders and carried off their sister or their mother or their children.
And as quick as a wink, it felt like God didn’t care anymore – like they must have done something wrong to deserve their fate – and they started to construct a view of a God who they had to keep happy by keeping the rules, in an attempt to prevent such things from ever happening again. God hadn’t changed, but as their view of God changed, their focus and perspective shifted until they miss out on all the good that was around them.
I think it can happen slowly. A biting comment here. A cold shoulder there. A snub at a time you’re feeling vulnerable. No raise during your annual review. One too many calls from the school about your child. An extra vet bill or car repair that you weren’t expecting. Life just seems to wear us down.
Other people don’t seem to be struggling the same way that we are. So what’s their secret? What are they doing differently? Maybe if we went on that diet, or paid for that extra class for our kid or showed up more regularly at church or started going to the gym more often? Maybe if we stayed away from the bar or gave up chocolate or didn’t swear or were happy more of the time, maybe then things would go the way you were hoping?
Either way, the world seems to close in on itself.
We find ourselves living out of fear instead of love.
Living trapped by the rules, until it becomes more about the trapped and less about the living.
And there, in that place where we are holding on so tightly to the few things that we have, we end up missing the miracle that’s right in front of us.
- What has happened over the years to make it harder for you to trust in God’s goodness?
- What insults, injuries, neglects or suspects have come along to warp or twist or turn your head?
- What little things are clouding your view right now?
- What distractions, defeats, doubts or dependents are weighing you down and making it difficult for you to breathe, to thrive, to soar?
- What might you be holding on to so tightly that you could somehow miss the miracle that is right in front of you this week?