Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fifth Sunday in Great Lent (Kfiphtho / Crippled Woman)

Sermon / Homily on Luke 13:10-17

"Shame on You!"

by John Jewell

Gospel: St. Luke 13:10-17

Focus Text: "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." [Luke 13:17]

I was waiting my turn to see the emergency room doctor when a young mother came through the doors with her child, maybe three or four years old. The little girl was crying and the woman who, I took to be the child's mother, was holding a bloody handkerchief over the little girl's mouth. She looked around frantically for someone to help and rushed to the desk and said, "My daughter's been hurt and I need to see..." She was cut off in mid-sentence, "You need to take a seat and wait for one of the clerks to sign you in."

"But my little girl was hit in the mouth by a..." She was interrupted again. "Please take a seat ma'am, someone will be with you shortly."

Just then, the ER doctor walked in and said to the woman at the desk, "Shame on you... this little girl needs help right now!" He motioned to the woman and the little girl and led them to an examining room.

Briefly, (and guiltily) I wondered when my turn to see the doctor might come, but -- if I live to be a hundred years old, I wonder if I will ever see another time when a person's pain so clearly wins out over the system's protocol. "Shame on you!" I love it! The physician was looking at a child's pain. The clerk was looking at the hospital's procedure.

Our scripture today is about a physician like that. Jesus is the "Great Physician" whose heart by nature goes out to the woman in need. Healing. Freedom. Good News. This was the stuff of the kingdom he came to proclaim. It had been set down from the time he announced why he came in the synagogue at Nazareth. People would come before procedures and relationship with God would come before regulations about God.

The story of the woman with osteoporosis is a set up for conflict. It is becoming very clear as the gospel story moves ahead that the kingdom Jesus came to proclaim is on its way to a head on collision with the religious establishment.

The religious authorities who are gathered for worship are "locked in". Process. Procedure. Rituals. Requirements. This is the stuff of their daily lives. People were there to obey the rules and satisfy the requirements of those who taught the rules. The rules themselves were so complicated it took an "expert" in the law to determine whether you could walk 300 steps or pickup an extra piece of firewood without breaking the Sabbath law. The only thing lacking in Luke's story is a synagogue clerk who might ask the poor woman as she comes to Jesus for healing, "Do you have insurance?"

We can track the flow of this story as we look at it in terms of:

1. The Healing of the Woman,

2. The Hassle of the People,

3. The Hypocrisy of the Leaders and

4. The Happiness of the People.

1. The Healing of the Woman

Jesus is in the midst of teaching in the synagogue -- most likely giving a comment on the scripture reading of the day. Suddenly a crippled woman appears. She is severely "bent over" and slowly taking her place behind the men among the women and children in the synagogue. If she gets any looks at all, it would likely be looks of annoyance or disdain. Many Jews considered physical infirmity a sign of God's displeasure.

Not only does Jesus notice the woman, he stops his teaching and calls her over. "Woman, you are set free from your sickness." He lays his hands on her and an astounding spontaneous regeneration of her severely arthritic spine takes place! (That is to say, a healing miracle.) She breaks into praise of God.

So much for your average, dull Sabbath morning ritual! Amazingly Jesus is always getting in trouble with the officials for his "Sunday Office Hours". [*See note on vv.12-13]

There is something wonderful about the way Jesus reaches out to this woman. Her pain touches his heart and her need for healing comes before his need to finish his sermon. Talk about God and the kingdom of God becomes action of the kingdom. The woman who in normal circumstances would be one of the least visible persons at this gathering becomes the most significant demonstration of God's love and power.

Isn't it great? Wouldn't we all join in her hymn of praise? Because, if Jesus stops everything to bring joy and healing to this poor soul, will he not also take notice of my pain. Who would not sing and praise God? You can't argue with this outcome -- can you?

2. The Hassle of the People

Well... not everyone was happy. Seems like the Senior Pastor of the gathering was not so thrilled about this interruption. Not only that, instead of scolding Jesus, he jumps on the congregation. "Hey! You folks should know better than to come to get healed on the Sabbath! We are here to worship God. We can't have all this healing and interruption and praising God." [Tongue firmly planted in cheek!]

In fact, the leader of the synagogue is not able to confront Jesus. He must be aware on some level that God is indeed present in this healing. He scolds the people instead. (Sounds like the old quip about the dad who yelled at the mom, who yelled at the kids, who kicked the dog, who bit the cat, who ate the mouse...) Face it, the man doesn't care about the woman's needs at all. For that matter, it doesn't sound like he cares about anybody's needs. "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured..."

Right. Come and be cured by who? This guy doesn't seem to have the kind of spirit that is going to bring healing to anybody. No. His thing is keeping order and making sure there are no frayed edges in the program. It isn't that this is a bad person, he is just a misdirected person. He is the model of someone who can't see the forest for the trees. Or better yet he can't see the Spirit because he is bound to the system.

The tragic result is that instead of helping the people, he hassles the people! One of the critical points of this story is that Jesus and the kingdom of God are headed in an absolutely opposite direction from the religious system which is supposed to serve the people and the kingdom of God.

3. The Hypocrisy of the Leaders

Key principle here. Be direct! The leader of the synagogue did not have the courage to confront Jesus. He indirectly attempted to correct Jesus by speaking to the congregation. Jesus is direct. "But the Lord answered him and said, 'You hypocrites..." The intricacies of their religious rules allowed for helping animals in distress on the Sabbath. Why could this woman not be helped on the Sabbath.

The Leader of the Synagogue might answer that the woman was sick for eighteen years and could have waited another day to be healed. Why now -- in the middle of worship?

William Barcaly in his Daily Study Bible speaks about the tragedy of systems becoming more important than people: "Strangely enough, this worship of systems very commonly invades the Church... it is all too tragically true that more trouble and strife arises in Churches over legalistic details of procedure than for any other reason... We are constantly in peril of loving systems more than we love God.." [DSB; Luke]

The wonderful truth is that God is willing to pay attention to our needs the moment we bring them into his presence. We see this kind of action over and over again in Jesus' ministry. The key? Bring your needs to the Lord quickly. One of our favorite hymns says it this way, "Oh what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer."

4. The Happiness of the People

Isn't it wonderful when the good guys win and the bad guys lose? Call me corny, but I feel for people who are so young they missed out on the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers and Hop-a-Long Cassidy. You could count on the bad guys being brought to justice and the good would win out in the end. The forces of evil (easy to identify by the black hats) would be crushed by the forces of good (of course, wearing the white hats!) In our generation Star Wars will have to do. At least Luke Skywalker wins out over Darth Vader and the forces of darkness.

In our gospel story, the opponents of Jesus are put to shame and the common people break into songs of gladness and joy. Key lesson? Mark it down people -- Jesus Christ defeats the forces of darkness and puts to shame everything that would keep God's children from experiencing the life God wants for them!

There is something marvelous about this whole story from the compassionate physician Luke. It puts the lie to all teaching and all myths that suggest God wants anything but joy for our lives! The church is designed to be the family of faith, the community of Jesus Christ. That means we are created to bring life, liberty, joy and the nearness of God to all who are hurting.

There is a bit of a check here. A way to tell whether our celebration of worship is on target. If Jesus Christ is truly present in our worship, the result will be, "...and the entire crowd was was rejoicing at all the wonderful things {God} was doing."


1. Do you ever have times when you feel as though your religious experience is more about a relationship with a religious system than it is about a relationship with God?

2. If you had been present for worship that day Jesus came to speak and saw him call the woman forward to be healed -- how would you have felt?

3. If by some chance Jesus Christ showed up in church this next Sunday and asked you what one thing you would like for him to do for you -- what would it be?

Notes on The Text: Luke 13:10-17

v.10 This is the last instance in Luke where Jesus teaches in the synagogue. The hostility is such that he will no longer be welcome to do his "usual" reading and commentary. The incident is similar to 6:6. His visit to the synagogue at Nazareth engaged the process of conflict that would result in the "contract" on his life.

No matter what else takes place. When Jesus is near, the kingdom is being manifested. The result is always conflict with "kingdom resistors".

v.11 Luke's language here makes a strong point of the woman's appearance... "Kai idou gune" "And behold a woman" -- or "And behold {there was / or appeared} a woman." Unnoticed by the officials -- but Luke makes sure the woman's appearance is more than "meets the eye". This is about the kingdom!

vv. 12-13 Compare 6:6 and 14:1 - Although 14:1 is not in the synagogue, it does describe a Sabbath healing as does 6:6. It is as though Jesus insists on driving home the point that the Sabbath is precisely a great time for "kingdom work."

v. 15 "Does not each of you on the Sabbath..." Several Rabbinical opinions allowed for the helping of animals in emergencies on the Sabbath.

v. 16 The woman is "freed" or "loosed" from her bondage. Verse 11 states that the genesis of this illness is a "spirit"... In verse 16, Jesus says she is a "daughter of Abraham" -- "child of God" who has been bound by "Satan". The healing is much more than a medical issue -- is is a confrontation of the power of the kingdom of God with the kingdom of evil.

See Also:

Bent and Broken: Sermon on Luke 13:10-17
by Rev. Dr. Luke Bouman, Valparaiso University

Freedom From Religious Rules, Regulations and Rituals
by Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, WA

Devotional Thoughts for the Fifth Sunday of the Lent/Crippled Woman
by Rev. Fr. Solomon OIC

Devotional Thoughts for the 5th Sunday of the Great Lent (Bent Woman's Sunday)
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for 5th Sunday in Great Lent Kfiphtho / Crippled Woman)

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