Be Loosed on the Sabbath Day!

Sermon preached on Luke 13:10-17 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 05/29/2022 in Novato, CA.

Sermon Manuscript

Today, Luke’s gospel returns to the topic of the Sabbath. Here, we again see Jesus teaching about the proper observance of the Sabbath. This was something Luke’s gospel drew our attention to back in chapter 6. There will be a short reprise of the topic again at the start of next chapter. Important topics are often repeated in the Bible with teaching given from different angles. Certainly, the observance of the Sabbath is an important teaching in the Bible. From the very beginning of creation, God set a pattern of one day in seven to be a day holy unto the Lord. In the Old Testament, we see that one repeated moral failing of Israel was in their failing to properly keep the Sabbath. They’d too often treat it like any other day. So, then at this time in the New Testament, in the name of keeping it, their leaders had actually been perverting it by adding extra man-made regulations to it. Jesus, then continues to correct their legalistic approach by teaching them the spirit of what the day was to be about. So then, let’s approach today’s passage in three points. First, we’ll consider this woman whom Jesus heals. Second, we’ll consider the response to Jesus so healing this woman, especially what the ruler of the synagogue had to say about it. Third, Jesus then responds to that and we’ll see how they respond to what Jesus has to say about this.

We begin then first by considering this woman whom Jesus heals. Or, to say it another way, to consider this woman who Jesus looses from the bondage of Satan. Starting in verse 10, we see that the setting is the Sabbath. Jesus is where you would expect to find him on the Sabbath, there at the local synagogue teaching. Verse 11 then gets our attention. It says, “behold!” It draws our attention to see this poor woman. She had been disabled for eighteen years. She had some physical affliction that made it so she could not straighten herself. In other words, she was somehow stooped over. Commentators like to mention a specific medical condition at this point and think they can diagnose her, but I don’t see the value at trying to guess such a thing. I especially think this the case when verse 11 tells us that she had a disabling spirit that somehow brought that upon her. Again, we don’t know the details here. Elsewhere, we’ve seen demons cause various physical and bodily afflictions on people. We don’t know the details, but we know it was an affliction of the enemy. And it was a long standing one, as she had to suffer for eighteen years with this condition. And it is because this long standing condition was the result of demonic affliction, that Jesus says she is someone whom has been bound by Satan. She is somehow enslaved and captive by Satan in terms of this physical constraint.

Yet while on the one hand she can be described as a woman bound by Satan, we find a contrasting description of her in verse 16. Jesus also describes her as a daughter of Abraham. That tells us she is part of God’s covenant people. It reminds us of the promises God made to Abraham, that he would bringing blessing through his offspring. A number of commentators think Jesus means to commend her conduct her too, that she lives as one who is a daughter of Abraham. And so Jesus wants to draw us to have mercy and pity and compassion for this saint who has been so ill treated for so long.

So then, notice that Jesus takes the initiative here to heal her. Verse 12, Jesus sees here. He calls her over to himself. He speaks to her to declare her freedom, “Woman, you are free from your disability.” He reaches out and touches his hands upon here, to bestow upon her the blessing of healing. She is immediately healed. That is wonderful. That is miraculous. And I love Jesus’ initiative here in healing her like this. She didn’t have to come to him and beg to be healed. She had merely come to the synagogue on a Sabbath, as she ought, and there Jesus saw here and healed her. While there are many things we don’t have from God because we haven’t asked in prayer, there are also many good things we do have that God took the initiative to bless us with.

In terms of making application to us here from this first point, we have gratitude for the initiative in God to straighten us and loose us from the bonds of Satan. When we become a Christian, it is not really us who sought out God to save us. It is God who sought us out to save from the bondage of Satan and our sin. Even here today, as his Word is being preached to you, it is God taking the initiative in bringing his freedom-giving and liberty-promoting Word to you.

Another application from this first point is that we need our religious leaders to be guiding us into the liberty of Christ. This is what Jesus was doing for this woman. We don’t want them to keep us shackled with the bonds of Satan. Just because a religious leader is quoting the Bible, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing that. Remember, when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he quoted Scripture to Jesus. We need pastors and teachers who proclaim the liberty of God which is in Christ Jesus. We need them to be faithfully wielding the Bible to attack the enemy that God would be setting people free by his Word which is that powerful Sword of the Spirit.

Let us now turn in our second point, to compare and contrast two responses to Jesus’ miracle here in healing this woman. Notice first the woman’s response. She glorifies God for it, verse 13. That is said so simply and sweet. She was made straight, and she glorified God. That is simple and sweet and it should also be so obvious. When God does a mighty miracle like that for you, you should say, “Praise the Lord!” When God gives some great blessing to you, you should thank him and glorify him. Too often we can spend a lot of time praying for something and then be slow and little in our gratitude to God when we get our prayer answered. Let us indeed laud and extol our great God as he does his great things in our lives.

But in contrast to this healed woman’s response, we have the response of the synagogue ruler. We are introduced to him in verse 14. Synagogues back then were typically overseen by a council of elders. This ruler would have likely been on that council and functioned as its head in some fashion – think like a chairman or moderator. So then, we see his response in verse 14. He’s indignant. That’s a fancy word for angry. He got angry and upset. This really bothered him to see Jesus heal this woman. Why? Because it was the Sabbath, verse 14. That’s why it was important to observe the setting that it was the Sabbath. That is why he was upset, because he thought it was inappropriate to heal someone like this on the Sabbath which was supposed to be a holy day of rest.

So then in verse 14 he goes on to speak a word of admonition. Notice he speaks it publicly to the whole congregation, but you can’t help but think he really wants to direct it to Jesus. His words even sounds like he is chiding the woman for coming to Jesus to be healed, and yet as we already observed, it was Jesus who came to her, not the other way around. So, really his admonition is against Jesus, even though he seems intentional to not directly confront Jesus here. This becomes clear at the end of the passage in verse 17 when it mentions Jesus’ adversaries there. This ruler of the synagogue had set himself as an adversary against Jesus and he’s using his words here to indirectly confront him and trying to indirectly shame him.

So then, this ruler of the synagogue declares, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Notice what he did there. He began by quoting the 4th commandment. That was correct. The 4th commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. That’s Exod. 20:8-10. He has a generally correct principle, that in general, the Sabbath was to be a holy day of rest. But then he misapplies the Scripture. The most egregious way he misapplies it is to imply that Jesus’ miracle was akin to how a doctor healed someone. Jesus wasn’t some medical physician receiving patients seven days a week for any and every ailment. Jesus had just done a miracle. There’s no physician, Monday through Saturday, that would have been able to cure this woman like this. She needed this supernatural cure that only Jesus was going to be able to bring her. Beyond this, this ruler failed to recognize that there are various works of mercy and necessity that are quite appropriate to be done on the Sabbath.

An application we can take here is that someone can know the Bible but still make bad applications. As a student of the Scriptures this is very important. Remember that studying the Bible involves observation, interpretation, and application, in that order. First you need to observe what the Bible text is actually saying. Then you have to properly interpret what that passage actually means. Then and only then, will you be a in place to think about how to properly apply a text. This ruler had the observation part down. He demonstrates here his knowledge of the Bible. He seems to understand their meaning in a basic sense. But when it comes to actually applying them, he misses the mark. We can know the Bible but misapply it. We need to be on guard against that. We also need to make it part of our discipleship to learn how to go about properly applying the Scriptures.

Let’s now move to our third point and see Jesus’ response to the ruler and the people’s response then to that. This is in verses 15-17. Jesus responds to the indirect admonition of the ruler with a direct and strong rebuke. Notice that it says that Jesus “answered him” showing that it was a response to what the ruler had said. But notice that Jesus’ response is to say, “Hypocrites!” In other words, he doesn’t say “hypocrite” singular, but “hypocrites” plural. So, Jesus begins with the ruler of the synagogue but also is directing his critique beyond him to others there who share his position on this matter concerning the Sabbath. As I mentioned in verse 17, we see it refer to multiples adversaries of Jesus there present at the synagogue.

So then, for Jesus to call them a hypocrite is to say that they pretend to be something that they are not. In this specific instance, we see that Jesus means that what they teach about the Sabbath is not consistent with what they themselves actually do. Thus it is not consistent with what they themselves truly believe about the Sabbath. Jesus gives the example in verse 15 of how they treat their animals on the Sabbath. He says that they untie their oxen and donkeys in order to give them water to drink on Saturdays. Whether you call this either an act of mercy or an act of necessity, it was their practice. I appreciate the parallel that Jesus develops when he speaks of this woman being bound by Satan. Their animals have been bound, so they can’t get what they need like water. So, their owners loose their bonds and lead them to go get water. So, this woman had been bound by Satan and now Jesus has loosed her bonds so she can be well. But his adversaries object against this. Jesus says that this shows their hypocrisy. Surely if something is good to do for your animal’s wellbeing and sake, how much more important is this woman than someone’s livestock.

Jesus takes it even further in verse 16 when he says, “And ought not this woman… be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? The Greek word for “ought not” can be more literally translated as “is it not necessary”. He’s asking about this necessity specifically in regards to the Sabbath day. Jesus goes beyond just critiquing their hypocrisy here. He goes beyond just saying that this is something one might be allowed to do on the Sabbath as an exception to the norm. He rather says that this is something that should be done if it could be done for this woman. What this seems to clearly imply is that of all the days in the week, liberating this poor woman from Satan is most fitting on a Sabbath day. It’s like the day demands that she be liberated from Satan on that day if she could be. Go back to the point in verse 11 where we first saw the woman and it said “Behold!” This woman and her plight was so bad, and there she was in such agony before them in the synagogue, Jesus couldn’t help but interrupt his Bible teaching and deliver her from this Satanic bondage. Jesus says that was not only proper for him to do, but a necessity for him to do. How could he not show compassion and mercy when he could to such a suffering daughter of Abraham?

There are couple more applications can we take from this. One is that you can know the Bible but miss the spirit of it. That is sometimes what is meant when people are called legalists, that they are applying the strict letter of the law in a way that misses the spirit of the law. For example, I’ve seen this happen at times in California employment law, where certain laws that are meant to be there to protect an employee are actually rigidly forced on them in such a way that it burdens the employee against their wishes. So too, these religious leaders in the name of being Sabbatarians were actually perverting the sabbath by missing the spirit of what it was supposed to be about. We too need to make the mistake to not take a woodenly literal application of a commandment and miss what the intention of it actually is.

A second application here is that someone can know the Bible but have a double standard in how they apply it. Usually this means you end up holding others to a higher standard than you hold yourself. This tends to make someone look at others and think they are far worse sinners than themselves, but that judgment started because they held them in their mind to a stricter standard than themself. We need to also be on guard against this. Proper application of any biblical principle should involve a consistent standard. Otherwise, you will fall into the hypocrisy that Jesus described here.

So then, after Jesus responds with this rebuke to the ruler of the synagogue, we then should note how people responded to Jesus after that. First off, we note then how Jesus’ adversaries responded to what Jesus had to say. Look at verse 17. They were put to shame. Jesus’ rebuke of them exposed their hypocrisy and it shamed them. They certainly should be ashamed of how they mishandled Scripture. Certainly, they had incorrectly shamed this poor woman in her time of healing and joy. Certainly, they had tried to incorrectly shame Jesus. But they were the ones who should have been ashamed of themselves. Yet, notice then what the text says they do after being put to shame. Nothing. There is no record of them further responding here. But what should they have done? They should have admitted they were wrong. They should have asked for forgiveness. They should have repented at their hypocritical teaching concerning the Sabbath. There is an application here for us. May biblical shame lead you to repentance. What I mean is that God’s word can expose our sin. It can shame us for our depravity. But the right response is not to be stubborn and stiff-necked when that happens and dig in our heals to our sin. The right response is repentance. There are going to be times where you do something wrong and you become convicted and ultimately ashamed of what you did. The application then here is may such biblical shame lead you to repentance.

The other response is also there in verse 17. Notice the response of the people to what Jesus had to say to his adversaries. They rejoiced. They saw all the glorious things he had done. They heard his wise words. And so they rejoiced. These were indeed glad words. Jesus loosed this woman from the bonds of Satan on that Sabbath. But his teachings were also freeing the people from the shackles of their hypocritical leader’s faulty, legalistic application of Scripture.

In conclusion, I hope we have been learning today the importance of proper applying the Bible. Being a student of it means a proper application of it as well. We have this wonderful doctrine of the Sabbath. It looks back to what God did in the creation, setting a pattern of work and rest for his people. Gods so called for one day each week to be a holy day of rest and worship. They enjoyed that day under the old covenant on the last day of the week. We enjoy that today under the new covenant on the first day of the week as we look ahead to the new creation even as Jesus rose from the dead on the first day. Let us be reminded today of the goodness of such a day. That it is especially a day to be about loosing people from all Satan’s bonds, and even from all man-made ones too. May this passage spur us on to see how good this day can be, that we would never fall back into the past traps of neglecting it, but rather look to observe it all the more. Amen.

Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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