This post is part of the weekly series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
image: An apple tree in full bloom. The flowers are beautiful against the backdrop of the blue sky.
When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Suggested Reading Luke 13:10-17 / Year C Proper 16 (21)
Straighten Up and Fly Right
When I was young, I had a great deal of respect for my grandparents. They were a huge and influential part of my life. I spent many happy days in their home while my mother was at work.
Despite the fact that I did my best to try to behave, I was always getting into some kind of trouble. I had a great deal of energy and was very inquisitive. I was always falling down, breaking things, or making a mess. One summer day, I was playing with my cousin. She lived next door and we often spent time together because we were about the same age. We were making a great deal of noise as usual, so my grandmother sent us outside to play.
“Go be loud outside. But behave- both of you!” said my grandmother. “Don’t get into any trouble.”
Once we were outside, my cousin and I decided that it would be great fun to climb the apple trees in her yard. I am incredibly clumsy and uncoordinated, but even so, I managed to clamber high into the trees branches. As I sat atop my high perch and surveyed my surroundings, my hand slipped, and I tumbled from the tree.
I was lucky that it wasn’t a very large tree. Although I skinned my knee and gave myself a good fright, I didn’t break any bones. I came home dazed and crying, but I wasn’t particularly injured.
When my grandparents found out what happened, my grandfather gave me a stern lecture. “What were you thinking climbing that apple tree?” he scolded. “You know better than that. Didn’t your grandmother tell you to behave? You need to straighten up and fly right, or your going to really hurt yourself some day.”
Jesus Straightens Up a Woman
It’s been over twenty years since I received that stern lecture from my grandfather, but I can still hear his words echoing in my mind, “You better straighten up and fly right.”
My grandfather was a strong, tall, and imposing man of few words. When I got a lecture from him, it really had an impact on me. I never climbed another apple tree again.
In the story which this verse comes from today, Jesus also has some stern words for the people. In this pericope, Jesus straightens up a woman who has been bent over in need of healing for eighteen years. He also straightens up the priests who try to pass judgement on him for healing on the sabbath.
When Jesus goes to the synagogue in order to teach, he sees a woman who has been bound a spirit for eighteen years. It is interesting to me that the woman does not ask Jesus to be healed. Instead, Jesus sees the woman and has compassion on her. In the same way, Christ sees our needs, our hurts, and our fears before we ever voice them in prayer.
When Christ sees the woman, he calls to her. Just as Christ calls to each and every one of us today. Then he places his hands on her “and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”
Jesus Straightens Up the Religious Leaders
This woman, who had been bound by a spirit for eighteen years, was set free from bondage. This should be a time for joy and celebration! But instead, the religious leaders of the synagogue are appalled. “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath (Luke 13:14).”
Jesus wastes no time. His response is stern and immediate. He straightens out those priests and gives them a harsh tongue lashing. “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her (Luke 13:15-16)?”
When the religious leaders heard Jesus’s words, they were “humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things Jesus was doing (Luke 13:17).”
In the same way, do we rejoice when we encounter Christ? Do we praise God when Christ breaks down barriers? Or are we uncomfortable with the new world order that Christ brings?
Are we the woman- or are we the religious leaders? Sometimes, I believe that we are both.
Jesus Straightens Our Rough Edges
All of us need to straighten up sometimes- all of us are tempted to judge others. Furthermore, all of us are bound by something. We are all in need of healing, whether it be spiritual, physical, or emotional. When Christ shows up on the scene, everything changes. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matthew 20:16, KJV),” and “every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill made low (Isaiah 40:4, ESV).”
I pray that God will straighten our curves and smooth out our rough edges (Isaiah 40:4b). When Christ comes again, he will make every path straight for his name’s sake. Until then, it is my prayer that we will follow him as he walks before us and makes the crooked places straight (Isaiah 45.2)
In the meantime, I am encouraged by this scripture to do my best to straighten up and fly right. I hope that you are as well.
Oh- and don’t forget-
Stay out of those apple trees.
Until Next Week,
Until Next Week,
Until Next Week,
P.S. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Otis Moses III at A Sermon for Every Sunday. I really struggled with this text and his sermon helped me to look at it from a new angle. To hear his inspiring message about this Bible story, please visit ASermonForEverySunday.com
This post is part of the series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Now, it’s your turn! What Scripture verse is inspiring you this week? Let me know in the comments below!
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