Old ways of thinking die hard. You’d think that by now, the Jewish leaders would start to understand that healing on the Sabbath was not wrong. They had tried time and again to argue the point with Jesus, and time and again, they were left speechless by his responses.
But as I look at this passage, two words strike me. They’re words that embody the reason for Jesus’ ministry here on earth. The two words?
When Jesus saw the woman, he said to her,
Woman, you are set free from your infirmity. (12)
And when he was defending his actions to the synagogue ruler, he said,
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? (16)
What can we learn from this? Jesus is more interested in setting people free than us keeping a bunch of religious rules.
Here was a woman who had been bound by Satan for 18 years and living in total misery. And yet, this ruler had had little sympathy for her during those years. If he had, he probably would have responded with joy at her healing. Instead, he scathingly rebuked Jesus for “breaking the rules.”
Jesus, on the other hand, had compassion on her from the moment he laid his eyes on her. He saw how Satan had kept her in bondage all those years, and it was his deepest desire to set her free. So he reached out to her, touched her, and she was healed.
How about you? Are you so wrapped up in trying to keep religious rules, that you fail to see the people in bondage around you? That you fail to have sympathy for them even if you do see them? That you fail to reach out with God’s love and power that they might be set free?
You can keep all the rules, but if you have no compassion or mercy in your heart for those Satan has bound, if you are not doing what you can to help set them free, you’re just like that synagogue ruler. And like that ruler, you will stand ashamed before Jesus some day.
May we each day look with compassion at the people around us who are bound by Satan. May we each day reach out with the love of Jesus that they might be set free.