Healing the crippled woman and church (Luke 13: 10-17)
The main body of this material comes from an OI Institute discussion I led on Jesus and Miracles (New Testament) earlier this year.
The healing of the crippled woman is one of my favorite miracles of Christ’s mortal ministry; not only because I empathize with the woman’s suffering, but because of the personal implications as a woman and disciple of Christ. The New Testament is especially significant to me because it is teeming with Christ’s interactions with women. With some exceptions, women are not mentioned in the Old Testament or Book of Mormon, and even fewer are mentioned without regard to husband or child. Like so many of the other miracles, Christ chose to perform this healing publicly, and employ it as a teaching tool. Just as this woman had been bowed down with infirmity for eighteen years, the Jews had been bowed down by the pharisaical interpretations of the Torah for centuries.
In calling the woman to him, he invited her into heretofore exclusively male religious territory, and flouted the conventions that excluded women from public spiritual, social and political activity.
He spoke to her and laid his hands on her for the healing. Interestingly enough, prior to Christ’s ministry, there is no biblical record of men laying hands on non-related women for healings or blessings. She was immediately, “made straight and glorified God.”
The ruler of the synagogue was incensed, and chastised the people for coming to be healed on the Sabbath. How different is his response from Jarius’ (Mark 5:22). Instead of rejoicing at the miraculous healing of one of his congregation, the ruler “answered with indignation” because an interpretation of the law has been transgressed.
This straining at gnats is representative of the Mosaic law which Christ came to fulfill and replace. The Bible Dictionary states, “The law as given to Moses was a good law, although adapted to a lower spiritual capacity than is required for obedience to the gospel in its fullness. However, the Jewish leaders had added many unauthorized provisions, ceremonies, and prohibitions to the original law, until it became extremely burdensome. These innovations were known as the ‘traditions of the elders.’ By N.T. times among the Jews the law had become so altered it had lost much of its spiritual meaning almost to the point that the law was worshipped more than the Lord.” Here is Maimonides’ list of mitzvot. Specifically addressing the Sabbath, the BD states, “After the return from the exile, Nehemiah made the observance of the Sabbath one of the chief points of his reformation, and the strictness with which it was kept by the Jews became a well-known fact. In the course of time many regulations grew up, and were observed by the Pharisees. One of the charges most frequently brought against our Lord was that of Sabbath breaking, but this was because he failed to conform to the traditions and manmade regulations concerning the Sabbath. Jesus obeyed the letter and the spirit of the Sabbath, but was not obligated to follow the traditions of the elders of the Jews.” Here is a listing of melachah, or work that was prohibited on the Sabbath. Indeed the law needed healing as much as the crippled woman.
Christ came to fulfill the Mosaic Law and usher in the higher law. In Matthew 5, Christ begins with the Sermon on the Mount, and ends with clarifications of the greater responsibility to live the gospel. It is simultaneously less complicated and more rigorous than the pharisaical interpretations of the Torah. Whereas the healing of the crippled woman was instantaneous, the healing of the law was and, in some respects, continues to be long and tortuous.
The telling of the healing of the crippled woman ends when, “the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.” In my work as a PICU nurse, healing generally comes as a result of critical thinking, early diagnosis and intervention, and judicious employment of drugs and technology. It’s not so much miraculous in the divine intervention sense as it is the human and scientific intervention sense. Not that I don’t believe that miraculous healings can occur; I believe they are possible, just not very likely. However, what I do rejoice and glory in is my health, the healing miracle of the Atonement, opportunities to find and develop talents, the privilege of personal and authorized ecclesiastical revelation, and the association of loving family and friends. In my mind, these are no less miraculous than the healing of the crippled woman, and far more accessible. Will you join me in rejoicing over his glorious works?