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?

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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  1. Caroline says:

    Dora,
    This is one of my very favorite passages from the scriptures. I love how in the beginning, the woman is bent over, visually limited by having to always stare at the ground. But by the end, after Jesus has straightened her and said something like, “Woman, thou art freed…” it is the ruler of the synagogue who has been brought down by Jesus, his figurative blindness revealed to the people.

    I also love that phrase Jesus speaks to her “Woman, thou art freed…” How fitting. Christ in his mortal ministry did indeed work unceasingly to free women from the social constraints they faced as women. He touched them, he was friends with them, he taught them. He treated them as human beings of infinite worth, even though it went so against the taboos of his time.

    I love this Jesus. I worship this Jesus. This is the Jesus that inspires me to be a better human being and to be proud to call myself a Christian. I am always so disappointed that our own unique bodies of scripture like the B of M don’t present more of this type of Jesus.

    I am also disappointed that His church does not currently do more to follow in His footsteps by working to eliminate social gender constraints on women, as well as work for social justice and equity for all groups that are currently marginalized. It really baffles me sometimes. Does anyone else have any ideas why the Church doesn’t follow more actively in Jesus’ footsteps with regard to including the marginalized and working to eliminate social inequity? Or does anyone have a different perspective on this?

  2. Deborah says:

    Dora!

    I was planning to post on Luke 10 (my favorite passage in the New Testament)! Sounds like we are starting a women and the scriptures group. No complaints here. Re-discovering these stories has had such a profound affect on my faith. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a new Sunday School manual — “Women in the Scriptures” — added into the rotation? I can think of some women they could tap for the writing committee . . .

    When I think of all that was _edited out_ from scriptures, especially in the centuries following Christ’s death, I frankly marvel that the gospels contain as many stories about women as they do. And this, I believe, reveals much about the place of women in the early church.

    (Which reminds me that I need to finish reading Julie Smith’s tome on the woman annointing Christ — at least in time to knowledgably link to it on Saturday’s round-up!)

  3. Mike says:

    Yeah, this is a great passage. This would form the basis for a great sacrament mtg talk.

  4. Dora says:

    “I am always so disappointed that our own unique bodies of scripture like the B of M don’t present more of this type of Jesus.”

    I couldn’t agree more. The thing that gives me hope for the future is that there are women who are actively remedying that point by contributing pieces by and/or about women.

    “working to eliminate social gender constraints on women, as well as work for social justice and equity”

    I can only conjecture. As the church membership continues to grow in gender-disproportionate measures outside the US, I believe that the leadership will have to come up with innovative ideas about how to administer and serve these mostly female congregations. Much as I feel privileged to be a US citizen, I think the culture of the church is too settled here to allow for much change.

    As for eleminating social inequity, maybe Jana has a better grasp on the official church efforts?

    In recent months, I’ve been involved in OI Institute discussions about the New Testament. I’ve been astounded to realize what was involved in cannon formation, and differentiate the writers as very individual and distinct, each with their own purpose and audience. Which makes me wonder, how many more stories of women were edited out of the King James Bible that comprises one quarter of our standard works? Anyway, I would love to have a rotation on Women in the Scriptures. Can we add this suggestion to Caroline’s letter to Sister Parkin?

    Uhhh … thanks Mike. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view, I’ve already spoken in my ward, and I think that was enough for the bishop. However, next time I’m up at bat …

  5. Susan says:

    I absolutely love this passage. My friend and author, Jo Kadlecek (www.lamppostmedia.net) is currently writing a book on the “nameless” women of the Bible. At a recent lecture, she identified and said, “The reason this story from Luke is so amazing – is that Jesus himself IS the sabbath, and the religious leaders fail to “see” that. Great point. Thank you for your words… I am currently writing music to honor these “nameless” women!

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