On the Healing of the Bent Over Woman that Took Place on Sabbath

Archpriest Pavel Velikanov | 11 December 2016

Gospel of St. Luke (Chapter 10, Verses 10-17)

Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound-think of it-for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath? And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

It often happens that people who have never bothered to read the Gospel, but know of Christ because at one point or another they heard something about Him, consider Him a weak man.

Yet the Gospel reading that we have just heard demonstrates the opposite.  We see Christ healing a seriously ill bent over woman right in front of people whom He obviously expects to judge Him.  Because the healing takes place on a Sabbath.  By this act, Christ consciously breaks what seems to be one of the most important for the Old Testament rules about the keeping of the Sabbath.

The scribes and the Pharisees then address the congregation with a seemingly strange request, “There are six days in the week, come and be healed on those days, just not on the Sabbath day, so as not to break the Sabbath rest.”

In reply to these words they hear the words of Christ the Saviour that are astounding in their severity and sincerity.  Referring to the scribes as “hypocrites,” He says “Does not each one of you loose his ox or donkey from the stall on the Sabbath, and lead it away to water it?  Should we not act the same way towards this miserable woman bound by Satan for eighteen years?”

Today’s Gospel reading emphasizes the priorities in the spiritual life.  From the point of view of a Jew, the most important thing was to uphold the law.  So, if a person, a living person with all their sins, weaknesses, frailties, with their sicknesses, and hardships, stood in the way of upholding the law, the Jews considered that they could and should step over that person.

Today the Saviour shows us that in religious life there can be no rulings, demands, directions, that have absolute worth on their own, if we need to overstep them in order to help somebody requiring our assistance.  And every time we are faced with the choice of helping a person, showing them consideration and love, or adhering to our personal religious set of rules, we need to remember today’s reading and what the answer of Christ to this dilemma was.

Translated from the Russian by Maria Nekipelov

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