Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. He was often teaching in a synagogue…but what was a synagogue back in Jesus’ day? Understanding what we are reading, understanding the place is essential to any story. Yet often the Gospels are more concerned with the lessons than setting the mood.
“Synagogue” is a Greek word that literally means a gathering of people but also refers to the place of assembly (Just Like the word Church). Although the origin of the synagogue as a Jewish institution is unclear, by the first century C.E. they were found in both Acts 22:19), as a place to collect and distribute charity (Matt 6:2), and for political meetings (Josephus, Life 276-289). Worship also took place in first-century synagogues, although this would not develop into something like modern Jewish synagogue worship until much later. Nonetheless, reading and interpreting the Torah and Prophets is well attested in first-century synagogues (Acts 15:21), and although scholars disagree about the extent of communal prayers, sources suggest that Jews prayed in at least some synagogues at this time (Matt 6:5, Josephus, Life 280-295).”and the , where they were used for a variety of communal needs: as schools ( , Antiquities 16.43), for communal meals (Josephus, Antiquities 14.214-216), as hostels, as courts (
Does this sound familiar? What in our history may have looked just the same? The old meeting houses. They often had a split use and some were built to accommodate a separation of church and state but they were used for congregations to meet and then for town business to be conducted. They were multi-purpose buildings. Just like the old synagogues.
“Since first-century synagogues were local communal institutions, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for a centralized group that determined what took place inside of them. Although scholars used to assume that the Pharisees (the likely precursors to the rabbis) were in charge of synagogues, most first-century sources identify elders, priests, and archisynagogoi (Greek for “heads of synagogues”) as the leaders of synagogues (Mark 5:22-23). leadership of synagogues (which is what we are familiar with today) was limited in the first few centuries C.E. and didn’t crystallize until the period. “, Hypothetica 7.12-3, Theodotus Inscription,
So, it is the sabbath and Jesus is teaching in the synagogue what did that day look like? What would it look like if it was your story to tell? What would it look like if it were the woman’s story to tell?
“She had gotten used to looking at people out of the corner of her eye, by looking up and sideways.
After eighteen years, she could hardly remember any other way of seeing the world. On this particular Sabbath, there was a special excitement at the synagogue, where she regularly went to worship. A Galilean preacher and prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, had arrived in town and would be teaching there. She and the others in town had heard reports about Jesus--how he talked about God's reign arriving soon and how he healed sick people. She was not sure how many of the rumors to believe, but she was trying not to get her hopes up. Her life already had too many disappointments to count.
When she entered the synagogue, the place was abuzz. As Jesus began to teach, however, the room was hushed. Moments later, his words turned from teaching to invitation. He had caught her eye--no mean feat, given that he had to lean over and incline his head to do so. "Come here," he said to her. She slowly made her way to the front of the assembly.
What happened next amazed the whole congregation. "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When this man, Jesus, spoke those words and put his hands on her broken, bent body, she felt power surge through her. Without hesitation, she straightened her once crooked back. She stood tall and praised her God . . .”
OMG what a glorious feeling. To finally be able to stand and praise God. To be able to stand straight up and look people in the eye. To be able to go home and be her old productive self again. No longer to be looked at sideways but to be a full member of the community again. How amazing was that?
“this perspective emphasizes the healing as the crucial starting point of the story. While this pericope is a story of controversy between Jesus and the synagogue leader, at its core is a healing that demonstrates Jesus' power and his compassion. We hear the compassionate tone in Jesus' defense for healing on the Sabbath when he argues from lesser to greater: if compassion is shown to one's animals on the Sabbath by providing them water, "ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?" (13:16). Although Luke has not provided this woman with a name in the story, he indicates that Jesus gives her a "name," the daughter of Abraham. This phrase does not occur elsewhere in Luke or in the rest of Scripture (cf. Luke 19:9, where Jesus calls Zacchaeus "a son of Abraham"). This name stresses the woman's membership in the covenant community.”
Her name is Daughter of Abraham…her name is human…her name is a valued child of God…her name is my name…her name is your name…her name is the name of the stranger. If we follow Jesus example of who she is and just how she is treated by Jesus there seems to be, at least to me, a simple answer to a question we have explored quite a bit recently. Who is my neighbor? How do I treat the stranger and what am I doing to offer healing to the human condition?
This just stands out to me so much right now. Our government has officially changed the rules on how long we can detain children. “The rules, which are certain to draw a legal challenge, would replace a 1997 legal agreement that limits the amount of time U.S. immigration authorities can detain migrant children. That agreement is generally interpreted as meaning families must be released within 20 days. . . Families typically have to wait several months for their cases to work their way through immigration court, and the new rule would allow DHS to keep those families at detention facilities.”
These Children…these families…these people are all Children of Abraham. In detention they are the women bent over form years of oppression, fear, and hunger and yet…many many times and not just in this instance we behave like the leader of the synagogue. We can hear the leaders voice echoing through our land…
But is the synagogue leader such a bad guy? Or is he just mislead or stuck in a traditional way of thinking waiting liberation?
The leader is doing his best to follow his teaching and understanding of the Torah. The seventh day was set aside by God for Israel’s rest and work was prohibited. When serving at Children’s hospital I would see this all the time. Depending upon which sect of Judaism a family practiced we would have to turn on and turn of the room lights for the family. If it was Hanukah, we had special candles that turned on automatically so no one had to light them.
I confess this is still beyond my comprehension for what did that tradition do before electricity?
Jesus’ response we often here as harsh for his first words are you Hypocrites! But what if we imagine more a like a pitiful sad cry shaking his head, he sympathetically replies you hypocrites you will untie your ox and allow it to have water would not God allow a person to be healed?
Interesting thing here we often read this passage as scornful but this leader is responding with what he has been taught and Jesus is offering a broader perspective. These arguments were often what the synagogue was about.
You see just as our laws are black and white…so is the Torah…but then we add tradition, and argument and we end up even where we stand today. A nation divided, a faith divided, a people divided. What is written in the bible about Jesus time on earth is no different than today.
We have different sects who believe different things about the same text. Ok sometimes the same text…There are 450 translations of the bible into English text. The NRSV is the most commonly used among scholars and yet 55% of Americans polled report using the king James bible…a bible intentionally commissioned to limit the influence of the puritans and to reflect the principals of divinely ordained royal supremacy…Yikes
Even in Jesus’ day nothing was black and white for the most part the Torah was still an oral tradition though there may have been manuscripts rarely could one read so they were recited by rote. Then of course were different verses, there are verses, that contradict each other. So, let’s give the leader a benefit of the doubt. He was a man brought up in a certain tradition and whose job it was is to maintain that tradition and here comes Jesus. The living breathing word itself. He is here to clarify and move the tradition more closely aligned with a loving, caring God. One that expands and moves beyond tradition. This is scary. Jesus’ words are so powerful the leader is even afraid to confront Jesus himself but instead he kept saying to the crowd “there are six days on which to work…”
It has always been done this way…interpreted this way… we can’t change now…if God is loving and caring for all
OMG this is too much too fast
“Then Jesus argues for healing on the Sabbath based on the great worth of the woman as "a daughter of Abraham" and the appropriateness of healing on the Sabbath. What better day to heal (bring freedom) than on the Sabbath?”
“And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.”
Just as today we have people who are holding onto a world that cannot continue to exist. We need to continue to proclaim God’s love for all and seek a just world. We do not do this through hate speech and or cruel actions but through acts of love and education. Through action and redemption.
One commentator points out that this Gospel eliminates an us verses them attitude…
“the narrator points to the mystery of God’s action in this moment as a way of reframing Sabbath and relationships to all of the daughters of Abraham. There is no room here for Gentile gloating over some Jewish come-uppance. Instead, we are led to the threshold of celebrating and praising God along with the Jewish crowd. When God is up to something, prepare to be unbound: whether from confining diseases,”or social norms, whether it be our attitudes about how we walk with the disabled community… “The UCC Disabilities Ministries (UCCDM) envisions a world in which all people are included in the fullness of life”or how we live with mental health and addiction… “Everyone who is living with a mental health or addiction disorder, or has a loved one who is affected by a mental health challenge or addiction, is on a journey. Together we can connect with each other and share some ways to travel the path of hope and wholeness.”
The list of ministries is exhausting because the world is so broken and so far, from the love and global community that Christ was teaching. These ministries are our call to support. I am putting the link right into this sermon https://www.ucc.org/justice_issues..
I named a few already here are a few more we are seeking economic justice with 12 categories underneath that header. We are seeking Justice for children/education 4 categories under that header…we are seeking civil and human rights 11 categories under that header…
We can feel like the woman bent over bound by Satan as we have 70 some odd justice issues that we are seeking resolve for and as soon as we feel we have successfully resolved one ten more will pop up…why?? Because we are of human nature and our nature is imperfect and we succeed and fail all the time. There will always be work to be done.
That said we also must…must...celebrate our successes so that said our first shipment will go to Good shepherd United church of Christ in Sahuarita for their work with refugees tomorrow.
So today in the midst of such overwhelming odds we can stand rejoicing not about this just one thing but all the wonderful things God is doing through this small but mighty congregation! Let’s keep it up, let us be the healing voice that says to the world stand up be well and rejoice! amen!