Erica Hamence opens our series of 16 days of prayer against Domestic & Family Violence - Foundations for Christian Action by reminding us that we pray because our God has promised to transform the world.
The Woman Bent Down
The woman who has been treated as insignificant and unworthy is none of those things to Jesus.
'On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath." The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then 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?” When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.'
- Luke 13:10-17
We do not know the cause of the affliction of the woman Jesus heals in Luke 13. She is either crippled by a spirit or crippled in spirit; the two ideas are related anyway. What we do know is that she cannot stand tall. Her life is one of being bent over; never meeting the eyes of others, she is better acquainted with their feet.
And yet, when she enters the synagogue, Jesus breaks off from his teaching. Though there are many important people around, he sees her. This woman who all her life has been treated as insignificant and unworthy is none of those things to Jesus. She is precious, and dignified by his attention.
Jesus’ words enhance his actions. When others use this woman as ammunition in their theological debates, Jesus is furious; she is not a toy or an object lesson. She is a daughter of Abraham: part of God’s family and an inheritor of God’s promises!
Those who experience domestic and family violence are often brought low by their experiences, made to feel small. This passage rebukes those of us who participate in this, and it contains a warning. At the end of this passage, it is those who have demeaned this woman who are humiliated, while she stands tall with Jesus, basking in the goodness of God and praising his name.
The crippling of women through domestic and family violence can be more than physical, as it is for this woman. What other dimensions do you know of? How has the surrounding community been implicated in this?
In what ways can we dignify and lift up women who are surviving domestic and family violence? What expectations do you notice in the community, like those of the synagogue leader, that might prevent this from happening?
Can you foresee ways in which domestic and family violence might need to be confronted out in the open, as Jesus deals with the woman here? In what ways might it be appropriate for abusers to be brought low?
Jesus, Lord of Lords, you are the highest and the greatest. You are worthy of all glory, love and authority. You are in very nature God, and yet you did not consider equality with God something to be used for your own advantage. Rather, you made yourself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And you served those who had been made low. We praise you for that. We pray that we will see many raised up, to praise you again. We pray that we will see many dignified in your presence. Amen.