“a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;”
It’s my third year making this 40-day journey through the New Testament and I’m pure-T astounded at all the things I’m reading for the first time— though it’s surely not the first time. I’m convinced more now than ever before, that this Word from God we are privileged to hold and read and live from, is always currently alive and timelessly breathing God’s meaning into our lives.
In fact, what I’m discovering this time around is that I’m not simply reading the Bible; the Bible is reading ME… and it’s reading God into me and shedding His light all over the place.
It’s probably why I can see her now.
Honestly, I‘d never noticed her before… not really. But there she is, in the thirteenth chapter of Luke— a woman bent over, doubled in two, crippled and tormented by an evil spirit… for 18 years.
Eight. Teen. Years.
She was bent over and unable… to stand up straight.
For 18 years, she was there, day after day… Sabbath after Sabbath — bent over and unable to stand… in the church.
How have I never seen this before? I found myself asking questions like:
Why did she stay?
What bent her so badly?
What kept her from being able to stand?
What weight pulled at her so hard that her gaze never left the ground?
Looking down for so long that maybe… she had stopped hoping to ever see the sky.
And those Pharisees and Scribes– those “Men of God”, when did they stop noticing her?Did they ever see her at all? Why was she so invisible to them?
Because here, it’s the Sabbath and Jesus has come to town to teach; to open the Word of God in the temple– He’s come to BE the Word of God in their midst… in ours.
Luke says that Jesus, as he is teaching, notices this poor woman. He sees her. He didn’t have to ask what was wrong; he already knew. He also knew how long she had suffered— and why.
She didn’t even ask. Maybe in her mind, she had come to expect nothing would change about her condition or the way she’d been treated. She had grown used to being bent by this evil spirit and the burden she bore. She had become accustomed to not being able to stand.
Even in her own mind, she was invisible.
Jesus is there for one day and she’s one of the first things He notices. Calling her to Himself, he touches her and instantly…
She could STAND STRAIGHT.
Healed and whole, she stood— looking Jesus in the eyes and she praised God !
Of course, it’s a scandal and an embarrassment to the men of the temple and the leader chastises Jesus (God!) instructing the crowd that there are six other days to do this kind of work but the Sabbath isn’t one of them.
Because what other days are there and what better place is there to find healing and wholeness than in the church on the Sabbath? And Jesus tells them so.
Not to mention…. EIGHTEEN YEARS.
This woman had gone un-healed, un-noticed and un-cared for– being further bent over, burdened and shamed through the negligence of the very ones who professed to know God most… and yet knew Him not at all. They had been so busy with the “work of the church”— maintaining rules and regulations, buildings and reputations, they’d lost sight of the true work of God: worship and witness… truth and mercy.
It’s easy to do.
They’d been reading God’s words, but on this day, the Word of God was coming to read THEM. Jesus has come to teach. He’s come to set her… and me, and the bent and broken record straight, giving us a way to stand— whole, again.
I’ve been in the presence of many such women all gloriously touched and made whole by God. In the hills of Northern Kenya I met Rose. On the dusty streets of Nairobi, I met a former prostitute named Claire*. Yesterday, I sat in a room with a woman once broken by addiction. And just this morning… I locked eyes with the girl in the mirror… and smiled because she knows. Because she is known.
As one who’s spent time bent over and unable to stand I’m here to testify, there is nothing sweeter than being called to Jesus, and hearing Him speak into my aching spirit, “Woman, you are loosed…!”. Nothing better than being touched by Him and made able to stand straight again with nothing in my hand but grace upon grace to spend lavishly toward others.
I don’t know for sure what that dear Woman did for the rest of that Sabbath day when her life was changed forever or what she did on the many days afterward. But I get the feeling that she never stopped praising God. I get the feeling that because she was no longer bent, because she was now able to stand, that she spent the remainder of her life in worship and witness, keenly aware of others who needed the same touch.
And standing… she could see them.
At least, this what I want to do: to see, speak and to touch others with this love of Christ.
So maybe today, you find yourself “bent”, doubled in two and unable to stand beneath the weight of your burden. I pray that you can clearly hear these words from Jesus now– saying “… you are loosed from your infirmity!” Whatever that may be and then come… stand with me.