Sunday, March 08, 2015

Sermon: Luke 13: 10-21 A Loosed Woman

One of the life skills you have to learn as you grow up is how to tie your shoelaces. When I was growing up, I was all fingers and thumbs, and couldn’t work it out for a while. Every Saturday, dad took me to watch football, and I wore wellies because it was so mucky at Dromore Amateurs old ground. The laces on them didn’t matter, but I just couldn’t get them tied. So for a while, mum or dad would tie my laces really tight so they wouldn’t come loose during the day. It was great to get home from school, and get them untied, loosened. The burden of school was finished for the day. Taking the school shoes off was the sign of that!

For men, there’s another thing you’ve to learn how to tie - your tie. I don’t wear a tie very often (because I could never get it tied right!), so when I do, it feels rather tight. It’s great to be finished, to be able to get it loosed. Getting it untied meant freedom!

In our reading today, we’re introduced to a woman who is bound. For eighteen years, she has been crippled by a spirit. She’s permanently bent over. For all those long years, she hasn’t been able to stand up straight. Can you imagine what her life was like? It affected everything. For every second of those years, she has been bent over. Held, bound, imprisoned.

The setting is important. Luke tells us that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. The Jews gathered (a bit like we do), to hear God’s word read and taught and to praise and pray. It’s the sabbath, the day of rest. Jesus is already teaching whenever the woman arrives.

So he calls her to the front. He declares the freedom and then demonstrates the freedom. ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he touches her, lays hands on her, immediately she stands up straight, and begins praising God. She had been bound for eighteen years. She couldn’t stand up straight. Yet one word and one touch from Jesus and she is free. Released. She is a loosed woman.

You expect that everyone would join her as she praises God. They know her. They live beside her. They’ve watched her struggle all this time. You’d think they would be happyfor her, and join the chorus of praise. But over her shout of praise comes another voice. A negative voice. Not just once, he ‘kept saying to the crowd.’ (14) ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ (14)

The leader of the synagogue, the religious man in the local community is indignant. He’s not joyful, he’s angry. He’s annoyed because Jesus did some work on the sabbath. He saw this cure as a work, he reckons Jesus broke the sabbath. After all, the woman had endured this condition for 18 years. It wasn’t life threatening, she could have waited one more day until the sabbath was over.

It also sounds as if there were miracles happening all the time at his synagogue. ‘Come on those days and be cured...’ But this isn’t something he could do. This was something only Jesus could do. Only the Saviour could bring about freedom in this way.

Jesus confronts the hypocrisy. That’s what it is. Look at verse 15. ‘Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?’ Looking after animals doesn’t stop on the sabbath. You can’t just leave them until the next working day. There’s a duty to care for them. There’s a need for mercy, to give them what they need. And how they did that was by untying the animals to give them water. They released the animals so they could drink.

Isn’t that what Jesus was doing? ‘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?’ If you untie your animal on the sabbath and don’t give it a second thought, why would you want this daughter of Abraham, this woman in God’s family to be left bound up?

Jesus has the power to break our bondage. Jesus is able to bring freedom. Just as he said those words on that day, so he still says: ‘Woman, you are set free.’ You can be a loosed woman, a loosed man. Perhaps there’s something you’re struggling with. Some addiction that you seem bound by. The same old sin you fall into time after time. That one temptation you just can’t resist. The same patterns of behaviour, anger. You fight and fight but just can’t get free. You think you’ve got away from it, only for it to come back stronger again.

You may not be powerful enough to defeat it, but Jesus is. He can bring freedom. He is able to release you. Why not come to him today? Ask him to bring freedom. Listen as the cords are loosened, the chains broken, and he says ‘You are set free.’

God’s kingdom changes lives. The woman’s life would never be the same again. No longer would she walk around bent over. She could walk upright, looking people in the eye. But that was just the start. As Jesus brings freedom and release in individual lives, the consequences are bigger than you could imagine. The freedom that Jesus brings enables people to flourish, in new life in his kingdom.

You’ve probably heard the saying ‘great oaks from little acorns grow.’ Jesus uses the same idea, only with something even smaller, to show how God’s kingdom changes lives, as it grows from small beginnings. In two pictures, Jesus explains the kingdom that is breaking in.

‘It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’ Something so small you would hardly see it, yet it grows big enough for birds to nest in its branches.

Or move from the garden into the kitchen. ‘It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ A wee bit of yeast in a big bowl of flour works through the whole batch until it’s all leavened. The whole loaf rises because of a wee tiny bit of yeast. From such small beginnings, God’s kingdom grows. The freedom that Jesus brings erupts into fullness of life. That means the small things we do for the kingdom can have a big impact, bigger than you’d ever imagine.

A word at just the right time; an act that shows God’s love; a sharing of what Jesus has done for you; a prayer for someone or some situation; the Bible reading that gives you the word from God you needed to hear that day; the word of freedom over your life or someone else’s that (humanly speaking) changes the course of their life and their eternity.

God’s kingdom is growing, and continuing to grow from small, seemingly insignificant beginnings. The Lord Jesus is the King, who wants to loose you from your chains and set you free to serve him. Don’t leave without knowing that freedom he brings. Don’t stay bound, when he offers freedom. Man, Woman, you are set free - in Jesus’ name. Amen!

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 8th March 2015.

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