What burdens you and feels like the weight of the world on your shoulders? What are you tied to that you can’t escape?
I think of several things as they relate to this story in Luke.
The woman was bowed over with a spirit of infirmity. Not a demon. A sick spirit. A weakened spirit. Something that was incapacitating and keeping her from becoming the person she was created to be. Something that was keeping her from producing fruit.
(This “healing” story follows a parable of a tree that wasn’t producing fruit, so it makes sense that this is an example that relates to the parable.)
What might be burdening this woman?
One is a depleted or depressed attitude brought on by a myriad of life circumstances and treatment.
I don’t doubt that she was physically limited. Yet what was the source of the problem?
Many physical ailments are responses to mental and emotional stressors. The body gets thrown out of harmony/homeostasis when the mind and spirit are not at peace. The result is a physiology that gets disrupted.
When you’re body, mind, and spirit are not functioning properly, how can you focus on the needs of others? A doctor or nurse who is sick isn’t of much use to patients.
It takes some tender care from a gardener to address the conditions around a tree in order to bring it back to health. (previous parable)
In order for these stories to apply to you and me today, I ask the question: What might be holding her back that also might be holding you and me back from reaching our potential?
Your spirit might be suppressed spirit because of the way you were treated by another person in the past (or presently). You might have experienced a traumatic event that haunts you. You may have been taught some things that are not true yet you believe they are true. Thus, there is conflict and unpeace in your mind. You may not even know what has impacted you to the degree that you can’t become the fruit-producing person God created you to be.
Two things come to mind (related to religion). One is the imagery of the Law. The Law as prescribed by Moses is a burden that cannot be followed perfectly. In my mind, that’s not a bad thing. Some of the laws from Moses are hurtful. Putting people to death for their mistakes and purposeful actions isn’t love. It’s hurtful.
Yet we’ve been trained to think Moses’ words were truth. Some people are bound to the Law by well-meaning parents and pastors and teachers. They are bowed over.
Jesus wasn’t bowed over by the Law. One of the main points of the story is that Jesus didn’t follow the teachings of the Pharisees concerning the Law. He “broke” the Sabbath by healing the woman. He did what was beneficial to the woman (and us) and in doing so, he loosed us from our attachment to a written set of commandments, some of which are hurtful.
He loosed us to use our adult brains in deciding what’s right and what’s wrong. He loosed us to read the law written on our hearts instead of laws written on tablets of stone or paper. That law is love.
There’s a second, more subtle, burden that we might be carrying. I find it more than coincidental that the number “18” is found in only two places in the Bible.
This woman was bound for 18 years by a spirit that kept her from standing upright. The only other time this number is mentioned is in Jesus’s teaching immediately before this story. It led to the parable about the unfruitful tree.
Jesus was asked why some Galileans were killed by Pilate? Did they do something that God was angry about? His response: “Do you think they were worse than other Galileans? No. Do you think the 18 people killed at the tower of Siloam were worse than the other people in Jerusalem?”
NO – GOD DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT! And if you don’t change your mind about God being a punishing, commandment-demanding dictator – you will be unfruitful trees taking up good ground, too. This won’t bring you a life of peace, hope, love, joy, etc.
The image of God as a punishing God that holds a judge’s gavel over your eternal well-being if you don’t believe the “right” things is a burden that bows a lot of people over. It’s an image that promotes a God who is good…when you are good.
It’s an image of God that’s been fed to people for thousands of years. It’s still being fed to children today.
Jesus came to help us change our mind (repent) about that. He showed us that God is good ALL the time.
Only those touched deeply by Jesus have been loosed.
I hope you’re one of them.