Gospel: Luke 13:10-17
10Now [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! 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? 16And 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.
We don't know much about the woman in the story from Luke's Gospel except that she was present when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. She'd been bent over by a spirit for 18 years, forced to look at the ground as she went through life. She would have been one of those people who would be easy to pass by, maybe even easy to stare at. We could look at the curvature of her spine without the risk of catching her eye, even feeling good about ourselves because we feel sorry for her-that poor old woman. You know, even worse than being unseen is being observed or watched or analyzed. It's probably not a stretch to imagine that the crowd that day who was there watched this woman make her way through the crowd. Jesus saw her too. But he didn't just watch. He didn't continue with his teaching. He really saw her. In the gaze of Jesus, which must have been the kind of gaze that goes directly to the heart, Jesus raised her up by laying his hands on her. She straightens up, and you can almost imagine their eyes meeting, their gaze locked. How she must have gloried in being seen, apart from her evil spirit, no longer that old, bent-over woman but now the friend of Jesus. Eye to eye, person to person, partners in the life of God. And she sees too. She sees God right in front of her. My guess is that this moment of healing for the woman was a moment of healing for Jesus, too, when his teaching was raised up and made visible so that those gathered to hear him could now see the power of God's loving gaze. She was the means through which God's power was made evident on that day. When Jesus looked into her eyes, he must have praised God too. In the meeting of these two, the reign of God surged into the world for all to see. This was Sabbath, resting in God's good creation, God's good gaze, resting in the gaze of one another, delighting in the life that surges through us when we become friends of God. The woman would walk away upright, and Jesus would now go on to Jerusalem, no doubt with a little more courage that God would see him in his suffering as well. God would bring life to a bent-over creation. God would not avert the divine eyes from a suffering child. God would indeed raise up the dead to a new life and the world to a new future. In the gaze of God, we can see exactly where we are going. Let us pray: O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright. Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer because of human sin, we may rise victorious through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.