Jesus and the Bent-Over Woman (Luke 13:10–17)
By artist Barbara Schwarz OP
Used with permission of the artist.
Jesus Sets Free a Daughter of Abraham
Luke 13:10–17 in The Christian Standard Bible
As he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit (literally: had a spirit of disability) for over eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free of your disability.” Then he laid his hands on her, and instantly she was restored and began to glorify God.
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded by telling the crowd, “There are six days when work should be done; therefore come on those days and be healed and not on the Sabbath day.”
But the Lord answered him and said, “Hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from the feeding trough on the Sabbath and lead it to water? Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for eighteen years—shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”
When he had said these things, all his adversaries were humiliated, but the whole crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things he was doing.
The Christian Standard Bible © 2017 Holman Bible Publishers (Source: Bible Gateway)
I love that this story finishes with the crowd rejoicing—perhaps even cheering—because of what Jesus was doing.
Ben Witherington on the Bent-Over Woman
Commentary on Luke 13:10–17 from Women and the Genesis of Christianity
In a discussion on this woman, Ben Witherington notes that the synagogue ruler appealed to Jewish interpretations of the laws of Moses, whereas Jesus appealed to the original purpose of the Sabbath: “Not the absence of work, but the presence of a creative and healing peace is the essence of the Sabbath.”
Jesus also appealed to the fact that this woman was a daughter of Abraham. Witherington comments that the expression “daughter of Abraham” was a rare title that “had been applied to Israel as a whole but never before to an individual.” And, “By using the title, Jesus implies that she is as worthy of his concern and healing as any Jewish man and has as full a claim to her religious heritage as anyone else.”
Witherington observes that the woman is not only used as a positive example (she praises God) and given a positive title, she is also defended at the expense of men in the synagogue who have a problem with Jesus’ actions. “Jesus was willing to go to great lengths to help her, even with the threat of outright rejection by religious leaders.”
The story in Luke 13:10–17 shows that, for Jesus, “… the Sabbath was the perfect day to present an example of God’s perfect will for his creatures.”
See Ben Witherington III, Women and the Genesis of Christianity, edited by Ann Witherington (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 78–80. (Google Books)
About the Image of the Bent-Over Woman
I saw the painting above shared on Facebook this week (March 2022) and was deeply moved by it. Jesus really did come down to our level when he was on earth. He did this so he could then lift us up, closer to his level. And I love the implicit message in the story: be like Jesus. Use whatever gift or ability you have to free and care for others. Be generous with your love and care for people, especially for those who are suffering and crippled in some way. Don’t be like the leader of the synagogue who was rigid, stingy, and more concerned about man-made regulations.
I asked the artist Barbara Schwarz, a Dominican Sister, if I could post her artwork on my website so that I and interested readers can look at it any time we want. She agreed. It is acrylic on canvas and was painted in 2014. Barbara’s website is www.artafire.homestead.com Prints of this painting can be purchased here.
Ian Paul looks at the layers of the story of Jesus and the bent-over woman, including a fascinating idea about the number 18, on his website here.
My articles on Jesus and more wonderful interactions with women are here.