Luk_13:15-16. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath-day?
THE command to sanctify the Sabbath was given to man in Paradise, and was perpetuated to all generations when it was engraven on stones by God himself, together with the other precepts of the law. But the sanctification of that day consists, not in a mere abstinence from bodily labour, but in a suspension of all temporal cares, and an application of soul to spiritual duties. This appears from the conduct of our Lord himself: he never was more active than on the Sabbath-day; and when censured by superstitious hypocrites, he vindicated himself by shewing that works of necessity and mercy were perfectly compatible with that holy rest which God had enjoined. To this effect he spake in the passage before us; in discoursing upon which, we shall consider,
The miracle he wrought—
There was in the synagogue a woman much afflicted in body—
[By the force of some disorder her whole frame was so contracted or relaxed, that she was utterly incapable of standing upright. This disorder had been, in some way or other, inflicted on her by Satan. The same wicked spirit who smote Job with boils, and possessed the bodies of many in our Saviour’s days, had exerted his power over her; and she had been no less than eighteen years in this deplorable condition; yet as she was not ashamed to go to the synagogue on account of her deformity, so neither would she be detained from it by her weakness. Alas! how many amongst us absent themselves from the house of God under far less plausible pretexts, notwithstanding our ordinances are so incomparably superior to those which she was privileged to attend.]
Our Lord, well knowing her case, afforded her a miraculous relief—
[He needed not to have his compassion moved by earnest entreaties. Unsolicited he called her to him, and by the imposition of his hand conveyed an instantaneous cure. Thus he shewed how easily he could “destroy the works of the devil [Note: 1Jn_3:8.];” and that neither length of time nor inveteracy of disorder could at all obstruct the efficacy of his word.]
The censure which he incurred on account of this benevolent act, called forth,
His vindication of it—
The Ruler of the synagogue expressed his indignation at this exercise of power—
[That which in reality hurt his feelings was, the popularity of Jesus. He could not endure to see him followed by such multitudes, and confirming his divine mission by such miracles. But, because he could not with the smallest appearance of reason condemn the miracle he had seen, he pretended to be offended at its being wrought on the Sabbath-day. He proceeded to reprove the people for paying so little regard to that holy day; and thus obliquely cast reflections on our Lord himself. What an evidence of his enmity against Christ, and of his being altogether destitute of compassion to his fellow-creatures! And how thin the veil under which he endeavoured to cover these detestable qualities!]
Our Lord, however, vindicated his own conduct in a most unanswerable manner—
[He tacitly acknowledged the necessity of sanctifying the Sabbath; but appealed to his hearers, whether such a work as he had performed were any breach of it. If they universally considered themselves at liberty to loose an ox or an ass from the stall in order to give it water on the Sabbath-day, how much more justifiable was he in loosing the far sorer bands of a rational being, yea, of a daughter of Abraham, on that day; more especially, when it was Satan himself who had bound her; when she too had been no less than eighteen years in that state; and when he had effected her cure simply by a touch of his hand. Such was our Lord’s argument; and it flashed conviction upon every mind. Thus, while the ruler’s hypocrisy was detected, and the adversaries, who had sided with him, were put to shame, our Saviour’s character rose in the estimation of all the people.]
And this speaks loudly to us, if we will attentively consider,
The reflections suggested by it—
What blindness and hypocrisy are there in the human heart
[Every one sees in an instant how deservedly our Lord reproached the Ruler for his hypocrisy; and we are ready to suppose that we should never have indulged so vile a disposition. But there is nothing more common than the very spirit which he manifested. He condemned people for seeking the healing of their bodies on the Sabbath-day. And are there none who are offended at men for seeking the salvation of their souls on the week-day? I know that these will plead a regard for order, and for the institutions of man; but the Ruler had a still stronger plea, namely, a regard for the Sabbath, and the express commandments of God. Yet, whatever they may think, neither the one nor the other are upright before God. The objections of both originate in the same evil disposition, a want of regard for the Saviour’s honour and for the welfare of their fellow-creatures. On this account the Judge of quick and dead called him a hypocrite. By what name I pray you will he call these, when they shall stand before him at his tribunal? Is not the soul of as much value as the body? and are we not as much justified in promoting its welfare on a week-day, or on the Sabbath evening, as a diseased person is in seeking relief for the body upon the Sabbath-day? Let us all then acknowledge the evil of our own hearts; and give God the glory if we be in any measure freed from the prejudices by which so many in every age and place are blinded.]
How desirable is it to embrace every opportunity of waiting upon God!
[The woman broke through every difficulty that she might honour the public institutions of religion. And was she not well repaid for her trouble at last? Surely the restoration of her body to health and strength was a blessing that would have abundantly compensated for still greater toil than she ever endured. And have none amongst us received a still richer recompence? If your bodily disorders have not been removed, have you never received grace both to bear and improve them? Have none of you been delivered from the bonds in which Satan held your souls? Has not your guilt been removed, and the corruption of your hearts been in some measure healed? Let this encourage all to wait upon God. Let it make you fearful of yielding to any excuses, lest you be absent from the ordinances at the very time that Jesus shall manifest his presence there: worldly business, worldly pleasure, dinner company, and such like engagements, will ill repay you for the loss of spiritual and eternal good. Say not, ‘I can serve God as well at home;’ for it is not the means we use, but the blessing of God upon them that renders them effectual to our benefit; and God’s blessing cannot be expected, if we seek it not in the way of his appointment. And if proud and envious hypocrites condemn you, regard it not. Your Saviour himself will vindicate your conduct, to your honour, and to their confusion.]
With what comfortable hope may we look to Jesus under all our troubles!
[It is alike easy to him to save from bodily or spiritual disorders. A touch of his hand, or word of his mouth, will convey the blessing we desire. Are we then labouring under any affliction of mind or body? Are we, like David, “bowed down greatly, and do we go mourning all the day long [Note: Psa_38:6.]?” Behold, it is the Saviour’s office to bind up that which is broken, to heal that which is sick, and to raise up them that are bowed down [Note: Isa_61:1. Psa_146:8.]. Nor can we doubt but that he, who prevented the application of this afflicted woman, will come at our entreaty, and impart the aid which we implore. Let us all, then, direct our eyes unto him, and may we all become monuments of his power and grace, for his mercy’s sake! Amen.]