The Time Is Right
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | August 21, 2022
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Read Luke 13:10 – 17
Once again, the Lectionary has us looking at a text that comes from the Gospel of Luke. In this passage, we find Jesus healing a woman who has been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. According to the text, her condition was so severe that she could not stand up straight… that is until she had an encounter with Jesus.
Seeing the woman and recognizing her plight, Jesus called her to come forward and declared that she was set free from her infirmity… then He placed His hands on her and she straightened up… and she praised God.
I think it is interesting to note the order of things as they occurred. Jesus spoke the blessing FIRST… declaring what had not yet happened as though it was already done… In other words, He let the woman know that she had already been blessed BEFORE He actually blessed her…
That is when He touched the woman… And after eighteen years… she did not have to go back to physical therapy… she did not need to go to the pain management clinic again… she did not have to endure any more x-rays and MRIs that had not yielded any successful results over all that time anyway… None of that was necessary because as the text tells us, “immediately she straightened up…”
And then, she praised God… She understood where her blessing came from and to Whom she owed all her thanksgiving and praise…
Keep in mind, this woman had simply been in the synagogue where Jesus was teaching… There is nothing in the text to indicate she was there for anything other than to listen to the teaching… Based on what we read, she did not break with convention by attempting to approach Jesus… that was not something a woman in her time would have done…
What the text tells us is that, “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward…”
Jesus took notice of the woman. And He saw her for exactly who she was. He did not look past her plight. He did not discount her dilemma and He did not ignore her infirmity.
He called her forward…
He singled her out from among the crowd that was gathered in the synagogue that day. The fact that she was a woman did not prevent Him from seeing her and recognizing that she was someone in need in that moment. He did not hold her gender against her.
In fact, when He called her forward, instead of saying her name, He simply called her “Woman.” Now, there are some who look at that and see it as just another example of a biblical writer attempting to degrade women by not giving them a name; however, I believe there is more to it than that. After all, there are many men in the Scriptures who have remained nameless throughout history as well.
What I believe Jesus does by calling her “Woman” and then later referring to her as “a daughter of Abraham” is to put the onlookers (and subsequent readers like us) on notice that He is fully aware of her diminished status according to the tradition of that time…
But by calling her forward and healing her in front of everyone, Jesus actually elevated her status… This is something that Jesus does often in the Scriptures when He refuses to go along with the tradition of ostracizing people based on some arbitrary set of characteristics…
Instead, Jesus blesses those who others would simply write off and cast aside. They are the very ones that He sets as the example for how to live according to the Word of God… others who have been pushed to the very margins of society like women and children as well as lepers and even foreigners like Samaritans.
These same people who, like the woman in our text this morning, are grateful for the good and perfect gifts they have received and who, in turn, praise God from Whom all blessings flow…
Now, just to be clear, the synagogue ruler in our text did not join with the woman in praising God. In fact, his was the exact opposite reaction… the Scriptures tell us that he became indignant and told the crowds that they should come for a healing on any of the other six days of the week… definitely not on the Sabbath.
Jesus was not the least bit pleased by this synagogue ruler’s flawed attempt at following the letter of the law that forbid work to be done on the Sabbath… Instead, Jesus called attention to the fact that, even on the Sabbath, these hypocritical, religious leaders still take their ox and donkeys out to water them… and yet they would want to keep someone from being healed simply because of the day of the week?
It sounds pretty ridiculous, right? I mean, who would get upset if Jesus healed one of their loved ones on a Sunday? No one would…
But that’s because we are nothing like those religious leaders of Jesus’ time… right?
After all, no one could possibly find fault with someone receiving a healing from a chronic illness after nearly two decades… even if that healing miraculously happened on the Sabbath… could they?
No one would be that hard-nosed about adhering to an Old Testament commandment, especially if it benefited someone who has been seriously ill… would they?
But what about those who people who have done everything in their power to put laws into place… to keep women from receiving reproductive healthcare that could potentially save their lives?
Or the ones who are doing all that they can to block access to healthcare for those whose sexual orientation or gender identity does not conform to their idea of what is “normal”?
These are many of the same people who lean on the Scriptures as the justification for making these outrageous declarations… claiming they are simply doing what is right… while at the same time ignoring Jesus’ command in Matthew 22 to love our neighbor as we love ourselves… as well as disregarding His teaching in Matthew 25 to give food and shelter to those in need and to care for the sick and imprisoned.
I dare say that qualifies for what Jesus called being a hypocrite…
And let me suggest, we can ill afford to fall into that category…
It is in that 25th chapter in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus speaks of the day when the Son of Man will come in His glory with the angels and sit upon His throne with all the nations gathered before Him… when He will separate the people just as a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats…
The sheep… those are the ones who follow the Lord’s command to show love and concern for the wellbeing of others… they will be placed on the right in order to receive their reward in the kingdom of heaven…
On the other hand, it is the goats… the ones who fail to show compassion to those who are in need… they will be placed on the left and be sent to their eternal punishment.
There will not be an opportunity for them to try and justify why they failed to lend a helping hand to the homeless, the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned…
They will not have a chance to explain their point of view for why those indigent, marginalized people should have done more to help themselves…
There will be no chance for them to attempt to rationalize their unwillingness and inability to empathize with someone else simply because they came from a different socio-economic or racial ethnic background or held different political views.
There will be no time for them to defend their failing to do what was right for those others…
Because in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The time is always right to do what’s right” (https://www2.oberlin.edu/external/EOG/BlackHistoryMonth/MLK/MLKmainpage.html).
And for the sake of clarity, there is nowhere in the Gospels that we find Jesus giving someone a pass to get out of doing what is right…
In fact, in the very next chapter of Luke’s Gospel, chapter 14, we read of Jesus healing someone else on the Sabbath, challenging the Pharisees and experts in the law with the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” (Luke 14:3b).
And using a similar argument to what we read earlier in our text for this morning, Jesus pressed them further and asked, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” (Luke 14:5).
In other words, regardless of what day of the week it may be, there can be no argument that THE TIME IS RIGHT to do what is right.
And that is the message that we should take from this text today… as Dr. King said, “the time is always right to do what is right.”
But the challenge for many of us is in figuring out what is right… and determining who gets to say what right is.
Let me just state this for the record…
Right is not decided by where one’s beliefs may fall on the political spectrum. Right is not based on liberalism or conservatism. On the contrary, right is based on the Word of God.
Right is ultimately determined by what Jesus teaches us is right… that which is rooted and grounded, first and foremost, in love.
In his prayer for the Ephesian church (Ephesians 3:16 – 19), the Apostle Paul writes:
The love of Christ surpasses knowledge and it is what fills us with the fullness that can only come from God.
Love is what we are commanded to do… to love one another. It is something we find throughout the Scriptures… we are commanded to love one another.
In John 13 (34-35) we read these words of Jesus, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
In his letter to the Romans (13:8), Paul wrote “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” While Peter (1 Peter 3:8) wrote, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
And in the first and second epistles of John we find these words:
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23).
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11 – 12).
“And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another” (2 John 1:5).
Given the fact that repetition is an indicator of the importance of something contained within the Scriptures, I think it is fair to say that loving one another is very important.
And let me just add this extra note here… none of these admonitions to “love one another” come with any fine print or loopholes that exempt us from doing as the Lord commands.
We are commanded to love because God loves us… period… point blank… end of discussion… literally.
There is nothing that we can say or do to refute the Lord’s command to love. There is no defense we can launch that will win any argument in any court that gets us out of loving one another… at least not if we hope to spend eternity with the Lord.
The Ten Commandments found in the Old Testament, in Exodus and Deuteronomy, fall into two basic categories… categories that Jesus explained in Matthew 22 (37 – 40):
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Simply put, love God and the people of God… and as Jesus told the expert in the law in Luke 10, “Do this and you will live.”
It really is not that hard… but we have this uncanny ability of complicating things… particularly things that cause us to move outside of our comfort zone… things that feel just a little too challenging or difficult for us to do.
But Jesus’ command to love one another… to love our neighbors as we love ourselves… as hard as it may seem… really is possible… otherwise He would not have told us to do it.
Jesus’ command to love God and to love others is a call for us to love everyone… that means the argumentative family member as well as the friendly cashier at the grocery store… the frustrating person who lives down the street as well as the sweet child we are sponsoring in a foreign country… and yes, that also means the person who looks, thinks, acts and votes differently than we do…
Jesus’ command to love has no exclusions that apply… after all, where would any of us be if there were exclusions that applied to God’s love for us? Romans 5:8 reminds us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
And because God loves us, without exception, even when we are at our worst… that means THE TIME IS RIGHT for us to love one another.
And when we are willing to follow Christ’s command to love one another… we will find that all will be well with our soul… despite the hardships and challenges we may face…
And if that is your desire today, I want to invite you to stand now and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: It Is Well with My Soul #561.