“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8b)
Whilst in Capernaum, Jesus entered the synagogue on a Sabbath day. There He found a man who was possessed by an evil spirit. When the evil spirit saw Him he cried out: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Jesus said sternly. The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” (Mark 1:23-26)
“The people were all so astonished at this happening; that Jesus gave orders to evil spirits and they obey Him. News about Him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:27b-28) Everywhere Jesus went and met people who were oppressed by the devil, He did not hesitate to cast them out.
The devil’s archenemy is the human being, particularly women; because they are the vessels by which reproduction is made possible. He constantly seeks to interrupt this process God has put in place for the earth to be replenished. Jesus summed up the devil’s works as “the thief [that has] come only to steal and kill and destroy.” In contrast, He defined His role in these terms: “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
An account is given in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus entered the synagogue on a Sabbath to teach - as was His practice. “… and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.” (Luke 13:11) This woman was bent over to the extent that she could only see her feet - day in, day out. She could only make out people by their voices but could not raise her head to have eye-contact. She could not take her eyes off the ground to even look at someone’s face - the person with whom she was engaged in a conversation. This woman was bound. O, what a life!
The name of the woman was not given just because her identity was not to be revealed. On the contrary, it was simply because this could have happened to anyone of us. This woman had borne her disability without complaining because as it seemed the clerics of the synagogue could do nothing about her status. It had become something they had to live with – the norm, an accepted state of affairs - not until Jesus, the ‘Yoke Destroyer’ came on the scene.
Jesus did not wait for an invitation to intervene; He acted based on compassion and on the premise that the devil had no right to put the woman in that state. For the LORD, it was intolerable. It would appear however like the woman did not perceive what Jesus could do, so she could have taken the initiative by requesting Jesus’s intervention.
Anyway, Jesus spotted her out. “When Jesus saw her, He summoned her out and said to her: ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity’. Then He put His hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” (Luke 13:12-13)
There is a passage of Scripture that sums up what happened. “Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed. Save me and I will be saved, for you are the One I praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14) No doubt the women must have rained praises on Jesus, the Master.
Unfortunately, this woman had been liberated to the joy of everybody in the synagogue except the synagogue ruler. Why? Because it was the Sabbath – a holy day. No work was permitted on the Sabbath. Instead of sharing the joy of this woman’s deliverance, the synagogue ruler started querying. “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” (Luke 13:14)
Actually, it was directed at Jesus for he was angry that Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath. Jesus retorted: “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water! Then why should not this woman – a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” [Verses 15-16]
The synagogue ruler’s behaviour can be compared to that of some of the religious leaders in our day when they are not in the limelight. They criticise and condemn simply because they want all the attention. Their attitudes are hardened over matters of importance and not over trivialities. Yet, come to think of it, this was an occasion for praise and thanksgiving to God over the deliverance of this child of Abraham.
The devil, we are told is out on the rampage looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) The Christian should be exempted but since he/she has blended with the world there is no marked difference. As a result, we have become easy prey to the devil and his influences - because of our lifestyles which are similar to the ways of the world. The devil has made inroads into our private lives. The level of addictions from pornography to homosexuality, witchcraft and the numerous other social ills - and the list goes on - are on the rise. Our LORD Jesus can liberate us too.
Paul in his epistles to the Romans urged them: “… in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. … Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12: 1-2)
To the astonishment of the synagogue ruler, the woman bound for eighteen years was freed of her infirmity. We need to seek God for ours!