Healing of the Crippled Woman and Other Teachings
Commentary on Disasters (Luke 13:1-5)
During the time Jesus was teaching the disciples in front of a great multitude, discussed in the previous chapter, some people told Jesus about a recent event: Pilate had killed some Galileans, mingling their blood with the sacrifices. The topic may have arose because Jesus had scolded the people for not paying attention to the signs of the times.
The event reported to Jesus isn’t one historians have been able to verify up until this time. However, it does fit what we know of the character of Pilate. When Pilate first took office, Josephus reported that he decided to move his headquarters from Caesarea to Jerusalem. He had the Roman standards brought into Jerusalem and set up office in the corner of the Temple area. This upset the Jews so much that Pilate had to move back to Caesarea [Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.1-2; Wars 2.9.2-4]. At another time, wanting to have the image of Caesar displayed, Pilate sent soldiers in under the over of night to hang their ensigns, which included the image of Caesar in the Temple. For five days he kept the images under guard, but then finally gave in when he realized the Jews were willing to die to have the images removed [Josephus, Wars 2.169-174, Antiquities 18.55-59].
On another occasion, wanting to build an aqueduct to supply water to Jerusalem, he used the Temple’s money to finance the project. A riot broke out, so Pilate had his soldiers dress as the people and mingle with them. At his order they began betting the rioters until order was restored [Josephus, Wars 2.175-177, Antiquities 18.60-62]. On yet another occasion he attempted to hang shields in the Temple, which met with similar protest and the emperor, Tiberius, had to order him to remove the shields. What we see is a man who didn’t take into account the beliefs of the people he ruled. That he had some Galileans killed in the Temple doesn’t sound out of character.
What is interesting is that the people placed more blame on the Galileans than on Pilate. From Jesus’ response we gather that people thought that they had done something wrong to bring this terrible fate down upon them. But Jesus asked if they were really worse than all other Galileans. His answer was, “no.” But if these people did not repent of their own sins, they would also die.
Jesus points to another recent event. A tower in Siloam, believed to be a suburb of Jerusalem on the south side, fell and killed eighteen people. Jesus asks if these people were worse sinners than anyone else in Jerusalem. Again, his answer is “no.” But because of the sinners in Jerusalem, they would all die if they did not repent.
The point is people tend to think that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. If something bad happens, then the assumption is that the person involved must have done something bad. You would think that the accusations of Job’s friends would have dispelled this idea, but it never does go away. One reason is that God will at times visit disaster on evil people. And Jesus is warning the people that as a whole they were heading for disaster if they did not change.
Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
To illustrate his point, Jesus told a parable about a fig tree planted in a vineyard for three years without bearing any fruit. He ordered it cut down, but his gardener convinced him to wait one more year while he cultivated it and fertilized it. If it did not produce fruit the next year, it would be cut down as ordered.
Israel was the barren fig tree. God had cared for the nation, but it had not benefitted God in anyway. So extra attention was given to it in the teachings of John, Jesus, and later the apostles, to see if the people would bear fruit for God. But if the nation would not respond, it would be destroyed.
Healing of the Crippled Woman (Luke 13:10-17)
On one Sabbath, as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a crippled woman. A spirit within for eighteen years her had caused her to bend over double so that she could not straighten up. The length of time she had suffered shows that this wasn’t something staged. Jesus calls her to him and then tells her she is freed from her illness while laying his hands on her. She did not ask for healing from Jesus and Jesus did not ask for a demonstration of faith in him.
Immediately she straightens up and gives glory to God for her healing. Such could not happen with an ordinary cure as there would need to be time for recovery.
The ruler of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus did this on the Sabbath day. As we have seen before, the Jews had come to believe that absolutely no work was to be done on the Sabbath. Perhaps he reasoned that Jesus being a prophet could work his occupation on the Sabbath day.
But Jesus gives him a well deserved tongue lashing. Calling him a hypocrite (or pretender or actor), he points out that any of those present would untie one of their animals on the Sabbath day so they could drink. This woman was bound by Satan for eighteen years and was released on a Sabbath day. This is God’s day for worship under the Law of Moses. What better way to glorify God than to see God’s enemy defeated and a woman of Israel freed on a day commemorating Israel’s freedom from slavery (Deuteronomy 5:14-15)?
Saying this humiliated all of Jesus’ opponents present, while the rest of the multitude rejoiced over the miracle.
Parables on the Kingdom (Luke 13:18-21)
Miracles were not done simply for the sake of bringing glory to the miracle worker. Now that Jesus had everyone’s attention, he used the opportunity to teach two basic facts about the kingdom of God, or the church. These are two of the parables Jesus taught earlier in Galilee concerning the kingdom. (See the lesson on “Parables of the Kingdom” and Matthew 13:31-33 and Mark 4:30-32).
The church, like a mustard seed, will start out small, but it will rapidly grow. Jesus’ point is that you cannot determine the results by looking at the beginning. Like leaven, the church is again shown to grow, but the way it grows is not easily seen – only the result. Because the church is spread by individual Christians teaching others, it spreads rapidly in a hidden fashion from person to person.
Concluding the Tour of Judea (Luke 13:22)
Jesus begins to head toward Jerusalem as he finishes his tour of Judea. Combining this with John’s account, we realize that it is nearly time for the Feast of Dedication. He does not head straight to Jerusalem, but winds from village to village on a journey that takes him in that direction.