10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." 15But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?" 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
What's with the number 18 in these passages? 18 died from a tower falling on them. Here in this passage a woman has been crippled for 18 years by a spirit. Here's what I found by Googling "significance of the number 18":
The significance of the number eighteen in the Bible comes from its symbolic meaning for bondage. After taking possession of the promised land, the children of Israel were in bondage to several nations and peoples before Saul was made king. Two of their enemies, Eglon the Moabite king and the Philistines (with the help of the people of Ammon) oppressed them for 18 years (Judges 3:12, 14, 10:7 - 8). God freed the Israelites from Eglon through Ehud (who would become one of Israel's judges). He used Jephthah in the East and Samson in the South and West to free his people from the Ammonites and Philistines.
Bondage, however, can also be spiritual in nature. Jesus healed many demonically possessed or influenced people during his ministry. On one particular Sabbath, while teaching in a Synagogue, Jesus healed a woman that had a 'spirit of infirmity' which had bent her over for 18 years!
Amazing we can find so much information without leaving our seats or our computers or phones. A few key strokes and, voila, there's the thing we've been looking for.
The passage above is pretty straightforward. A spiritually crippled woman gets healed on the sabbath by Jesus, upsetting the leader of the synagogue because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, a day of rest. Apparently healing was considered "work." The negative reaction of the synagogue leader is exposed for what it is: a perversion of what the sabbath day was for. Sabbath was made for people, not people for the sabbath, as Jesus says elsewhere.
Note how the physical and the spiritual come together in this passage. The woman had been bent over for many years because of the crippling effects of a spirit. Imagine walking around in this state, not able to stand up to look at a person's face when speaking. Unable to look into someone's smiling or angry eyes. Forever stooped low to the ground, the body expressing the emotional state of the person. Forcibly downcast and often judged by others.
Then one day, like every other sabbath day, she enters the synagogue to worship. She hears the voice of a stranger addressing her, his hand gently resting on her. No greeting, no exchange of names. A voice of a stranger with authority in his voice telling her something no one in his or her right mind would ever say outside of some cruel joke. "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." Perhaps she felt a warmth or a tingling or nothing at all. But immediately she straightens up. She sees the stranger's face and the faces of others. She praises God for the healing.
Her very view literally changed in those few seconds of hearing those words and with the touch of his hand. Physical healing obviously. But we can be sure another kind of healing occurred as well: the healing of one's view of oneself. To stand up straight once again. To see more than the movement of the pavement as she moved hunched over. To see the horizon of the sunrise and sunset like she did when young. And to look into the faces of her friends and family, as well as the indifferent faces of complete strangers without the fear of judgment.
Such a gift! Such a healing that comes from Jesus! Almost every healing of Jesus is rich and complex like this healing described above. More than our bodies are touched. Almost always our hearts and minds are touched as well.
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we thank you for how you heal us -- in body and in our mind and heart. We are crippled in different ways. We are broken in different ways. But we love the way you love us in our crippled state and in our brokenness. You speak with authority and you touch with warmth. You heal us. Outside and in. May we continue to be recipients of your healing. And may we ourselves move in healing in your name so that those around us will experience the freedom from their ailments in their lives. In Your Name, Amen.