I’d like to begin to day by asking you to take a moment to look around you, I want you to look carefully at the people who are sitting around you. Do any of them look hungry; do any look thirsty, tired, lonely, unwell, incapacitated, or burdened in some way? OK now let’s focus our attention back here again. It can be difficult to see some of those things with a simple glance. If you noticed something and had the ability would you do something to fix them up right here and right now? Would you wait until after the service, or one day during the week or maybe the following week? It’s hard to say what we would do in any given situation unless we are actually presented with it.
Jesus was presented with a situation in our text; the woman appeared and had a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. He knew what to do, he called her over, he had the power to set her free from her ailment and he did. The time was right, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” and he acted.
The people who were watching weren’t so sure about what he had done though. The law states that we are to “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.”
Here was Jesus, teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath and then disobeying the direct command of God by healing a woman – their interpretation of doing work on the Sabbath! The leader of the synagogue was indignant and was telling the crowd what Jesus had done wrong. But Jesus answered straight back calling him and those who were supporting him hypocrites and explaining that they would all allow their donkeys to be lead off to have a drink of water on Sabbath. So it stands to reason that it should be OK to do the right thing by this woman regardless of what day it is, and even more so that it is appropriate that she be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day.
Jesus didn’t want the woman to suffer for another day longer, after all she had been suffering for eighteen years already, and he wanted her to be healed, set free, right then and there. He set aside tradition and law and did what needed to be done for her.
Everyone there rejoiced at what Jesus had done, it was wonderful, his opponents had been put to shame and the woman had been set free. Shouldn’t that be what happens on our Sabbath?
Let’s take a moment to think about our own Sabbath day. We celebrate it on a Sunday because that is the day of the week when Jesus rose from the dead, when he won the victory over death for our sake. How do your Sundays look? Do you do any work? Are you carrying any burdens, are you hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely or unwell? What would it take to fix them? Do you come to worship to be healed? Is this time on Sunday set aside for building you up and healing you or do you do it out of obligation or a sense of duty? Is it about setting aside time to worship God and give him thanks for all that he has done for you? Is Sunday a time of rejoicing for you or a day of burdens?
Sunday (your Sabbath) should be a time when Jesus sets you free. He wants you to come to him, just like the woman in today’s reading did and receive healing. He wants to take away your burdens and set you free from their bondage. He wants you to be joyful in all of the wonderful things he is doing for you.
You may be asking yourself “How are we set free through worship?” We begin our service with a confession and absolution, here we come before God, just like the woman did and tell God what ails us? The pastor asks the questions to prompt you to think about the things that are going on in your life that are dragging you down, that are crippling you. It may be that the situation you are in is making you angry at God, that is something to confess to him, seek his forgiveness and be set free from its bondage. There are people in our congregation who are unable to move around freely because of physical conditions, there are those who are unwell. Some of you are having financial difficulties or are tied to mortgages and loans that make you feel like there is a big weight hanging on your shoulders. There are work situations that are making life unbearable, some are contemplating their transition into retirement. There are loads of ways that Satan gets his grip on us to drag us down and lay blame on God. Our time of confession is perfect to name those things in your heart and give them over to God for his forgiveness.
The next step in our service is to hear the forgiveness spoken to you, As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I announce the grace of God to all of you. On behalf of my Lord Jesus Christ and by his command, I forgive the sins of all of you who repent and believe. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Go in peace. This peace comes from having your sins forgiven, from being set free from your burdens.
Then we are fed by God’s Word and after that we are fed with the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. This is a physical and spiritual gift from God to us, to build us up and to heal us. He feeds us because we need it. Without it we will shrivel up and die. This is spiritual food that gives us new life, each and every time we receive it. It is for our good that we come and receive it. Each time that we do we are healed on the Sabbath by Jesus.
Jesus was a bit of a rebel, he ate with tax collectors and sinners, he conversed with prostitutes and did work on the Sabbath. Each time he did it was for a purpose, to set people free from the bondage of sin and the devil. He has given us the Sabbath for our healing, to serve us and for us to give him thanks and worship him. He wants us to come and be fed and healed, he rejoices when we do and wants us to rejoice with him!
Don’t let Satan stop you being fed by Jesus and his Word and Sacraments, don’t let him stop others being fed. Jesus has power over all things, he has the power to save us from the grip of Satan, he has the power to heal us and forgive us. He wants to be in a relationship with us, where we come to him to be healed and fed because we are in need. He calls us to come and worship him. All we have to do is come, enjoy our time of Sabbath rest, and be prepared to go out into the world and shine his light in it.