He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him. (Luke 13:10-17)
Would you rather suffer for eighteen years and then get healed miraculously or never suffer at all? An unnamed woman was not given that choice. She merely suffered, so that Jesus could heal her and teach one of Israel’s religious leaders something. For eighteen years, that woman had doubtless prayed for healing. Most likely, so had her family and friends. For eighteen years it seemed like God was ignoring all their pleas.
But God wasn’t telling her or her family or her friends “no.” He had answered her prayer in the affirmative. But it took awhile for her to experience it. The answer arrived in the right place at exactly the right time. It happened both in answer to her prayers, as well as to serve as a teaching moment for a man who had lost perspective. More than one person, perhaps, was healed by what happened.
While Jesus was teaching, he took notice of her suffering. She had not requested that Jesus aid her. But he knew what she had asked God to do. So Jesus simply called her over and gave her what she wanted more than anything.
Her response was to glorify God. The response of the synagogue ruler was something else entirely: he criticized what Jesus had done. Jesus reacted by pointing out the inconsistency in the ruler’s thinking: the law allowed for the care of animals on the Sabbath. Weren’t human beings of greater worth?
In his concern with doing the legal thing, the synagogue ruler had lost sight of the right thing. He’d forgotten the purpose for the laws: to make life better for human beings. If the laws stood in the way of that, then perhaps the laws were wrong—or at least being misunderstood and wrongly applied.