10Now Jesus 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.
Reflection: And ought not this woman…be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?
God purposely worked rest into the rhythm of creation because God knew that the inhabitants of creation would need rest to accomplish their holy purposes. Part of that rest that we need includes practicing appreciation for and enjoyment of what God has given us. This, after all, is what God did by pausing on the seventh day; God “took stock” of all that had been made and took joy in what he had done. Enjoyment and rest help us to connect to the nature of God, which then enables us to be fully human in the way God intended us to be. Sabbath creates opportunity for wholeness within us.
Jesus understood this creative nature of Sabbath when he chose to heal on the Sabbath. The technical regulations of the Sabbath (which had largely been the result of a legalistic interpretation of the Law) did not reflect the creative and re-creative intentions of the Sabbath. Jesus was bringing us back into a holy, healthy understanding of Sabbath. Sabbath is for wholeness! Sabbath is for healing! Sabbath is meant for restoration!
It is easy for us to forget the holy intentions God gives us for certain practices. We can too easily let worship, Bible study, service, and community building become defined by our own personal preferences and preconceived notions. These are designed for holy purposes and bring freedom when practiced in a way that reflects those holy purposes. However, they can become prisons of our own making when we practice them in a way that gets twisted by our own agendas. Sabbath is no different. The freedom and restorative purpose of Sabbath is lost if we become too concerned with the ways in which we practice Sabbath. The why gets lost in the how.
This should encourage us to do two things. First, we should always ask why when we undertake holy practices and spiritual disciplines. If we find our purpose first, then healthy practice will follow – purpose before practice. When we put the practice before the purpose, then the practice becomes hollow and divorced from its holy intention (and its holy effects). Secondly, for this specific practice of Sabbath, we need to be more intentional about working it within our regular rhythms. You are not designed to function without rest. In the rest of the Word and Spirit Guide for the week, we will address some different ways to rest. However you rest, the important thing to remember is to intentionally open yourself up to God for renewal and make that a regular spiritual practice. You might just find yourself “set free from bondage on the Sabbath day.”
Journaling Focus: And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years.
Have you ever experienced a pain, sorrow, or difficulty that has crippled your heart, mind, or spirit? As you write in your journal, reflect on those struggles that have left you feeling defeated and paralyzed. Meditate on where God was in those experiences. How did God bring healing or peace? If you are still experiencing that struggle, reflect on how God sustains you through grace. How will you move forward in that grace?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Explore: If you would like to explore the Scripture more deeply, go to our Exploring Scripture page!
Listen to Alan Jackson’s rendition of the hymn Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. Notice that the word peace is mentioned several times in this hymn. How does resting upon God bring peace? What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: The entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
I fully believe that God still heals people of physical and emotional ailments. I do not know why some are physically healed and others are not when they pray. But I do trust the One to whom we pray. Pray for miracles – even physical miracles – even if you do not always see how God is bringing about the results. Trust that God is moving within our bodies as powerfully as God is working within our hearts, minds, and spirits to bring healing.
Meditation Focus: Jesus…cured on the sabbath.
Look at the image above of the kitten resting in the arms of its trusted human friend. The kitten looks completely at peace. As I write this, my almost-16-year-old cat, Bailey, is resting at my side. She has cancer and kidney disease and is really struggling right now. Yet, when I look down at her, curled up against my leg, she seems at peace, too. God brings us peace, comfort, and renewal when we rest within the presence of the Holy Spirit. Imagine yourself resting as freely and fully as the kitten in this picture. Picture yourself in the arms of Jesus, firmly held and fully protected. Have you spent time in self-abandon in the arms of your Savior? Now is the time to do so!
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How is God’s healing power working within you?
- Where have you found rest?
- What exhausts you? Is it necessary for your life, or can you give up that exhausting practice?
- How have you witnessed prayers being answered?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Take a nap! That’s right – pause and find some physical rest within the busyness of the day. It doesn’t have to be long, but intentionally set aside time to give rest to your body and mind. We do not take enough breaks from the frenzied pace of our world. Who knew that napping could be a holy act!?
Breath Prayer: LORD God, grant us true rest.