Pentecost 11 C Eye Contact Sermon
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In our reading from the Gospel of Luke this morning, we are told of one of the walls that separated people in New Testament times, and we also heard some of the opinions and attitudes of those who were in a position to do something to breakdown these walls.
One day, as Jesus taught in the Synagogue, a woman appeared who had a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. Our text states: “She was bent over, and she was quite unable to stand up straight.”
Now,we do not know what it was that was crippling her. Maybe she had been injured years earlier and now she walked with a permanent limp. Maybe she had been exposed to a disease that had left her scarred or physically impaired.
Or maybe the woman had been picked on and ridiculed so much that she simply did not want to look up out of fear of what others might say to her.
All we know is that the woman quietly and discreetly entered the Synagogue and tried to blend in as much a possible so nobody would notice her. And if by chance someone did notice her, she hoped that they would only see a bent over old woman.
On that Sabbath Day in the Synagogue, Jesus noticed her. And when He saw her, her called out to her because he recognized the spirit that had crippled her. Jesus did not see just an old, crippled woman. Instead, he saw and grasped the years of pain, and suffering, and unhappiness, and frustration that had kept this woman from looking people in the eye.
Now for us 21st century people, the significance of not being able to stand up straight and look people in the eye does not seem important. But 2,000 years ago, standing up straight and looking people in the eye were the actions of a freed person.
Slaves and people of lower social standing were required to keep their eyes down. For you see, in societies and cultures that required “some people” to be submissive to other people, those of lesser value were never allowed to look their superior in the eye.
But Jesus looked beyond the social rules of the time and recognized the spirit that had kept this woman from standing up straight and looking people in the eye.
And so,without even being asked to intervene, Jesus went over to the woman, laid His hands on her, and set her free from the spirit that had been controlling her. And immediately the woman stood up straight and was able to look Jesus in the eye.
And when the woman realized that she had been set free from her burdens she looked up towards heaven and praised God. I can only imagine the joy and freedom the woman felt that day in the Synagogue when Jesus laid His healing hands on her.
Now, I need to tell you that not everyone felt the same delight as the woman did that day. In fact, the event did not sit well with some of the old-timers and leaders in the Synagogue.
Can you imagine that when Jesus freed a woman from physical and spiritual bondage,and God was worshipped and praised, some folks did not speak well of this event.
And that one of the leaders of the Synagogue, a man who had always been able to stand up straight and look people in the eye became enraged when this woman was given the freedom that he had always known. But then again, even though this man was able to go and look Jesus in the eye and voice his complaint, he did not.
Instead,he took his complaint to the crowd and said: “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath.” And so, without even acknowledging the miracle that had just taken place, the leader turned to the crowd and accused the woman of coming to the Synagogue to be healed on the Sabbath.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The woman had come to the Synagogue, not to be healed but to worship God. And the sad part of the whole scene is that, after receiving the gift of health, the woman was still unable to look the leader in the eye because he was not talking to her.
As the old saying goes, “Eye Contact doesn’t mean a thing without eye contact.”
And so,the woman, after receiving a direct blessing from God, could not defend herself because the leader took his complaint directly to the crowd. And that is the thing about going to other people to complain about someone. They cannot defend or explain themselves.
Therefore,by complaining about the woman in front of the people, the leader was showing that he was not really interested in resolving conflict. He was only interested in stirring up trouble. The leader wanted to grumble and stir up trouble.
But Jesus would not let him get away with his intentions. Instead, Jesus looked the leader straight in the eye and called him a “Hypocrite.” And then Jesus asked the crowd, “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?”
And then Jesus stated to the crowd, “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham and Sarah, whom Satan had bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath Day?
And the point being, Jesus was demonstrating that this leader’s priorities were all messed up. After all, the Sabbath is not about us, but about God and what God can do and what God has done for us. In language the people could understand,Jesus made it clear to everyone that it was this leader of the Synagogue that had/has a twisted and shallow, bent-over view of the Sabbath.
The leader of the Synagogue would have kept this woman in bondage in order to follow the rules as he interpreted them.
It states in our text that after Jesus had done this, the leader and all the opponents of Jesus were put to shame. And that their inability to rejoice at the woman’s healing had shut them out of the power and presence of God and that they were now unable to look Jesus in the eye.
And so, the Good News today instructs us that the Sabbath is like the Kingdom of God and not about rules or regulations and what not to do. And that the Sabbath is about releasing burdens, easing the yoke, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, freeing people in bondage, and tearing down the walls that divide us.
Let us then enter the Sabbath as the woman did, so we may be fed, forgiven, released,and healed so we too may leave here standing up straight so we can praise God and look each other in the eye.
Let us pray: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ has taught us that what we do for the least of your children we do also for Him. Give us the will to serve others as He served us, who gave up His life and died for us, but now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.