The Crippled Woman Healed On The Sabbath


‘On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.’ Luke 13:10-13

The Synagogue

The synagogue came into existence after the Jews were in captivity and although we don’t find God anywhere commanding synagogues to be built as a gathering place, much like the Jewish temple, He seems to accept its purpose.

The synagogue served several significant purposes

1. The Synagogue maintained the Jewish national consciousness and became the social centre for the life of the captives so that even in captivity they never forgot that they were Jews.

2. It promoted a renewed interest in, and respect for the Scriptures and became the place where the collective study of the word of God was conducted.

3. Because it was no longer possible to observe the feasts, fasts and sacrifices prescribed by the Law, there being neither priesthood nor temple, the synagogue also became a place for communal prayer.

When the people returned to their homeland they took it with them and developed it, so that with the passing of time, the Synagogue was accepted as a uniquely Jewish ‘institution’, and the Synagogue services became more formal and ritualistic.

When we understand this significance, we can clearly see why Jesus would often go into the synagogue on the Sabbath Day to teach on a regular basis, Luke 4:16. The people were there, He had an audience to teach some spiritual truths from God’s word.

The Woman

This poor woman, who was crippled not because of some natural disability but by a demonic spirit, Luke 13:16, had been in this condition for eighteen years. She must have been in such pain being bent over for all those years. Under normal circumstances, if someone had a demonic spirit they weren’t allowed anywhere near the synagogue, but this woman seems to be inside the synagogue, which suggests her ailment wasn’t as bad as others. Luke 8:26-33.

Interestingly, the woman doesn’t go to Jesus for a healing which implies she either didn’t know who Jesus was or she hadn’t heard about the other miracles He performed, she was possibly embarrassed about her ailment, although it is possible she was waiting to hear what He was going to teach first and then approach Him.

Notice that Jesus sees her and then calls her over. This is one of those occasions where Jesus makes the first move to help someone. Why did He call her over? Simply because she didn’t come to come to Jesus to be healed. How refreshing it must have been for Jesus to be somewhere where He isn’t being bombarded by people requesting to be healed.

The Healing

It seems a simple touch of Jesus’ hands was enough to miraculously heal this woman. Oh, how the love of Christ reaches out to those who aren’t even seeking Him. John 3:16.

Unlike what we see happening in some of the ‘religious’ world today, she was healed immediately. The miracles in Bible times were always instantaneous, and they were often performed in front of unbelievers, why? Because miracles were performed to confirm that the message being preached was indeed from God. Mark 16:20 / John 20:30-31 / Acts 4:14-16.

The Woman’s Life Changed Forever

I often wonder what happened to the woman after her healing as she seems to disappear off the scene after she praised God. We don’t know what she did next but at least she took the time to thank God first, which should always be our first protocol after God delivers us from any situation.

I can imagine how her whole life would have changed for the better, as she is now able to do things she couldn’t do before, things like standing up straight for the first time in eighteen years, being able to stretch and reach up for something for the first time in eighteen years. We mustn’t forget she was crippled by a demonic spirit, Luke 13:16, and so not was she healed physically but spiritually too.

You Just Can’t Please Everyone

‘Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So, come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’ Luke 13:14

Notice that the synagogue leader didn’t deny the miracle had happened and he made no reference to the woman herself, but he became ‘indignant’ which basically means he was greatly displeased.

What was it that greatly displeased him?

Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, which tells us a lot about this man, he was more concerned about keeping their traditional Sabbath Day laws.

When Jesus healed the woman, it should have been a day of rejoicing, it should have been a day where everyone could glorify God and thank Him for this woman’s deliverance from the bondage of Satan, Luke 13:16.

Sadly it didn’t turn out that way, whilst the woman praised God and no doubt others were about to do the same, this self-righteous leader decides to focus on the wrong thing.

Sabbath Day Regulations

He’s so obsessed with keeping the rules and the Sabbath Day regulations, he claims that this healing was a ‘work’ and then he protests and notice he doesn’t protest to Jesus Himself but to the people around him. Instead of speaking to Jesus directly, he seems to want as much support as he can get from others first.

He reminds the people of the Sabbath in God’s covenant with Israel, Exodus 31:13, and basically says that not honouring the Sabbath showed contempt for the covenant as a whole, Numbers 15:32-36.

So, they carefully defined what ‘work’ meant and what activities were forbidden, in this case, it was healing.

Like I mentioned earlier we don’t know where the woman is at this point, but it seems the ruler was having a dig at her, he more or less says, ‘she could have come for a healing any other day of the week, but not THIS day.’

The synagogue leader seems to have forgotten that the woman was in the synagogue before Jesus was, she didn’t come for a healing, she didn’t approach Jesus, it was Jesus who saw her, called her over and then healed her.

Imagine if that woman was still present! Imagine what she must be feeling right now! One minute she’s praising God and the next she’s worrying if she has broken the Sabbath Day law!


‘The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’ Luke 13:15-16

The synagogue leader addressed the people, but Jesus swings it around and condemns not only the synagogue leader but all those who were in charge of the synagogue, hence He uses the word, ‘Hypocrites’, plural.

Why were they, hypocrites?

It was all pretence, they pretend that everything they did was in harmony with God’s laws, but they weren’t they were more concerned with the traditions of the fathers, Matthew 15:1-20.

They didn’t understand that the binding of their interpretations of the Sabbath law had actually led them away from God’s original purpose for the Sabbath.

They believed if someone was healed on the Sabbath, it was wrong, they believed that healing on the Sabbath was a ‘work’ and so Jesus demonstrates their hypocrisy by pointing out that they were more concerned about their animals than they were for their fellow human beings.

The Point

Notice Jesus calls the woman, ‘a daughter of Abraham’, implying she is one of them, her spiritual father, was their spiritual father but Abraham was the father of all nations, not just the Jewish nation, Genesis 17:5. The leaders of the synagogue untied their oxen and donkeys on the Sabbath, and Jesus freed this dear woman from the hands of Satan.

Notice the difference in words which Jesus uses, the leaders ‘untie’, but Jesus ‘set free’. In other words, Jesus is saying, they were more concerned about their animals and their animal’s welfare than they were about this woman, and her welfare.

Religions that are developed with an emphasis on outward appearances and ceremonial worship are often hypocritical in the sense that people can be members of such religions without having changed hearts.

The Hypocrites Humiliated

‘When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.’ Luke 13:17

The enemies of Jesus didn’t realise they were in bondage to their own religious doctrine, they were basically binding laws on the people and themselves which God had never bound on them, 1 Corinthians 4:6 / Acts 15:1-5 / Galatians 6:10.

Their teachings didn’t come from God but from themselves and Jesus exposed their hypocrisy which led to them being humbled and embarrassed.

We get the sense that all those other people who were present were waiting for someone, anyone, to come along and tell these so-called leaders that they were hypocrites. They had been listening to these leaders for years and submitted to their rules, but Jesus comes along and speaks the truth, and, in a way, He sets them free too, John 8:32.

We can just imagine the joy and rejoicing going on here whilst they were declaring how wonderful everything Jesus had done and said was.


I remember a few years ago I was presiding over the Lord’s Supper and we had a family come to visit us for worship. At the end of our worship, the guy came up to me and said ‘they had a wonderful time with us, BUT, why didn’t I read from 1 Corinthians 11 whilst I was presenting the Lord’s Supper!’

This is probably what he was used to in his home congregation, and so, I simply said to him, ‘I didn’t know we were ‘commanded’ to read from that text every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper’.

This is a prime example of going beyond what is written, 1 Corinthians 4:6, this is a prime example of making a man-made traditional law. This is a prime example of someone whose so focused on ‘doing things right’, that he misses out on the other blessings which come from worship.

Time and time again we see the dangers of becoming too legalistic, where people become more concerned about keeping man-made laws than they do about their fellow man, Matthew 23:23.

May we be like these people who rejoiced in their newfound freedom, but more importantly, may we have the faith to trust that God will humble these self-righteous legalists who care more about keeping the rules than they do for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’ James 4:6