September 27, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 13:10-17 (NRSV)
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And 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. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But 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.” But 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? And 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?” When 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.
Often in the gospels Jesus clashes with religious elites over the matter of priorities. For example, Jesus chose to set someone free from physical and spiritual bondage, even if this required “working” on the sabbath. Others prioritized a version of sabbath keeping that put off healing for another day. Though we can easily criticize the opponents of Jesus, we should acknowledge that we too can value our preferences more than people. As we learn to strive first of God’s kingdom, our priorities will become more and more like the priorities of Jesus.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In today’s passage from Luke, Jesus healed someone on the sabbath day. And not just someone! He healed a woman who had been severely handicapped for eighteen years. It’s no wonder that, having been healed, she “began praising God” (Luke 13:13).
But not everyone shared in her celebratory praise. The leader of the synagogue in which this healing took place was not pleased. He believed that healing was a kind of work, and work was forbidden on the sabbath. “There are six days on which work ought to be done,” he objected. “Come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day” (Luke 13:14).
That’s not how Jesus saw it, however. Noting that law-abiding Jews do certain kinds of work on the sabbath and that the woman was set free from Satan’s bondage, Jesus put his opponents to shame. Not only were they self-serving in their interpretation of the sabbath law, but also they were hard-hearted in their failure to celebrate the healing of someone who had suffered for so many years.
Like the synagogue leader in this story, sometimes well-intentioned Christians can get so wrapped in our religious rules that we fail to embrace the kingdom priorities of Jesus. For example, years ago on a retreat with men from my church, a young man named Kurt put his faith in Christ for the first time. The retreat participants and I were thrilled, of course. When Kurt mentioned that he didn’t have a Bible, Bill, one of the men at the retreat, offered to buy him one. So they drove to a nearby Christian conference center that had a bookstore. After Kurt picked out the Bible he wanted, he and Bill went to the cashier so Bill could pay.
“Are you part of our conference this weekend?” the cashier asked. “No,” Kurt said, “I’m at another retreat center nearby.” “Oh,” said the cashier, “then I can’t sell you that Bible. Only our conferees can buy books here.” Bill explained to the cashier that his companion was a brand-new Christian who needed a Bible. Bill expected the cashier to be excited and make an exception to the “only our conferees” rule. But the cashier was adamant. His conference center had rules and that meant he would not sell a Bible to Kurt. Period.
Later that day when I heard what had happened, I said to myself sarcastically, “Great! What a wonderful introduction to Christianity for Kurt. Now he knows that we Christians value our rules more than letting a new believer have a Bible.” But, as I settled into my cabin that night, I wondered if I also had misplaced priorities. Did I value things in the way of Jesus? Or did I sometimes let my preferences take precedence over people?
Today, as I reflect on Luke 13:10-17, I wondering again. Which of my priorities need to be set aside as I adopt the priorities of Jesus? What will change in me as I strive for the kingdom of God most of all?
Have you ever experienced anything like what Kurt did in the bookstore? If so, what happened? How did you feel? What did you learn from this experience?
Do you ever recognize that your priorities are out of sync with the priorities of Jesus? When?
Can you think of ways your values and priorities have changed because of your relationship with Jesus?
Set aside some time to talk with the Lord about your priorities in life. Ask him to show you where your values need adjustment.
Lord Jesus, as I read this story in Luke, I’m struck by the fact that my own priorities are not fully in sync with yours. I’m sure there are times when I want what I want, not what you want. Forgive me, Lord.
Help me, I pray, to be open to the realignment of my priorities. May I be honest about what I value more than I should. May I learn from your example, Lord, even as your Spirit transforms my heart. May I love as you loved. May I see as you saw.
To you be all the glory. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Sabbath and Work (Luke 6:1-11; 13:10-17)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.