St Luke 13: 10 – 21
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.
He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’
And again he said, ‘To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
“The entire crowd was rejoicing …”
Can you picture it? If you were a film-maker how would you portray it? Shouting, singing praises, laughing, slapping each other on the back, maybe some are calling out to each other “Did you see that? Did you see what happened? What will he do next?”
The crowds are important in the Gospels. The crowd acts as a kind of litmus test backdrop as to the impact Jesus is having. Through Luke’s Gospel, up to this point, the crowd are in turn: looking for him; wanting to prevent him from leaving them; pressing in on him to hear the word of God; gathering to be cured of their diseases; being amazed; glorifying God and being filled with awe; coming from town after town; welcoming him; waiting for him; following him; being astounded at the greatness of God; increasing; gathering by the thousands so that they trample on one another. Then here in chapter 13, rejoicing “at all the wonderful things that he was doing”.
And, of course, within the crowd are a myriad of individuals each with their longings, needs and hopes. They include people to whom some of those wonderful things are happening very directly. The woman in today’s reading has been ill for eighteen years. No wonder the entire crowd was rejoicing when Jesus healed her.
When I attend Evening Prayer in our parish church I am struck by the phrase, “… make your chosen people joyful.” By God’s grace, can we see beyond those many things that stifle joy? Can we too rejoice at all the wonderful things God is doing? This Lent, shall we practice the discipline of joy?
Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising,
Give me joy in my heart, I pray;
Give me joy in my hearts keep me praising,
Keep me praising till the break of day.