It is the Sabbath day, and she lies in her bed, trying to decide if she will get up. She rarely misses a Sabbath service in the synagogue, but today she’s aching worse than usual. She manages to get out of bed. It takes her a long time to dress because every movement sends excruciating waves of pain through her back. She’s 49 years old, but feels like she’s 79. Bent and deformed, unable to straighten herself, she hasn’t looked anyone in the eye since she was 31, when her disease fused the vertebrae in her spine and doubled her over, like a twisted reed.
She enters the synagogue after the service has begun. She’s well-acquainted with the synagogue floor and can identify a few people by their feet and sandals. It’s extra crowded today because of the news that the Teacher would be here. The woman shuffles over to her seat in the last row on the women’s side, hoping no one has noticed her, especially the Rabbi, the one many claim is a prophet and miracle worker. Maybe she’ll get to witness a miracle today.
She hears the teacher say, “Woman,” to someone. “Woman, come here.” She cranes her neck to the side, trying to get a glimpse of whoever the speaker is summoning. The woman next to her bends over and whispers in her ear. “He’s calling you. He wants you to come to him.”
Is he angry because she came in late? Has she distracted people from his message? With an effort she pushes up from her seat, bent over in a permanent posture of humility, and drags herself to the front of the room.
She can’t look up. She waits, a pitiful, poor, deformed creature, trembling like a dog waiting to be cuffed by its master’s hand.
Then she hears the most wonderful words she’s ever heard – “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” Did she hear correctly? Dare she allow herself to hope? She doesn’t move. Then she feels the touch of hands on her back. She begins to straighten up, slowly, tentatively, then the rest of the way – suddenly she’s standing erect, and finds herself looking into the face of Love. She’s looking into the eyes of the one who sees poor sinners in their misery, calls them to himself and frees them by his mighty word.
She’s healed. She can see the ceiling. She can bend over and touch her toes. For the first time in 18 years she’s looking into the astonished faces of her friends and neighbors. She breaks into spontaneous praise and hugs her healer, who is smiling, almost laughing. “Glory to God!” she shouts, “I’m healed, I’m healed! Thank you, Rabbi, thank you!”
Can you imagine her joy and gratitude? It must have been overwhelming. And Jesus has done even more for us who are saved. He saw us in our sin, misery and bondage, called us to himself, then healed us. And day after day, moment by moment he’s transforming us into his own likeness.
And someday, we too will gaze into the face of Love.
Do you think this woman took God’s goodness to her for granted? I don’t think so. I imagine she sang God’s praises for the rest of her life. Let’s praise our Savior today for his mercy and love.