Luke 13: Smack Dab in the Middle

Today’s reading is not all “Christmas lights and jingle bells”, for sure. Are you, like me, wishing for a little more of that right now? After all, Hallmark movies show us what should fill our thoughts — nostalgia, love, family, friends, community.

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And here we get the down-to-brass-tacks of Jesus teaching as he, no doubt, looks forward to what’s ahead.

But right in the middle of a chapter book-ended by the truth of mankind’s state without God, there is a beautiful story about what happens when the Kingdom of God comes near.

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Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. We can tell what’s coming, can’t we? Jesus spied a woman bent over and struggling. A child of Abraham, a covenanted daughter who has been in this condition, unable to stand upright, for eighteen long years! Apparently, Jesus can’t bear it. He calls out, “Woman! You are loosed from your infirmity!” The translation I am reading (MEV, Modern English Version) says he reached out and touched her, and immediately she was made straight.

I guess there’s no need to mention the response that came from the leaders of the Synagogue—except, perhaps, that they were ashamed when Jesus called out their compassion for their thirsty donkeys, which was greater than their concern for her.

This event, right in the middle of some pretty tough scenarios, brought me back to Psalm 103. That’s where I return often to see the heart of God so that I can refresh the picture I have of Him in my own heart. Because life calls for it.

I’m sure you know the beautiful Psalm of David, but here’s the God the shepherd-warrior-king knows, paraphrased for brevity:

“He forgives all your iniquities. He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from destruction. He crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies. He satisfies your mouth with good, and renews your youth like the eagles. He is slow to anger, abounding in mercy. His mercy and compassion toward those who fear Him are as high as the heavens.”

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The nameless daughter of Abraham saw that picture in Jesus that day.

That’s who came at Christmas.

” Now let your servant [Simeon] depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your Salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, A light for revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of your people, Israel,” (Luke 2: 29-32).