She hobbled into the synagogue to hear the healing rabbi. Hoping against hope. You see, she “had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself” (Luke 13:10-11).
Eighteen years. How many of her tears had God collected in his bottle (Psalm 56:8)? How many of her prayers in his bowl (Revelation 5:8)?
Eighteen years of suffering. The slow burn of chronic pain had worn on her soul. She had suffered the loss of capacities she once took for granted. She had suffered the indignities of others’ pity and disgust. She had suffered their suspicion that her body was bent under the weight of divine judgment.
Did she know that her affliction was Satanic (Luke 13:16)?
God knew. He knew all the ways she suffered, better than she did. And God had long permitted Satan to afflict her. Long, at least, for time-bound creatures whose mortal lives are measured in decades, not millennia (2 Peter 3:8).
Why? We rarely are given answers to such questions.
But we get a rare answer in this woman’s story. For suddenly, in that little synagogue, the grace of God engulfs her in the compassion of God the Son:
When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight. (Luke 13:12-13)
Just like that. Eighteen years of bondage and with a look, a word, and a touch, the sea of her suffering parts. She has her exodus. This was the day God had decreed her deliverance.
God’s Compassion Is Patient
All those weary years of grief just to find that her pain had been predestined to play a part in revealing Messiah to Israel. God had not been slow to show his compassion; he had been patient (2 Peter 3:9). Was it worth it? “She glorified God” (Luke 13:13).
God’s Compassion Is Purposeful
Jesus’ compassion and this woman’s pain also had had a far-reaching purpose. If you, like this woman, discovered that your seemingly meaningless affliction turned out to be infused with meaning beyond what you imagined possible and resulted in joy inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8) for you and a multitude of others, would it be worth it? Sit down and catch your breath. It is. It’s promised to you (2 Corinthians 4:17).
God’s Compassion Is PowerfulAnd his compassion was powerful. When the synagogue ruler objected to such mercy as Sabbath-breaking, he found himself rebuked by the Lord of the Sabbath:
You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. (Luke 13:14-17)
Not all the adversaries that were shamed were seen. Yes, the ruler of the synagogue and likely some Pharisees were humiliated. But Satan far more. This woman had been his captive and he had been disarmed and overthrown with a compassionate word. A horrible harbinger of an approaching defeat he was fighting like hell to thwart.
And it was a holy harbinger of an approaching final deliverance for all who love the Lord’s appearing:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
In this age, it is not the tears or mourning or crying or pain or death that is strange. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). What’s strange is their defeat.
Your Deliverance Is Coming
Today you may say with Job, “my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning” (Job 23:2). You may say with Moses, “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants. . . Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil” (Psalm 90:13-15).
But you need to know that, like this disabled woman, the patient, purposeful, powerful compassion of God in Christ for you is approaching like a relentless torrent. The day of your deliverance is decreed. It will come with a sudden joy. Every adversary will be shamed. Every tear will be wiped away. And the days he will make you glad will drown the days you have seen evil into glorious and happy oblivion (Romans 8:18).