Luke 13:10-14:6 – The Heart of Christ for Sabbath Healing and God’s Kingdom

Luke 13:10-14:6 – The Heart of Christ for Sabbath Healing and God’s Kingdom

A. Introduction

Greeting and prayer. 

B. Luke 13:10–17 (ESV) Jesus Heals on the Sabbath

10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 

14But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15Then the Lord answered him, “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? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17As 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.

The Disabled Woman

It’s Sunday worship, people are filing in. Jesus is teaching, but his gaze catches something: a woman who is hurting with a disabled spirit, hurting so badly that she was bent over. Maybe she shuffles in the back, hoping to avoid people staring, always being looked at as someone who’s just not quite right, being viewed as something other than normal. She’s probably used to being judged immediately based on her appearance, based on her disability. She may be used to seeing fear in people’s eyes as they keep their distance from her. She’s been disabled for 18 years. 

To get a sense of how long 18 years is, 18 years ago was before Steve Jobs dreamed up the first iPhone, before Hurricane Katrina hit, before John Mayer was waiting on the World to Change, before people were tweeting, way before they were snapping, and before a bunch of you over here were born! So this was a long time, and for this woman, the disabling spirit had become a way of life for her, but that didn’t make it any easier. She’s probably used to being looked at, but not truly seen for who she really is…until now.

Jesus sees her, and right when he does, he stops what he’s doing and calls her over. He says, “come on over to me.” She is disabled and a woman, so in this culture, she more used to being ignored. But Jesus sees someone in need, and he wants to help, because he cares for her. He calls her over and immediately heals her. 

Jesus doesn’t ask her to give him anything. He doesn’t even ask for a profession of faith; he knows her heart. He simply lays his hands on her. He’s not afraid to touch her. He doesn’t recoil from her like so many probably have. And when she is healed, she gives praise where it is due: verse 13 says she “glorified God.” What a beautiful thing: Jesus healing the broken, the marginalized, the needy. A touching moment. But not everyone saw it that way.

The ruler of the synagogue (most likely a Pharisee) is mad. This is not “you just lost tic-tac-toe” mad. This is your dog just tracked mud all over the house and ate the whole thanksgiving turkey and somehow let an entire family of bats into the house mad. The ruler of the synagogue is very mad.

He’s comin in hot, and he’s so upset that he’s not just going to pull Jesus and the woman aside to have a talk with them. No, they have made a scene in his synagogue, so he’s going to call them out in front of everyone. He rebukes Jesus by quoting Scripture: Exodus 20:9 “9Six days you shall labor, and do all your work.”

Up to this point, Luke has been calling Jesus “Jesus” which makes sense. Duh, right? But when he responds to the ruler of the synagogue, Luke calls Jesus “the Lord,” drawing out the fact that Jesus is the actual authority in this situation. Any rebuking should be coming down from the Lord Jesus, not to him. Jesus is the true ruler in his Father’s house. He is the lord of the Sabbath, the author of the Scriptures, the king over all. But he’s being talked down to by this synagogue leader. The irony is thick as he tries to use the Word of God against God himself, which ends up backfiring hard. 

Healing on the Sabbath

I want to pause for a minute and ask: what is the main purpose of the Sabbath? It is a weekly day established to bring rest & healing to God’s people and praise, worship, and glory to God as we look to him as the provider for all of our needs by remembering what he has done for us (and for these Jews that particularly meant remembering God rescuing all of Israel from their enslavement to Egypt and bringing them to the Promised Land in miraculous fashion). 

Now think about Jesus did. What happened through that? Rest and healing came to this woman, who praised and glorified God for what he had done. That was dead center in the middle of the bullseye of the purpose of the Sabbath. The “ruler of the synagogue” was angry that what God most wants to happen on the Sabbath was happening. He was so focussed on what shouldn’t happen that he failed to see what should happen, which was right in front of his own eyes. This synagogue leader was tasked with inviting people in, but instead he was trying to shut out the healing of God. He had completely lost the point of the Sabbath. And Jesus wasn’t going to let that stand; not on his watch.

Jesus fires back: “You hypocrites!” And then he makes an argument for why what he does was right. 

15 Then the Lord answered him, “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? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

He says: “you’re willing to free your donkey and lead it to water, but you’re not willing to let this woman, this child of God, be set free. Isn’t she worth more to you than that, because she’s worth more to God than that! This is a daughter of Abraham, one of God’s chosen people. She should be cared for and cared about. She is loved by God, and should be loved by you.” That is the sentiment of what Jesus communicates, and this is what we call a mic drop moment. 

17 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.

Jesus made it clear for everyone to see: he was right, and the people against him on this were so very wrong. And he made them look like fools. The watching crowd was all pumped up at the Pharisees getting punked, and just rejoiced at what Jesus had done. Maybe they were tired of this oppression, this heavy yoke that the Pharisees had put on them, but they were just happy to be in the presence of Jesus and see what he had done.

What makes us angry vs. what makes Jesus angry

When I was studying this passage and thinking how to apply it to us, God drew me to something that I found fascinating, and I want to take you on part of this journey with me. Don’t worry, this is not a galaxy far, far away kind of journey, this is more like a swinging by Casey’s kind of journey.

We see in this passage that the ruler of the synagogue was “indignant” because Jesus had healed someone, and I wondered: who else gets indignant? What do they get indignant about? And maybe more importantly, does Jesus ever get indignant?

I found this word that is translated as indignant used in a number of instances: 

Anger at giving gifts and honor to Jesus:

Matthew 26:7–9 (ESV)

7a woman came up to him [Jesus] with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 

Anger out of jealousy:

Mark 10:37,41 (ESV)

And they [James and John] said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” …  And when the ten [disciples] heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 

Anger at healing and the praise of Jesus: 

Matthew 21:14–15 (ESV) 

14And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant.

We see something similar to that, but a separate instance of anger over Jesus’s healing and the praise of God in our passage of Luke 14 from earlier. 

Now, here is the anger of Jesus; this is what gets Jesus upset:

Mark 10:13–16 (ESV)

13And they were bringing children to him… and the disciples rebuked them. 14But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Here’s what we see: What makes Jesus angry is people preventing others  from coming to him. This is an anger that flows from a love and care of his people. We people get angry when we lose things, when someone else gets praised instead of us, when people don’t follow our rules. Jesus gets angry at barriers to God. We get angry in selfishness; Jesus got angry in selflessness, in his care for others.

This is what we saw when Jesus pronounced the woes on the Pharisees and lawyers in Luke 11 when he said “You did not enter [God’s kingdom] yourselves, and you prevented others from entering!”

Now, considering what made Jesus angry versus what makes people angry, I’m going to ask you a question today:  

What makes you angry? 

What do you get most upset about? Is it when people prevent people from coming to Jesus? Or:

  • is it when people break your rules? 
  • Is it when people don’t conform to your man-made image of how they should live? 
  • Is it when you don’t have the amount of comfort or the relationship or the money that you think you deserve? 
  • Is it when your friend gets that job, that boyfriend, that car that you wanted?
  • Is it when you have to give something up for the good of your brother or sister or mom or dad or son or daughter or wife or husband? 
  • Is it politics? Is it sports?
  • Is it when someone cuts you off in traffic? 
  • Is it when you get rejected? 
  • Is it when life just seems unfair? 
  • Is it when someone else gets the credit for your work? 
  • Is it when you seem to be putting in all the effort and getting nothing in return? 
  • Is that what gets you worked up?

Or is it when the message of Jesus and his love doesn’t go out to those in need? Is it when people aren’t finding Jesus?

We need to consider how our heart responds to things, and what that says we believe about the importance of those things. And we need to see if that lines up with what Jesus thinks about those things. There are many things that matter, they truly do matter to God and should matter to you. But there are some things, ultimate things, that echo into eternity, that bring life to the dead, and rest to the weary, and help to the hurting, and peace to the restless. Those are the things that we should be more deeply engaged with. Those are the things that should occupy our minds, our hearts, and our actions. Take a step in that direction.

You may need to repent of some anger over the wrong things today. But know this: how did Jesus respond to the people who came to him with childlike faith in this passage we just looked at? 

Mark 10 says: “He took them into his arms and blessed them.” He’ll do the same to you. So come to him.

C. Luke 13:18–21 The parables of the mustard seed and leaven (what the Kingdom of God is like)

18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 

20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

Why does Jesus start talking about the kingdom of God? This is by design. He’s like: okay, you guys don’t really understand what God is about. Let me tell you what he is about, so he tells a couple of parables that relate to everyday items that people would be familiar with. Parables usually give one big idea, and don’t need to be overanalyzed. So let’s look for the big idea in these: 

Mustard seed: the kingdom of God appears small, but is going to grow to be huge. It will grow into something big that will make a home (a nest) for many, but it will take time. It’s as simple as that. 

As for the parable of the leaven, if you don’t know what leaven is, it is a substance (like yeast) that is used in dough to make it rise to make nice fluffy loaf instead of a flat, dense, mealy sheet. One key detail that Jesus’s listeners would have understood is that three measures of flour is a huge amount = about 40 pounds of flour. So, it’s a nice full shopping cart of flour. Leaven hidden in that amount of flour is like a needle in a haystack: nearly impossible to find unless you knew where to look. So, the big idea is: 

Leaven: what appears to be missing is actually just hidden; the kingdom of God will be revealed at the proper time (leaven will raise the dough, but you have to wait for it, and you can’t do anything to speed it up).

With these parables, Jesus is combatting a misconception that was present in the Jews. As they awaited, they expected the messiah to arrive with immense apocalyptic power and glory like Iron Man taking out all the baddies and flying down in style. But instead, Jesus is saying that the kingdom has come in a different way, a hidden way, a slow-working way.

This goes against our American modern culture that says “give me everything, and give it to me right now.” This is different. It’s a little … bit … slower. Did that bother you? Well, that’s the kingdom of God! That is outside our typical mindset; it’s outside how we tend to operate, so we would do well to take notice and reframe our thinking around that reality.

What lessons should we take from these parables?

  • Don’t be discouraged when you look out at the world or at you life and it looks like God is doing nothing. He is present and he is working at the exact right time in the exact right place. He will accomplish his purposes. And if you have responded to Jesus in repentance and faith, if you are following him, Col 3 says “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Just like the yeast is hidden in the dough and couldn’t be separated out from it, so are you in Christ. You are safe in Jesus. You can be sure of that.
  • Don’t be discouraged when the immediate impact of your work for God seems small; if it is of God, it will grow into something enormous at the right time. A seed takes a very long time from the time you plant it to the time you see fruit, but that fruit will come. Be patient, remain faithful, and don’t grow discouraged. 

On to the next section! 

D. Luke 13:22–30 (ESV) Enter through the narrow gate (entering the kingdom)

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Jesus does not shy away from hard things and hard questions. We’ve seen that throughout Luke. But Jesus also has this curious pattern of not directly answering a question with yes or no. He reaches beyond the question, helping people process through their real needs, not just their felt needs. So what he answers with is: the main thing that should matter to you is not whether the saved are many or few. That is not for you to decide anyways. What should matter to you is that you personally, the one human being you are responsible for with the one life you have, should respond to the one true God by entering through the gate, that is, by following Jesus in repentance and faith.

As we try to understand Jesus’s words, a key question that should come up for us is: why is the door narrow?

The narrow door refers to the singular passage to salvation and entry into the kingdom of God through Jesus and only Jesus. 

Jesus said: ”I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” This is not a wide path with multiple routes that all lead to the same destination. This is more like a mighty mountain with a single ledge that must be bravely traversed to reach the summit (I’m sure Luke Anderson could give you more details on that if you’d like). 

But what’s the deal with this scene where people are knocking at the door? Here’s the scene:

People: Open up the door.

God: I don’t know you.

People: What? We shared a meal and you taught in our streets!

God: I don’t know you.

Then, those people that God didn’t know are cast out to a place of deep sadness and pain.

This is a hard truth to hear, but this is not something Jesus glossed over, so it is not something that we will gloss over. Jesus makes it clear that those who do not enter the kingdom of God will experience great anguish, and there will be many who do not enter the kingdom of God. Some believe in a concept called universal salvation — the view that everyone will eventually come around and be saved. But that view is clearly and completely rejected by Jesus. He rejects the view that there are many different ways to get to God, and he rejects the view that all people will somehow eventually find their way to Him. Yes, every knee will bow, but some will do it willingly and others under compulsion. 

That is a sober reality that begs the question: How could it be that God didn’t know those people who seemed to think they were so close to him. More practically: how do I know if I’m “in?” Should I be afraid that I’m not?

What Jesus is expressing here is that you should examine yourself and ask the question: are you in? That is the point here. Jesus is clearly teaching that being around God and his people is not enough to save you, in fact, it’s not the thing that saves you at all. The thing that really saves you is actually knowing him and following him. 

The Gospel

For us, that means trusting in the work of Jesus who lived a perfect, sinless life, which we failed to do, and while the punishment for our sins is death, Jesus died the brutal death that we deserved on the cross, bearing the wrath of God for our sins, and that Jesus rose again in new life so that in the same way, we can have new life with a new purpose and a new hope, transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit as we trust in Christ’s finished work on the cross and follow and love him forever, even as we do it imperfectly but ever walking in confession and repentance, as we love and forgive those around us just as we have been loved and forgiven, eagerly awaiting Christ’s return when all wrongs will be made right. 

Does that describe the state of your heart, and the state of your life? I actually want you to take a few moments and consider that right now, because the point Jesus is making is that we should not wait. Consider the state of your heart  and your life right now.

Maybe you’re someone who has been going to church your whole life, or been in small groups, who listened to teachings, even served in ministries, but you’ve never really known Jesus. You might be really confused and have no idea what I’m talking about right now. That’s okay. What matters is that you be honest with yourself about where your heart is at. If you are confused and want to know what knowing Jesus actually looks like, talk to someone. If you’re just now realizing that you’ve been around God, but have never actually been with him, talk to someone.

The people Jesus speaks of who didn’t really know God were relying on things they have done rather than the one they knew and trusted in to save them. They were resting in works rather than grace. Don’t do that. Trust in Jesus.

E. Luke 13:31-35 Christ’s desire to save his people

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

The Pharisees here warn Jesus, but he is not afraid. He refers to Herod as a cute little fox, and he gives us a little wink here. He says he knows he is meant to die in Jerusalem, and in verse 32 that he will do his work today, tomorrow, and on the third day will complete that work. Can you think of a work in Jerusalem that he completed on the third day? His death and resurrection! Jesus knows the path that lies ahead, so he goes forward living his life with boldness instead of fear.

But Jesus is sad for Jerusalem and the people. He wishes they could come to him and he would protect them and keep them warm and safe. Jesus knows they will reject the very one who came to save them, and that grieves him greatly. Jesus is God himself, creator of the universe, present from the beginning, knowing all things, seeing all of history. He is the God who made the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God who rescued his people from Egypt, and lead them into the Promised Land. He is the one who has brought every blessing to His people, but has felt every rejection and denial. His sadness comes from a heart of love.

We should learn something important from this passage:

Jesus doesn’t fear the ability of mere men to thwart his plans and neither should we. The plans of God are fixed and they will be accomplished, so fear not.

Now for our final section: 

F. Luke 14:1-6 Jesus invites confession and heals, then teaches

14 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy [a disease]. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.

Jesus is dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees and experts in the law (OT Academic Scholars) are present. They are observing Jesus with suspicion, watching to see if he will mess anything up, as they didn’t like the way he rolled.

In Israel, meals were often open to outsiders, so this man with dropsy (a disease) comes to the meal trying to find Jesus to ask him for help, knowing that Jesus may be able to heal him. Then Jesus asks them what they think about healing on the Sabbath. He gives them chance to consider their position, even to confess that they were wrong, or at least to engage in conversation around the subject.

But they refuse to answer because the last time they did, they got roasted, and while they believe Jesus shouldn’t heal on the Sabbath, they clearly aren’t able to defend that from the Scriptures, and they refuse to change their perspective on this, having hardened hearts, denying the chance to learn from a man who did remarkable miracles that only God could do. They were in the presence of the greatest teacher to ever walk this earth, but rejected the opportunity to be his students.

With no answer, Jesus heals the man and then goes on to explain why healing on the Sabbath is walking in obedience to the Scriptures.

I want to pause on this for a second, because we could miss something powerful: Jesus heals the man before addressing the Pharisees and scholars. This shows us something: that people matter more to Jesus than having the right answer. Having the right answer matters, but love for others matters more than that. That is encapsulated in Jesus’s interaction with a lawyer/scholar in Luke 10 where Jesus said “do this and live.” 

What is it that we need to do to live? Is it to have all knowledge and wisdom? Is it to be the smartest, the one who always has the right answer? Knowledge is important, and particularly knowledge of Christ!  

But to live, Jesus said you need to love God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your strength, and with all of your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this, and you will live. We would do well to remember that, and that’s precisely what Jesus models perfectly right here in Luke 14.

Now, helping all the people gathered there understand why it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath was important to Jesus, so he does just that. When he brings up helping an ox or a son that has fallen, he is referring to Deuteronomy 22:

If you see your brother’s donkey or ox fallen down on the road, do not ignore it; help him lift it up. … 3 You must not ignore it.”

Notice it does not say “except on the Sabbath.” Instead, it says “you must not ignore it. Lift it up.” Jesus confronts their position with the Scriptures, showing them that what they believe to be rigid adherence to the law is actually ignoring the law itself. He showed them their hypocrisy, that they were elevating their own man-made laws over and above the laws written in the Bible. 

We can be a lot like the Pharisees, can’t we? It is easy to see the fault in others, but so difficult to see it in ourselves. It is easy to condemn others while justifying ourselves. We want to be right. We want to be independent. We want to be praised and looked up to and adored. But in doing so, we fail to recognize our need for God. We fail to change our mind even when presented with the evidence. We seek to justify ourselves rather than give kindness, grace, and approach one another with a humble spirit and an open heart.

Consider this today: who are you looking down on? Who are you condemning? What standards are you holding others to in your mind that you are ignoring yourself? Is your attitude one of self-justification, or are you more like Jesus who is bringing healing, love, and hope to those around him? 

Humility and openness is where we need to live as believers, and when we don’t approach God with an open hand that says “teach me,” we will eventually find ourselves following man rather than following God. How do we get that?  

Start here, here’s your application for this section: pray for humility. Pray that God would warm your heart. And when Jesus confronts you to confess, do it. There is no fear in that. His heart is for you, he will not reject you. If you come to him with humility, you will find the greatest joy you have ever known. So live in that place today.