JESUS DRAWS A LESSON FROM TWO TRAGEDIES
CRIPPLED WOMAN HEALED ON THE SABBATH
Jesus has tried in many ways to move the people to think about their standing with God. Another occasion arises after his discussion with people outside the house of a Pharisee.
Some of them mention a tragic event. They speak about “the Galileans whose blood [the Roman Governor Pontius] Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” (Luke 13:1) What do they mean?
Perhaps these Galileans were the ones killed when thousands of Jews protested Pilate’s use of money from the temple treasury to construct an aqueduct to bring water into Jerusalem. Pilate may have acquired the money with the cooperation of the temple authorities. Those relating this tragedy may feel that the Galileans suffered the calamity because they were guilty of wicked deeds. Jesus disagrees.
He asks: “Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they have suffered these things?” His answer is no. But he uses the incident to warn the Jews: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise be destroyed.” (Luke 13:2, 3) Jesus then refers to another tragedy that may have occurred recently and may have been related to the construction of that aqueduct, asking:
“Those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell, killing them—do you think that they had greater guilt than all other men who live in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4) The crowd may feel that those individuals died because of some personal badness. Again Jesus disagrees. He knows that “time and unexpected events” happen and are likely responsible for this tragedy too. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) The people, though, should take a lesson from the event. “Unless you repent, you will all be destroyed, as they were,” Jesus says. (Luke 13:5) But why is he stressing this lesson now?
It has to do with where he is in the course of his ministry, and he illustrates the matter this way: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. Then he said to the vinedresser, ‘Here it is three years that I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, but have found none. Cut it down! Why should it keep the ground useless?’ In reply he said to him, ‘Master, leave it alone for one more year until I dig around it and put on manure. If it produces fruit in the future, well and good; but if not, then cut it down.’”—Luke 13:6-9.
For more than three years, Jesus has been trying to cultivate faith among the Jews. Yet, relatively few have become disciples and can be considered fruitage of his labors. Now, in the fourth year of his ministry, he is intensifying his efforts. It is as if he were digging and putting fertilizer around the Jewish fig tree by preaching and teaching in Judea and Perea. With what results? Only a small number of Jews respond. As a whole, the nation refuses to repent and is now in line for destruction.
That lack of response on the part of most once again comes to the fore shortly afterward on a Sabbath. Jesus is teaching in a synagogue. He sees a woman who, because a demon is afflicting her, has been bent double for 18 years. Showing compassion, Jesus tells her: “Woman, you are released from your weakness.” (Luke 13:12) Jesus lays his hands on her, and instantly she straightens up and starts to glorify God.
That angers the presiding officer of the synagogue, who says: “There are six days on which work ought to be done; so come and be cured on those days, and not on the Sabbath day.” (Luke 13:14) That officer is not denying that Jesus has the power to heal; rather, he is condemning the people for coming to be healed on the Sabbath! Jesus responds with clear logic: “Hypocrites, does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his bull or his donkey from the stall and lead it away to give it something to drink? Should not this woman, who is a daughter of Abraham and whom Satan held bound for 18 years, be released from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”—Luke 13:15, 16.
The opposers feel shame, but the crowds rejoice over the glorious things they are seeing Jesus do. Then Jesus repeats here in Judea two prophetic illustrations regarding the Kingdom, which he had related earlier from a boat on the Sea of Galilee.—Matthew 13:31-33; Luke 13:18-21.