Luke alone recounts the story of the healing of the crippled woman (Lk 13: 10-17). His source is ‘L’. Jesus who is on his journey to Jerusalem visits a synagogue – for the last time in Luke’s gospel. Jesus carries out the care of the crippled woman spontaneously and unasked, using his power (Lk 4: 14, 36; 5: 17) to bring healing to someone who was suffering for eighteen years. The cure provokes a controversy about the sabbath between the synagogue leader and Jesus. [See other sabbath cures and controversies in Lk 6: 6-11 (Mk 3: 1-6) and Lk 14: 1-6]. While the synagogue leader, indirectly accusing Jesus for breaking the sabbath law (Cf. Deut 5: 13), expresses the obligation to work on six days (Lk 13: 14), Jesus emphasises the divine necessity (dei in Greek, Lk 13: 16; Cf. also Lk 9: 26) of working out God’s plan of salvation. He is sent to bring release to his people – to a ‘daughter of Abraham’, that is, a member of God’s chosen people (Cf. Lk 19: 19). The religious setting of the cure – synagogue and sabbath – highlights this aspect. Jesus is acting in obedience to the divine will which takes precedence over all other laws.
Jesus makes a further argument in verse 15. If the rabbinic laws allow one to take care of domestic animals on the sabbath by releasing them from the manger and leading them to drink water, it is all the more lawful to bring release to an unfortunate human being from the bonds of Satan (Lk 13: 16). Jesus sees that the crippled woman is in a worse condition than the animals tethered to a manger. Jesus emphasises that she should be released on the sabbath, the day of release from bondage of labour (Cf. Deut 5: 12), symbolising the final release of God’s people from all forms of bondage. Therefore, the activity of releasing those bound by Satan must be carried out everyday, including the sabbath. Jesus thus fulfils the purpose of the sabbath. Jesus once again affirms the priority of the well-being of human persons over the observance of religious laws (Lk 6: 1-11). In this he acts with authority over the sabbath and its meaning.
The episode shows again that the power of God is at work in Jesus (Cf. Lk 4: 14, 36; 5: 17) to set persons free from sickness or physical evil. He thus overcomes evil as he moves on to Jerusalem, where the conquest of evil will reach its climax.
We may recall that this episode comes immediately after the teaching on repentance and reform (Lk 13: 1-9). All those who are represented by the leader of the synagogue obsessed only with the ‘letter of the Law’ in a hypocritical manner (Lk 13: 15) and all those who oppose Jesus (Lk 13: 17) are the ones who ought to repent (Lk 13: 1-9). They are like the unproductive fig tree. We may note that Jesus not only brings release to the woman fettered by evil but unfetters sabbath itself from legalism (Cf. Lk 6: 5).