So, Who’s the Undercover Boss?

Luke 13:10-17 (Isaiah 58:9b-14, Psalm 103:1-8)
Imagine Jesus as Undercover Boss; you know, like on the TV show. In the show the boss of a large – and usually well-known – company puts on a disguise and tries his or her hand at the mundane day-to-day tasks performed by the ordinary employees. Every week, each boss encounters the backstories – often heart-breaking or inspiring – of these ordinary folks. And, at the end of the show, the boss, now better aware of what their employees are going through, does something to make their lives better (a generous vacation, money for college, a promotion, etc.) It’s all very nice. Except of course, the boss is blissfully ignorant of the lives of the other 99.9999% of the employees: only two or three have been heard and had their challenges addressed or alleviated.
Now [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God (Luke 13;10-13).
Luke wants us to know few things:
  • Jesus’ message is universal. For, shortly after this event (in Luke 14:16, to be precise) we’ll hear of a similar healing of a man. These healings are telling us something: Jesus is for all.
  • Jesus’ attention to the plight of these daughters and sons of Abraham is so deep, so profound, that he will act spontaneously – the woman doesn’t cry out to him, nor does she appeal to him; instead Jesus reaches out to her (“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said…”)
  • Although there are abundant examples of Jesus healing by his very word or command, Luke gives several examples of healings that involve command and touch  (The leper 5:13; the corpse of the son of the Widow of Nain 7:14; the woman with the hemorrhage 8:43-48). In fact, the more unclean and ostracized the person, the more Jesus seems to want to touch them. For, Jesus restores sufferers socially as well as physically.
  • The crowd is always present, and those who seek to maintain the status quo are ready to agitate the crowd, stir them up, or as in this instance warn them about Jesus. (In John’s Gospel, the crowd and the leaders are collectively referred to as “the Jews,” which has been misused, anti-Semitically, for 2000 years. Luke sees no reason to use that terminology.)
Most profoundly, it seems to me, is the warning contained in the second part of this text. After hearing the criticism of the leader of the synagogue that it is unlawful to heal on the Sabbath, Jesus exclaims:
“You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”
This is more than just a recapitulation of the other instances in Luke in which Jesus reveals himself to be Lord of the Sabbath (6:1-11, for example). Here the extent of human sinfulness is laid bare: there are many in this world who would rather allow others to suffer, than to change the system under which they suffer. There are those who would willingly sustain that system, rather than work to alleviate such suffering. The leader of the synagogue is one such person. There are other examples in Scripture. There are other examples here and now!
Jesus’ love is for all; his life is for all; his suffering is for all; his death and resurrection are for all. It turns out he is not the Undercover Boss after all – he doesn’t single out only one or two to help and assist. He overturns the established order; and will not allow the status quo to have the final word. But, we – broken as we are, timid as we are, comfortable as we are – we are indeed prone to standing on the side of the powers of this world and its established order. We are content, it seems, to help only those we personally encounter and are touched by. Often, we think that the application of a Band-Aid will suffice – that that’s all that we’re capable of. Turns out, we’re the Undercover Boss!
Pastor Ken+