Out of the Shadows

Luke 13

Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 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. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “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? 16 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?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Shadows are interesting. From the great solar eclipse to Peter Pan, we have a fascination with shadows. Some are frightening if they aren’t understood while others are just whimsical. I recall spending a good bit of time playing with my own shadow, hopping and making motions, finger shadows, trying to get away from and even elongating the shadow to be a giant! 

Then there are shadows that cover us, putting us in the shade. Maybe it’s a huge thunder cloud that casts a shadow over the land, threatening us with its power. Or maybe it’s a comforting shadow, the giant oak’s shadow on a hot summer day.  Some shadows aren’t physical but are instead social, the shadow of an older sibling or rival. These human personality shadows can make us invisible to the world, unheard, unseen, unimportant. Sickness, physical appearance, poverty, homelessness; they all have the power to put us in such a strong shadow that we hardly exist. 

Such is the case of the bent over woman in Luke’s gospel. Jesus is in the synagogue teaching when this woman comes in. She’s a woman which certainly pushes her into the shadows, then she is bent over which completely hides her in darkness. No one sees her or acknowledges her. Except Jesus. Jesus sees the one that society has pushed into the shadow and he calls her into the light. Jesus disregards the societal norms and traditions, he blasts right by disdain and judgment, he overlooks condemnation and hate as he moves in compassion toward the one in the shadows. 

Maybe you’ve been in the shadows. I often note how, as an older woman, I am completely invisible. I’m too old to be noticed as an object and too young to be a cute old lady. There I am, invisible. No kids to draw attention, no special walker or cane, no pretty white hair, just invisible. I know it’s a thing because the TV show, “Grace and Frankie”, did a whole episode about their invisibility. The shadows can be more menacing than this. Shadows cast by those who are favored in the family, shadows of abuse and disdain can cover a person and leave them in the darkness. 

Then there are shadows we make for ourselves or at least allow ourselves to become captive. The shadows of doubt and fear. Shadows of hate and anger. These shadows can cover our hearts and lives, they can block us from seeing the good and feeling the joy. In our current culture, hatred and anger are truly glorified. We cast the shadows of hatred over those who are different, those who threaten, those we disagree with, those who don’t meet our standards or match us step for step. The tricky thing about the shadows we cast over others is they tend to only place us in the shade. When I hold hatred in my heart, the one hated doesn’t know it. But my heart does. And so I move my life, my love, my joy…I move them all into a darkening shadow. In time, it develops weight and I find myself bent over, nose toward the ground, carrying the hate, the anger, the fear, the doubt. 

Just like the bent over woman, Jesus sees us. Jesus’ heart breaks open with compassion. Jesus called out to the woman and she came to him. All we need to do is look to Jesus. He’ll faithfully and with great love lay his hands upon us, lift our faces to the light and bless us with healing. Jesus can remove the shadows of hate and Jesus can remove the shadows others have placed over us as well. 

Within each of us is the image of God. When God looks at you God doesn’t see what you are but what you can be. God doesn’t love you in spite of yourself,  God loves your best, truly created self. God loves you! Jesus calls out to you! Those hands aren’t hands of scorn or judgment or punishment, they are hands of compassion, healing and love! When we move toward that love we are lifted clear of shadows and brought into the light of God’s love. How many shadows exist in the brightest, truest light? Well, none! In God’s love there is no shadow of hate or dislike. There need be no fear.God is love. Jesus came to save you. Jesus calls you into his healing arms. 

The only thing we need do after we receive healing from Jesus is to follow the bent over woman and praise God. Today is an amazing day. It is your only day. It’s the perfect time to turn toward Jesus and receive a healing touch so you can be free of the shadows and walk in the warm, loving light of God. 

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