This summer we took our family to the charming town of Manteo to a place called “Island Farm.” It is a recreation of an 1840’s era family farm, utilizing the land and some of the original buildings from that time. We saw a blacksmith make iron nails, explored the family home with its primitive furnishings, and enjoyed a wonderful storyteller who made the entire experience come to life. We even got to feed a very loud rooster, who snuck up behind me and tried to sample my shoe, much to the delight of the children.
I had been to the farm two years earlier, when the gracious owner allowed my colleague and I to film our Christmas Eve service on the property. We were not able to meet in person due to the pandemic, and so we staged various scenes to bring our service to life. I was filmed reading the children’s message while sitting in the middle of a sheep field, and my partner read the nativity passage standing in front of an open sheep stall as three sheep listened intently.
The stalls by the field were larger, and as we began to film my portion, the keeper opened the stall door. Suddenly I was besieged by an entire flock of sheep, lured to come into the camera range by the placement of sheep food that had been strategically strewn around my feet. I was almost knocked over by their enthusiasm! Lesson learned … don’t get in the way of hungry sheep! Or roosters!
In today’s passage, Eugene Peterson cleverly compares a miraculous healing to being led from a stall in which Satan had bound a woman in for eighteen years:
Luke 13 (The Message)
10-13 He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.
14 The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “Six days have been defined as workdays. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.”
15-16 But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?”
As usual, the Pharisees were locked in a stall of their narrow understanding of the Law and their extreme piety, unable to see or accept the freedom that God authorized Christ to bring to his people. They would rather see the woman suffer than to have her healed on the Sabbath. But Christ is greater than the Law of small-mindedness, and he set the woman free.
Are you tied up in a stall, locked in by Satan himself? Have abuse, addiction, anger, revenge, jealousy, envy, adultery, or some other sin got you so entangled you can’t open the door to get free?
Take heart. Jesus has the key to the stall door. If you pursue him, he will let you out. All you have to do is ask.
17 When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on.