November 3, 2010
Coming Out of the Shadows
"When Jesus saw her, he called her forward…" (Luke 13:12 NIV).
Friend to Friend
It was another Sabbath day, much like any other. But as Mariah opened her eyes framed with years of pain and sorrow, she had no idea this would be the day that changed her life.
"I'm getting too old for this," Mariah groaned as she twisted her crooked body to roll her stiff frame out of bed. "I wish I could just stay home today, but it is the Sabbath."
Mariah swung her legs over the edge of the bed and dropped her feet onto the cold hard floor. Her gaze and feet hit the packed dirt surface simultaneously, where both spent their waking hours.
"At least in bed I can see the sky through the window, the bird on its perch and the faces of those I love," she moaned. "But even an old woman like me can't stay in bed all day."
As Mariah stood, if you can call it that, she was in for another day of looking down at the dirt packed floor, dusty gravel roads, and the mud-caked feet of passersby. For eighteen years she had been crippled, bent over by an evil spirit that taunted her day and night. It didn't happen all at once, but progressed gradually as if someone were laying bricks on the back of her neck, one-by-one, day-by-day. Her back began to slowly succumb to the invisible weight and bend like a broken reed. Now her spine was parallel to the floor and a hump remained where a young girl's strong back had been.
"Feet, I am so tired of looking at feet," she moaned. "But at least I can see. I can hear. I can speak. I do have much to be thankful for. So today, I go to the synagogue to worship."
Mariah ran a comb through her gnarled grey hair, covered her head with a veil, and slipped sandals on her winkled feet. Then her shuffle to the temple began. Her frame prohibited her from looking up to find the women's section of the synagogue, so she just followed the feminine feet to find her seat …in the back and at the bottom of the temple's progressive tiers.
She couldn't see his face, but she knew the person who stood to speak was not the usual teacher of the Law. As soon as he approached the podium, whispers stirred like a hive of bees. "It's Jesus," they began. "The teacher and healer everyone is talking about." "It's Jesus! It's Jesus!"
Ignoring the buzz, Jesus began to teach. Unlike any other man she had ever heard before, Jesus spoke with authority and compassion. For the first time in her life, someone explained the Scriptures in a way that made sense to her. He explained spiritual truths with everyday examples that made his teaching come alive.
"Oh I wish I could see his face," she silently prayed.
No sooner had the words raced across her mind, when Jesus stopped. She could not see him, but he could see her.
A hush fell over the room.
"Woman, come forward," he instructed.
Mariah strained to lean back on her bench in order to see to whom he was speaking. "He's talking to you," her neighbor whispered. "He's looking right at you."
Mariah wasn't exactly sure what she should do. Jesus was asking her to leave the women's section of the synagogue and walk up the steps that separated the women from the men. He was calling her into forbidden territory. After a few moments of internal struggle, faith overcame fear and Mariah was out of her seat. She couldn't see their faces, but she knew all eyes were on her slow, dragging gait forward.
Women gasped at her courage. Men glared at her audacity. Both parted as Mariah passed through.
After many long moments of painful struggle, Mariah finally arrived at the front of the crowd - center stage. Jesus bent down, placed his hand on the mountain that had become Mariah's back and leveled the land. She felt warmth surge through her frozen muscles as years of stiffness melted away. Like a marionette in the hands of a puppeteer, Jesus pulled her to full attention. For the first time in eighteen years, her crooked spine stood like a tall cedar. The physical malady that had defined her was gone and she rose to look into the eyes of the One who had set her free.
"Woman," he spoke, "You are free from your infirmity."
Tears of joy coursed down her weathered cheeks, and the words of the Psalmist coursed through her veins. "But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head" (Psalm 3:3 KJV).
"Thank you, Jesus!" she cried. "Thank you, Jesus!" She twirled around and raised her hands in praise to God. She laughed with lightness and others rejoiced with her. No longer did she feel like the dirt she was forced to stare at day in and day out. She was free!
Dear Lord, I cry every time I read this story. Thank You for calling women out of the shadows to receive healing! Thank You for noticing me, loving me, calling me, and using me to bring glory to Your Name.
In Jesus' Name,
Now it's Your Turn
I hope you enjoyed my re-telling of the woman with the crippled back who was healed by Jesus. No, we don't know her name, but I wanted to paint a picture of a real woman to make it come alive for you. Now with that said, let's think about this:
Can you imagine what it would be like if you were not allowed to worship with the men at church, or if you were kept behind a partition out of sight? Describe how that would make you feel.
Now, describe how you think this woman must have felt as Jesus took notice of her and called her forward?
That's how I want you to feel today!
More from the Girlfriends
Today's devotion was taken from Sharon's latest book, What God Really Thinks about Women: Finding Your Significance through the Women Jesus Encountered. We tend to read the gospels with our twenty-first century eyes. But when we understand how oppressive the culture Jesus stepped into was toward women, we begin to understand just how radical Jesus' ministry, messages, and miracles were at setting women free. He risked His reputation to save theirs…and yours. To order this life-changing book, visit www.sharonjaynes.com You'll fall in love with Jesus all over again.
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