Now he 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. 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.” 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? 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?” 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.
One hundred and thirty eight times, in the four gospels, Jesus is reported as “seeing”.
Jesus noticed. Jesus was a “seer”.
It wasn’t that others around him did not see, it was the way he saw that contrasted with his disciples, the crowd, the Pharisees and generally everyone else. In last week’s lectionary reading, Jesus accused the crowd of being hypocites, because they were able to see the signs that foretold the changing weather (Lk12:55) but were unable to see the signs that showed that their heavenly parent wanted to give the kingdom to them, the little flock.(Lk 11:32)
There are forty four references to Jesus referring to or working with eyes in the gospels. One of the recurrent miracles of Jesus was to restore sight to the blind. It would seem that the people of Jesus’ day had a problem with seeing. Certainly they did not see as he saw, and thus did not see what he saw.
In today’s passage Jesus encounters a woman who has been crippled (astheneia – a word still with us in asthma and a male infertility disorder called astheno teratozoospermia lit “weak sperm”). The woman Jesus saw had been crippled for eighteen years, long enough I would speculate, for herto be seen by her community as the “bent over crippled woman”. So when she appeared in the synagogue, no one except Jesus, would have seen anyone other than a crippled woman.
What tells us that Jesus, saw something else is that his first words to her are in contradiction of her outward appearance, “Woman you are set free from your ailment“. The next thing Jesus does is to touch her, and it would seem that the contact is simple human contact and not some magical transfer of healing energy moment, as it is often interpreted as being. Just those words, based on unique seeing, and a simple human touch are enough to heal this woman and set her off praising God.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to see like that!
So I ask myself, “What was different in the way Jesus saw this woman that could teach me to see as he saw?”
In answer to my question, I noticed three aspects:
He saw the person and not the condition.
Whenever I have had the really challenging task of conducting a funeral for someone who has taken their own life, I have encouraged the congregation to remember that a person, any person is much, much more than the way that they died. It is a real trap to speak of a person who died by their own hand, as forever after, “a suicide” and to forget that they were also a person, in relationships, with a family, a career, a home.
The leader of the synangogue, in today’s reading saw only the misdemeanour of a healing on the Sabbath. Jesus saw a miracle of a woman whose cure was imminent (and immanent).
In all my encounters with people, am I able to see the person and not the condition?
He saw the potential and not the present manifestation.
I would love to have the technology to evaluate exactly at what point the healing of the crippled woman took place. Was it when she was seen by Jesus? Was it when he told her she was free of her ailment? Was it when he touched her? I have no way of identifying the moment, but I would like to think that, at some level, the healing began when Jesus saw her as whole and not bent-double.
Just as quantum physics is teaching us that our expectations of outcomes in the experiments we are observing can determine the data we observe in the experiment, so too I believe people often become and manifest what we “see” them to be. In South Africa where we are still working on the fallout of our Apartheid heritage, there is a question asked in anti-bias workshops. The leader asks the group, “Why is it that when we see a white person running in the street, we ask, ‘I wonder what he is late for?‘” “When we see a black person running in the street, we ask, ‘I wonder what he is running from?‘” What effect does our shadow projection, or by contrast our light projection onto people do to the experiences they and we have of each other. The work of Carl Gustav Jung has shown that the effects are significant.
In all my encounters with people, am I able to see the potential in the seemingly suffering individual before me?
He saw without prejudice.
It would seem that Jesus had the wonderful gift to see exactly what was before him in its full kingdom potential and not be swayed by obvious externals and past realities that might contradict what he was seeing at a deeper level.
Prejudice affects us all. The word means to “judge before”
I remember a case that was told me of a teacher who was given false information about the intelligence and learning abilities of a class of children. After just one semester the children were actually performing according to the false profiles she had been given. Her prejudice had created real behaviour in the classroom.
In all my encounters with people, am I able to see the reality of the person rather than be swayed what I have been told or experienced of them before this moment? Can I act always without prejudice?
When I think of my work as a healer, (I believe all ministry is healing at some level) I realise that healing begins when people are seen as Jesus would see them:
- With Unconditional Acceptance
- With appreciation for their person and not their problem.
- With vision for their potential and not their limitations
- With insight into how my prejudice could keep them in bondage to suffering, or if I could let my prejudice go, to their liberation.
A dear colleague of mine, Don Scrooby, has a wonder-filled blog called Seeing more Clearly. I like that.
Believing is seeing…. as Jesus does.