In what do you delight?
by Jack Wald | March 3rd, 2013

Luke 13:10-17

Last week Peter preached from the story of Jesus and the woman healed from bleeding when she touched his cloak. I read the scripture passage from Mark before he preached which begins with a synagogue ruler named Jairus who came up to Jesus. (Mark 5:22–23)
Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

I don’t know how many times I have read that passage, but last Sunday as I read it aloud, the pain Jairus was experiencing became real to me. My little daughter. Not just my daughter but my little daughter. As I read I thought about my daughters and my grandchildren. What would I be feeling if they were dying? Jairus was desperate, pleading for help.

It is important when we read scripture to take time to reflect on what we are reading. We can skim right over a story, say we know this one, and never consider what it was like in the moment. As a consequence we will miss the power of the story and the depth of the character of Jesus revealed in the story.

The story this morning is about a woman who was crippled.
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.

This woman was not unclean. She was not an outcast, but she walked bent over. For eighteen years she had been this way. For eighteen years she had lived with pain and discomfort and the physical limitations of what her body could do. She was probably not married and lived with some family members. She was physically limited but she was able to work with her hands, trying to make herself useful. Perhaps she made baskets, or worked with clay. There are any number of things she could have done. Whatever work she did she was well known and easily recognized. From a distance someone would see her bent over form and know who she was. Maybe she was referred to by the people in town as, “the bent woman” or some other descriptive name.

She was probably well known in the synagogue. Maybe she helped straighten out benches or dusting them off. Because of her condition she worked hard to make herself a valued part of the synagogue. She needed to belong and so made sure she was useful so she would be accepted. She was a part of the life of the synagogue. She had a life but it was a life limited by her condition.

So picture the scene. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath when she entered and he saw her. His seeing is how the stories of Jesus always begin. He sees. He notices. He saw this woman bent over and knew the kind of life she lived. He recognized her need to belong. He saw her life. Jesus saw this woman and then Jesus had compassion. Over and over again in the gospels it is mentioned that Jesus saw and then had compassion. That detail is not in this story but because we know the character of Jesus from other stories in the gospels, we know that Jesus saw this woman and had compassion for her.

Jesus saw her bent over condition, her painful and limited life, and then he saw something not immediately noticeable. If a modern physician saw her, he or she would guess that she had a deficiency of calcium in her bones, or that her spine had narrowed at some point. The doctor would wonder what was causing this physical condition.

But Jesus looked at her and knew her problem was not just physical but spiritual. Not all illnesses are demonic in origin, but in this case Jesus saw that an evil spirit was causing her to be crippled.

Jesus saw, he had compassion and then he acted.
When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

This was an amazing miracle. After eighteen years of being stooped over, all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the front of her body would have been severely shortened and become contracted. With her rib cage being down and muscles holding it together, her heart and lungs would have been compressed making it difficult for her to breath, swallow and digest food. She would have endured constant pain.

When she was healed, there was a miraculous relaxation of all her muscles and related connections. Strength was given to her overstretched muscles. She began to breath normally, her blood began circulating freely, and her pain disappeared.

Her view of the world was no longer limited by being stooped over. She could twist and look around without restriction. She had all the world to see but, I suspect, what she saw most clearly was the joy-filled face of Jesus as he saw the kingdom of God advance into her life. She was set free.

What would you do if a woman in your community was instantly healed after being crippled for eighteen years? This woman stood up and began praising God and I doubt she was alone.

In Acts 3 a man who was lame from birth was healed and when Peter took him by his hand and he stood up, he began walking and leaping and praising God. Walking was exciting by itself but not enough. His exuberance led to leaping up and down, praising God all the while.

I picture this woman the same way. Perhaps she kept bending over and standing up, showing over and over again to all who watched what had happened to her. She thrust her hands in the air, making herself as tall and as straight as she possibly could, taking deep breaths of air for the first time in eighteen years and bursting out in praise. How could she not have been leaping for joy and praising God? Who would not be celebrating?

The synagogue ruler was not celebrating. There are so many things the synagogue ruler could have said. He could have said, “Rejoice this day because our sister who has suffered for so many years has been healed.” He could have said, “We have seen an amazing demonstration today of God’s power. Let’s listen again to the teaching of this man who brought healing into our sister’s life.” He could have said a lot of things but what he did say reveals a hardness of heart, a man enslaved by rules and regulations, a man who was crippled by the rules and regulations that kept him and those he led in a prison just as cruel as the prison this woman had lived in for the past eighteen years.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

He chastised this woman and all those who were celebrating with her. Rather than rejoice in her good fortune, he lectured her and all those in the synagogue who might also need to be healed and delivered. If there had been public relations consultants back then, they would have lined up offering him much needed advice. The synagogue ruler alienated the people in his congregation because he let them understand that his rules were more important than their lives. And isn’t it interesting that Jesus showed such compassion for the woman who was bent over but not for the synagogue ruler. Jesus let him have it with both barrels.
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

The synagogue ruler saw a system to which people had to conform. The people saw a woman, the bent woman. Jesus saw past her bent condition into her soul. He saw a daughter of Abraham, one of God’s chosen people who for far too long had been kept a prisoner by Satan. Jesus saw, he loved, he had compassion and he acted. He set her free.

Luke concludes:
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

This is the line that caught my attention when I was reading through Luke in the café in Thailand. The humiliation of the synagogue ruler and the delight of the people.

I wonder what happened to the synagogue ruler? Did he take the path of the Pharisees who reacted to being bested by Jesus by seeking to kill him? Or did he allow the humiliation to lead him to repentance? Did he see the truth of what Jesus was saying? Was his heart opened so that the love of God for the people in his synagogue could enter his heart? That is another story and another sermon.

I wonder about the delight of the people.
the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

What part of what happened made the people feel delighted? Our emotions are very complex and there were multiple levels of emotions at this event. Were the people delighted because this woman had been set free? Were they delighted because Jesus had so masterfully shot down the synagogue ruler’s devotion to rules and regulations? Were they delighted because Jesus had brought something new and exciting to the tedium of their daily existence? Were they delighted because Jesus was entertaining?

When I read this passage in the café, my mind went immediately to the account of Herod when Jesus was sent to him by Pilate. (Luke 23:8)
When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle.

Herod wanted to be entertained by Jesus. In the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, Herod sings a song with these lyrics:
Jesus, I am overjoyed
To meet you face to face
You’ve been getting quite a name
All around the place
Healing cripples
Raising from the dead
Now I understand you’re God
At least that’s what you’ve said

So you are the Christ
You’re the great Jesus Christ
Prove to me that you’re divine
Change my water into wine
That’s all you need do
Then I’ll know it’s all true
C’mon King of the Jews

So if you are the Christ
Yes the great Jesus Christ
Prove to me that you’re no fool
Walk across my swimming pool
If you do that for me
Then I’ll let you go free
C’mon King of the Jews

Herod wanted to be entertained and let’s face it, Jesus was great entertainment. Think about Jesus arriving in a village where there were no movie theaters, no television sets. Everyday there was the same old thing. The fish market being set up next to the vegetable and fruit market, next to the butcher, next to the bakery. The same people doing the same thing, day after day. The same faces day after day. So when someone arrived from out of town, that was a new show to watch. There was someone new to watch and talk about and maybe they had some interesting news or stories to tell.

I have seen street theater many times here in Rabat. I was in the Takaddoum market one day, waiting for the chicken vendor to open up. While I was waiting an argument erupted at one of the stands in the street. A young woman and her father were arguing with a muscular man in his late 20s. The father was not doing a lot. I suspect this was because if he did, the young man would have beaten him up. But the young woman was very aggressive. The argument went on and on and the young man’s friends pulled him back and he began to walk away. But she went after him, publically shaming him. The woman was screaming, her head pointed toward him, yelling what I imagine were insults directed at him and then he turned around. He slapped her and she went after him with her nails. Friends pulled them apart and then later the police came and took the young man away in the police van.

That’s street entertainment and people rushed to see the show. By the time the police arrived, there was a large crowd. This happens all the time. Every time there is an accident or an argument, people gather around to watch.

When I first arrived in Morocco and needed to buy some tables and chairs, a friend, Habib, went with me. At every purchase Habib would begin to negotiate and one or two people would come over to listen. Each negotiation lasted about ten or fifteen minutes and by the end there would typically be eight to ten people standing in a circle around Habib and the man he was negotiating with. There would be laughter because of the things Habib was saying. Once, Habib took his bottle of water and sprinkled it on the head of the man he was negotiating with and the man and everyone else laughed. This too is street theater.

Each person who passed through a small town in Palestine was of interest but when Jesus came with his disciples, this was Hollywood coming to town. There had already been reports about Jesus. People had heard many stories about him. This was the big show and people were eager to see what he would do.

So when Luke writes that the people were delighted, I wonder about why they were delighted. And I wonder where their delight led them.

There are lots of references in the Bible to being delighted. Psalm 37:4 tells us:
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 16:3
As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

Psalm 111:2
Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.

Psalm 112:1
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who finds great delight in his commands.

There are many similar references. It is clear that delighting in the Lord and the people he has chosen is a good thing.

But there is also this in Luke 22:1–6
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money.

The chief priests and the officers of the temple guard delighted in their evil scheme to kill Jesus. Why were they delighted? They were delighted because they were getting what they wanted. For quite a while they had wanted to arrest and kill Jesus without a crowd being around him and now they were being given a chance.

So we are delighted when we get what we want. We are delighted when we are entertained. We are delighted when things go our way.

But in a more positive way we are delighted when we see the world as it should be. We are created with a longing for heaven where: (Revelation 21:4)
[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

When the lame walked, the blind saw, the lepers were cleansed, the hungry were fed, these actions announced the coming of the kingdom of God. This is the way the world is supposed to be and we are delighted when we see the kingdom of God claim ground as the suffering of this world is relieved.

So in what do you delight? In what way are you delighted?

Is your delight grounded in the advancing kingdom of God? Is your delight based on things working out the way you want them to? Is your delight based on the pleasure of being well entertained?

These may seem like silly questions but the answers are not that obvious.

Last Sunday during worship when we were singing And Can It Be, there was a strong sense of the presence of God and we sang that song from our hearts. We finished the service with a song that many of us did not know but quickly learned, I Am A Friend of God. We sang that song with passion and it was wonderful. It was delightful.

I would love to have our experience of God be that powerful and more every Sunday but I have to ask myself the question, who is our worship for? Are we delighting in our worship because we like the way it makes us feel? Is the measure of a good Sunday how I feel about it? Are we the central focus of our worship?

When we hear reports of a miracle we are energized, we are delighted. But what do we do when we hear of someone who has been suffering from MS for 12 years and is not getting better?

We get a raise and we are delighted, but what do we do when we lose our job?

There are levels of delight and the more superficial levels of delight can take our emotions up and down like a yo-yo. When things work the way we want, we are delighted. When things don’t work out the way we want, we are discouraged.

We are all happy when things work out well but our delight needs to be in deeper levels of truth. This is why in our worship this morning I wanted us to focus on Jesus, to be drawn to praise for the deep truth in our lives, truth that is steady and unchanging.

There are churches and rallies that advertise, Come See A Miracle. I pray for miracles. I pray for signs and wonders to be evident here in Morocco. Signs and wonders grow the church and I want to see that happen. But miracles do not grow faith. As Peter Wagner points out in his commentary on Acts, miracles grow the quantity of the church but not the quality of the church. Delight when God acts in a miraculous way and his kingdom advances in this world. But do not seek miracles.

As exciting as miracles seem to be to us, there is a far more significant experience we have and that is when things do not go as we wish they would and we continue to hang on to Jesus. This is when our faith grows, and God values our faith far more than the miracles that take place. The miracles will be left behind but we will take our faith with us into heaven. Delight in this deeper truth.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Jesus sent out seventy-two of his closest disciples in pairs of two. Earlier Luke records that Jesus sent out his twelve closest disciples and gave them power and authority to: (Luke 9:1–2)
drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

This is apparently the same power and authority he gave to the seventy-two because when they came back they were delighted, ecstatic. (Luke 10:17)
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

They had a great experience. People were healed. Demons were cast out. They were able to do what they had seen Jesus do and he was not present with them.

Did Jesus share in their excitement? What did he tell them?
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

He took them from the more superficial thrill of miracles to a far deeper truth. He took them from miracles to eternal life.

In what do you delight? What are you longing for? You may begin your Christian life longing for the spectacular but God wants to take you far deeper.

God wants to take you from seeking what he can do for you, to seeking what you can do for him. God wants you to grow in faith so you realize that the Christian life is not about you and your happiness. The Christian life is about God and his advancing kingdom.

This is the problem with the health and wealth gospel that was exported from the US and found fertile soil in Africa. The health and wealth gospel is focused on what God can do for us. Are we healthy? Are we prosperous? If so, then our faith is strong and God is good. We need to understand that God did not send his Son to die for us so we could be happy, wealthy and healthy. Jesus suffered and died for us so we could live for him eternally.

Too many Christians have a baby faith, asking God, what can you do for me? Feed me. Heal me. Get me a raise. Give me an apartment. Give me a car. Give me. Help me. Feed me. Heal me.

I am not saying we should not ask God for the things we need. It is important that we bring to God all the things that make us worried and anxious. But when this dominates our conversations with God, then we have an immature faith.

What can I do for God? That is the question we should be asking. How can I please God with my life? How can I serve God? How can I love people in his name?

When I ask those questions then I am led to deeper truth and a deeper faith.