“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.” Luke 13:10-13.

Luke had a special interest in Jesus’ ministry to women in keeping with his purpose of presenting Jesus as the ‘Son of Man’. Women were disrespected in Hebrew culture, treated as inferior to men, and even as a husband’s ‘possession’ to be retained or disposed of at will. By His compassion and care for women which Luke recorded so tenderly, Jesus gave women the dignity and respect accorded them by their Creator.

Knowing full well that healing on the Sabbath would create a furore among the religious leaders, He persistently ignored their scruples and healed whoever was afflicted whenever He had opportunity. This woman was so twisted in body by her disease that she could not even lift her head to look into His face. Perhaps she was not aware of Jesus but He was aware of her, and with His awareness came His spontaneous response to her plight.

His words to her are also surprising. ‘Woman, you are free!’ not ‘Woman, you are healed!’ Was Jesus aware of a deeper reason for her affliction? Of course, all human imperfections are the result of Adam’s original sin, behind which lay the deceiver’s subtle enticement to disobedience, but in this woman’s case, was there something in her life that directly resulted in her enslavement to the physical condition that held her bound for eighteen years?

It is medically attested that 95% of physical conditions are the outcome of stress which is the body’s response to sustained high levels of adrenaline, the ‘fright, flight, fight’ hormone which prepares our bodies in times of crisis. There is one condition that plays havoc and does untold damage to our physical systems, unforgiveness. Every prolonged emotion that flows from our refusal to let go of a real or perceived offense does damage to us and not to the person against whom we hold our grievances.

Jesus often warned of the consequences of unforgiveness, the most drastic and unthinkable being cut off from the Father’s forgiveness. Is this not one of the main reasons why doctors wrestle with physical problems that defy diagnosis, why hospitals and psychiatric facilities are filled with sick people and why our world is overrun with cruelty and violence? The world is full of angry people who do not realise that forgiving those who have hurt them would set them free.

There is powerful symbolic significance in Luke’s descriptive words of her condition – she was twisted and bent over and could not look up. This is what happens to us inside when we refuse to forgive. We cannot look up and see the face of God when we are twisted and bent over by bitterness and hate. Only the presence and words of Jesus can set us free so that we can stand up and look up.

Jesus changed this woman’s life with a few words, ‘Woman, you are free!’ In them, she found forgiveness for her own sin and release from the anger and bitterness with which unforgiveness had poisoned her body and her life. She stood upright and gave glory to God. What a moment!

Is it possible that you can also experience spiritual and physical healing when you become aware of His presence, hear the words of Jesus in your heart, feel His touch and receive the forgiveness which will free you to forgive others? This may be the key to your healing.

Luella Campbell

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