2019 Advent Devo: You Are Set Free

As I sat in worship that morning, I lifted my voice in song.  I heard every word of the sermon.  Every word of every prayer.  And yet, if you had asked me later, I would not have been able to identify any song or what the topic of the sermon had been.  All that was really running through my head was, How could this be happening to me?  What if the treatment doesn’t work?  I’m not ready to leave my family.  There is still so much to do, and see, and experience.  Is this God’s punishment for my sin?  Well, I probably deserve it, but why would he let my husband and daughters suffer this way?  They shouldn’t have to watch me deal with the side-effects of chemo and radiation.  They shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not I will be here five years from now.  

Maybe you have experienced an event like this too and dealt with it in the moment.  And time went on.  And later, the same feelings resurfaced, and maybe you thought: No one here really cares about me anymore.  When I was first diagnosed with this illness or my loved one died, or when my children first moved away, people prayed for me.  They called me on the phone, they visited me, sent me cards and notes.  They showered me with love. But now that time has passed, I guess they think I don’t need them anymore. They must think I’m okay because when I show up for worship, I always wear a smile and tell people I’m doing well.  Maybe they think that if I’m really depending on God, I will be able to handle my situation with no difficulty.  But I am in pain, and I do not think anyone cares. Sometimes I even wonder if God cares!

That Sabbath morning when Jesus was teaching at the synagogue, a woman was there who might have been feeling this way.  She was bent over and could not straighten up.  She had endured this crippled life for eighteen years! Imagine what her life must have been like.  She could not stand up straight, could not sit comfortably, could only lie down on her side.  Walking was difficult. Eating could not have been pleasant.  But – what could have caused her infirmity? Was it the result of some genetic abnormality or due to some catastrophe that occurred at her birth?  Had there been an accident that caused her to be so bent?  According to Luke 13:11, she had been crippled by a spirit. An attack by Satan. Not only was she physically shackled, she must have been suffering emotionally and spiritually as well.  Discouraged, depressed, feeling abandoned by God.  Yet in spite of this ongoing attack, she still came to the synagogue to listen to God’s Word. She still had faith.

As Jesus is teaching, He spots her in the crowd, calls her forward, and says, ”Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”  He touches her and immediately she straightens up and praises God.  Did you notice? She does not approach Jesus to ask to be healed.  She hasn’t come today expecting anything from Him. And Jesus doesn’t say that she is healed. He says that she is set free! What joy and excitement she must have felt to be freed from her burden!  There must have been tears of joy streaming down her face as she praised the one who was the source of her freedom.  The leader of the synagogue was not happy with this development. He scolded the people for coming to be healed on the Sabbath.  But the Lord of the Sabbath calls the leaders hypocrites. They pretended to be zealous for God, but their hearts were far from Him. They had more compassion for their donkeys and oxen than for this poor woman. They were more interested in “following the rules” than in showing grace, compassion and mercy on the Sabbath.  Jesus exposed them by revealing the true heart of God.

Think again about the words of Jesus.  Woman, you are set free.  Free from the prison your physical form has created for you.  Free from the isolation your physical form has thrust upon you.  Free from the chains your physical form has bound you in for so long.  As I think about all the emotions that this woman must have experienced after her encounter with Jesus, I am reminded that we all have something that keeps us from experiencing true freedom.  Whether it is a physical ailment, a lack of self-worth, a fear of failure, a long standing hurt or loss, or a sin that continues to overtake us, Jesus stands ready to call us to perfect freedom.  Only He is able to loosen our chains and set us eternally free.  My weakness serves as a reminder of His power and strength.

Today, Jesus stands and calls.  He says to us, “You are set free from your infirmity.”   He calls us to come to Him for freedom and strength.  Will you come?

You are loved!
Melissa Holland