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If I were to ask you to name the greatest emancipator of all-time, perhaps your mind would go to Abraham Lincoln, the President who signed the “Emancipation Proclamation” to abolish slavery here in America.  Maybe your mind would go to Moses, the guy who led probably close to 2 million Israelite slaves out of Egyptian bondage. I submit to you today that Jesus is the greatest emancipator of all time because of the countless millions of people who have been delivered through an encounter with Him.

Luke 13:10-17-10 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. 12 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.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your 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?”17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

I’ve always wondered how the woman in Mark 5, the Woman with the Issue of Blood, the one who had a bleeding disorder for 12 years, I’ve often wondered how she made it that long with her illness.  I wondered how she stuck it out, how she kept persevering when most everyone else would have given up.  Going to doctor after doctor after doctor and not getting results would become devastating after a while.  You wonder how her hope remained intact that something could change for her. 

The woman we meet in this story, dealt with her situation for 18 years. For 18 years she lived bent over. For 18 years, all she could see was the ground. How do you perform the tasks of daily life in that condition?  How do you avoid accidents when you can’t look ahead to see where you are going?  How painful is the condition of a person whose back is never straight?  What kind of quality of life can that person have?  She couldn’t even sit up in bed. How did the weight of her body, constantly hanging forward, negatively impact the rest of her body? Just thinking about having to live in that condition for even a week, and without pain medication, sounds impossible to me.

And what is so stunning about the story, what stands out to me, is that the woman was in the synagogue. How she got up the courage or stamina or mental fortitude to leave her home is beyond me.  I don’t know anyone who would fault a person in that condition for staying at home and even staying in bed. I mean, when she got to the synagogue, she couldn’t fully participate.  She couldn’t see the words on the screen.  She couldn’t watch the person singing the special.  She couldn’t look around to see who else had joined her in the house of God.  She was socially isolated in her everyday life and would also be socially isolated in the place of worship!  I mean, social interaction is probably a partial motivation for many to go to church.  She couldn’t even experience that! What determination she had to meet with God.

We’re told in verse 16 that she was a God lover.  She was a “Daughter of Abraham.”  Here’s what I believe.  I believe this visit to the synagogue wasn’t a one-time event.  I believe it was something she did regularly, consistently, and being in an atmosphere where her faith could be strengthened gave her the ability to endure in the worst of circumstances. 

Notice something else…Her condition wasn’t the result of a birth defect or tragic accident.  It wasn’t simply part of the aging process, but Luke tells us that she had been crippled by a spirit, a demonic spirit, for 18 years. In addition to being physically debilitating, this was a spiritual attack.  Satan had been coming against her, literally crippling her for 18 years.

Listen, Satan is still slithering around, looking for ways to cripple you, whether physically, spiritually, socially, financially, or emotionally.  Satan never has good intentions for you.  His goal is to get you bent out of shape any way He can.  If you question whether you need Jesus in order to handle him, let me tell you without reservation, you do.  I John 3:8 tells us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”  Is Satan harassing you?  Oppressing you?  Messing with your peace?  Jesus can take care of him today!

Notice again how verse 12 begins:  When Jesus saw her. Before I say anything else, let me say that the same Jesus that saw the woman who was bent over that day is here today, and He sees you.

Jesus knows your hearts, and He knows your hurts.  He knows what you are dealing with right now. He knows what you have been dealing with for months, years, maybe even longer, like this woman. He knows what you are pained by or preoccupied with that could get in the way of your worship, that could get in the way of your pursuit of Him. He knows what isolates you from fellowship with Him and others. He also knows when you press on to worship and glorify Him.  He knows when you push past obstacles that are part of your real, earthly experience to meet with Him.  He sees you.  He knows what it took for each of you to make it here today.

Jesus sees you.  Maybe there is a physical ailment that is crippling you. Maybe you are limited in your mobility or you don’t have endurance to stand for long or even to stay awake. Maybe you have constant pain to deal with. Jesus sees you.  Maybe you are being crippled by stress, fear, and worry.  Maybe it is keeping you from living fully.  Maybe you are being robbed of sleep and even the ability to enjoy food because your stomach stays upset.

Maybe it is something else, a situation beyond your control.  A custody battle that never seems to be resolved.  A strained relationship that needs major healing and communication just seems to be getting more and more complicated and nothing is getting resolved.  Maybe medical bills have piled up, and you don’t see a way through. Perhaps there is a need for a financial miracle or some earthly provision.  Maybe every day is a struggle because of the demands that are on you at home and work.  One person can only manage so much at once.  Maybe you have been the victim of someone else’s bad choices and you have scars on your heart to prove it.

There are things that can cripple your peace, dominate your schedule, and cause you to put up walls with others resulting in missed opportunities that could change your life for the better.  There are things that can chain a person to depression and derail their dreams.  Your condition and your circumstances matter to Jesus.

I received news on Friday morning that someone who had affiliated with our church last Fall was in the hospital on life support.  Her name is Stephanie Bennett.  Due to her declining health, she couldn’t worship with us in person.  I spoke with her husband and tried to share words of comfort and then asked if we could pray.  During the prayer, I remember saying, “God, when Lazarus died and Jesus got to the town where he had lived, and He met Lazarus’s sister, Mary, before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He spent time crying with her because her pain was His pain.”  I finished the prayer, hung up the phone and literally said, “Jesus, I am glad I am in Your service.  You truly do care.” 

Oh, what a Savior we have.  Your pain is His pain.  You will never meet anyone more compassionate than Jesus.  Read the Gospels and look for the many times that Jesus was moved with compassion.  He could look at a crowd and take on their needs as His own burden.  He saw people as sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34).  He could tell when people were distressed, and that caused His compassion to flow (Matthew 9:36) so He spent time teaching them and talking with them. He was constantly inviting people to “Come to Him with their burdens” (Matthew 11:28)

He had compassion on the hungry, and He fed them (Matthew 15:32).  He had compassion on the sick, and He healed them (Matthew 14:14).  He was moved with compassion by individual needs.  Scripture says that the Lord is near to those who are brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

I think we sometimes forget about the humanity of Jesus.  We do worship Him as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Resurrected One, the third member of the Trinity, and rightly so, but we forget that He knows what it is like to be human.  He felt the pain of rejection and betrayal by His friends.  He experienced the uphill climb of trying to live with purpose only to have enemies try to undermine and discredit you.  He knew the weight of being overloaded by the demands of life and the needs of others.  He knew what it felt like to constantly be on the go and have the pressure of feeling His work was never done.  He had His share of family drama.  Jesus walked through that dark night of soul in Gethsemane when He asked God to please consider a Plan B so that He didn’t have to endure the cross.  So, if anyone gets your suffering, it is Him.  He is not a God who is out of touch with your problems and pain.

Jesus saw the woman, and He called her to come to Him.  He declared, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”  After that, He put His hands on her and she straightened up.  She stood up.  She lifted her eyes to see the One who touched her, the One who healed her, and she gave Him praise.  She wasn’t just physically healed.  The demon that had tormented her, also had to flee.  A demonic attack had been the root of her issue.  She was physically free, but for the first time in 18 years, she was also spiritually free.

Listen, Jesus saved you to set you free. Don’t settle for bondage when the Great Emancipator calls to you!

Can you be convinced of Jesus’ compassion today?  He didn’t worry about the religious leaders who would go on to harass Him for healing the woman on the Sabbath.  He was completely zoned in on this suffering woman. Jesus is the One who initiated the healing of the woman.  She didn’t call out to Him.  He called out to her.  What if she hadn’t come?  What if she didn’t want to be singled out?  What if she didn’t want others to observe her encounter with Jesus?  What if she was a “private” person and didn’t want to have the spotlight on her condition?  What if she didn’t want to interrupt or “bother” Jesus?  What if she had missed the opportunity to be set free by the Great Emancipator?  Would you agree that going from living bent-over to being able to walk upright was life-changing for the woman?

I’m about to get real pastoral and super vulnerable right now.  I believe there are times when God is speaking so clearly, so powerfully, and with such clarity during our services, and I know that He wants to minister to so many people and do something life-changing for them, yet only a few come to be ministered to when the invitation is given. It is with some regularity that I leave a service and wrestle with God over that, and I am sad and burdened over what I perceive to be many missed opportunities to be freed by the Great Emancipator.

Here’s what I know.  You’ve got to come when Jesus calls if you want to be free.

You can trust Him when He is calling you.  When Jesus calls you, He has something for you.  Don’t leave without whatever that is.  You can trust that He knows what you need. When the woman came to Jesus, He didn’t ask her for her backstory.  He didn’t ask her to rehash the last 18 years and everything she had tried in order to find freedom.  He knew instantly what was wrong with her and what caused it, and He dealt with the situation in a comprehensive way. 

Jesus has compassion for you just the same as He did for this woman.  He knows exactly why things are the way they are with you right now.  He knows what led to your circumstance and condition. And even if some of what you are dealing with is the result of bad decisions you have made, none of it is a deterrent to Him.

If there is a pain in your heart that has persisted over time, and you’ve tried everything you know to find peace, Jesus can heal it.

If some substance has control of your life, and you’ve worked and worked, doing everything in your power to minimize your access, to cut back, to make yourself accountable to a friend, to attend meetings with others who share the same struggle, but you are still in the grip of that vice, Jesus can free you.

Maybe you struggle with negative thoughts about yourself.  You don’t think you are pretty or handsome enough or you don’t feel smart enough or you don’t believe you are good enough or worthy enough of some kind of earthly success or happiness.  Maybe you question why you are even here, and you are purposely trying to go through life being as invisible as possible just to avoid extra stress. Jesus sees you as worthy, valuable, and someone worth dying for.  He would love to change your mind about who you think you are.  He would love to show you how He sees you.

Maybe some things you have done have brought about a sense of shame.  Perhaps you feel like you are living under a dark cloud, that no one looks at you favorably anymore, that you can’t recover from your past.  Jesus has a future waiting for you.

Maybe people have pigeonholed you into acting a certain way.  You now have to always be the funny one or the daring one or you have to be the one to always have a sarcastic or rude or angry comment for someone because that is how you have portrayed yourself.  You’ve played a role, and now you’re stuck playing the role.  Being different isn’t something you think you can choose now because you have become what others have required you to become. Jesus has new life for you.

Perhaps it is grief that is weighing you down.  You don’t want to go anywhere, see anyone, or make any plans.  You do the bare minimum at work and come home, get in your pajamas and sort of sign out of the rest of the day.  Jesus has a purpose for you.

There are many reasons people are bent over, weighed down, and cut off from God’s plans for their lives.  Can you take just a minute and identify what it is that is weighing you down?  Can you ask God to show you if Satan is involved in the situation?  Could you assess if pride is keeping you from getting the help Jesus offers? 

When you came today, did you have a hope to meet with God?  Did you have a desire to see Jesus at work in your life?  Did you come with a burden that you now realize you have the option to lay it down?  I believe Jesus is calling today, calling to several people to let Him do what He does best.  After all, Jesus is the Great Emancipator!

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