In the book of Exodus, the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Before all your people I will perform wonders, such as have not been performed in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people, among whom you live, shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you” (Ex. 34:10). In the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus freed the crippled woman from her bondage, and put His adversaries to shame, the crowd rejoiced at the wonders He performed among them (see Lk. 13:10-17). God has done, and continues to do, awesome things with his people.
The miracle of the crippled woman took place in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Everyone in the neighborhood would have gathered on the Lord’s Day to hear about the Law; and the leaders of the synagogue would have taught the people what the Scriptures mean. But here, it is the Lord Himself who teaches: and not only by word, but by deed.
Among God’s chosen people, while he was teaching, Jesus saw a woman, bent over, crippled, and afflicted with a spirit of infirmity. It prevented her for 18 years from standing up straight and looking upward. According to the methods of interpretation used by the Church Fathers, one could understand this miracle and the woman’s illness spiritually as well as literally.
It is man’s nature to stand upright. Unlike the animals, his physical eyes can easily look upward. So too, the eyes of his mind can look upward, toward spiritual things, the things of God. The crippled woman’s bondage caused her to be bent over and forced her to look downward. Man, too, is bent down and in bondage. He is afflicted by the evil in this world, the habits of sin, and the cares and anxieties of worldly things. Bound by his spiritual infirmity, forced to look downward, his eyes look only toward this temporary and fleeting life. Instead of living according to wisdom, reason, and truth, he lives like an animal. He lives according to his base passions of greed, anger, lust, gluttony, and the like.
But God has created us to live not like animals, but like men and women gifted with reason and the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the Psalms, David sings to God, “For man’s inner thought shall bear witness to you, and his meditation shall be a feast to you” (see Septuagint, Ps. 76:10). And again: “I will meditate on all your works, and think about your doings. O God, yours is the way of holiness. Which God is as great as our God? You are the God who works wonders: you have revealed your power among the nations. By your arm, you have redeemed your people…” (Ps. 77:11-15). In every generation, the Lord continues to perform wonders through His holy people, the Body of Christ; a people redeemed and sanctified in the blood of Christ; a people transformed by the renewal of their minds (cf. Rom. 12:2).
Notice that when Jesus saw the crippled woman, he called her to come to him. Before she could be healed of her infirmity, she had to physically come to him. Before we can be healed from sinfulness, spiritually sick and bent over as we are, we must hear the call of Jesus and come to him. We come to him in prayer, in reading the Scripture, in Confession, and in the Eucharist. We do not come to the Lord through the mind only, or only with the lips, but with the heart and the body. We come to the Lord as a whole person. By entering into the life of the Holy Trinity through Christ, God makes manifest his presence among his people.
After Jesus called the crippled woman, by His word, He announced His will for the woman: “you are delivered from your infirmity.” Here, Jesus revealed Himself not only by His word, but as the Word who has the power and authority to work wonders. He revealed Himself as the same Word that created all things in the beginning. The same God who said, “Let there be light,” now says, “be delivered from your infirmity.”
So, after calling the woman to himself, and announcing his will for her to be healed, Jesus laid his hands on her. It is through his hands that we see the power of God. This story is not only a nice tale from ancient days in some distant land. Even today God performs wonders among us through his Word, and through the hands of His priests. In the liturgy each Sunday, we hear the Word of God: “take, eat, this is my body…drink of this all of you, this is my blood.”
Just as the incarnate Word of God laid His physical hands on the crippled woman for her healing, so too today, in the holy, catholic and apostolic Church, through the physical hands of the priest, Jesus gives us his body and blood in the Eucharist. Through the Word and the hands of the priest, we are delivered from our infirmity, freed to stand upright, joyfully seeing the things of God. In the Melkite Divine Liturgy, after receiving communion, often the priest will say to the faithful, “behold, this that has touched your lips will wash away your iniquities and wipe away all of your sins.”
And what was the woman’s response when she had been healed of the infirmity that she had suffered for 18 years? She glorified God. What do we do after receiving the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in the body and blood of the Lord? Let us fill our mouths with praise; let us ask God to keep us in sanctification, that we may sing his glory, and meditate on his holiness all the day. May we let God work His wonders through our way of life. And what wonders God has done and continues to do among His people!