Have you ever heard the phrase “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?” Probably you have heard it the other way around – to speak of gaining a win, just when it looked like a loss was about to happen.
Here in Luke 13, Jesus heals a woman who was crippled for 18 years by the presence of a spirit. It is incredible, she praises God for the healing, and all of the people have witnessed a miracle.
This is done in a synagogue on a Sabbath. Synagogues were the local gathering places for Jewish people all around the world. There was a ruler in place, a fellow who would be in charge of a variety of deeds related to the place and its ministry. A part of that involved assigning speakers to give a teaching sense of the meaning of whatever prescribed Scripture passages were read that day. Likely he either asked, or at least allowed Jesus to speak. And he likely had some hesitations while giving in to the crowd gathered who were focused on Jesus.
Sure enough, Jesus steals the show. It would be sort of like running a weekend music club, only to have a guest travelling through town outshine you and everyone else you featured regularly. Professional jealousy.
So the synagogue ruler tries to discredit the deed by the only thing he can come up with on the spot – that it was wrong for this to be done on the Sabbath, that is was working. Yep, it’s pretty silly … especially since there were Rabbinic teachings and allowances for dealing with animals and their needs on this day of the week.
Detractors from God’s work have been in every generation. Here on the occasion of the death of Billy Graham at age 99 with all that comprised his amazing life, while most articles rightly honor his legacy, there are a couple that mock him as a fraudulent and self-possessed scam artist. Wow! But it is not surprising. The world is full, has been full, will always be full of those who condemn God’s work. They are the ones who are self-possessed, having no room to serve anyone higher than themselves. This should not shock us or discourage us from continuing to do what is correct.
Luke 13:10 – 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.
“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘stealing defeat from the jaws of victory?'”
I’ve used the phrase a few times (at least in mind) when I watched how someone else acted. The word “snatched” though replacing “stealing” as you used it.
How easy it is to miss the grace of God though. The woman who was healed “straightened up and praised God” … how often do I miss what God is doing?
While not getting too deep into this conversation/debate that is out there on the internet, Billy Graham, who you just mentioned, also got into some trouble when he recognized that Jesus somehow worked in some people who never read a Bible or heard the gospel.
Perhaps this could be compared to how God worked in the life of King Cyrus when the King issued an order for any Jews who wanted to to be able to back to Jerusalem…
Wben it comes to “salvation” we often want to see “evidence” but scripture says we aren’t the judge of all people.
Saul on the road to Damascus, was given a really big, undeniable message from God. Such a message would probably be compelling enough to convert even most hardened atheists.
Paul’s experience though isn’t typical. (I’m going to skip over the deep ramifications of how God can and does work with people – sometimes even when they do not know it.) One young man in the book of Job, discussed this a bit, but still we should not limit how God communicates. Paul talked about God communicating or showing his love by such mundane or normal things in life like sending rain and providing plenty of food. Jesus said in a parable (via Abraham speaking) that the hypothetical rich man and his hypothetical brothers had the teachings of Moses … which would, apparently, have been sufficient to turn the rich man’s brothers from going to the place of torment … Though not stated in that parable, didn’t these people who ignored the poor Lazarus also ignore their consciences which probably had tried to prompt them to help the poor man?
Paul also talked about how the human conscience acts like a law to guide and refine behavior, because it both condemns and defends our behavior.
Still the teachings of Jesus are superior to any other teaching. Scripture compares the word of God to a sword that can evaluate the deepest parts of peoples motivations …
It is probably impossible to know the extent of God’s purposes and the extent of his involvement in the lives of different people. Paul warns against even trying too much in this regards. I’ve often wondered when Paul wrote about the great Christian speaker Apollos, that he was rather disappointed with the life of Apollos. Paul had urged Apollos to go and visit the Corinthians, but this wasn’t matching with what Apollos was thinking. Paul diplomatically said something like “he will come when it is convenient” and also after writing about the Christian cliques that seemed to be developing around followers of himself, Peter and Apollos, he urged the people to hold off on making ultimate evaluations until Jesus returns.