Love under New Management – The Story of the Doubly Bent Over Woman
Location, location, location! We are more than familiar with this particular adage. In real estate, location really matters, and so it is with the Gospel narratives – social location really matters. The stories in the gospel accounts are written so we can “find” ourselves in the narratives of the gospels, for when we locate ourselves, we discover who we are, and hopefully, the answers to what ails us, by the power of Scripture and more importantly, by the delivering love of Jesus.
In the story of the doubly bent over woman, we discover “we are her, ” and she is us. The text compels us, through the power of story, to locate ourselves in the text. While we may not have her obvious physical condition of bent over-ness; yet we may carry the emotional issues and scars which can and do cripple our psyches, and collapse the lives of those whom we love. It is only when we bring our emotional and physical wounds to Jesus, that we can stand erect in victory, and glorify our Creator.
And so here it is – the story of the “Unbound Woman.” Some call her the “Doubly Bent Over Woman,” Some even call her the “Crippled Woman.” Her story is found in the book of Luke, Chapter 13: 10-13
And now, The Word from Our Sponsor… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Luke 13:10-13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
In this story of an infirmed woman, we find Luke gives us the essential details. First of all, we are told that Jesus is teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath. These are significant details which become important at the end of this woman’s story (vs. 14-17). The second set of details are as important – there is a woman with a sickness caused by a spirit which had her bound for eighteen years. Not several years, or a decade, or even 15 years; but eighteen years, as if the Evangelist Luke knows this woman was counting every day of every single year of her infirmity – and certainly she was, because at one time in her life, she was “erect.”
Luke details that her sickness was caused by a spirit – but the most interesting and critical notation is this: the “had had” structure of the Lucan narrative. This detail seems redundant, repetitive, and highly unnecessary – until, we examine this construct in the language in which the narrative was written.
At first glance, one of the two “hads” seems excessive – almost like talking too much, giving too much detail, not knowing when enough is enough. But, in the Greek, one of the “hads” is much different than the other – the first “had” is a participle, much like our English word. The second “had” means this”
- to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have (hold) possession of the mind (refers to alarm, agitating emotions, etc.), to hold fast, keep, to have or comprise or involve, to regard or consider, or hold as a possession.
So in the Greek sense, the spirit which caused this woman’s illness “had” a hold of her, as if the spirit restrained her, and was wearing her like a coat, or maybe like a straight jacket.
The design of a straight jacket is meant to restrain the person in it. The more the person struggles, the tighter the jacket becomes. The movement and struggle of the person causes the straight jacket to constrict until it completely exhausts the wearer, and in most cases, doubles the wearer over. This is what this spirit was doing to the woman in the story.
The spirit had this woman bound, and was wearing her out, little by little, day by day, year by year; for eighteen years, until the spirit tighten its grip on her, so much so, that this spirit doubled her over. This spirit which had this woman bound literally, owned her life. It possessed her. The spirit had taken up residency in this woman’s life. Image it like this – you own a house; but, somebody comes to your door, comes in, uninvited, and takes up residency. Then tells you that your house belongs to them! Some of us recognize this story because we have lived it!
Yet, the obvious question of the text is this: Besides malevolence, what type of spirit was this? Was it a spirit of fear? Was it a spirit of depression? A spirit of addiction/co-dependency? Was it a spirit of jealousy? Was it a spirit of resignation? Was it a spirit of low self-esteem? Was it a spirit of denial? We simply do not know because Luke does not give us this particular detail. We only know that it was a spirit which kept this woman bound until finally, the spirit moved from weakening her mind/her emotions to engaging her body in the affliction.
Psychologists call this psychosomatic illness because many illnesses correspond to a pattern of emotional and psychological stressors which influence the ways in which our bodies ultimately respond (because we are mind, body, & spirit).
We also know as women, we suffer from psychosomatic illness significantly more than men. The stressors of living as a woman, and all that it entails, causes us to suffer with emotional distress and dis – ease (disease) which often produces a physical manifestation.
This is the story and circumstance of the woman in the narrative. Yet, in her story, we discover hope despite affliction because this woman comes to the synagogue seeking God. Much like her New Testament sisters: the Syro-Phoenician, the woman with the issue of blood, and the woman who lost her coin, Jesus does not come to her – she comes to Him. She hasn’t given up because “her true spirit” continues to seek the Lord. She seeks, and she finds Jesus. She comes, and Jesus answers with a message of love, healing, and deliverance. His message is for her and for all of us. She may be emotionally bruised, and even doubly bent over; but, she is NOT BROKEN! The love which she has for God sustains her until she finds her healing. We witness it and we see that she participates in her own transformation. She’s not lying on her mat waiting for someone to help her up – she goes to the synagogue, in spite of her condition, because she believes that she will find healing there, and she does, in the person of Jesus.
When Jesus sees her, He does not judge her. He does not say: “Woman, you are free from your sin,” or “Woman you are forgiven.” Instead, Jesus says, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” Translation: “Woman thou art loosed.”
Until Jesus calls to her, this woman is defined by her illness. Jesus, who sees her whole and healed, addresses her and excises the spirit, which has constrained her life and doubled her over. Jesus frees her from 18 years of bondage. He unties her from eighteen years of constraint. She is unbound from eighteen years of stress and affliction. She is delivered and literally transformed in the synagogue. The text says immediately she stands erect (again) and begins to give God glory.
She is made anew. Her life is now her own. She is free and she is under new management – the healing power and love of Jesus!
Questions for our study and consideration:
Why do you think, as women, we suffer from psychosomatic illness more than men do?
Why does Jesus speak to her instead of the spirit?
Besides hope, what else do you think motivated this woman to continue to seek the Lord until she found Jesus?
How does this woman’s persistence help you in your quest to find deliverance, transformation, and redemption for what ails you?
Finally, think about this quote: “Do the work your soul must have.” (Dr. Katie Cannon) – How does this quote relate to this woman’s story/your story?
“Seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7
“The Kingdom of God is creation healed.” – Hans Kung
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass
“To remain silent when confronted by evil, is tacit permission to allow evil to spread to the next generation” – Maxine Garrett
Written by Maxine E. Garrett for Tabitha’s Daughters