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Humiliating a Legalist through Mercy

May 3, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Mercy, legalism Verse: Luke 13:10–13:17

Theme: Our lives must put the glorious things done by Christ on display.

Introduction: When He walked this earth, Jesus was a wonderful, kind, gentle lover of the souls of broken men and women. He went about eating, drinking, talking, listening, healing, and providing for people who were seeking the mercies of God. To the sinner, there is no better friend than Jesus – even as Jesus Himself declared – John 15:13.  Of course, those who were smug in their sin, believing that somehow their “goodness” will endear them to God find in Christ Jesus an obstacle to their pride and arrogance – cp. Luke 7:34. Despite the sophistication of our day, legalists latently resent Jesus – even as the legalists in Jesus' day openly did so. They were jealous of Him because of His open hostility toward Him and His popularity with the people who were burdened with sin. The challenged Him at every opportunity, accusing Him of everything from being a sinner to being demon-possessed. They sought to discredit Him, obstruct Him, and finally to kill Him. Despite their assertions and the façades of “righteousness,” the legalists were nothing but cauldrons of vileness that were exposed by the contrasting righteousness of Christ.  

Our text today provides an example of how the mercies of Christ for a struggling sinner exposed the haughty insistence by the legalist that people measure up to their expectations while ignoring the greater value of God’s mercy. When a person’s religion dismisses the very virtues that their faith ought to produce, it is a sham. The life of a believer must place on display the glorious things done by Christ, not seek esteem for the believer. In our text today, Jesus devastates the supposition that legalism somehow pleases God. He demonstrates that a sinner is only helped through the grace of God without any merit by the sinner-Luke 9:23


I. The Provision for a Sinner – 13:10-13

A. The Confrontation of Sin – v. 10

  • Throughout this section, Jesus continues to make His way to Jerusalem in order to lay down His life for sinners.
  • We are told elsewhere that having left Galilee, He is in the region of Perea (an area north of the Dead Sea, east of the Jordan River) for the events in our text.
  • Since it was “on the Sabbath,” Jesus had gone to “… one of the synagogues” – lit. “a gathering place” where the Jewish people assembled in order to hear the Law read and explained.
  • Generally speaking, the “synagogues” were places where the legalistic religion of Judaism was entrenched and where people were being continuously numbed to the glory of God’s forgiveness through substitutionary atonement.
  • It was the custom on the “synagogue official” (v. 14) to yield the rostrum to a guest rabbi when such would be present. 
  • Thus, we find that “He was teaching …” – a reference to the fact that Jesus was proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom.
  1. This Gospel was a message of repentance and faith in God’s provision of forgiveness through a sacrifice.
  2. It attacked the religious hypocrisy of legalism, merit-based religion, and self-righteous.
  3. “Jesus challenged His hearers to enter the kingdom by turning from false religion, fearing God, yielding their lives to the Holy Spirit, rejecting materialism, and pursuing entrance in His kingdom, before it was too late and judgment fell on them.”
  4. He called on all people to repent and believe the Gospel He preached – that of the forgiveness of sins and salvation through God’s grace – so that they could enjoy the kingdom – cp. Luke 9:23-26; 12:8-9.
  • Thus, Jesus’ preaching provokes those who arrogantly believe that their self-righteousness is of such a quality as to qualify them for God’s approval.

B. The Compassion for Sinners – vv. 11-13

  • As Jesus is teaching, “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.”
  • Because the Scripture includes a word not reflected in the NASB – “Behold” [ἰδού] “when Jesus saw her, …” - this woman hobbles into the female section of the synagogue – possibly late cause of the debilitation of her ailment and “Jesus saw her.”
  • The word “sickness” [ἀσθένεια] – merely means “weakness” or “debilitation” so we don’t know exactly the nature of the ailment.
  • However, we do know that it “was caused by a spirit” and Jesus describes her as a woman “… whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years” – v. 16.
  • We don’t know exactly what had given Satan the opportunity – whether some place was given to the Devil in her life, or what had happened, only that she was not only physically torments by her ailment, but also spiritually torments from the estrangement for God.
  • Additionally, due to how the Jews believed that a person who is afflicted deserves their suffering as they pay for their sins, this woman was ostracized by the community as unworthy; additionally, she was a woman and in that culture was thus “second-class” anyway.
  • However, notice the compassion of Christ that “when [He] saw her, He called her over …” – she didn’t even get a chance to sit down, but had to demonstrate her willingness to approach Christ by laboriously hobbling over to Him.
  • When she arrives to where He was sitting [which is the posture of a teaching Rabbi], He “said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your sickness.’”
  • Without even addressing the demon, Jesus “laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again.”
  • Jesus demonstrates several points of compassion:
  1. He was aware of how long she had struggled with her ailment – cp. v. 16.
  2. He was willing to initiate delivering her from her struggle with the effects of her spiritual bondage – “He called her …”
  3. He “laid His hands on her” – demonstrating tenderness and affection for her.
  4. His power was immediately effective – “… and immediately she was made erect again.”
  • The result of this healing is that “she … began glorifying God.” – the motive of all that Jesus did was to bring glory to the Father.


  1. In what ways do you fight the issue of self-righteousness and the assumption that all is well with God due to your “performance?”
  2. How does observing how Jesus initiated delivering this woman affect your confidence in God’s knowing about your problems? 
  3. What was the most recent demonstration of God’s tenderness with you?

II. The Protest by the Sanctimonious – 13:14

A. Legalism Has Contempt for the Gospel

  • Our text provides the adversative preposition “but” – demonstrating that a contrast to the compassion of God demonstrated through Christ was about to erupt.
  • This “synagogue official” [ἀρχισυνάγωγος] – was responsible for the conduct within the synagogue and was already infuriated at what He considered “false teaching” being promulgated by Christ.
  • He was described as “indignant” [ἀγανακτέω] – means to “be aroused against what is assumed to be wrong” – cp. Matthew 20:24; Mark 14:4.
  • Healing on the Sabbath was a favored way by which Jesus exposed the perversion of the Judaism of the day that was committed self-righteousness fulfillment of legalistic standards – cp. Luke 14:2-6.
  • Well this “synagogue official” fell squarely into the point Jesus had healed this woman to make – he “… began saying to crowed in response, ‘There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’”
  • Note that he wouldn’t confront Jesus directly, but he vehemently scolds people who have a need for seeking relief from spiritual needs on the Sabbath.
  • There were no biblical Sabbatical laws that forbid the exercise of mercy – but the opposite.
  • Additionally, there is nothing in the Law that forbids healing – how could it, the only One who could do so was the Son of God – He who is the “Lord of the Sabbath” – cp. Luke 6:5.
  • Healing for Jesus was effortless – no exertion whatsoever.

B. Legalism is Calloused toward the Struggling

  • Hence, we recognize that the legalist not only has contempt for the Gospel, he is calloused toward the struggling. 
  • To this man, you could exert yourself to come to the synagogue to pay tithes, and work hard to stay awake during the dreadful sanctimonious and legalistic diatribes against the people, but not to gain genuine spiritual relief at the hand of God’s grace in Christ – cp. John 7:49.
  • There was no appreciation that a woman, in bondage to demonic power had just been delivered from the powers of darkness and liberated to glorify God.
  • There was no delight in the deliverance of the sinner – there was only criticism that the sinner had somehow deviated from what legalism had prescribed – Matthew 23:4.


  1. Have you ever resented that a person – guilty of many sins – had found forgiveness from God without any apparent personal cost?
  2. Do you rejoice when you hear of sinners who are redeemed? 
  3. Are you often stumbled by how someone does something when the real issue is your resentment toward the person for what they did?

III. The Priority of the Savior – 13:15-17 

A. The Priority of Forgiveness – vv. 15-16

  • Jesus immediately calls the man out for the egregious abuse of God’s Word – “But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him?’”
  • He points out how these men will make sure that the need of an animal will be met on the Sabbath – helping them have their thirst quenched.
  • Yet, there was “this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is …” and therefore far more valuable than “an ox or … donkey,” “whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have released from this body on the Sabbath day?’”
  • The term “released” [λυθῆναι] – is the same term used in three different ways in this text:
  1. v. 12 [ἀπολύω] – the woman was “freed from … sickness” – “to be freed apart” from something such as sin or sickness, or even the forgiveness of sin.
  2. v. 15 [λύει] – the “hypocrites … untie his ox.”
  3. v. 16 [λύω] – the “daughter of Abraham released from this bond” – to cause it to “let go” or “untie” her.
  • Jesus is clearly contrasting the priority of helping a sinner be freed from sin over the enabling an ox or a donkey from getting a drink of water – cp. Matthew 12:11-14.

B. The Priority of Filtering – v. 17

  • Jesus desired to distinguish between the reality of God grace and the ineffectiveness and hypocrisy of legalism.
  • Luke indicates that “As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.”
  • The self-serving sanctimony of the hypocrites was unmasked as shallow, empty, and self-promoting which resulted in their being “humiliated” [καταισχύνω] – dishonored or put to shame; disgraced – that is, their position was weakened.
  • However, the glory of God was being magnified as “the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him” – they recognized that He was clearly from God and thus the mercy shown to this woman was the mercy of God – cp. John 10:38.
  • Jesus desires to distinguish between the self-promoting, empty heartless nature of legalism from the glorious power transformation that results from grace.
  • If your Christian life is able to be explained by means of your own efforts and accomplishments, yours is not a freedom from sin resulting from the grace of God.
  • Our lives must be of such a quality that the only explanation for them is the “glorious things being done by Him.”


  1. How does God’s forgiveness of your sins display God’s value of you?
  2. In what ways does your life demonstrate your own efforts and what ways does it demonstrates God’s work?
  3. When was the last time someone noticed that God was at work in your life? 


  • A redeemed life is able to be explained only by the presence of a work of God in our lives and not by human achievement!
  • We are like the woman in this text – enduring lifelong bondage to Satanic authority, unable to straighten our lives up, hunched over by the burden of our sins, and without hope of finding the ability to help ourselves get free.
  • But Jesus sees us struggling and calls us to Himself where He heals us and frees us from the burden of our sin.
  • Has He done this for you?


  1. What more would Jesus have to do to “prove” Himself to you as the Savior and Lord?
  2. When was the last time that you sensitized your heart before God’s Spirit for Him to identify and convict you of sin?
  3. Jesus refers to our own initiative causing us to “judge what is right” – are you motivated to pursue righteousness?