The lectionary gospel reading for Trinity 10 Year C is Luke 13.10–17, a remarkable short account, unique to Luke, of Jesus healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath. There are multiple layers to the meaning of this story, and an interesting and important challenge is how we might, in our own local context, enable exploration of all these layers. A particularly striking feature of this passage is the way that several aspects of it have one kind of significance in the original context of Jesus’ ministry, but added significance in the Graeco-Roman context of Luke’s readers.
The context of this passage is the continuing mix of Jesus’ miracles and his teaching ‘on the way’ from Luke 9.51 until Jesus reaches Jerusalem in chapter 19. Because we don’t have in the narrative some of the obvious structural markers, like Matthew’s division of Jesus’ teaching into five sections, or the key turning point in Mark of the confession at Caesarea Philippi in Mark 8, it is easy to see the material here as a slightly amorphous mixture, and our only markers are the well-known episodes such as the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and the parables of the lost, including the so-called prodigal son in Luke 15.
Given this, and the fact (as we have previously noted) that Luke’s geographical markers are very general, we need to sit up and take notice when Luke introduces this incident as taking place ‘in one of the synagogues’. This is the first mention of Jesus teaching in the synagogue since Luke 6.6, when he also heals someone there on the Sabbath, and he never does so again in Luke—in fact, synagogues are mentioned less in Luke than they are in Acts, when Paul consistently proclaims the good news about Jesus in synagogues first, making it clear that the Jesus movement is primarily a Jewish renewal movement before it is a Gentile movement.