Made Straight at the Door of Hope

She hobbled into the synagogue. Again.

For 18 years, she staggered to the meeting place, to the house of the Lord, hunchbacked and afflicted to such a degree that she could not look up.

What kept her coming? Hope, I think it was. She believed that someday she would leave that place straightened with her body made right.

To me, the story of this woman, found in the midst of Luke 13, serves as picture of each of us. We stumble into the faith just as we are – crooked and twisted in some manner.

I remember the night I chose to answer an altar call and lay claim to the mercy of salvation offered to me through Jesus. It was awkward, and I was probably going forward for the wrong reasons. Still, God took hold of me that night, and He’s never let me go.

Death and the Fig Tree

Luke 13 begins with an account of Jesus talking about the issue of death, and how all are called to turn to God in repentance for all shall face the grave and the judgment that comes beyond it.

He used a couple of current events to illustrate His point. Pontius Pilate had ordered a number of Galileans to be killed for their participation in a protest against his governorship. The agitated mob opened itself to the crackdown by the empire. Also, the Tower of Siloam collapsed and left 18 dead. These ones had just been doing their jobs when they lost their lives.

To some, those who died had it coming to them. That is, there were those around Jesus who really thought that those who perished were people guilty of some offense.

Jesus addressed this common and crooked viewpoint: “Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men? …” Not true, the Son said. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. …” (See Luke 13:3-4).

The Savior followed with a story about a fruitless fig tree. The property owner had grown frustrated with this tree’s lack of production. It was just taking up space and wasting good ground, as he saw it. He ordered his gardener to chop down and root out this fig tree.

The gardener, the one who spent his time nearest to the tree, saw things differently. He wasn’t yet ready to give up on it: “… ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and dung it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’ ” (Luke 13:6-8).

The fig tree in the gospels represents Israel and her national identity. These words in Luke 13 remind me of the Lord and His exasperation with the people after their egregious disobedience with the golden calf and their refusal to take the Promised Land. In both instances, Moses interceded with God who suggested that He would erase the tribes and start anew with Moses.

“And Moses said to the Lord: … ‘Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’ … Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy’” (Numbers 14:11-9).

The fig tree, I think, also refers to everybody. Jesus came and embodied Himself. He entered human existence and came close to all of us fruitless ones. And He experienced the effects ofdepravity and the curse at its worst. The Son said, “I will go and take on flesh and bone and shed my Blood in the midst of their world.”

The Way of the Cross

The people were full of wrong ideas about God and about Jesus. Still, His mercy endures and it is new every morning.

The gardener, as a picture of Christ, begged for more time, another year is what he asked for. The tree would get attention. It would be dunged – fertilized with manure and compost, things that at a glance are just waste.

These things decay and disintegrate, but in doing so they are integrated into the process of life-giving and restoring. Certain disasters and traumas are terrible, heartbreaking even, but the seeming waste that they leave gets incorporated by the One who makes all things new.

He drank the cup of wrath due to be poured out as the wages for the sin of the world. He was disintegrated like none other. He sunk, by His own choice, into the depths of all darkness. Click To Tweet

This is how we should see the way of Jesus and the Cross. He drank the cup of wrath due to be poured out as the wages for the sin of the world. He was disintegrated like none other. He sunk, by His own choice, into the depths of all darkness.

Christ endured a season when He could neither see, nor sense, the Presence of His Father and the Holy Spirit. He became our Passover Lamb, our Blood offering and covering.

Now, by faith, we can be born again and integrated into the Son as members in particular of His Body, the true Temple of the Lord.

Touched and Transformed

How does all this serve to set up the healing scene and this bent over and bowed down woman?

This woman was seen as cursed of God. Looks of scorn met her arrival to the meeting place. She may have been impoverished as well as infirm.

She kept showing up for the Sabbath meeting. Something kept drawing her to come and worship the Lord.

On this day, Jesus was there, and her life was transformed. He touched her. Deliverance came at once.

She stood straight and shouted praises to the glory of God. And the whole congregation rejoiced with her.

Well, not everyone was happy to see this woman standing tall that day. The synagogue leaders frowned and threw a fit about how this wonderful “work” was done in violation of the Sabbath.

Jesus did not take this accusation quietly. Rather, He fingered their self-righteous proclamationsas hypocrisy, shouting that these leaders treated their beasts better than this sister of theirs, “a daughter of Abraham” who’d been plagued for nearly two decades. These agitated men were more bound than even this woman had been.

Jesus pointed to Satan as the real responsible party in all of the bondage He encountered that day. The devil ensnared this woman physically, and he entrapped these religious ones spiritually.

Consider that these leaders were ones seeking “spectacular signs” from Jesus. They had just witnessed something powerful and it did not move them at all.

The Narrow Way

This sets us up the conclusion of Luke 13. Jesus again uses the figures of seed and bread. The tiny mustard seeds of Kingdom work are sown and something grows. Leaven gets into the dough and it rises and expands and takes on a flavor.

These are words of warning to the audience in the synagogue. Mustard seeds by nature produce a bush of herbs, not large trees. Israel began as a small nation possessing the true Word of God. Now her faith systems were out of whack, large and infected. The big tree was infiltrated with fowl, pointing to demon forces weighing down people with demands and struggles.

By this time in history, the loaf that was meant to feed good news to the nations now carried the taste of the world. This bread was going stale and moldy and fast. It began in earnest when the people demanded a king in order to be like the rest of the nations (see 1 Samuel 8).

This is made obvious to us later in the gospel. In Luke’s closing chapters, we will see how the dark forces have their moment of influence in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus was en route to Jerusalem and to Calvary when “one said to Him, ‘Lord, are there few who are saved? This is a big question, of course.

One final thing we must take from Luke 13 is the reality of the narrow Door. It is the one and only Door of Hope.

The opposition to the work of Jesus had to leave some of His followers wondering about their chances of success. He assured them that the Door to life eternal was open, but it was only as wide as Him in His Person as the Son sent to save.

Jesus was clear about it. He explained that it was not an easy choice to enter through the Door. The world and the flesh are so influenced by the devil to hinder the Message from Heaven. The corrupted culture sends waves of deception to blind eyes and shut ears.

One day, however, everyone will realize that what they saw and heard of Christ was true all along. May we keep the faith and work to guide people to the Door that leads unto life.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; none comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).

Steve Andrulonis
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