Frank Graeff was a 19th and early 20th-century preacher and hymnist. Known for his positive attitude and cheery disposition, he was dubbed with the nickname “sunshine minister.”
However, his outward demeanor belied his inward struggles. As he was afflicted with various physical problems, at times severe, he began to doubt God’s presence during his pain. His conflict gave birth to the hymn, “Does Jesus Care” that begins with this probing lament.
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
The answer to Graeff’s query is dramatically answered and illustrated in today’s Bible reading from Luke 13:10-17.
Jesus was teaching in the synagogue one Sabbath when a woman entered “who had a spirit of infirmity.” Dr. Luke described her as a crippled woman “bent over.” She “couldn’t fully straighten up.” This disease had plagued her for 18 years. Yet, she was faithfully serving God.
What occurred on this occasion is summed up in three words by the commentator Warren Wiersbe–Liberation. Indignation. Vindication.
Liberation. Jesus saw her. And was sensitive to her plight. He called her forward, which on the surface might have seemed heartless and embarrassing to expose this hurting woman before the congregation. But Jesus had other plans.
He laid his hands on her and said, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” Immediately she stood straight up. And the Bible says, “she glorified God.”
Sometimes people blame their problems on God. Yet, Jesus reminds us that her infirmity was the doing of the devil. “Satan has bound her for eighteen years” he said. But, Jesus the powerful liberator, set her free.
This story reminds us that our ailments, sufferings, temptations and trials do not originate from “the Giver of good gifts.” He is the liberating Lord. He can loose us from Satan’s grip. He sees. He cares. He comforts. And most importantly can free us from the bondage of sin.
It is also important to note that this woman’s crippling disease did not hinder her from attending worship and serving God. While physically feeble, she was still faithful. It’s a good reminder to stay spiritually strong even through physical weakness and suffering.
Indignation. The Bible says the ruler of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus healed her. Why? Because it was the Sabbath. And the religious leaders had developed many human traditions that went far beyond Moses’ command to remember and rest on the Sabbath.
Incredibly the ruler rebuked Jesus! How ridiculous and absurd. The irony is that this man was more in bondage to Satan than the hunched over woman. She was physical bound, but he was spiritually bound. He was shackled by tradition. And blinded to God’s work through Jesus.
Sadly, some today, even “leaders in the church” are bound by their opinions. Crippled by their creeds. And handicapped by their traditions. They are bent over so far they can’t see Jesus or the Truth.
Instead of rejoicing over the good that is accomplished, they rebuke the “offender” because “we don’t do it that way here.” They are chained to the culture of their customs, and not the care, compassion, and conduct of Christ.
Vindication. Jesus defended both the woman and his actions as he rebuked the cowardly, hypocritical ruler. He reminded the ruler that God allowed him to loose his ox or donkey and water it on the Sabbath. Would he treat an animal better than this hurting woman, “a daughter of Abraham”?
The truth was so painfully obvious that even the “adversaries of Jesus were put to shame.” And, in the end God was glorified.
Does Jesus care about your hurting heart? Your physical ailments? Your emotional suffering? Your nagging temptations?
Frank Graeff came to the joyful conclusion that Jesus cares.
O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman