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Luke 13:10-21: Woman bent over for 18 years; kingdom parables of mustard seed, yeast in dough

Jeff QuackenbushYeshua heals a woman with a back deformity, but the condition may have also been symbolic of the spiritually oppressed. Kingdom parables of the mustard seed and yeast in dough teach that God will build the kingdom from humble, oppressed beginnings to become greater than any superpower.

PDFLuke 13 notes

The woman had some kind of physical ailment. We don’t know if the ailment was a literal physical ailment, such as a fusion of the spinal vertebrae or some other problem. However, Yeshua tells us that the woman’s suffering also had a spiritual part as Yeshua tells the synagogue official, “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for 18 long years,…”

God longs to heal those who are oppressed in both body and mind. Psa. 146:5-9 says:

“How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord braises up those who are bowed down;  The Lord cloves the righteous; The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.”

The Hebrew word that is translated as those who are bowed down is כְּפוּפִים kefufim, which comes from the Hebrew word כָּפַף kaphaph (Strong’s lexicon No. H3721). When Yeshua spoke in the synagogue and quoted from Isa. 6:1-3 (Luke 4:18-19), He was telling the audience that the works of the Messiah would follow the works of the LORD and demonstrate God’s power.

Yeshua also quoted from Isa. 6:1-3 when disciples of Yokhanan (John the Baptist) asked if Yeshua was the Messiah of if they should wait for someone else to come. Yeshua’s response in Matt. 11:2-6: 

“Now when Iohanes, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’ Iesous answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.’”

When Yeshua tells John’s disciples, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at me” (Matt. 11:6), the Greek word for take offense is σκανδαλισθῇ skandalisthe, which comes from the root σκανδαλίζω skandalizo (G4624). It’s the origin of the English word scandal. The word literally means “to cause someone to sin or stumble.” It also refers to setting a trap for someone. The Greek word σκάνδαλον skandalon (G4625) is the word for a “movable stick or trigger of a trap or a snare.” 

When the synagogue official rebuked Yeshua for working on the Sabbath (and the people for asking Yeshua to heal them on the Shabbat, Yeshua responds by reminding him that people are allowed to tie and untie their animals for bringing them to water. 

In the rabbinic law, tying permanent knots were considered מלכות melakhot — works — and thus forbidden on the Shabbat (m.Shabbat 5 and m.Ervuin 2:1-2), but the sages allowed for tying and untying knots for the purpose of leashing and unleashing animals for drawing water. Yeshua acknowledged that allowances for tying and untying knots were violations of the Shabbat (Sabbath), but חסד chesed, or mercy, רחמים rakhamim, or acts of compassion, are among the “weightier matters of the Torah.”

While realizing that mercy and compassion take precedence, we are not to lose sight of what Shabbat is and why God taught us to remember to keep that day “holy,” separate from the other days of the week. Hebrews 4–5 goes into great detail about what “rest” really means. 

As the message of the Good News went out to the nations, the difference between the revealed God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob clashed with how the nations view the divine realm. In the Greek/Roman world, the gods purposely created the world in its messed up state and would occasionally grant blessings from Mt. Olympus to make life a little more bearable. Those gods were capricious, and you never knew what to do to make them happy or what to do so they will leave you alone. 

The Bible has a totally different view of reality: God made a perfect world for mankind, but mankind messed it up by deciding to seek knowledge and wisdom from another source. God has been working to bring the world back into perfection ever since.

Yeshua then gives a couple of brief parables about the Kingdom of God. He compares it to a mustard seed, which grows into a large tree that the bird nested in. Luke 13:19 is actually a quote from the end of a three-part parable in Ezekiel 17 and from a connected vision given to Nebuchadnezzar right before God made him crazy for a time (Daniel 4). 

In Ezek. 17:1-20, the word of the Lord compared Israel remaining in the land to a vine growing after a mighty eagle plucked top shoots and seeds from a cedar in Lebanon. Israel was warned not to try to seek an alliance with Egypt against Babylon, but the final kings of the southern kingdom, Yehoiakim and Zedekiah cozied up to Egypt anyway and Zedekiah was deposed when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. 

Ezekiel 17 ends with God’s promise to take a cutting from the most vulnerable part of the topmost sprigs of the cedar tree and that he would restore Israel to a prominent and powerful position with them. Even the eagles of Babylon and Rome would want to seek refuge in it. 

Yeshua replaces the parable symbol of tender sprigs of cedar with a mustard plant, which starts from an even tinier seed and a smaller plant. Yeshua taught how something that seems to have no power at all would grow to be a sought after refuge for all the nations. The Kingdom of God takes root through the humility of people trusting God’s work. 

Yeshua’s second parable in our Luke passage was of the woman kneading leaven into a lump of dough. Leaven is often used as a symbol of corruption. In this parable, Yeshua tells us a story about a woman working leaving into three ephah — eight gallons — of flour. The Kingdom of God starts small and gets bigger.

Comparing the symbols of the parables of mustard seed and leaven mixed in dough

  • Sower of mustard seed and mixer of leaven are the Son of Man.
  • Mustard seed and leaven are proclamations and actions of the Kingdom of God.
    • We are told that the kingdom of this world is overthrown.
    • We are shown that God wants all to return to a heart-soul love for God.
    • No one can justify his behavior before God.
    • God justifies the behavior of those who return to God by meting out the consequences of sin upon the Son of Man, His Messiah
    • God considers us as “righteous” correctly following God’s plan for the world — those who act upon their trust in God’s solution for the rebellion and God’s path for living life.
  • Field/flour is the world, starting with the Land of Israel.
  • Tree and leavened flour are the result of the kingdom actively spreading from one to another.

It is useful to read through Matthew 16 to review what Yeshua said about the “leaven of the Pharisees.” Paul also talks about boasting and pride and compares it to being puffed up and how we are to not be puffed up as we prepare for the Feast of Passover. We have nothing to boast of in and of ourselves. We can only boast in what God is doing through us and for us. 

Speaker: Jeff Quackenbush. Summary: Tammy Quackenbush.


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