John Kilgallen, «The Obligation to Heal (Luke 13,10-17)», Vol. 82 (2001) 402-409
Luke 13,10-17 is often considered to be a parallel to Luke 14,1-6; further, Luke 13,10-17 is often separated, in the structuring of Luke’s Gospel, from Luke 13,1-9. In this essay, there is noted the crucial difference between the key words dei= (13,14.16) and e!cestin(14,3) for the interpretations (and differences) between these two Sabbath cures. Also this essay notes the inherent unity of the cure of the bent woman with the call to repentance that precedes it.
capacity to teach (and teach the truth), suggest holiness while presenting false doctrine, i.e., what is not the will of God.
To arrive at the proper understanding of God’s will, Jesus offers an argument based on the experience of the synagogue leader (and those like him) with regard, not to humans, but to animals. It is customary that on every Sabbath owners know that they should lead their oxen and asses to water. Though the word ‘necessary’ does not appear in this affirmation about those who water animals on the Sabbath, it is clearly just beneath the surface. What is on the surface of the argument is the fact: people do ‘work’ on the Sabbath. Of course, this notice about a weekly and unquestioned practice is to be an argument a minore ad majus: if this is the case with lowly animals, what must be concluded in regard to human beings? But it has its own particular value for Jesus’ stance in regard to the Sabbath. Animals are respected in the Jewish understanding of God’s creation 17; their due, for whatever reason, is proper — they should be taken care of. Thus, while one can say that one takes care of an animal in order to assure its usefulness to its owner, one can also say that an animal, whatever its usefulness to its owner, deserves proper care. One cannot argue that respect for the Sabbath precludes respect for one’s animals; the weekly practice of the righteous argues against that.
Important here is the difference between the case Jesus presents here and that he will present when defending his cure of the dropsical man. In the case of the dropsical man, the note struck is that of threat to life: an animal has fallen into a pit. This is not the weekly occurrence that Jesus speaks of when addressing the teaching of the synagogue leader; here there is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The question here is about the liceity of saving this animal from the pit: does the Sabbath preclude this saving, which is clearly a work? In the argument regarding the cure of the bent woman Jesus deals with the everyday rhythm of work. It is not a question of what is allowed done in emergency18, but what necessity does respectful care for creatures impose on a person every day, and on the Sabbath day, especially on the person who has the power to ‘work’ for the care of those in need.