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.
When Jesus moves from the minor argument to the major argument, he brings up and makes central the verb the synagogue leader introduced: dei]19. Jesus speaks about the necessity that this daughter of Abraham be set free from the bonds of Satan on the Sabbath. From the words Jesus uses, one is encouraged to think of that meaning of the Sabbath that celebrates the freedom of Abraham’s children from Egypt, symbolically the land of slavery, darkness, false gods, and so of Satan. It seems certain from his vocabulary that Jesus wants the synagogue leader to think20 in terms of this sense of the Sabbath when he sees Jesus cure (set free) on the Sabbath.
Yet, this potent imagery does not explain the ‘necessity’ of this woman’s cure. Rather, this imagery falls under the category of ‘what is befitting’. Since Jesus cured on all days of the week, one is reluctant to divide his motivation, i.e., to say that on the Sabbath he cured because of the meaning of the Sabbath, but on the other days he must have had some other reason for curing21. I think that there is further reason to heal on the Sabbath, a certain fittingness that one can call upon to justify curing; the motivation of Jesus, the explanation of the necessity upon him (recognized by the synagogue leader) lies elsewhere than in the Sabbath imagery of freedom of a daughter of Abraham from Satan.
One might think of the use of dei= in the Gospel of Luke and in the Acts of the Apostles, in the hope of understanding the sense of the word in Jesus’ argument here. The general opinion about Luke’s use of this verb points to the necessity that characterizes the offer of salvation, to Israel, to the Gentiles: salvation must be preached to all. Jesus is under this obligation, and so everything he does is presumably an actualization of the necessity to do the will of God, to offer salvation to each and all22. While certainly this divine necessity characterizes Luke-Acts, one wonders if it satisfactorily explains ‘necessity’ in Luke 13,14.16.