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.
4. Reflections on the Arguments
It was the synagogue leader who introduced the phrase ‘it is necessary’, and certainly he did it without reference to the Lucan divine necessity behind the offer of salvation to all peoples. The synagogue leader seems to recognize the necessity that lays upon Jesus, the necessity to use his powers for the good of others. Jesus picks up this phrase ‘it is necessary’. Reminding his addressees of their weekly (indeed daily) practice of caring for the well-being of animals, he suggests that there is a necessity that they do that, a necessity they would and should readily admit. So too, on the human level, there is a necessity that people be taken care of23. The motivation for this can only be, in the last analysis, love of neighbor, the command which governs actions towards one’s neighbor, a command for which Jesus has only praise (Luke 10,27). I say ‘in the last analysis’ because the will of God regarding one’s neighbor is, in Jesus’ mind, absolutely the foundation of all relationships24, and a law which applies to him as to any other Jew.
The peculiarity of this law, this necessity, for Jesus is shaped by the ways in which he can be neighbor to all people. His abilities, his powers, are especially those of teaching and healing. His word is powerful, whether in the teaching which makes clear the kingdom of God, or in mastering those elements which threaten salvation. What is emphasized in Luke 13, 14.16 is that it is the peculiar necessity of healing which lays upon Jesus. He ‘must’ heal, out of love of neighbor. This is his obligation.
Once again, one must recall that this pericope is distinguished clearly from that of Luke 14,1-6, which is concerned with ‘what is allowed on the Sabbath’25. Jesus is not only allowed to work in an emergency on the Sabbath; he is obliged by charity to work on behalf of all whom he encounters. This means that, whereas the case of the dropsical man is concerned with ‘halakah’ or a point of law (what is permitted?)26, the case of the bent woman reveals the necessity of love that governs Jesus’ life, his relationship with all persons he meets.