“Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for 18 years – shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16)
On a Sabbath day Jesus was teaching in a synagogue and saw a woman in the vicinity who was bent over and unable to straighten up. The Scripture tells us that Jesus knew that she had been disabled by a spirit. He knew she had been this way for 18-years. So He called out to her that she was free from this spirit, and then He laid His hands on her. She was instantly released and was about to stand up straight. She began glorifying God immediately.
The only question that was raised at that time was whether someone should be healed on the Sabbath. The leader of the synagogue, in fact, objected and told the crowd they could get their healing done on the other six days but not on the Sabbath. Jesus rebuked the synagogue leader. He reminded everyone that they all untie a donkey or ox and lead it to water on the Sabbath. Why shouldn’t a daughter of Abraham be “untied” from her bondage on the Sabbath day. The people appreciated hearing that.
This event, however, leads us today into a flurry of questions from our modern worldview: How are we to understand today this idea of being “bound by Satan?” Why was this woman bound by Satan? How was she bound? How did Jesus know this? How does this relate to our modern understandings? Was this just a 1st century understanding of infirmities that no longer applies today? What are the implications of this and/or the applications?
Some may say that Jesus was a 1st century man, a product of his own times, with 1st century impressions and understandings, so his view about this woman and spirits was certainly understandable then, but in our day this woman would be seen as just having “thrown out her back” and suffered from it for 18-years until Jesus healed her.
Those who see Jesus as the Son of God and thus fully God while also being fully human have a different understanding. They believe this story is exactly the way things were in the 1st century and the way things are today. They believe that Satan is very real and that a spiritual affliction is as real as any physical affliction.
If we conclude the latter, then we also conclude that it is still possible for Satan to spiritually afflict a human being with a physical malady. He cannot do so arbitrarily, as we learn from Job. He can only do this when sin exists, or when God allows it by His permissive will, for purposes we do not comprehend. But we must also note that God is sovereign over this and can release people from this kind of spiritual bondage that is manifested in the physical realm.
Lord, We do not pretend to understand everything, but we ask that Your Spirit guide us in understanding what Scriptures like this are teaching us. Amen.