Walter Wink, in his book Engaging the Powers, suggests that Jesus’ action represented a revolution happening in seven short verses. In this short story, Jesus tries to wake people up to the kind of life God wants for them. He often talks about the Kingdom of God where people have equal worth and all of life has dignity. But in the latter part of his ministry, he begins to act this out. In the midst of a highly patriarchal culture Jesus breaks at least six strict cultural rules:
1. Jesus speaks to the woman. In civilized society, Jewish men did not speak to women. Remember the story in John 4 where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. She was shocked because a Jew would speak to a Samaritan. But when the disciples returned, the Scripture records, “They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman?” In speaking to her, Jesus jettisons the male restraints on women’s freedom.
2. He calls her to the center of the synagogue. By placing her in the geographic middle, he challenges the notion of a male monopoly on access to knowledge and to God.
3. He touches her, which revokes the holiness code. That is the code which protected men from a woman’s uncleanness and from her sinful seductiveness.
4. He calls her “daughter of Abraham,” a term not found in any of the prior Jewish literature. This is revolutionary because it was believed that women were saved through their men. To call her a daughter of Abraham is to make her a full-fledged member of the nation of Israel with equal standing before God.
5. He heals on the Sabbath, the holy day. In doing this he demonstrates God’s compassion for people over ceremony, and reclaims the Sabbath for the celebration of God’s liberal goodness.
6. Last, and not least, he challenges the ancient belief that her illness is a direct punishment from God for sin. He asserts that she is ill, not because God willed it, but because there is evil in the world. (In other words, bad things happen to good people.)
And Jesus did all this in a few seconds.
Mickey Anders, Bent, adapted from Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers