A father’s kidney donation has saved his eight-year-old son’s life. The newspaper headline caught my eye. I knew the family. I had heard of their struggles and their strength. Caring for a child who needed frequent trips to hospital and looking after two other children never prevented them from caring for new arrivals and those on the margins. Jesus’ love shines through them. And now the life-giving gift from father to son, and a mother ready to give her kidney if this one does not take.
Organ donation happens in a context. It has ripple effects before and afterwards and can involve pain and joy, suffering and relief, life and death.
Many times in Scripture Jesus notices people who are suffering. Some are in pain; others feel invisible or have been cast aside by society.
Read Luke 13:10–17.
Imagine what it would be like to be the woman in the story. Think about her physical suffering and what this could have meant for her situation in her community.
The woman’s suffering was obvious to those around her. Think about people whose suffering is not so obvious, like those with psychological or emotional illnesses or auto-immune diseases or those whose organ failure means they need a transplant to survive.
Do you know people who are suffering in these ways?
How do you respond to them?
Re-read Luke 13:12,13.
Jesus notices the woman, even though she would have been easy to overlook in her bent-over state. Jesus calls her over and enables her to stand up straight, something she hasn’t done for 18 years. Just imagine, the first person she can look in the eye is Jesus! She can look into his face and hear him say that she is free.
How does she respond?
What do you think it meant to the woman to be free?
Read Luke 4:18,19.
What does it mean to you that Jesus came to set you free?
Re-read Luke 13:14.
After the joy of meeting Jesus in this way, the woman then has to face the anger of the leader of the synagogue who blames her for coming to be healed on the Sabbath. This woman might be standing upright but she still has to live in the same society with those who want to apply a particular set of rules.
Notice how Jesus advocates for the woman. He calls out hypocrisy. He affirms her as a precious child of God, ‘daughter of Abraham’, and shows how the Holy Day is enriched by his life-giving action.
The reality of our lives is that we all live with pain and suffering.
What difference does it make to our response to others if we look at them through Jesus’ eyes? What can you or your community do to include those who are suffering so they can see Jesus’ face of love and receive the gift of life?
As he sat in a wheelchair next to his son’s hospital bed, after the operation, my friend said, ‘He just attacks every day with incredible energy and passion … He inspires us to make the most of every day’.
Perhaps another important question is: How do I receive the life-giving gift of love from others so that with the woman and the entire crowd (v17) we can rejoice at all the wonderful things Jesus is doing?
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for your gifts of life and love. By your Spirit, help us to see the needs around us, and meet them with whatever you have given us to share. Make us a welcoming community, where anyone can find love and acceptance and a place at your table. Amen.
Helen Lockwood is a former CEO of Lutheran (Community) Care SA-NT and is a member of the LCANZ’s Domestic and Family Violence working group of the Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions.