That’s how many days the woman in our Gospel reading had been afflicted by her condition.
For 6570 days this woman could not stand up straight but was stooped over.
6570 days of suffering with no indication life would ever be different for her.
Would it have made any difference to the woman if it had been 6571 days?
Most likely not after all those years of suffering – one day more.
So what we find here in our Gospel reading is not so much a woman in need of physical healing but a synagogue ruler and group of on lookers who were in need of spiritual healing and an understanding of God’s compassion for the suffering.
If Jesus had waited one more day then the woman would still have received her healing but the Synagogue ruler would not have had his hardness of heart revealed.
Why was that more important for Jesus than this woman who had for 18 years, 6570 days, had been oppressed by Satan in her affliction?
It’s because Jesus is not so much concerned about our earthly condition but our eternal condition.
Jesus came to this world to bring eternal life.
The woman’s physical condition would not have exempted her from eternal life in heaven.
In fact, as St Paul says in 1 Corinthians, her perishable body would have been raised as an imperishable body with no more suffering or pain.
But what Jesus is worried about is how the Synagogue ruler’s hardened and uncaring heart might affect his relationship with God and his eternal salvation.
So to bring his hardness of heart to the surface Jesus seemingly breaks the Sabbath commandment.
Seemingly, but as we will discover when Jesus challenges the Commandment’s strict following by the letter of the law he will reveal the spiritual purpose of the commandment – in other words – the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.
Through his healing of this woman Jesus is able to point out the hypocrisy in the way that they are prepared to interpret the commandment in their own way when it is in their best interests:
The Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
We are all pretty good at keeping our hardness of hearts in check so others don’t see it.
But there will be something that highlights a hardness and brings it into the open – a prejudice, a bias, a secret thought or desire.
These can sometimes become times of testing that God will use in order to bring to light to ourselves areas in our lives that need addressing.
And that can be a difficult and painful and challenging testing.
It might be our thoughts on things happening in the media where we might surprise ourselves to know how we really think about people.
We claim to love God and our neighbour – but reckon those dole bludgers should have their welfare cut and go and get a job like the rest of us.
Or why are we spending my taxes on a safe injecting room instead of building the East West Link so I don’t get caught up in traffic.
Or why do we allow people from other countries to keep coming here and buying our houses, our baby formula, taking our jobs. This is MY country.
Or why was that person let out on bail – or on parole – lock ‘em up and throw away the keys.
It is very easy for our hardened hearts to be revealed when we are confronted by a situation that we are struggling to accept.
And sometimes in the church God might challenge us with a situation that requires us to distinguish between applying a Gospel or Pastoral approach to situation in the midst of a literal application of the law.
One example that has confronted our church in recent times has been the new Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation.
God’s law is abundantly clear – You shall not kill.
That includes our own life including Euthanasia or Voluntary Assisted Dying.
How do you weigh up compassion for the one suffering while upholding the 5th commandment – just as Jesus was confronted with regarding compassion for the bent over woman and the 3rd commandment?
The synagogue ruler was not wrong in his application of the Sabbath Law – but he was wrong in his understanding of compassion.
This is not permission to ignore the commandments.
No, Jesus said – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; (make not of that reference to Law and Prophets) I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.
And he fulfils them by summing up the law by saying to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself – All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
See the connection between these 2 statements with “the Law and the Prophets” – fulfilling the law through love.
This was the greater healing that Jesus saw being needed in the synagogue ruler.
And while he maintained that the Sabbath Law was still God’s commandment he saw that the Commandment to love his neighbour interpreted that commandment in a new light.
And that’s why he says on another occasion – the Sabbath was made for man – not man for the Sabbath.
The hardness of heart of the Synagogue ruler was further revealed when he criticised the woman for being healed – “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”
The woman didn’t come to be healed – Jesus called her over to be healed.
How often don’t we do that – blame the person for the predicament they are in rather than having compassion for the predicament they are in.
We live in a fallen world and as a result people are going to succumb to unenviable situations.
We make wrong decisions.
We all do!
Blaming them does not help them – even if they are responsible for their predicament:
Remember Jesus’ parable when he says: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
He didn’t say – I was hungry and you told me to go and get a job and pay for some food.
He didn’t say – I was in prison and you judged me for breaking the law – do the crime, do the time.
This is not ignoring the commandments but showing compassion to a person being oppressed.
The law and Satan will crush a person’s soul through sin.
Jesus was exemplary in showing compassion while upholding the law at the same time.
When the woman was caught in adultery he didn’t excuse her or deny the law of Moses that demanded her death but protected her from those who wanted to crush her further.
He told them – you without sin can cast the first stone while to the woman he said he did not condemn her but told her to go and sin no more.
Hardness of heart is very damaging to faith.
To the faith of those we are judging.
But it is also damaging to our own faith as we may also be suppressing our own freedom from God’s mercy for our sin.
As Jesus said – by the same level you judge others so too you will be judged.
Jesus was trying to free the Synagogue ruler by revealing his hardened heart.
God also wants us to look at our hearts so he can also remove anything that prevents us from experiencing the freeing mercy that comes when we show that same mercy to others.
Jesus repeatedly challenged rules and customs that lacked compassion and justice, and this story embodies his attitude towards injustice.
Jesus came to free 2 people today.
The woman from her physical burden that kept her bent over and hopefully the synagogue ruler whose spiritual burden kept him bent over and unable to show compassion.
God’s mercy frees each of us from the burden of the law as he does not remove the law from our lives but its bondage that enables us to live lives that receive God’s mercy and compassion and can thereby show that same mercy and compassion to others.