That’s better mama. It’s a thing we say in our house. A sign that something has been fixed. Something has been accomplished. That’s better mama. Something was wrong, out of whack, in the wrong place, something just wasn’t right and we made it right, we made it ... better. That’s better mama. Rhys said it first. When he was little. When he didn’t want to fix all his own problems. When he was under our care completely. When all his problems were relatively small ones, relatively fixable ones. He would come distraught about something, or confused by something, or uncomfortable with something and she’d fix it, like moms do, all the time. And he’d smile that little sunshine smile and say “that’s better mama.” And it was. Much better.
I miss my mama. Actually, I’ve missed her for a long time now. No, not just since her death or even since her dementia. Not just since her moving to Tennessee, either. It’s been longer than that. It was that moment when I realized that I couldn’t run and crawl in her lap and let her make everything right again. When the things that go bump in the night became real things instead of the workings of my imagination. And there was probably a time when I said I don’t need that any more. When I was glad to be out on my own. Solving my own problems, making my own way in the world, responsible for my own debts, my own growth, my own sense of better. There was a time when I was pretty sure I didn’t need her to make things better any more. I know more now. And the depth of my own need is one of those things. But at the time ...
It hurt her, I know that now. When I launched off on my own, stood on my own two feet, it hurt her. It made her proud too, I also know that. It was the way it was supposed to happen. It was what we were building toward. What she was making me better for, to be independent, to be capable of living in the world. But I know it hurt her when I said I don’t need you anymore. I don’t mean I was rude about it. No prodigal son running off and throwing family back in the face of those who had provided for you. No, it wasn’t an angry act, not a line in the sand act, not even a conscious act really. It just was. I just was. On my own. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard, for her, for me, the one who made things better and the one who was made better.
Luke 13:10-17 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." 15 But 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? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?" 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
He could have waited a day. A few hours really, until sunset, and the Sabbath would have been over and he would have saved a lot of grief. Would have satisfied the hardliners. Would have made things easier on himself. Maybe even the woman he healed that day, we don’t know but she may have been under attack by the same folks who were grumbling at Jesus. And yeah, it was a bunch. Not just the leader. He’s the one who voices the complaint. But the last verse reveals the rest. “All his opponents.” That’s a side you don’t want to be on. But why not wait? Why not make it easier on Himself and perhaps on her? On the followers later? On us, to be frank.
It seems spontaneous. He was there teaching on that day. Probably because that’s the day that folks might be willing to listen. Oh, I know He could draw a crowd any day, and did. But maybe it wasn’t the usual crowd He was wanting. Maybe it was the ones who only think of faith things once a week. Who think that maybe all this stuff doesn’t really matter to them, doesn’t really affect them. They’ve got lives to live and bills to pay, they’ve got family issues to solve and health issues to learn to live with. They’ve got plans to make and miles to go before they sleep. So, they make a deal with the Almighty, they’ll give Him an hour a week, and think that should cover it. Maybe those were the folks He was hoping to speak to, to connect with, to offer more.
But then in the midst of the teaching, she walked by. Hobbled by. Did she come to hear Him? Or was she just there, doing her Sabbath duty? Had she stopped looking for help? Maybe she just figured this was her life. This was what had been dealt to her and she was just living with it. Who knows? But Jesus saw her and called her over. Woman you are set free from your ailment. Set free. Not you are healed, not you are forgiven, not you are made well. This time Jesus says you are set free. I know, I know, we shouldn’t make too much of it. It’s all the same in the end, isn’t it? Just words. It all means the same. “That’s better mama.”
It is better. She is better. But is that all she is? Notice too that Jesus says “you are set free” and then touches her. Seems like he should have said “you’re about to be set free.” Or “hang on, freedom is coming.” Or “give me a sec, I’m gonna set you free.” Fix you up. Make you better. Unless. Maybe there are two things going on here. Maybe there is a setting free and then a healing. Maybe the ailment isn’t her physical condition. Maybe the physical condition is simply a sign of a deeper bend in her soul. That’s why in conversation with the complainer, Jesus says that Satan had bound her for eighteen long years. Maybe in year one she wasn’t as bent over. But the weight of the bondage almost broke her in half. What Jesus saw was a soul in torment twisting a body in pain. And wanted to set her free. Right now. Not one more minute. Sabbath day or not.
Which caused the problem. There are six days to work, couldn’t he have waited a few hours? No, he couldn’t. For two reasons. First of all, there was this woman, this child of God in bondage to pain, and He couldn’t let that go on one more second. He just couldn’t. And second, it was the Sabbath day.
Wait. It was the Sabbath day? He had to heal her on the Sabbath because it was the Sabbath? That doesn’t make any sense. The Sabbath day is for resting. For not doing anything. Sitting like a lump, which somehow honors God. Right? Hmm. Doesn’t feel right all of a sudden. The Pharisees had good intentions. Really, they did. They took one of the ten commandments and tried to put a fence around it. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Because God rested, we need to rest. Don’t work, just .. Sit there. So, the Pharisees came up with a whole pile of rules as to what constitutes work, and sneezing real hard broke a half dozen of them. They split the proverbial hair on this one. Even though splitting hairs was probably forbidden too.
For Jesus, however, it wasn’t about not working. It was about not working for you. Take a look at the commandment (this is the longest one, by the way, all that explaining. Exodus 20:8-11). Verse 9 says “Six days shall you labor and do all your work.” Your work. Caring for others wasn’t your work, it was your way of honoring God. For heaven’s sake, Jesus said, you’ve got provision for animals in your observance, why not a child of God?
Jesus had a different view of the Sabbath than the Pharisees. They were all about keeping yourself pure. He was all about honoring God. Serving God. Worship and praise with our lives and not just our words. Six days are yours, give God this one. Because this one is for honoring God. For setting free.
In Jesus’ view the woman needed healing because it was the Sabbath. Honoring God is setting people free. Because God is in the setting free business. So what else would you do on a day set aside to honor God? Woman ... Man... you are set free from your ailment. That’s better mama.