When Jesus freed the woman from satan’s chains on the sabbath, allowing her to lift her eyes to the heavens for the first time in 18 years, he was fulfilling the kingdom promises of the Old Testament. Every consequence of the fall had to be undone by the coming king, the second Adam, Jesus Christ. That’s largely what the coming of the kingdom meant, i.e., the restoration of man’s delegated dominion over God’s creation. And that included not only every physical infirmity, but also every form of spiritual bondage.
There are two justifications offered in the Law for the observance of the sabbath day. One is creation (Exod 20:8-11), and the other is redemption (Deut 5:12-15). Both of these reasons render the synagogue ruler’s commentary on the events absurd. Not only is the sabbath a reminder of mankind’s dominion over the works of God’s hands, and therefore a reminder of his privilege, not his burden, but it is also a reminder of Israel’s release from bondage in Egypt. And so, it points forward, not only to a restoration of the created order, where disease does not exist, but also to the coming deliverer who will bring in that restoration, by delivering us from the power of satan and sin and death. So, there could be no better day imaginable for this woman to be released from her chains than the sabbath day, a day that pointed forward to the full release from all the consequences of the fall.
The fact that Jesus healed the woman, particularly as it is noted to be a release from the bonds of satan, shows that the king has come. As ‘man-in-dominion’, i.e. as second Adam, exercises authority even over the Sabbath (Luke 6:5; Mark 2:27), and he does what the first Adam should have done (kicking satan out of the garden), by releasing this woman from satan’s chains. Not only did Jesus exercise dominion under God perfectly, he laid down his life, and broke the power of sin and death by his resurrection from the dead. Now, by sending us the Holy Spirit, he has given the church his kingdom (Luke 11:13; 12:32), together with dominion, inheritance, and every other spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, where we are seated with him (Eph. 2:6). We have the kingdom truly now. But we await the kingdom in its fulness. We live as restored men and women in a world not yet restored. And that explains the conflict with the world, with the flesh, and with the devil. And so, we long for Christ’s return, when our faith shall be sight, when no enemies remain.
And when he comes, it will be glorious for the subjects of the kingdom, who have repented and rested (again, note the sabbath’s purpose) in the finished work of Jesus. But for those who have not repented, it will be disastrous. And we get a small picture of the reversal in this very passage. The woman whom satan had humbled for 18 years is now freed and she glorifies God. The synagogue ruler, however, who exalted himself above others, was humiliated by the Lord (“all his adversaries were put to shame”).
Don’t be put to shame. Embrace the gospel of the kingdom of God. “ Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psa 2:12 ESV)