It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ 

Galatians 5:1

‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’

2 Corinthians 3:17

Found in Luke 13:6-19

Who knew that gravity was not the only force that could pull us to the ground? Who knew such small things as words had such weight? Just an audible exhale. Simple strings of letters. Words weighing nothing, as light as breath can drag a soul down, pinning the human spirit to the mat.

We know this because we’ve lived the truth of it in our hearts. The truth that words are anything but weightless. They build. They tear. They lift. They crush. We know the feeling. The feeling of the weight of words on our shoulders. Pressing. Pushing. These welting words of others can become the caves we dwell in. Our broken hearts rebuilt. Into prisons. Into caves.


And the Satan, the accuser, he dwells by our dark places and whispers from the shadows that despair is all there is. He may not possess us, but he can oppress us, using the pain of a thousand human words to draw our gaze from God, away from the light and further down into the cave of all our pain. 

This hiss on the wind delights to use our frailties against us, blinding us to the light and binding us to the belief we are unloved. It’s so easy to agree with the lies that devalue our souls and make ourselves at home in them. Not a happy home, but a familiar one. A home that silences any hope for more, any hope that life could be any different. It can be a crippling and a caging, this weighing down of hope.

“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.” Luke 13:10-11

This crippling and this caging of a soul, it’s all enough to tear a child of God to pieces. To rebuild them in a broken form, a bent form. A malformed version of the grace that once was them. Eighteen long turns around the sun is long enough to believe the lies that bind. To live there. Unquestioningly. Crippled not by bones and flesh, but by a spirit.

“She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.” Luke 13:10-11

We were not created to dwell in caves. We have been created by light, for light. The light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome by it (John 1: 5). This light, it makes all things visible, even the things nobody else is noticing, nobody else is seeing, like the broken heart of a broken soul. A crippled spirit chained in the dark.

Sometimes our brokenness is easy to see, like a broken leg, or an open wound, but broken hearts are less visible to the eye, unless of course that eye is God’s.

‘When Jesus saw her, he called her forward’ Luke 13:12

‘When Jesus saw her…’ . He sees her. She who few people noticed. Her insignificance would have been double, because she was a woman, because she was a crippled woman. 

Our beliefs form worlds around us and we dwell in our caves without question. This lady, she was in the synagogue, the same place where Jesus was and yet she had not come to Him for healing. She had grown accustomed to her cave. Her lack of wholeness felt like home. Her culture and community silently communicated to her that she would not even be noticed by this Rabbi. And her broken spirit beliefs about herself so bent her to the ground that all she saw was dirt, the dust of her own worthlessness, the mud of silent allegiance to the lie that had built her cave around her.  

In her darkness she did not see Him.

But He saw her. 

‘When Jesus saw her, he called her forward’ (Luke 13:12)

He saw her in the crowded throng of human ambivalence. He saw her in the echoing darkness of her cave. He saw her and He called her to Him. Forwards. Because moving towards Him is the only move forwards.

He sees her because He is a God who sees. He has always been this way, this man, this God. He has always seen the wood for the trees, the lost child in the crowd, the wondering wandering, the silent soul struggling. Every one of us.

He is a God who sees. Just as Hagar had realised a millennia before when she was running away on a road going nowhere, ‘You are the God who sees me,’ she had discovered  ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ (Genesis 16:13).

God saw Hagar lost in her desert just as Jesus sees this woman now, lost in the crowd, just as He sees us, whereever we’re at right now.

He sees her this day and He beckons her near. And every step taken in the direction of God always brings us a step closer to wholeness and hope, a step deeper into life and peace, a step nearer to true freedom. 

“When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity. Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13:12-13


She is set free. Freed. Loosed. Released. Not a body made well or cured from disease, but a soul made whole and released from its chains. Jesus lifts the weight off her back and breaks the shackles from her heart. This was not simply a physical illness to be cured, it was a spiritual shackle to be broken. She is not healed, but freed; freed like a caged bird set to wing, freed like a slave unshackled, unchained, freed like a burden lifted and a curse broken. She is freed from the weight that had borne her down. Freed from the cave of allegiance to lies. Freed from the power of the father of lies.

She had been carrying a weight she was never formed to bear, shackled to beliefs that had dragged her body down. The Satan had bound her in the cave of her belief. But Jesus won victory over him in the desert and every step He takes is a victory in light. The shadows flee, the shackles break and souls emerge from darkness into light. 

‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ 2 Corinthians 3:17

Where Jesus is, there is freedom. And now she stands, this woman, straight and tall and free and she praises God, with a heart learning anew how to sing. She praises because a heart set free is a heart that soars.

No more caves. 

God loves YHWH heals

But despairing, crippled spirit is not the only cave humans dwell in. Darkness weaves worlds around us in many forms, many shapes. Sometimes those worlds are forged in pride. Sometimes in religiosity. Sometimes in both. 

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” Luke 13:14

Jesus had just freed a woman from a crippling condition which she had been under for 18 years and the synagogue leader, he sees, not a soul restored, but a rule broken. 

Religion. Sometimes it can become, not a pathway to run along to find God, but an idol, a collection of human traditions pretending to point to God while usurping His throne in a human heart. When empty religiosity sits on the throne of a human heart, pride, blindness and envy is the fruit that is born. Fruit that defends a human kingdom rather than welcoming the Kingdom and presence of God. 


Religiosity notices the wrong things because it is seeing with faulty eyes. It misses the miracle, and sees the rule broken, it misses the mission-field and sees traditions threatened. It misses God, standing there in human form and sees the challenge to religious authority and control. 

Eyes. Such frail receptors for reality. Such faulty lenses through which to see the world. How often we tidy up reality so it fits within our view of it. We frame all we see with our attitudes, our coloured lenses. Sometimes these lenses are pride (like the Synagogue ruler) and sometimes they are our despair (like the woman). We either scorn what doesn’t suit our perceived view of reality or we simply don’t believe it when it challenges our belief systems. 

This pride and this despair, both keep human hearts imprisoned in a cave. Both are a form of blindness to the light. 

Jesus, He names things. He names things sometimes as they will be, breathing them into existence, and also sometimes as they are, bringing their existence to light. 

The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’ Luke 13:15-16

Jesus renamed this woman, reminding her of who she was: a ‘daughter of Abraham’; who they all were, children of the promise of God. Her despair, it had robbed her of her vocation, weighing her down and binding her up, blockading her soul from fulfilling her vocation as a child of God, a daughter of Abraham, blessed with God’s presence to bless the whole world. 

And this Synagogue ruler, Jesus also renamed him: Hypocrite (the greek word for a play actor).  His pride and religiosity had weighed him down and puffed him up, binding him up, blockading his soul from fulfilling his true vocation as a child of God, a son of Abraham, blessed with God’s presence to bless the whole world.

There is more than one way for a heart to be crippled. The synagogue ruler was crippled with pride and misguided religion bound by regulations. Pride can be the most dangerous malady of all, because it assumes it knows God’s mind and so becomes deaf to His voice and blind to His presence.  

Ironically, the God the synagogue ruler sought so meticulously to serve was standing there right before him but he was blinded to His presence by his religious dogma. 

So God in love admonishes Him. God is grace and truth, grace for the woman lost in a cave, truth for the synagogue leader lost in religious pride (John 1:14) (John 1:17).

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” Luke 13:17

This is one small story of two small lives meeting Jesus, but there is a deeper story going on behind this story of the crippled released and the proud humbled. This story is part of an older story, a longer story. Luke, the author who wrote this down, he bookends the story of this incident between two parables of two trees. Like right there in the middle, this story is the lived reality of the difference between these two trees.

Ultimately in the end, there are always two trees. The tree of our human pride and how we think things should be, and the Tree of Life, the Kingdom Life of God.


The first story of the first tree tells the tale of ‘how not to grow’ with an image of a fruitless fig. A fruitless Israel given one more chance. 

Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 

“For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” 

‘“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’ Luke 13:6-9

My Kingdom does not look like this Jesus is saying. Not like fruitless trees, empty rules, rituals and regulations, not like weights that sit on shoulders and bear backs to the ground. This is what my Kingdom looks like He says; children of the promise freed from despair, religiosity and pride humbled and released to partner with God in blessing this whole whirling world with the message of His love for them. The second story of the second tree…

Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’ Luke 13:18-19


Like a seed planted silent and small. A seed of hope planted deep in a beating heart. A seed that becomes a tree that produces yet more fruit, yet more seeds of hope in hearts. 

This mustard seed He is speaking of. It is small, but not at all the smallest. And a mustard tree is tall but not at all the tallest. The remarkable features of mustard trees are not their size, beauty, height or strength but their hardy ability to grow and spread, seeding and reseeding creating over time abundant and far reaching life.

Trees of life producing yet more trees of life. 

Empty religiosity cannot produce this life; this life of the Kingdom of God on earth, beginning with the smallest and humblest of seeds.

Who knew such a small thing could have so much weight? Who knew that gravity was not the only force at work on planet earth? Seeds weighing nothing, as light as breath, can begin a life, restore a spirit, free a soul. 

The weightlessness of a Kingdom come.

YHWH Jesus God

This Kingdom of God is not a religion, not an adherence to a code or a list of rules, but a growing flourishing, living, movement; seeding and spreading; starting small but stretching far, reaching out to every human heart. A Kingdom movement where in grace and truth the crippled are freed and the proud are humbled. Every one of us. 

Jesus came  not to create a religion but to ignite a revolution, not to correct our doctrine but to establish His Kingdom; a Kingdom revolution that starts as small as a tiny seed planted unseen in the earth. As unnoticed as an overlooked heart seen and called by God Himself. 

This Jesus, the one with Galilean dirt on His sandals and the depths of a thousand oceans in His eyes, He sees. He sees us all. We the ones caught in a crippling existence, we the ones caught in blinding pride. He sees us and He calls us to Him. Forward. He sees us and reaches out to us before we reach for Him. He sees us in our caves of despair and in our caverns of religiosity, in all the places where we attempt to live without Him. Without hope. Without truth. Without humility. And He comes to us to make us whole, reaching out to us with grace and truth. 

And every chain of the accuser is broken and all the weight of past wounds and words are lifted, and all the shackles of religious rules and regulations dissolve and we become weightless, as though gravity is undone. Freed at last to soar.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’

Galatians 5:1

The weightlessness of a Kingdom come.


Jesus God YHWH

Journalling the Journey

Take a moment to sit in the quiet space between your spirit and your soul and listen for God’s voice.

What beliefs do you currently have in your life that are at odds with the love and freedom God has for you?

What caves are there in your soul that you keep finding your self lost in?

What does God want to free you from?

‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’  2 Corinthians 3:17

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ Galatians 5:1



References, Notes and Credits

All Biblical quotations are from the NIV Bible UK version (NIVUK) unless otherwise stated. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


All photos are taken by myself (Liz Campbell) unless otherwise specified.

The photographs of three girls against the sunset are taken by Dan Evenhuis.

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