Jesus went to one of the synagogues one Saturday. Close to the front sat the leaders. Then by age and status back and back. Behind a divider, in the back of the room, sat the women.

When we think religious gathering places, we think big. Small churches seat 100 people. A synagogue in the countryside of Israel at the time of Jesus would be smaller, and full. All the fuller because Jesus was in this one on this day teaching. People came and listened hard. People from the countryside around the town. People traveling to wherever Jesus was teaching. And healing.

People came to where Jesus was because they wanted to be healed more than they came because they wanted to hear him teach or wanted to hear him take on the religious leaders. Humans love to see authorities disrupted. Humans love to learn from compelling teachers. But when we are in pain, what we most want is to have the pain gone. And often this means we want to be healed.

(I say often, because sometimes we are comfortable with the pain, with the identity of the pain. Sometimes we would rather not make the changes that can bring actual healing. But most of the time, we want to be healed.)

And on this day in this full synagogue, at the front sat Jesus, teaching. At the back among the women was a woman. Whatever her age, for 18 years she had been bent over. Unable to stand straight, to face friends, to work easily.

She was burdened. Luke said she was crippled by a spirit. She was oppressed. There was a spiritual cause, outside her body, for the problem that was plaguing her.

Jesus called her to the front. It was a slow journey as he waited. A spirit-oppressed, handicapped, spiritually-despised woman, shuffling from the safety of the back to the judgment of the front. Every meter she moved was physically, socially, spiritually hard. The only upside was that Jesus was the one who called to her, who was waiting for her, who was inviting her.

The first male face she saw eye to eye in 18 years, was Jesus.

That’s why she made the long walk.

She stood straight. She saw Jesus. She praised God.