What’s special about the number eighteen? When you’re eighteen-years-old you can get married, you can vote, you can enlist in the United States military... That’s important. But, is the number eighteen Scripturally significant? The number shows up a few times in the Old Testament, but only three times in the New Testament, each in the thirteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 13:4, 11, 16).
Luke’s thirteenth chapter opens as “some people came and reported to (Jesus) about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). Apparently, Pontius Pilate had executed a group of Galilean worshipers. Sad!
Jesus’ response is interesting. He asked the folks if they believed that these murdered worshippers were more deserving of judgement and death than others. “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans?” (Luke 13:2). Jesus answered the question. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well” (Luke 13:3).
Following the same line of questioning, Jesus reminded the group about another tragedy. “Those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well” (Luke 13:4–5 (CSB). Eighteen people died when a tower on the outer wall of Jerusalem collapsed. Eighteen...
A few verses down we read: “As he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for over eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all” (Luke 13:10–17). Crippled. Stooped. For eighteen years. Eighteen...
There’s nothing particularly special about the number eighteen, but there are no coincidences with God. Eighteen people died and the woman suffered for eighteen years. Mysteriously, the number eighteen seems to connect these two events.
So, let me ask: Who deserves to be punished? Or a better question: Who deserves God’s great grace and miraculous mercy?
Satan was given permission to plague “Job with terrible boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (Job 2:7) even though Job “was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). The Apostle Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh... a messenger of Satan to torment...” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Neither Job nor Paul deserved punishment any more than the next guy, but neither did they deserve God’s grace.
Similarly, Satan had “bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for eighteen years” (Luke 13:16). She was a “daughter of Abraham,” the father of the faithful. With extraordinary effort, she had shuffled into the synagogue to hear the reading and teaching of the Scriptures. She wasn’t more deserving of God’s wrath than the others.
Nor was she more deserving of His amazing grace! We can’t suppose that she was the only person in the synagogue with troubles. Others were sick. Others came faithfully to the synagogue to hear God’s message expounded. By grace, Jesus “called out to her, ‘Woman, you are free of your disability’ ” (Luke 13:12–13). With her back bent painfully and with her eyes focused only on the cobblestone floor, she craned her neck painfully upward to look toward the voice. As Jesus stepped closer, “he laid his hands on her, and instantly she was restored” (Luke 13:13). For the first time in eighteen years, the woman stood erect, looking into the kind eyes of her Savior. Naturally, she “began to glorify God” (Luke 13:13).
Whether you are eighteen or eighty-one, “unless you repent, you will all perish!” We all deserve God’s judgement and eternal death. “There is no one righteous, not even one”(Romans 3:10), “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4–5).
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.