Partial View Seats: Reflections on Luke 13:10-17

Lectionary Reflections
Luke 13:10-17
August 25, 2013

Many of the top Broadway shows offer significant price discounts for partial view, obstructed view, limited view, and poor audio seat locations in the theatre. These are seats that will miss some of the action on stage due to the stage scenery or physical theatre restrictions like support columns or mezzanine overhangs. Some Broadway shows offer these discount tickets at the very front and sides of the orchestra, where audio is sometimes inferior and the sight lines to the stage are often impaired, as you may have to have to turn your head to see all the stage, or activity at the other far side of the stage. Other theatres offer this ticket discount on some of the rear mezzanine tickets, where you might not be able to see things that are high up, or even above, the stage.

The words Partial View are always printed on the ticket, so you'll know you haven't purchased a full-view ticket and this will affect resale value if you cannot make it to the show.

While most ticket buyers are initially resistant to the idea of getting partial view tickets, in cases where you stand to get a good discount, buying them is often a smart move. The truth is, many of the partial view seats at Broadway shows are still very good, and you miss a relatively small amount of the action. Most Broadway shows are very up front about telling you exactly what you will miss or what the problems and/or obstructions are with regard to the partial view tickets.

Some enterprising Broadway producers will actually sell partial view or obstructed view tickets at the regular full ticket price. They don't hide the fact that these tickets are obstructed, they just take the stance that if the show is 100 percent sold out, they can afford to sell you their worst tickets for the same price of a good seat as they are the only tickets available.

The Bent-Over Woman's Partial View Seat

In the story of the healing of the bent over woman in Luke 13:10-17, she has a partial view seat in life. The text uses the strange expression "spirit of sickness" or "spirit of infirmity," interpreting it as a physical effect caused by demonic power, not demon possession of the personality. (See 4:33, 4:38ff, 7:21, 8:2 where people are shown to be "healed" from evil spirits.) (Ellis, 186) Whatever it is, it controls her; it burdens her, bends her double, and blocks her. Perhaps she has been abused and oppressed. Perhaps her backbone is broken. Whatever the infirmity, she cannot stand of her own accord. She cannot walk upright. She can direct her gaze only to the ground below. Her horizon has narrowed. She has suffered a loss of human dignity, breadth, and freedom for eighteen years. (Grun, 39-40)

The Synagogue Leader's Partial View Seat

The synagogue leader is not uncomfortable because Jesus healed someone, but because this healing occurred on the Lord's Day. Healing was seen as work and therefore prohibited. The Jewish Sabbath commemorates the seventh day on which God rested. Hence it is literally the Lord's Day. Regulations against work on the Sabbath were originally intended to give everyone access to this life in the Lord. But, from where Jesus sat or stood, Sabbath regulations no longer provided the spiritual renewal they originally had been intended to provide. The Qumran sectarians were even stricter about Sabbath rules than the Pharisees. Their Sabbath rules applied even to a suffering animal or man whose life was endangered. (Patella, 93)

The synagogue leader was not happy with the healing because he was focused on its being done at the wrong time. He sees the healing as a human work. Jesus sees it as an action of God. For Jesus, the law is not more important than human beings. From where Jesus stands, what better way to honor the Sabbath than by setting a captive free? When Jesus heals her, "immediately she stood up straight and began praising God" (Lk. 13:13). She was free from her infirmity and her shame. The synagogue leader then speaks up and tries to drown out her praises to God by chastising the one who has healed her. This is a similar sequence to the anointing at Bethany in the 14th chapter of Mark. He seeks to make her feel shame for having come to the synagogue in her condition in the hopes of being noticed by Jesus. But at the end of this story the woman walks out of the synagogue erect, dignified, and joyful, to the cheers of the crowd (Farley, 265-66).

Jesus' Front Row Seat

Roman Catholic New Testament scholar Wendy Cotter, in her book The Christ of the Miracle Stories: Portrait through Encounter, points out that the way the miracle stories are told puts Jesus in the spotlight. The stories presume an audience eager to observe Jesus' manner of receiving petitioners who are imperfect, poor, rude, rough, and objectionable to polite society. Jesus' healing of strangers shows how he receives people who are on the fringes of society (Mk. 1:40-45, 10:46-52), non elites/working people (Mk. 2:1-12), and foreigners who would ordinarily be deliberately avoided (Lk. 7:5-12). Petitioners are received with the same equanimity, respect, and concern no matter their background or status (Cotter, 255).