After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Heals a Man’s Withered Hand
He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”–so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
This post will address our passage from a perspective related to the miracle, but has been considered in two posts earlier. If the reader would like to consider them, links follow.
- Jesus on the Sabbath – Part 5 – An Accusation – This post is my effort to describe Jesus effort to wake up the religiously faithful to the importance of people over a practice, habit or religious habit.
- Jesus on the Sabbath – Part 6 – A Withering Response – This post was a quick review on the healing of the man with the withered hand and the logic the Lord used (and it’s implications!) to justify this act of mercy, even on the Sabbath. How dare He?
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
The faithful were in the synagogue, along with Jesus’ disciples (it is assumed). The ever present judging Pharisees and scribes were available, to discern the Lord’s works and determine if He really is the Messiah. See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #7 – Jesus Cleanses a Man With Leprosy for background as to the reason for the Pharisees and scribes were in attendance of the Lord’s ministry of teaching!
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
The Pharisees asked a question of the Lord. This Sabbath question was a paramount issue for the Pharisees, for it became the center of thier disputes with the Lord in many of their discussions/debates.
“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
The Pharisees came out with a simple question, at it’s face value, for it must be obvious that since the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments, it must overrule any type of healing. After all, healings, if to be performed, could be done on the other six days of the week, to allow, no – to keep the Sabbath holy.
This very logic is what I believe propelled the Lord to heal on the Sabbath. The miracle was incredible, but the message was blasphemous, unless of course, a greater authority than the Ten Commandments was present. Two options, it seems to me, were available to the Pharisees
- Admit that their reading of the Law was in error, and that the Sabbath was subservient to this renegade Rabbi, eventually admitting to His Messiahship.
- Hang on to their religious heritage, and the current teaching of the Pharisees, under the cloak of faithfulness, and begin to plot His destruction. (Hopefully they would not destroy the Son of Man on the Sabbath though!)
On a positive note, the Pharisees eventually did learn not to ask the Master any questions, since He constantly responded with flawless logic, showing their weakness of understanding of the Word.
I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?
The Lord asked a question, after He recognized the Pharisees and scribes in attendance at the synagogue. He knew their thoughts (Luke 6:8), understood their mission, and gave them a challenge in regard to their sacred Sabbath laws.
What is the intent of the Sabbath in relation to the law? To do good or bad?
A little later in the book of Matthew, Jesus used a “greater than” argument, (Matthew 12:6, 12:41 and 12:42) but in this case, He compared good with harm, saving and destroying. He is not mincing words when He lays the gauntlet down, for He is teaching with authority, with a miracle about to happen that will reinforce this teaching. It will either light the Pharisee’s on fire for Him, or enrage them with fury towards Him. Sadly, we know which road they took!
What was the message for the original audience?
For the fringe element within the synagogue, they saw a young rabbi discuss a core doctrine of Jewish faith with the Master’s of the religion. A simple question seemed to nail the experts to the wall, with the following miracle seemingly closing the door to any argument. Those in this fringe group, listening in on the discussion with the Pharisees, and watching the healing had enough to make a decision on the importance of this rabbi.
As for the Pharisees, Jesus again linked His teaching with a miracle that was directly from on high, reinforcing the message and the Messenger. The Pharisees eyes saw a miraculous healing, but their ears refused to hear and admit to the truth. The Pharisees refused to consider that the rabbi before them may actually be the long awaited Messiah, whom they had thought they wanted.
It seems the Pharisees were not wanting to adjust their desired understanding of the Messiah based on truth and works proving such a person. They wanted a Messiah that would be as they expected, to fit their own ideas, serve their purposes. When One came that proved His identity over and over again, yet didn’t fit their preconceived ideas, they refused to repent.
I am afraid this may be a common problem amongst the faithful.
What is the message for us today?
In the Markan account, the 5th verse, the Scripture speaks of Jesus looking at “them” with anger, being grieved at thier hardness of heart. I am assuming those He was specifically looking at were the Pharisees, since the discussion was centered on the Sabbath’s intent in relation to the law, and they were the experts. He was angry with those who would eventually nail Him to a cross, but His anger was centered on their refusal to respond and thier hardness of heart.
Jesus was angry.
The term “angry” is the Greek word ὀργή, transliterated to orgē, and is found in the gospels only five times. That is amazing in itself, but what I find incredible is that this is the only passage where it describes the anger as belonging to Jesus. The other four instances speak of wrath to come, or the wrath of God on a sinner prior to faith (John 3:36).
Where are you going with this Carl?
The message I am beginning to see out of this passage is somewhat surprising to me. Understanding the inner reaction of Jesus towards those who were seeking His failure as Messiah (and His eventual death), Jesus reacted by healing a man. He did not strike them with fire from heaven, or call down twelve thousand angels to wreak havoc on them. He sent a message. He healed a man!
Consider the Messiah in this instance. He sent a message that should shake these men to the core by convicting them of their error through doing good to a poor man with a withered hand. Conviction of error was communicated to men by way of goodness, by way of healing. He, while experiencing anger, provided a healing for a man, and sent a message of truth and conviction to the Pharisees. This is amazing! When was the last time, in the throws of an “angerfest”, you decided to bless someone?
Did the Pharisees experience shame in the midst of the synagogue attendants? It seems obvious by the way they reacted! Surely, the logic and miraculous healing proved Jesus to be in the right, and therefore the experts to be in the wrong! Yet this was a message of mercy to the Pharisees. Jesus continues to provide these messages of mercy to us as we walk with Him.
Consider the next time a period of shame comes into your life. You may be experiencing shame even as you read this, having difficulty facing your friends or family due to some known error in your life. No fun! Not a pleasurable experience!
But let me ask you – How do you react when shame or embarrassment comes into your life? Think of those proud Pharisees and their decision to refuse to learn from the shame. They were fighting with the Messiah of God, and the end result was personal destruction, and to pull their beloved nation closer to utter collapse within 40 years.
Granted, I do not think any believer reading this post has a nation depending on their decisions for survival, but each reader does have the opportunity to react to personal shame in a positive manner, admitting to errors and exercising humility, even as our Master has practiced, even the sinless Son of Man!
We aren’t perfect, and we need to walk humbly with our God, knowing of His mighty mercy and our tendency to react poorly to His correction.
He really is good! Try to remember that!
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