The Man with the Withered Hand.
Matthew 12:9-10 “And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:
And behold, there was a man who had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? That they might accuse him.”
Jesus had been on a teaching tour through the cities of Israel. And now he was come to their synagogue.
The Pharisees had laid a trap for him, in the appearance of a man with a withered hand.
To have a deformity in Israel, was to be disgraced, for it meant that sin was somewhere in the family of the person. (They thought that this man had sinned, or someone in his family had sinned, and he was being punished for it.)
So the Pharisees asked a question, that they thought was pretty straight forward.
Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?
The Sabbath was the day of rest. A day which should be spent in contemplating God, and His Word. A day of fellowship with others of His people.
They were to do no work on the Sabbath, or it would be defiled.
But what is work, and what is mercy?
Jesus points out the difference.
Matthew 12:11-12 “And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
How much then is a man better that a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”
Would you save your one sheep? Your only sheep? Are you not commanded in the ceremonial law, to save a sheep, even of your neighbors? (Deuteronomy 22:4)
This is interesting. Jesus does not say one out of a hundred. Or a thousand.
That is exactly the way He feels about us. If He only came to save one, He would have.
We are that one. The man with the withered hand was that one.
He would save us, and He would save him.
So His question to the Pharisees was really:
would you save the one sheep you own; would you save your livelihood?
Or the livelihood of your neighbor?
He said the truth: of course they would.
Therefore, since they would save your one sheep on the sabbath, I will save this one man on the sabbath.
Also notice, the way He talked of the sheep: “if it fall into a pit”. Are we not also ready to fall into a pit, without His Salvation?
Christ’s answer showed God’s character.
The Sabbath was made for man to have rest with His God. It is lawful, then to show mercy on the sabbath days.
Matthew 12:13 “Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.”
This man with the withered hand had heard enough to know that the mercy of God was being extended to him. Did he believe it?
To believe Jesus and obey would cost him something. He would have to stretch out his hand for all to see his deformity.
It would cost him embarrassment.
(And how many of us would be stopped right here?)
It could also cost him the company of these people.
To obey Jesus might be dangerous, as these people were influential.
So, here is the choice: Jesus, and God’s mercy; or his normal existence, but accepted by the religious rulers.
Which would he do?
“And he stretched it forth.”
His choice was Jesus, and obedience. For it, he was healed.
But Jesus was also speaking to all who were there in the synagogue.
He was offering mercy to all those who heard Him: including those Pharisees, if they would simply submit to the truth and believe in Him.
But they refused to believe Him. They refused His healing their hearts.
Matthew 12:14 “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.”
God’s mercy and salvation was refused by them that day.
Their choice was to keep the life and influence they had; not to yield to the mercy offered.
How much they lost by their choice!
Jesus talked of saving the “one sheep”, because each of us are that one sheep.
He came to save us: from the guilt of sin, the power of sin, and one day from the presence of sin.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!