Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 12:10b (Holman) And in order to accuse Him they asked Him, “Is it
lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
The drama in our text revolves around three players: the man with a paralyzed hand, the religious leaders, and Jesus. Each has a lesson to teach us.
First, we learn from the man with a withered hand. Among the synagogue worshipers was an obscure unnamed man with a paralyzed hand. Though his case was obviously beyond medical help, he did not let bitterness keep him from God’s house. His hand had atrophied, but he used his feet to go to worship.
Disappointment is a bitter pill. If not swallowed with a sweet, submissive attitude, the bitter pill becomes a bitterness obsession. “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many” (HB 12:15). Bitterness nursed becomes a root exploding with poison, spreading venom within and spewing it on everyone else nearby.
Sheryl Giesbrecht tells of the anger she felt when her husband was fired from his job. When bitterness began to take root and paralyze them, Sheryl knew, “My husband and I had to give up our grudges, however, if we were to recover spiritually and be healthy emotionally” (Indeed magazine, August 2005, p. 50).
Letdowns abound: a dead end job, ho hum marriage, sick children, teens in trouble, failing parents. It’s easy to whine, “Life isn’t supposed to be this way.”
Be careful. Grumbling is dangerous. Learn from the anonymous man in our text. Even if our hands wither, make sure our feet carry us to the worship of God.
Second, from the religious leaders we learn how not to live. Better to have a paralyzed hand than an accusing hand pointing fingers of blame toward Jesus. If we ever lift a hand toward Jesus, make sure it is solely pointing others to Him.
The religious leaders were evil and callused. In God’s house they saw only a carpenter they deemed dangerous, and a handicapped man they disdained.
Believing illness was directly linked to sins, the leaders considered the man with a paralyzed hand a terrible sinner. They felt no compassion for him.
Everyone knew their snarling remark was aimed at the handicapped man. They were insensitive to him; he was but a lowly object lesson, a tool to be used.
The leaders, feeling no need to be taught, were not seeking information from Christ. They wanted evidence against Jesus to accuse Him in a court of law.
They hoped He would violate one of their nitpicking Sabbath laws so they could arrest Him. Seeking a legal indictment against Him, they wanted Him arrested and tried before a tribunal, which they of course were in charge of.
In the grainfield, Jesus’ arguments based on Scripture had been irrefutable, air-tight. Frustrated over their inability to trap Jesus through His words, they tried a different approach. They sought accusation against Him based on His actions.
By watching them, we learn how not to act. Being mean, they were the total antithesis to everything Jesus modeled and stood for. Christ-followers, remember the elementary lesson we teach our children. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (EP 4:32).
Third, we learn from Jesus. In this confrontation the leaders unintentionally paid our Master three huge compliments. First, they knew He wanted to make Sabbath a kind day. Second, they admitted they knew He had the power to heal. We will study these two compliments in our next lesson. Today we focus on their third unintentional compliment. They knew Jesus had a soft heart for the hurting.
The leaders were looking for a showdown, and knew they had found it when on the Sabbath they caught Jesus in the same synagogue with a handicapped man. All they needed to do was to make sure the man was not overlooked by Jesus.
They knew what Jesus would do if He saw the man’s plight. Christ always wanted to help. The religious leaders believed Jesus was so committed to the hurting that He would with no qualms break their Sabbath laws to heal the sick.
The leaders associated Jesus with the needy. Whom do people associate us with? They knew Jesus had a weakness, a soft heart, for people in pain. Do we?
They hated Jesus and despised the disenfranchised, but knew the two loved each other, and hoped this emotional bond would lead to the downfall of Christ.
Jesus responded to the man and the leaders in totally different ways. The former He healed, the latter He could not help because they would not let Him.
Jesus, uninterested in our self-sufficiency, does no mighty works in content, proud, satisfied people. Do we think we have strengths that wow an all-powerful God? He’s hard to impress. He wants to do us more good than we can do to Him.
“The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9a). He seeks opportunities to show His strength, to help yielded broken sinners who admit their weakness.
Jesus simultaneously modeled firmness toward the proud religious leaders, and softness toward the humble handicapped man. Our Savior showed flaming righteousness and gentle justice at the same time. The two traits belong together.
A rift we sadly endure is the false dichotomy USA believers often face. We often act as if we must choose to copy either God’s righteousness or God’s justice.
Conservative Bible-believing Christians are known for strongly advocating righteousness, but often appear weak on justice. We loudly support moral issues, but can be eerily quiet in caring for the poor and defending the disenfranchised. Liberal Christians are stereotyped as valuing God’s justice over His righteousness.
In this ongoing debate, some believers talk as if we have to prefer one trait over the other. I reject this notion in toto. There can be no dichotomy between the righteousness and justice of God because both are traits of the same God.
To prefer one trait of God over another would be tantamount to saying we like one part of God more than another. No human ever has the right to think this.
Effective Christ-followers are sold out imitators of every trait of God. We grasp His righteousness, taking His Word as Law, His moral standards as absolute.
At the same time, we revel in His justice. Making His work our work, we gently reach out to touch the widow, orphan, poor, aliens, and others in distress.
God forgive us for trying to separate traits He everlastingly joined together. Stand up for right, stoop down for the frail. Jesus did both. We must also.
Jesus boldly withstood the proud. He still does. Jesus blessed the weak. He still does. Being the Great Physician, Jesus is not looking for healthy folks.
He wants to find the sick in order to demonstrate His love. A physician would go out of business in a town where no one was ever sick. A medical doctor lives for the sick. A Savior does too. Jesus seeks wounded, pained people to help.
Jesus’ eyes rest on pain, broken-ness, and on sinners who are ready to cry out for forgiveness. His radar screen picks up problems He can fix, frailty, pain, insecurity. Whatever our personal need, Jesus has come here today to help.
If we have something broken that needs to be repaired, a loss to be restored, this is what Jesus does. If there were no broken hearts, no problems unsolved, no sins unforgiven, no loneliness, what need would there be for a Savior, a Rescuer?
Every individual in this room is needy. Some are fully aware of specific issues. Others are not as mindful of a pressing need. Knowing we always have spiritual needs, whether specifically known or not, is our key to spiritual growth.
Let Jesus do His wonderful work in us today. This He wants to do here. Hearts can be mended, sins forgiven, relationships restored, lives changed forever.