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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

A WITHERED HAND IS MADE WHOLE

Matt 12:9-14 And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: and, behold, there was a man, which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days, that they might accuse Him. 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 than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days. Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him. (Also see Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11)

Here we find proof that works of mercy, compassion, and kindness did not violate God's law of the Sabbath that was explained in verses 1-8 that precede the lesson text. Although both Matthew and Mark indirectly lead us to believe that this event took place on the Sabbath, Luke's account specifically states it as a fact. In order to teach as many Jews as possible about the kingdom of God being near at hand, it was Jesus' custom to enter into their synagogue. Having done so on this Sabbath day, Jesus met a man, which had his hand withered. Whether the hand had become useless and drawn because of paralysis or whether it had been deformed from birth, is not given in these gospel records. It doesn't seem to be significant, but Luke's record of this event tells us that his right hand was withered (Luke 6:6). Since the great majority of people are right handed, this indicates that it would be extremely difficult for this man to perform any work that would allow him to provide a living with the use of his hands.

In Matthew's gospel record the Jews are intentionally trying to find a reason that they might accuse Jesus of violating the Jewish laws of the Sabbath by, first, asking Him this question: Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? However, in the gospels of both Mark and Luke they state that, instead of the Pharisees questioning Jesus, they merely watched to see if He would heal the man on the Sabbath in order to accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath commandment given by God through Moses. Instead of the Jews questioning Him, this prompted Jesus to ask them a question: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill (Mark 3:4)?

Whether Jesus asked them this question or they asked a similar one, the example He gives would answer both questions. In the form of a rhetorical question, Jesus asks 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? Without doubt, the Jews assuredly took care of their physical possessions. They undoubtedly gave special, and careful, attention in tending their cattle, sheep, and goats, since they were used, not only for food, but were required for the religious sacrifices required under God's law. No doubt they religiously followed the commandment given in Proverbs 12:10, which says that a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Such an act of mercy to a sheep, or any other animal, was not only allowed on the Sabbath, but also it was a common practice among them to do so.

Then Jesus answers the question he posed to the Pharisees with another rhetorical question. He asked them, How much then is a man better than a sheep? The obvious answer is that mankind is much more precious in the eyes of God. Men and women were created in the image of God. And to prove that they were valued much more by God, He gave them dominion over all of His other creation - over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (See Gen. 1:26-31). It was evident that they could not answer Jesus' question without justifying His compassionate healing spirit for the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath. Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and, like God, had divine power and authority over all things, including the Sabbath days. Here, with the healing of the man's withered hand, is undeniable proof of the power of Christ Jesus, yet the self-righteous Pharisees still planned to destroy Him.