November 22, 2020
Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" - so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, "What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? "How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand!" He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him (Matthew 12:9-14).
The healing of the man with the withered hand occurred later on the same Sabbath day as the encounter with the Pharisees who criticized Jesus and the disciples for ‘harvesting’ and ‘reaping’ grain. The motive of Jesus for healing the man was the same as motive for plucking and eating the grain - human need is greater than the need of the Sabbath; ministry to the needy is more important than upholding the strict adherence to Sabbath observance.
Note the plan of the Pharisees. Did they stage this event? Did they bring this man to the synagogue knowing Jesus would be there to address the need of the person? Note also their eagerness to trap Jesus by posing the question before Jesus had the chance to respond to the man’s need. Note also the stated purpose - so that they might accuse Him. The same could be said of the Pharisees in the matter concerning the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3-11).
To what end did the Pharisees attack Jesus? It is stated plainly - But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. Early in His ministry the religious leaders planned to kill Jesus. This is murder, a breach of the 6th Commandment (Exodus 20:13). What motive did they have for this evil? Envy and jealousy. They hated His popularity, they were losing their influence, and they resolved to take him out of the way.
These men, who purported to be the servants and ministers of God, were in fact servants and ministers of Satan. They were ‘whitewashed sepulchers’, like the Taj Mahal, glorious on the outside but filled with death on the inside. Religion often is that way. History proves it. Wars have begun over religious differences. Millions of people have been slaughtered because of religious fanaticism. It is true today. The religion of men has taken the place of a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It has been the greatest tool of Satan in blinding people to the truth of God. Will we ever learn? Chances are - no.
“Father, forgive us for honoring religion over a personal relationship with You. In many ways we are no different today than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Our religion is often dead, empty, self-serving, and dangerous - blinding the spiritual eyes of those who harm others in the name of religious fanaticism. Open our understanding to the truth of Jesus Christ. Humble us by Your mighty hand that we may be genuine servants of Your Kingdom. In Jesus I ask, Amen.”