What an invitation! A man with a withered hand was in the synagogue when Jesus came in to teach. As I am preparing this meditation, I am still sporting two external pins in the little finger of my right hand, and it makes me painfully aware of how debilitating it would be to live life without a functional right hand! Even basic self care and simple household chores like preparing and cleaning up meals, washing and folding clothes, ironing, cleaning, shopping, trying to write—everything is harder, and some things simply can’t be done with one hand. How much harder must it have been for a man in the agrarian culture of ancient Israel, where his livelihood probably required the strength of two hands and arms. Clearly, he needed help!!
Reading the passages (listed below), it is despicably obvious that the religious leaders had no compassion. (Lord, is it I?) They weren’t hoping that the man with the withered hand might be healed; they were just looking for an excuse to accuse Jesus of breaking some law so they could stone him and get rid of him. Why did they want to get rid of him? Because he was incredibly popular, and they feared losing their power over the people. That’s it? Yep! Pretty much! Well, they also didn’t understand him, and they didn’t like his unconventional approach to life.
Jesus knew their thoughts. He knew they were plotting to kill him . . . on the sabbath day. He was angry and grieved because they were so hard hearted, so he said to them: “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?”
The Pharisees were totally unconcerned for the man with the withered hand, so they didn’t answer. To them, it was like playing a chess game, or worse yet, they were like hungry tigers prowling around, just hoping for Jesus to make a false move so they could trap and destroy him.
In a stunning display of power and wisdom, Jesus simply told the man to stretch out his hand, which the man did, and when he did, he was instantly healed! Good overcame evil! The Pharisees left to plot Jesus’s murder while I imagine there was great rejoicing within the synagogue. No one who saw this miracle would ever forget! In fact, it says that after this event, Jesus “withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all” (Matthew 12:9-15). He healed them all—not a few, not some, but all of them!
The scriptures don’t tell us how the man’s hand became withered. It could have been caused by a careless accident on his part, or disease, or as the result of his very heroically trying to save someone. The cause of the problem was not an issue, but the man’s faith was. He had to attempt to reach out. He might have said, “Why are you asking me to do something I can’t do?” or “Heal me first, and then I’ll stretch out my hand.” But, he didn’t! Instead, the man with the withered hand obeyed Jesus, stretched out his hand and was made whole!
Lots of thoughts flood my mind while considering this passage:
*Is there any part of me (like my heart) that is withered?
*Am I jealous of anybody who is doing God’s work in a novel way?
*Am I so focused on keeping the laws that I fail to focus on compassionate care?
*Am I willing to stretch out my hand?
*Am I afraid that God can’t or won’t heal me because my problems are “my fault”?
Jesus is still working miracles of healing today. Sometimes he cures physical problems, but most significantly, He heals our spiritual diseases, forgives our sins, and transforms our lives. Are you feeling a need for healing, hope, renewal, strength? I feel a need every day! As D.L. Moody used to say, we are “leaky vessels” and need constant refilling with the Holy Spirit! If so, will you join me in this prayer? “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.6 I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.7 Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit” (Psalm 143:5-7).
Texts for today’s meditation: “And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:10 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.11 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?12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.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.14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.15 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all” (Matthew 12:9-15).
he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a
withered hand.2 And they watched him, whether he would
heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.3 And
he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.4 And
he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil?
to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.5 And
when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the
hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And
he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.6 And
the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians
against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:1-6).
“Then said Jesus unto
them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or
to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?10 And
looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy
hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.11 And
they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do
to Jesus” (Luke 6:9-11).