Meditating on the Commands of Christ (36): Blinding Ourselves

One of the most difficult passages in the entire Bible (at least to me) is found in Matthew 5:29 (ESV), “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” I take everything very literally and seriously, so for years I wrestled with these haunting questions: “Does God really want each of us to blind ourselves so that we aren’t tempted to sin? If so, does he really want everyone in the entire world to go around blind? How would we survive???”

Can you imagine living in a world where none of us could see anything? What if we all really did poke out our eyes? What if the sun set and never rose again in our vision? What if we had to live in a world that was completely devoid of light and sight?

I don’t intentionally seek out at evil images, but over the course of my life, I have certainly seen things that triggered offensive thoughts. “Well” (I reasoned within myself), “Jesus didn’t say to pluck out both our eyes, just our right eye, so maybe we’d all have one eye left.” But if you’ve ever injured one eye (as I have), you’ll know that without two eyes, we don’t have depth perception, which is crucial for driving and really essential for many types of work (power equipment; even threading a sewing needle) and play (catching a ball, etc.)

God created us with eyes to see, both for our protection and for our pleasure, but I think Jesus was absolutely sincere when he said that it would be better for us to lose something essential for optimal well being in the present in order to preserve ourselves from future disaster. Would you agree with that? That much definitely makes sense to me.

Here’s what I think Jesus was actually teaching us: “Do whatever you need to do in the way of restricting yourself in order to keep from tempting yourself with evil.”

If you think about it logically, our eyes are organs in our body which are not moral agents. The eye does not literally “cause us to sin.” The eye opens and shuts either as a reflex or in response to our brain sending the message to our eye. The eye is a servant to our mind and will. As Jesus taught in Mark 7:20-22, “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” So, it’s not literally our eyes that cause us to sin. Evil doesn’t start with the eye. Sin doesn’t originate in our literal, physical eye, nor can you eradicate sin by destroying your physical eyes. Temptation and sin come from deep within our heads and hearts.

Does that let us off the hook? Well, it keeps us from needing to literally gouge out our eye if we sin, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of what Jesus is teaching in any way. Allowing ourselves to look at (consider) anything that tempts us to sin is like gouging out our spiritual eyes! Sin will blind us and make it impossible to see truth. We will be stumbling around in the dark spiritually.

Slieve League: One of the Highest Sea Cliffs in Europe

This is far more deadly than stumbling around in the dark physically. So, we can either gouge out our eyes metaphorically by restricting ourselves from temptation, or (in effect) gouge out our spiritual eyes so that we are blind to sin and truth. If we choose the second option, Jesus warns that our whole body might be cast into hell! If you are indulging in evil, know that you are like a blind person walking toward the edge of a precipice with no wall to stop you (such as is true at Slieve League in Ireland). Even worse, spiritual blindness leads to the danger of being thrown into hell, which is infinitely worse than being physically blind and falling off a cliff.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (35): “Agree with Your Adversary.” ??

Do you have an adversary? Somebody who opposes you at every turn? You may not have a true enemy (although around the world, I know many who do), but I think all of us can think of someone who tends to oppose us on a consistent basis.

Family of Canada Geese having breakfast at our cottage

If there were someone in my life who fit that description, I would not post a photo of them or tell their story at any rate, so I’ll use the Canada geese, who’ve been driving us nuts by gobbling up all our grass seed, the deer, who like to devour our flowers, the squirrels, who hang upside down from our bird feeder in order to steal the birds’ food, and the birds, who strip our cherry trees before the fruit has a chance to ripen, leaving the ground littered with merely pecked-at fruit!

Squirrel stealing our birds’ food

These are not serious offenders compared to what humans do to one another, but I think they will suffice as gentle illustrations for what Jesus wants us to understand.

One of the deer who check our flower pot each morning in hopes of finding tasty flowers

Both Matthew and Luke recount the same command, which puzzled me for many years. Matthew 5:25-26 states, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” This message is repeated in Luke 12:58-59, “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.

Male Cardinal in our Bing Cherry Tree

For years I was stumped by this, thinking that we should never back down from a fight. I mean, aren’t we supposed to stand against sin and evil? This thinking was reinforced by such verses as, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Ah, the pride of youth!

Hairy Woodpecker

The verses in today’s meditation are pointing out the likelihood of each of us to be wrong! Jesus didn’t say to give in to evil (which we are taught to stand against), but to learn how to compromise with our “adversaries” . . . those whose views oppose ours.

Canada Goose with gosling . . . gobbling up our grass seed! 😦

In the case of our geese, they leave droppings everywhere and are busy eating up all the fresh grass seed, which we just planted now that most of the construction is complete. My contention is that my grandchildren are coming, and I would like them to be able to play in grass rather than slip and slide in muddy goose droppings!

Pair of Canada geese with young family

Their contention is that they have a big family to rear, and I usually don’t complain about their pecking through our grass, who why should I complain now? Mother Goose says I’ve stopped being a very nice neighbor.

Robin feeding chicks

If we were taken to the Great Judge, who do you think would win the case? I’m not sure. Feeding your family is more important than having a grassy yard, but on the other hand, if the geese would eat elsewhere this summer (and there are plenty of lawns around our lake), they would be rewarded by abundant grass for pecking next year, so perhaps the judge would rule in favor of our being able to shoo them off! Besides, there is such a thing as private property . . . but, Canada geese are protected by law too. So . . .?? If I had everybody vote, I’ll bet there would be people on both sides of the issue!

So it is with all of life. Each of us has a different sets of needs and wants, and all of us tend to see “our side” of issues as having more value and weight. But, God wants us to learn how to figure out a compromise that meets the needs of all parties concerned!

Reddish Egret

And, to prod us in the direction of love and understanding, he warns us that things can get really ugly if we don’t figure things out on our own. If we fail to work things out, we might end up on the wrong side of the verdict, and once an issue goes before the court, even though we feel dead sure that we are right, the judge might decide we’re dead wrong. We might end up in a lot of trouble for a long time. And, once you’re in jail, it becomes a bit of a moot issue whether or not your behavior was justified. The bigger issue is that you are no longer able to live your life freely .

Queen Elizabeth I of England, 1575, Public Domain

The first Queen Elizabeth of England (who was later crowned queen in 1559), while in prison lamented that she wished she could trade places with the milk maid outside her prison walls just so she could be free again. So, it’s not simply about being “right,” it’s about learning how to live with those around you, how to love others too (not just yourself), and how to live in harmony with others as much as is possible. Humility, not pride, should reign supreme in our hearts!

Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (34): The Sweet Relief of Reconciliation

Matthew 5:23-24 “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” This is the first less-than-imperative “command” of Christ that I’m going to tackle. While meditating through the gospels last year, I found 33 such teachings and wondered if these “If-then” declarations should be included as commands, since technically they are “conditional” rather than “imperative” statements. So, do we “have” to obey them? Only if the first part of the statement is true: If we want to give something to the Lord, then God wants us to be reconciled to anyone who has something against us first.

Do you want to give something to the Lord? I do. My life. My heart. My thoughts. My actions. I want my life to be a gift to God that makes him happy. Do you feel that way? If so, then God says the first gift we can give him is this: We should seek forgiveness for how we’ve hurt our loved ones and reconcile with them. God loves each of us so much that he identifies with each person’s pain. He doesn’t want any of his children left out or left behind! “Trinity” comes from two words meaning “tri-unity.” God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are often defined by their being three in one. “Three-way UNITY!”

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, recorded in John 17:21-23, he prays: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us . . that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” God wants us to live in love and unity with one another even more than he wants us to give him any other type of gift!

Wow! This says something profound about how highly God values unity and how deeply he desires it. Jesus prayed to his father for unity in the Church. Reconciliation is a precious gift that we can give him. No where does Jesus command us to give God anything! Did you know that? Although the word “give” is mentioned 1392 times in the Bible (KJV), in the New Testament it isn’t until Judgment Day that we are told, “Fear God, and give glory to him” (Revelation 14:7).

The vast majority of times giving is mentioned, it is in the context of God giving to us, and our giving to other people. It’s like the runoff of rain on our roof. God showers us—our home—with blessings, and the runoff waters the gardens of loved ones—friends and neighbors—all around us. We live in a vast spiritual ecosystem of clouds, rain, runoff, streams, lakes, oceans, transpiration and evaporation, only it’s not literal water that our spirits crave, but receiving and giving love and forgiveness.

How do we seek forgiveness and reconciliation? I think we can start by asking God to show us how we’ve hurt the other person (which we may never fully comprehend) and to help us understand how they feel. We need to repent—to be genuinely sorry—so sorry that we will go way out of our way to make sure we don’t do the same thing again—and then to seek their forgiveness.

What if they won’t forgive us? “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Proverbs 18:19). I have seen this dynamic over and over again! Even if the offender repents, the offended person is often unwilling to forgive, because to forgive means the offended person has to absorb the pain and suffering caused by the offender, while the offender “gets off scott free.” Many people choose to hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, but this is not the way of Christ, who prayed for those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). I think it is only through a deep experience of God’s forgiveness and love for us that we are able to truly forgive those who have hurt us. This is the way of Christ . . . and the way of the cross.

If you have sincerely repented and tried to reconcile, but without success, don’t despair. Just as we persevere in prayers for our loved ones to trust Christ as their savior, so we need to persevere in prayer for those we’ve offended to find the grace to forgive us. There is sweet relief in reconciliation, and that is our calling, so don’t give up, but don’t let disunity discourage you from faith. Keep your faith in God. Keep looking up and find your joy in him! Remember that someday He will bring unity and peace to earth. In the meantime, we can “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11, ESV), and we can practice: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (33): Did Jesus Nullify the Old Testament Law?

Many people—even Christians—seem to think that the Old Testament code of ethics is no longer valid for today. After all, Jesus kept the Old Testament law perfectly, died for our sins (including all the ways in which we’ve failed to keep the Law), and now all we have to do is believe in Jesus and not worry about the Law, right?

Wrong! In Matthew 5:17, Jesus explained, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” His goal was not to make the Old Testament instructions null and void, but rather to prove—once and for all—that the Law is good, that it is possible for humans to keep the Law, and that God gave his laws to us for our good, so that by keeping them we can experience a life of righteousness, peace, and blessing.

Which laws are we still supposed to keep? Well, there are various opinions on the subject, but the New Testament is clear that for non-Jewish people who believe in Christ, there are a few basic rules to keep: “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:19-20). That’s a pretty short list, but it includes idolatry, fornication, and drinking blood. If you’re still having a problem with worshiping yourself (which comes out as doing “that which is right in your own eyes” rather than obeying the teachings of the New Testament), or with sexual immorality, then you’re still sitting at the starting line and haven’t really taken off on the path toward holiness.

But, what about all the Old Testament laws? Are they no longer valuable as guides for daily life? I believe they are, but not as “We’ll be damned if we don’t” but as guides to healthy, happy living. Many of them are moot issues today. We don’t make clothing out of linen and wool, and we don’t seethe kids in their mother’s milk. We don’t (usually) forage for birds eggs, and those of us who keep laying hens don’t kill the hens who are producing the eggs . . . for obvious reasons!

What about keeping the Sabbath Day holy? What’s not to love about a day of rest? Why fight it? Why not make space in our lives for worship, for fellowship . . . for that “margin” everybody talks about not having but desperately needing?! I’m convinced that all the regulations God gives us, both those He gave to the Jews in the Old Testament, and the many instructions we’re given in the New Testament, are there to teach us the way of wisdom and truth. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). All that God has given us in the way of laws and instructions are for our own good, to teach us what is right and good, to protect us from harm, and to help us experience an abundant, blessed life!

What about the Ten Commandments? Jews, Christians, and most non-believers around the world still believe in the goodness of not lying, not killing, not stealing, not cheating on your partner, honoring your parents, and not pining for what belongs to someone else. Right? Various religions fight over who the true God is, but they all believe in worshiping God. Even though these laws were commanded in the Old Testament, they are all verified again in the New Testament, even the Sabbath, where Jesus points out that “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). That doesn’t mean having a sabbath rest is no longer good for us; it means just the opposite! We don’t have to keep the sabbath, but a sabbath rest is good for us. We don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments to enter heaven, but we should keep them because they’re good for us—and for everyone else! And, if we don’t learn how to live morally upright lives, sooner or later we’re going to run into problems with our friends, our neighbors, and even the police!!

Let’s be good Christ followers, keeping the way of wisdom as set out for us in the New Testament! Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly, not to destroy it, but to prove its inherent goodness and value.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That’s “ALL!”

The beautiful illustrations above are used by permission of Yongsung Kim. His website and gallery of paintings can be found here: http://Havenlight.com

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (32): Let Your Light Shine

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ). In this passage, Jesus tells us that we are both salt and light. Salt flavors and heals. Light helps us see. Salt is a hard mineral—tiny bits of rock with sharp edges; it can cause a lot of pain if it gets in our eyes. Light seems almost metaphysical (although it isn’t); without light, we can’t see anything, but too much light can blind us. Salt makes our food taste better; light makes our world look better. Too much salt makes our food inedible. Too much light makes it impossible to see anything. How can we be salt and light in a way that brings healing without the hurt and light without the blindness?

Presque Isle Lighthouse in Marquette, Michigan

For one thing, Jesus wants us to shine like a lantern, or like the lamp in a lighthouse—not brash and in your face, but clean-burning, steady, and dependably good. While visiting Big Sable Point Lighthouse a few days ago, we heard about the huge fresnel lenses from years ago that had to be continually polished inside and out to keep them clear.

Second-generation fresnel lens from Stannard Rock Lighthouse, now in Marquette, MI

The one at Ludington had a light that would extend 18 miles across the water by using a spherical reflector with the filament of the lamp placed exactly at the focus point of the reflector. Ah, being focused is so important! It’s not just living in a whirl of activity, but living in such a way that we are truly radiating God’s goodness.

I’ve also been thinking about the hard lives of the lighthouse keepers . . . the isolation, the constant need to refuel the lights night and day, severe weather, dangerous work of going outside to polish the lenses, and the need for the lens to be perfectly focused in order to send the beam out so far that it actually reached to the point where the curvature of the earth made it impossible to see the light any more, no matter how bright the light was.

Light in Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Today, modern technology and electricity have revolutionized lighting, and a very “wimpy-looking” lantern can emit enough light to reach 15 miles. Christ followers in America have it very easy compared to those in most nations around the world. We don’t have to suffer great hardships and live in constant danger, isolation, and deprivation. I feel like a wimpy little light. HOWEVER, God still calls us to be lights, and keeping spiritually clean, pure, and in good spiritual working order is absolutely as essential in America as in the darkest corner of the earth. (In fact, America seems to becoming more and more one of those dark corners of the earth!) No matter where we live, let’s continue to obey Jesus and let our lights shine out by faithfully doing good works. Why? Not so we look good, but so people will see the Light of Life—God himself—shining out through us and glorify Him.

Marquette Lighthouse in Michigan

Let the Lower Lights Be Burning
(-Philip P. Bliss, 1871, Public Domain)

  1. Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
    From His lighthouse evermore,
    But to us He gives the keeping
    Of the lights along the shore.
    • Refrain:
      Let the lower lights be burning!
      Send a gleam across the wave!
      Some poor struggling, fainting seaman
      You may rescue, you may save.
  2. Dark the night of sin has settled,
    Loud the angry billows roar;
    Eager eyes are watching, longing,
    For the lights along the shore.
  3. Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
    Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
    Trying now to make the harbor,
    In the darkness may be lost.

Text for this meditation: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16).

*Painting of Jesus with the lamb is by Yongsung Kim and used by his permission, website: Havenlight.com The rest are mine (as always unless otherwise noted), taken this past year in Ludington and Marquette, Michigan.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (31): Rejoice and Leap for Joy!

If there was ever a teaching of Jesus that you’d think everyone would be happy to comply with, it’s his directive in Luke 20:23 to rejoice and leap for joy! Right?

Well, maybe sometimes, but not when you read the context. The idea of rejoicing and leaping for joy brings to mind Jesus lying in a grassy meadow, basking in the sunshine of his father’s love with nary a care in the world . . . and I’ll bet there were a few times when Jesus felt just that happy and content. But, probably not too often after he began his public ministry when he was thirty. During those three years, he fully engaged with the people around him and began introducing the message of the Kingdom of God, which turned the contemporary cultural mores inside out and the world upside down.

Church at Mount of Beatitudes today

What did Jesus teach? Among other things, he taught what are today known as “The Beatitudes,” those states of being which cause God to bless us. These are not based on accomplishments but attitudes and conditions that most of us would consider very difficult: being poor in spirit, mourning, being meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and then three P’s: being pure, being a peacemaker, and being persecuted.

Probably all of the conditions listed in the Beatitudes lead upward and build on each other, but the last three are especially obvious in their cause and effect relationships. First, we need to be pure. If we are not, we’ll have no insight or incentive to be peacemakers. (Think about corruption in government and law enforcement.)

However, those who understand and ascribe to the goodness of purity will also try to make peace with others. In the event the “others” have no desire to live in purity and desire the freedom to live immoral lives, they will confound attempts at peace and eventually turn in anger on the pure in heart, persecuting the pure for not approving their ungodly life styles.

We see this (sadly) in America today, where sins that were condemned historically are now becoming so commonplace that people are persecuted for saying the behaviors are wrong! Jesus turned the world upside down, but now the world is trying to right itself by condemning the Bible as outmoded and no longer valid! “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

(Garden on the Mount of the Beatitudes,
where it is believed Jesus taught the beatitudes.)

If you find yourself confused by the changes in our culture, don’t be. Jesus forewarned us that this would happen, and He reminded us that our job is to continue faithfully following Christ, accepting the persecution that comes from trying to live a pure and peaceable life, knowing that you are in good company with those who came before us and were also rejected.

HOWEVER, one thing I’ve had to learn over and over again is that the first of the beatitudes come first: We need to understand our own poverty of spirit in order to be born again and enter the kingdom of heaven. We need to mourn over our sins and find the comfort that only God’s forgiveness provides. He need to learn meekness, so that we receive the blessing of experiencing unity with all mankind on earth. We need to continuously hunger and thirst after more righteousness so that we do become pure. Then, and only then, will be be in a position to be a true peacemaker!

A true peacemaker loves the sinner while hating the sin. He can accept the immoral person while rejecting their immoral actions. He can identify with, love, and grieve over fellow loved ones who are rejecting God and his ways. A peacemaker isn’t unkind. He isn’t mean. He respects. He doesn’t say derogatory things or do anything to harm someone else. His intention is always to express love and bring everyone together in the bond of peace. If this isn’t what you are doing or what you are seeing, then what you are doing or seeing is not Christian.

Nevertheless, Jesus made sure we understood that persecution for righteousness would come, and he tells us to do the opposite of what comes naturally. Just as being humble and seeking peace aren’t natural responses, neither is rejoicing in the midst of persecution! But, that’s what Jesus told us to do, not because we enjoy persecution, but so that we can find comfort in knowing that suffering for the sake of Christ is approved by God and he will bless us.

Texts for today’s meditation: “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12).

“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:20-23).

(Credits: All the photos are mine except for the painting of Jesus lying in a grassy field, which is used by permission of the artist, Yongsung Kim: Havenlight.com)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (30): Stretch Out Your Hand


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.I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.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).

“And 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.And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.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.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.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).