by Martin G. Collins
January 2, 2009
Jesus' healing of the man with the withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11) reveals that wherever we go and whatever we do, like Christ, we are "under surveillance." This should spur us to exercise added control over our conduct so we may be true witnesses of God's way of life and not give cause for others to blaspheme Him. Although neither Jesus nor the healed man present any cause for accusation against them, the Pharisees need no reason—they are poised to strike.
Eventually, the conniving religious leaders join hands with the political leaders, including the Herodians, and their hatred rises to a fever pitch of intended violence against Jesus. The Herodians, the party of Herod, answer to Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee who beheaded John the Baptist. His father was the Herod who, in an earlier attempt to kill the Christ, ordered the children of Bethlehem to be slain (Matthew 2:16-18).
Comment: Jesus asks the man to do what had seemed impossible a moment before. At His command, the man places himself in full view of the synagogue's audience so that everyone present can witness it, and without even touching him, Jesus immediately heals him. When the man stretches out his hand for all to see, the crowd witnesses positive proof of Christ's power and holiness.
Despite the shame of his withered hand, the man still attends Sabbath services at the synagogue. He places a higher priority on worshipping God than on his personal discomfort. The principle illustrated here is that people should not use physical problems as an excuse for not going to church. A person should attend services when able.
The downside of missing services is that, eventually, spiritual problems with far more serious consequences will develop. No one can do much in service to God if he allows physical problems or handicaps to impede his worship and service of his Creator. In a sense, many of us suffer from withered hands. Sin so paralyzes us that we cannot serve God as we would like. Yet, anyone in God's church can be empowered to do the needed things for our Healer.
The real issue is faith. Jesus fulfills God's intention for the Sabbath day by restoring this man to health and strength. In answering Christ's call to step forward, the man shows what a little faith and obedience can do. This tests his courage and faith as he rises above his human fears. He entirely trusts Christ, and his healing is God's response.
2. How does Jesus' anger differ from that of the Pharisees? Mark 3:5.
Comment: Mark records that Jesus, as He enters the synagogue, angrily gazes at the Pharisees in their sin of callousness toward human suffering. Having a full measure of the Holy Spirit, He can discern their evil hearts. With severe and stern indignation, He reacts to their hypocrisy and hardness of heart.
However, His is not a spiteful or revengeful reaction but intense sorrow at their state of mind. Mark phrases it as "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." It is not hatred of men but anger at the sin they exhibited combined with the passionate sadness that not even His teaching, God's law, or any other means could overcome their confirmed wickedness.
This type of anger is not sin because it is controlled, without hatred, short-lived, and justified due to their defiance of God. Anger is lawful only when it is tempered with sorrow for those who have offended. Paul warns, "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26).
Comment: The heart represents the seat of feeling and affection. For instance, one is said to be tenderhearted when easily affected by others' sufferings. A person may be affected by his own sin or, in contrast, by the love and commands of God. The Pharisees act, not with sorrowful indignation, but with ruthless, murderous hearts (Mark 3:6). While theirs were hardened, Jesus' heart ached. What a contrast!
Here is illustrated the nadir of the Pharisees' hypocrisy. They policed Sabbath activities to ensure no one broke their human rules for keeping it, condemning those who did, while having no qualms about plotting Jesus' murder! They would allow the rescue of a sheep on the Sabbath but not the rescue—through healing—of a human being.
God prophesies about the church:
Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
The day will come when we will all have "a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22). As the next verse encourages, "He who promised is faithful." He will create this clean heart in us as we follow the righteous example of His Son.