This morning we looked at an inconvenient miracle found in Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 6:6-11, where Jesus heals a man with a shrivelled hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath. It’s difficult for us to understand the outrage that this miracle caused, but the Pharisees and religious leaders were furious with Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. As far as they were concerned, this was an unnecessary miracle and it led to accusations and further plots to kill Jesus.
Keeping the Sabbath was an important part of the Jewish life. Its origins lie in the creation story, when God rested from His work on the seventh day (Gen 2:2). The Sabbath was made for man (not man for the Sabbath), an opportunity to rest from work, worship God and find our spiritual energy in Him, but by this time, people had added a whole raft of man-made rules to the original commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy (Ex 20:8, Ex 31:15). Jesus made it plain that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it (Matt 5:17), but He lived by the spirit of the law, whereas the religious leaders lived by the letter of the law.
Jesus knew God’s heart because of His close relationship with the Father (see John 5:17, 39-40). Religion is useful in giving us organisation and form, but relationship is at the heart of our faith; we cannot simply hide behind rules and regulations, even though this means having to deal with the mess of relationships! – learning to forgive, love and live with imperfect people and walk by faith and not by sight.. The healing of this man was an inconvenient miracle to the Pharisees because it smashed their rules; it broke their taboos. It offended them because it seemed to them unnecessary. Their response ultimately showed the hardness of their hearts.
The fact that Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath shows the worth He placed on one individual (see also Matt 12:12, Matt 10:29-30, Luke 15:3-7, 8-10, 11-32). We can feel overwhelmed at times by the needs around us, but Jesus shows us that sometimes miracles happen one person at a time. Even a cup of cold water can count! (Matt 10:42)
In this story, Jesus challenged the hypocrisy of the leaders, exposed the folly of their position and showed ordinary people something more of God’s heart for each one of them. His pointed question remains: “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4) May we learn from His example and follow God’s heart in all things.