(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
The incident is found in Luke 6:6 through 10:
Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, "Arise and stand here." And he arose and stood. Then Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?" And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.
There is quite a story told in the artistic rendering above of this healing. Not only is there hope in the face of the afflicted man; not only is there confidence and joy on the face of Jesus, Him knowing the momentary outcome of this meeting, and the affect it will have on the man’s life and the lives of those around him; but look at the angry faces in the background – the faces of the observing Pharisees! It says in verse 11, “But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.”
But first, there are some things to consider about this incident:
- I chose Luke’s version of the man’s healing (see also Matthew 14:9-14; Mark 2:23-28) because Luke is identified in Colossians 4:15 as “…the beloved physician….” Being a doctor, only he recorded that it was the right hand of the man that was afflicted! Why is this important?
✡ The right hand was considered in ancient Israel to be the hand of strength and power! It is the hand... ➔ ...used with which to eat. Hand-to-mouth eating was the norm in Jesus’ Day and is still practiced in many cultures. ➔ ...with which to greet another person. ➔ ...accepted for the giving and receiving of gifts. ✡ The left hand is looked upon as the unclean hand! It is the hand... ➔ ...considered to be the weaker of the two. ➔ ...used for personal cleaning, such as after using the toilet. ➔ ...upon which to recline when eating in that position. ✡ If the man was right-handed (studies have shown that about 90% of people are), then a withered right hand would have greatly affected his ability to work and provide for his family! Also, in that society which saw the right hand so dominant, he would have been looked down upon as punished by God for sinful living!
- This incident happened on the Sabbath.
✡ It is written in Exodus 20:10, “...the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work.” But the Sabbath was loaded down with man- made laws, most of which forbid what might be done on that holy day! For instance, according to the book, Sabbath Day Of Eternity, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, there are 39 categories of Sabbath work prohibited by (man- made) law! Here are just three: ➔ Scribal law dictated that on the Sabbath day one could only carry a burden equal to... ...food equal in weight to a dried fig, enough wine for mixing in a goblet, milk enough for one swallow, honey enough to put upon a wound, oil enough to anoint a small member, water enough to moisten an eye-salve, paper enough to write a cus- toms house notice upon, ink enough to write two letters of the alphabet, reed enough to make a pen” — and so on end- lessly. (https://bible.org/seriespage/ 16-sabbath-controversy-gospels). ➔ Burning: No lighting of a candle, lamp, or cook- ing fire. “Even throwing a toothpick into a fire is considered a violation of the Sabbath....” (ibid.) Today, adherence to this prohibitive category includes forbidding “...such acts as striking a match or turning on a stove. It...prohibits smoking on the Sabbath....” (ibid.) Also disallowed is driving an automobile (gas- oline is burned), turning on an electric light (the filament ‘burns’), or pushing an elevator button (it might cause a spark). ➔ Writing: “...the law forbids any activity normally requiring a written record....Calculations and measurements are also included....” (ibid.) ✡ “...the scribes and the Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.” (Luke 6:7). ➔ They were more concerned about their own self- righteous interpretation of God’s holy law than the welfare of another human being! ➔ Even though this happened relatively early in Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leadership felt threatened by this Galilean Rabbi! They were looking for ways to get rid of Him! ➔ No wonder there is such anger in those faces behind Jesus and the man with the withered hand!
- Notice how Jesus defeated the scribes and Pharisees:
✞ “...He knew their thoughts...” (Luke 6:8). ➔ We are told in John 2:24 and 25, “...Jesus ...knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” ➔ And in Psalm 139:1 through 4: O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. And He knew how to counteract their wicked plans! ✞ Jesus, pointing to a spot next to Him, and in front of all those watching, “...said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Arise and stand here.’” (Luke 6:8). ✞ He then spoke to the synagogue attendees, but espe- cially to the scribes and Pharisees: “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9). ✞ He didn’t need an answer to such an obvious question! But I’m sure Jesus was disappointed that no one spoke up. In Mark’s version it says, “...He...looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts.” (Mark 3:5). ✞ Then Jesus... ➔ “...said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’” (Luke 6:10). The Lord never touched him! And touching, in the minds of the scribes and Phar- isees, was a necessary part of the work of healing! ➔ ...totally healed the man who had the withered hand! ➔ ...became the intense object of Jewish leaders’ rage! (see Luke 6:11). Their rage was so in- tense that Mark 3:6 tells us, “Then thePharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Hero- dians against Him, how they might destroy Him.”
In the next Gem we will see how all this applies to our experience today.