Chapter Thirty – Matthew 12: More Sabbath Work

helping hands

Sometimes I think what will people say of me when I’m only just a memory, when I’m home where my soul belongs? Was I love when no one else would show up? Was I Jesus to the least of us? Was my worship more than just a song? I want to live like that.

     *  Sidewalk Prophets, Live Like That, from the 2012 album of the same title

When we last left Jesus and His crew, the Christ was schooling the Pharisees about the Sabbath and making outrageous claims of being the Lord of the Sabbath. In the next few verses of chapter 12, the Pharisees retaliate by bringing a man with a deformed hand before Jesus and then asking Him a trick question: Was it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?

It’s a simple yes or no question with some not-so-simple repercussions. You see, if Jesus answers “No” and waited until another day to heal the man’s hand, He would have been deferring to the Pharisees and their authority. If He answers “Yes” and heals the man right then and there, then the Pharisees can claim His power is from Satan. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment in His ministry. What’s a guy claiming to be the Messiah supposed to do?

If you’re Jesus, you answer perfectly by asking a question: “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep” (v. 11-12). I wish I could have been there to see the faces of the Pharisees as Jesus said this. I wish I could have been there to break into a smirk and whisper “Burn you” under my breath. It would have been hard not to. That was a good zinger on Jesus’ part.

But He wasn’t done. He then tells the Pharisees that it IS lawful to heal on the Sabbath and He asks the man with the deformed hand to stretch it out. Just as the man does so, his hand is restored. “Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus” (v. 14). Wow. I am surprised that publicly going against the religious establishment of His day would result in a death warrant, but apparently, it does. Welcome to first century Palestine.

The important part of Jesus’ little speech made it perfectly clear how petty and ridiculous the Pharisees’ rules were. He basically said that the important time to reach out to someone is when they need help, not a moment later. “The Pharisees placed their laws above human need. They were so concerned about Jesus breaking one of their rules that they did not care about the man’s deformed hand” (Study Bible, p. 1566). And why should they care? What was so bad about a deformed hand? It basically meant the man himself couldn’t perform normal everyday tasks, which meant he was a burden on someone else. Which meant he couldn’t participate in society. Which meant he couldn’t be involved in temple worship. Which meant he had no way to offer sacrifices to atone for his sin. Which meant his spiritual life was dead. Which meant he wasn’t in line for the kingdom of heaven.

Until Jesus jumped him to the front of the line and changed all of that.

Now the man is able to take care of himself and work. Now he is able to contribute to society. Now he is able to worship. All because one rogue man defied an institution on a day of rest.

The challenge for myself is: what is my attitude toward others especially when they are in a position of need? Am I like the Pharisees – using them to make a point? Or am I like Jesus – willing to put myself on the line to help? The truth is – if my convictions don’t allow me to help others (regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, religious background, nation of origin, etc.) then maybe my convictions are not in line with God and His word. Maybe I have become the Pharisee. I certainly do not want to be more loyal to a religious system than to God.

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Kris White

Kris White resides in the southwest desert community of Las Vegas, Nevada. She has two furry children, Ben and Mack. She is the awesome aunt to world jumpers Pike and Jude, and the author of the recently published book, The Third Gate: Book One in the Gates Trilogy.

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