The Withered Hand
“And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: 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. 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? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.” Matthew 12:9-14 (KJV).
Jesus went to their synagogue. Notice “their synagogue“. There may be no signigicance to that phrase, but it struck with me that Jesus was not associated with it. It could only be that it was the synagogue of those in the area. Yet, shouldn’t He have His part in the synagogue of His own people (“He came unto His own…”)? At any rate it somewhat reminds me of the Letter to the Church of Laodicea, and Him standing outside the door knocking on the door of His Church.
John Calvin writing on verse nine says,
“We see also, that it is usual with hypocrites to pursue what is nothing more than a shadow of the righteousness of the Law, and as the common saying is, to stickle more about the form than about the substance. First, then, let us learn from this passage to keep our minds pure, and free from every wicked disposition, when we are about to form a decision on any question; for if hatred, or pride, or any thing of that description, reign within us, we will not only do injury to men, but will insult God Himself, and turn light into darkness. No man, who is free from malice, would have refused to acknowledge that it was a Divine work, which those good teachers do not scruple to condemn. Whence comes such fury, but because all their senses are affected by a wicked hatred of Christ, so that they are blind amidst the full brightness of the sun? We learn also, that we ought to beware lest, by attaching undue importance to cermonial observances, we allow other things to be neglected, which are of far higher value in the sight of God, and which Christ in another passage calls the more important matters of the Law, (Matth.xxiii.23.)” CALVIN’S COMMENTARIES, Volume XVI, pp. 52 & 53.
The man with the “withered hand” was in the right place. The synagogue should have been a place for healing, or seeking healing at least. This “withered hand” could have been a hand that had been greatly injured in an accident at some time. It could have been a birth defect. It could have been the result of arthritis pulling the ligaments of the hand tightly forming a closed, un-opening hand. It could have even been the man’s right hand, the hand most common for use.
Jesus is still addressing the sabbath, and the teachings of the religious leaders. “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?” With this question of Jesus it seems that all is quiet from the rabble. I would like to know one thing; Something to ask those who get hung up on observing certain days, and making the day more important than people. Is it ever wrong to do the right thing? To me, the obvious answer for that question is a very profound NO! Some have did what they considered the right thing, at the wrong time, and lost because of it. However, if it was not the right time it was the wrong thing to do. When I say that I am thinking of an incident in the Scriptures where they were moving the Ark of the Covenant, with the wrong method, and one man – Uzzah – thought it right to protect the Ark from falling to the ground, reached out and touched it, and God took his life (2 Samuel 6:1-11). If it is not done in the right time, in the right method, it cannot be the right thing. The right time for David to move the Ark would have been after he had read the writings of Moses, learned how it was to be moved, then proceeded to move it with the right method; on the shoulders of the priests, and not on an oxcart.
When you know the Law of God and do not recognize the Law in Person, then, you act out of hatred when you see Him doing the God things; and you condemn the One who deserves no condemnation. Their hands have been withered, are withered by callous hearts, and hands that will not labor for the King.
The hand is a powerfully important part of a man or a woman. It is with the hand a man can work, and make a living. Whether it is as a carpenter, bricklayer, stonemason, farmer, field laborer, factory laborer, the hands are a vital part of getting work accomplished. A withered, drawn hand could not get much done. He was in the synagogue on the sabbath. He was in worship. He was in prayer. It was at the synagogue where he met the Master/King of all kings. Think of this: The hand that cannot open cannot receive. The hand that cannot open cannot give. The hand of God is always open to receive the prayers and praises of those who give that to Him. His hands are always open to give to all who will receive Him. Too many times the hands of men are clenched tight in defiance toward God, asking nothing from Him; and giving nothing to Him. Are our hands clenched by disease of selfishness, sin, greed, and hard heartedness? There is healing in the place of Christ. He is waiting there, where you are right now.
-by Tim A. Blankenship