Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus. —Matthew 12:13–14
One of the things I love about Jesus is his passion for people—beyond traditions or even cultural expectations. The culture Jesus grew up in had a high respect for God’s law, but over the years many traditions were added, encrusting God’s law, and distorting his intention.
Jesus had been healing people of all kinds sicknesses, diseases, neuropathies—whatever the issue, he healed them all, seven days a week.
So he goes to synagogue on the sabbath—the day of rest—and notices a man there whose hand is deformed. We don’t know whether he was born with the deformity; whether there was an accident, or he had a crippling arthritic disease. All we know is that the hand was “withered,” or deformed. It was unusable. And a man who couldn’t work couldn’t support his family.
The first thing that stands out to me in this is that Jesus notices the man’s condition. Apparently the religious leaders are watching Jesus to see if he would do any acts of healing on the day of rest. So as Jesus approaches the man, the leaders stop Jesus with a question:
“Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” Matthew tells us that they were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.
Then Jesus did what Jesus does: he puts their question in perspective by asking them a question: “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would! And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
And here it is: “Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
While the religious leaders’ hardline devotion seems like the right thing, Jesus exposes their lack of love—their hardness of heart. They would rescue an animal, but not relieve a man of his suffering? In fact, in a parallel passage in Mark’s gospel, Mark adds the detail to this discussion by telling us that Jesus looked at them angrily and “was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.”
Jesus was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.
They were hard-hearted; they lacked compassion. That is a bad place to be. When our hearts are hard we can’t see, hear or even act out God’s purposes in our lives.
Jesus turns from the critics and looks at the man with the deformed hand and says, “Hold out your hand.”
Now, no doubt there were people in the synagogue motioning to him to ignore Jesus. “Don’t listen! This Jesus is a deceiver!” The man looks at Jesus, then his critics, then back at Jesus; and against the opinions of the critics he slowly reaches out toward Jesus. When he did, Jesus completely restored his hand.
I imagine the man holding up his hand with a mixture of joy and wonder! No doubt there were gasps of joy from those who saw the miracle!
But not from the religious leaders. Were they grateful that a member in their congregation had been healed? Did they post the before and after pictures on Facebook to show the miracle that God had done? Did they ask Jesus to heal others who had a need?
Nope. Here is what Matthew said they did: “Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.” (Matthew 12:14)
Wait…what?! The man whose hand had been deformed went home whole, and they want to kill Jesus?! The man could support his family again. He was healed! But the religious critics were furious.
Here is the truth: Everybody has an opinion about Jesus—but not every opinion is helpful.
And Jesus still has critics! But here is the good news: he sees the brokenness of your heart, your life and even your body. And one day he will bring you to wholeness—it could be in this life, or it could be in the life to come. The point is that he still has the power to heal every issue. And he will do it.
But here is the question for you today: will you listen to Jesus, or to the critics?
Will you listen to Jesus, or to the critics?
To the man with the with the deformed hand, Jesus said: “Hold out your hand.” The man could have ignored Jesus. Instead, he ignored the critics and held out his hand.
To you today he is saying, “Hold out your life to me. Allow me to do for you what you can never do for yourself.” And this is what Jesus does: he brings restoration to every part of your life. He offers new life; a new start; a whole new beginning.
And it all comes down to this: Am I going to listen to the critics? Will I continue to hear the thoughts that have been planted in my mind against Jesus by friends, parents, educators, lovers, celebrities, movies, etc.? Or will I listen to Jesus?
Turn your gaze from the critics and look to Jesus. Hold out your life—give it to him. Allow him to do for you what you will never be able to do for yourself: to make you whole.
That’s what he does. That is who he is. Savior. Redeemer. Our hope.
Bill Herried is a pastor at CenterPoint Church in Tacoma, Washington and is married to the most extraordinary woman on the planet. Together they have 3 adult children and 4 grandchildren. He has been the lead pastor at CenterPoint Christian Fellowship in Tacoma since 2006. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, and Master of Divinity from Corban University in Salem, Oregon—and he loves a good biryani.
Image by Jackson David from Pixabay