A Culture with a Withered Hand

On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 

Luke chapter 6 recounts a fascinating encounter between Jesus, a man in need of healing, and the religious scoffers.

The encounter begins with Jesus teaching in the synagogue. Jesus regularly went into the synagogue to worship, and it was the place where people gathered to read the Scriptures, pray, and encourage one another. On this particular day he was teaching, and among those listening was a man ‘with a withered hand’.

Our hands are among the most utilized part of our body. We use our hands to build, to hold, and to create. We aren’t told why, but for some reason this man’s hand was deformed, and he had lost those abilities.

A WORLD IN NEED OF HEALING

Especially for those of us who work as pastors, Sundays can become routine. Just like Jesus, we are teaching and leading on Sundays. Yet it is important to remember that there are certain to be those among us with physical and emotional sicknesses. There are those among us in need of healing. We may be able to see this hurt plainly, or it may be well hidden. But the pain is indeed there.

In Luke 6 we are not told what Jesus what teaching. The important part in this instance was not what he was saying, but what he was doing. Teaching is vital, yet it is what we do and how we do it that backs up that teaching.

a church in need of sight

7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 

As a church, what are we looking for? What are we watching and why?

Our social media/controversy driven society is watching for the next scandal, the next outrage, the next offensive thing to be said or done. We are not looking for truth, we are looking for an opportunity to advance our agenda.

The Pharisees, who knew the laws of God better than just about anyone, were not looking for ways to help, but ways to accuse. They were looking for ways to call out Jesus as doing something technically unacceptable, while missing the much larger point that a man was being miraculously healed. They ignored that something good and miraculous and healing was happening and instead chose to focus on the details that they didn’t agree with.

Are we guilty of this?

Do we miss the big picture by scrutinizing details?

Are we so worried about what ‘those other people’ are doing that we are not taking time to look for ways to bring peace and healing? It is so important that while we know the truth, we also know the grace that flows through that truth.

a question we cannot avoid

And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored.

Of course, Jesus knew what they were up to. He knew that there would be trouble for doing the right thing. Yet he did it anyway. But first, he asks them a question they cannot answer.

Are we going about doing good or harm? Do we seek to save or destroy? There is a subtlety happening in the question, as Jesus later, states that Satan comes to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10), using the same word.

Jesus does the opposite; he sees an opportunity to heal and he takes the opportunity. And a miracle occurs.

Jesus is acting here as the good shepherd who cares for his sheep, and equates those in opposition as wolves who are inadvertently doing the work of evil under the disguise of doing good.

May we never fall into such a destructive trap.

the correct response

1But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

So these men just saw Jesus miraculously heal a person. His hand didn’t work and now it does. Their response is not astonishment and songs of praise, but anger and talk of revenge.

How absolutely heartbreaking.

Why is it that people who should know better, people who are leaders in the church and in the community, would rather see harm than healing? Why are religious people out to get other religious people?

Is it to prove a point? Is it to hide their own sin under the guise of piety? Is it just another fruit of legalism? Probably all of the above, but the clear commonality is legalism.

Legalism and its rotten fruit are the death of many churches and many souls.

The correct response to seeing the work of God happening among us is to rejoice and give thanks for it. If we, like the Pharisees, find ourselves at odds with other believers through whom God is working, we do well do consider why.

If we find ourselves at the receiving end of lifeless, soulless, meaningless, legalistic piety, it is in our best interest to shake the dust off of our feet and continue to go about the work the Lord has for us to do.

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