by Chelsea Pietsch
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So he stretched [his hand] out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus (Matthew 12:13,14).
Why was a man with a withered hand in the synagogue? Had he come on his own volition, or had the Pharisees arranged for him to be there so that they might accuse Jesus (verse 10)?
Have you ever tried to set someone up? Perhaps you have sprung on a situation with the intention of trapping someone, making them uncomfortable, seeing how they respond? You know they’ll find the situation confronting, and you orchestrate a surprise encounter.
Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end, and you have felt set up. How did you manage the situation? Were you able to engage in the situation serenely, or did you become frustrated at the apparent manipulation? Angry, even?
The Pharisees didn’t care two hoots about the man with the withered hand. They were just interested in using him to make a point. They wanted to trap Jesus. They wanted to gather evidence that he was a lawbreaker and against them.
They questioned Jesus, ‘Is it lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath?’ You can imagine them nudging the man before Jesus, like a pawn on a chess set, as they asked this.
Jesus knew the Pharisees would have valued their sheep more than this man. They would dive into a pit on the day of rest to save a sheep, but they were not interested in rescuing this man from his plight. ‘How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!’ he said (verse 12).
Christ turned this ‘trap’ into a teaching opportunity about the value of the human person. This man had worth. All humans have greater value than animals. And with four words, ‘Stretch out your hand’, he healed the man’s hand.
The Pharisees were appalled – and pleased. They got what they wanted. Their trap worked. Jesus had broken the law by healing on the Sabbath. They were unmoved by his act of mercy and love, and they plotted to kill him. They revealed themselves to be joyless legalists interested in pointscoring. They also missed the point of God’s Sabbath. Is it lawful for Christ to heal us on the Sabbath? It is.
Dear Lord, forgive me for the times I have unlovingly sought to trap or manipulate others. Heal me, too, this Sabbath. Amen.