Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Matthew 12:9–14

Matthew 12:9–14 (ESV) : A Man with a Withered Hand

Synopsis

In the last passage, we saw Jesus discussing the Sabbath with the Pharisees. In this chapter, he again has a discussion with the Jews on the Sabbath, this time with regard to healing.

He enters a synagogue, and there is a man with a “withered hand” (verse 10 (ESV) )—I have no idea what “withered hand” means—and the Jews are looking for a way to accuse him of some wrongdoing, so they ask him if it’s lawful to heal on the Sabbath. The obvious implication is that they don’t believe it’s lawful to heal on the Sabbath, because they feel it’s a form of work. However, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of their definitions of what work is:

He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (verses 11–12 (ESV) )

He then tells the man to stretch out his hand, and when he does, it’s healed.

The Pharisees, however, are not convinced by Jesus’ argument; they leave there conspiring against him, to find a way to “destroy” him (verse 14 (ESV) ).

Thoughts

Once again, the Pharisees are more concerned about their own self-imposed regulations on what is work and what is not work, so that they can try to obey God’s rules for the Sabbath, that they’ve completely missed the point. In yesterday’s passage Jesus quoted “I desire mercy not sacrifice” from Hosea 6:6 (ESV) , and today, he points out that even the Pharisees’ own laws have got things turned a bit upside down; they’re allowed to save an animal if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, but they prevent themselves from helping another human, because they define that help as work.

I found a relevant note in the ESV Study Bible on this:

In rabbinic teaching, numerous regulations defined minute categories of “work” that were prohibited on the Sabbath, but these legalistic regulations were never God’s intent for the OT law. (See the 39 things prohibited on the Sabbath in Mishnah, Shabbat 7.2.) Jesus’ opponents believed that the Sabbath could be broken only in extreme cases of life and death. Since the life of the man with the withered hand was not in danger, they believed his healing should wait until after the Sabbath.

As noted, however, the Pharisees are not in a frame of mind to do any self examination, and study Jesus’ points about what the Sabbath is really supposed to mean. They’ve got their laws, and by those laws Jesus is sinning, so anything else is just noise to their ears.

Do we have any of our own “laws” that are clouding our judgement, and preventing us from reading the Scriptures properly?
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