Jesus Heals A Man With A Shrivelled Hand


‘Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ Matthew 12:8-10

The events recorded here took place on another Sabbath than the one in the previous verses, Matthew 12:1-2.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ They didn’t ask because they wanted to learn something, they asked because they wanted to bring some kind of charges against Him for breaking the Sabbath.

The legalistic Pharisees are here more concerned over the violation of their Sabbath laws than the healing of this man. Such manifests the hypocrisy of religion that is based on an outward manifestation of a legal presentation of religiosity without concentration on the heart for spiritual change.

The Pharisees here seek another opportunity to accuse Jesus of violating their laws of the Sabbath, Mark 7:6-9. They do such in order to accuse Him before the people that He violates the law.

‘He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Matthew 12:11-12

The obvious answer to Jesus’ question was yes, and they would agree with Him based upon their understanding of Exodus 23:4-5 and Deuteronomy 22:4. The problem was they simply didn’t understand that Jesus came to fulfil the law, Matthew 5:17.

Mark records that at this time Jesus was angered by their hardened hearts, Mark 3:5. It seems that they didn’t doubt that Jesus could miraculously heal the withered hand.

They wanted to see if He would do such on the Sabbath. If He did such work on the Sabbath, then they could accuse Him of working against their laws of the Sabbath.

The real conflict here is between the legal and earthly interests of the Pharisees as opposed to the human interests of Jesus. Jesus pointed out that if the Pharisees’ material interests were in danger on the Sabbath, they would do what was necessary to rescue a sheep. However, they were here critical of Jesus because of His human interest in healing on the Sabbath.

By asking, ‘is it lawful’? Jesus was saying that it was always right to do good, Galatians 6:10. It was simply right to do good on the Sabbath in reference to human interests because men are more important than sheep.

The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of blessings and relaxation, free from work but the Jews had turned into a bunch of rules which consisted of dos and don’ts, and with over 613 laws, they always found a way around them, Matthew 12:1-7.

‘Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So, he stretched it 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

Christ not only claimed to have authority but also power, Matthew 12:6-9, and here He clearly demonstrated both.

Notice in Mark 3:3, Jesus asks the man ‘to stand up in front of everyone’, Jesus wanted to really make a point to these teachers of the Law, He didn’t hide what He was doing.

Jesus then told him to stretch his hand out, which may not have been easy for the man to do, especially if his hand was lifeless or paralysed.

Apparently, He neither touched him nor did any other physical thing, He merely asked the man to reach his hand out. When he did, it was healed. This is important because they couldn’t accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath by lifting a finger to help someone.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the man’s withered hand.

‘Probably through a partial paralysis. The man’s hand was withered; but God’s mercy had still preserved to him the use of his feet: He uses them to bring him to the public worship of God, and Jesus meets and heals him there.’

To Save A Life Or To Kill!

Jesus’ critics were furious and began plotting to assassinate Him. In Mark 3:4 Jesus asked His opponents, ‘Should one save a life or kill on the Sabbath?’

They chose not to reply, which showed that they were not interested in truth, but only wanted to discredit Him. It is always easy to find fault, but it’s much harder to give a positive recommendation. Normally Christ healed men by laying His hands on them or performing some other physical sign.

If He had accompanied the healing by physical action, in this case, they would have attacked Him for doing medical work on the Sabbath, something contrary to their tradition.

This time, however, Jesus did nothing, He merely told the man to reach his hand out. Mark 3:5. Even Jesus’ enemies didn’t believe it wrong to stretch out your hand on the Sabbath.

Thus, He outsmarted His opponents, and they were furious. When a man in an argument begins to get angry, it is a sure sign that he is losing.

As it turned out, Jesus’ enemies are the ones who plotted to kill on the Sabbath, because He had done good. The Pharisees and the Herodians who actually were enemies of each other, joined forces to get rid of Jesus.

The Pharisee’s actions show the hardness of heart of those who profess a legal-oriented religion. The Pharisees cared nothing for the man with the withered hand.

Their concern was for their doctrinal strictness in keeping their traditions in reference to the keeping of the Sabbath. By upholding their legal practices in reference to the Sabbath they were maintaining their arrogant positions of leadership among the people.

At this time in the controversy between Jesus and the religious leaders, the tension begins to grow. The Pharisees at this time in the ministry of Jesus schemed to remove Jesus, Luke 6:11.

He was in competition with their positions of leadership, their hypocritical lives, and their inconsistent beliefs. They were infuriated because He manifested the inconsistencies of their theology and the callousness of their hearts.

Because these religious leaders couldn’t consistently argue with Jesus through correct reasoning from the Old Testament Scriptures, they were frustrated to the point of killing Him.

Religions that are developed with an emphasis on outward appearances and ceremonial worship are often hypocritical in the sense that people can be members of such religions without changing their hearts.

The religious leaders in this context manifested the hypocrisy of such religions by planning evil when professing a form of righteousness, Mark 3:6 / Luke 6:11 / John 5:18 / John 10:39 John 11:53.