Summary: The controversy over the Sabbath began in the fields when His disciples plucked ears of corn and ate them while the Pharisees watched.
Title: Withered Hand Healed; Causes Another Sabbath Controversy
The controversy over the Sabbath began in the fields when His disciples plucked ears of corn and ate them while the Pharisees watched; see Chapter 13. Now the scene switches to the synagogue where the Pharisees have set a trap for Jesus.
And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: (Matthew 12:9)
Notice that it is called “their synagogue”; not ours, but theirs. Why? Because it had ceased to fulfill its original purpose, which was to teach the law. They had added prayer and preaching, and that was good. But then the Pharisees had begun to influence the Rabbis to add man made laws that were intended to keep people from breaking God’s laws. Eventually, everyone forgot that they were man’s laws, and they were treated like God’s laws also. The most important thing became how not to break the law. And the Sabbath Day laws were the ones that Jesus was continually accused of breaking. Now, the Pharisees had set a trap for Jesus, so that in front of all the people they can prove that He is a law breaker.
And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? (Matthew 12:10-11)
Perhaps the man with the withered hand was planted by the Pharisees, who brought him in secretly, and set him in a place where Jesus couldn’t help but see his condition. If that is what happened, then there are two important admissions on the part of the Pharisees:
1. They believed that He had power to heal the sick. There isn’t any indication in all of scripture that they doubted the miracles. They couldn’t, because there were literally thousands whom He healed.
2. They acknowledged that when a helpless man was placed in His path, that He would have compassion on him and heal him, even if it was the Sabbath.
If they intended to trap Him, it didn’t work, because He turned the tables on them. They conceded that a sheep could be rescued on the Sabbath day-in fact the Mosaic Law made allowances for that.
How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. (Matthew 12:12)
What is the value of a sheep and what is the value of a man? Certainly a man is worth more than a sheep. Therefore, if it is lawful to help a sheep on the Sabbath, it should be lawful to help a man. That was a good logical argument and the Pharisees refused to answer. The crux of the matter is: Should He do good on the Sabbath day?
Regardless of the answer-
Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. (Matthew 12:13)
The Rabbis only permitted healing on the Sabbath to save life. They could only do enough to keep a person alive. Then the next day they would do the real job of healing. But Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath. Did He break the law? What is your answer?
Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. (Matthew 12:14)
Here is where He breaks with the Pharisees. Up until this time they have been friendly and even tried to hitch their wagon to His rising star. Now they hate Him and they become openly antagonistic. They want to kill Him, but they are afraid of the crowd. They will pursue Him, until they fold their arms at the foot of the cross.
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. (Mark 3:1-2)
I believe that the Pharisees planted the crippled man in the synagogue. By doing so they paid Jesus a compliment. They knew that He was compassionate. But of course they wanted to be able to say that He broke the Sabbath by healing a man on the Sabbath.
Our Lord’s enemies are beginning to watch Him close for any little flimsy excuse whereby they might bring a charge against Him. They don’t have to wait long, Jesus noticed the man immediately.
And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. (Mark 3:3)