Shortly after Jesus told the Pharisees that God desired mercy not sacrifice, He went into the synagogue. There was a man with a withered hand. Instead of being stirred with pity for him, the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse Him. Whenever they engaged in dialogue with Him, it was never to learn from His teachings. It was always to challenge Him and find reasons to accuse Him of being a Sinner.
It must have grieved Jesus to see the lack of compassion among men who considered themselves to be holy and righteous and children of God. When He looked at them, He saw hypocrites. And He addressed it. “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Then how much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
He told the man to stretch out his hand and He restored it whole like the other. The Pharisees were angry and they left, plotting how they would kill Him. They failed to see that the Sabbath was not just a day of rest but it was an opportunity for helping people. They had turned God’s holy day into a day of dos and don’ts. Jesus showed them that there was a different type of work to be done on the Sabbath. It was community work–reaching out to the needy and the sick. He showed them that if it was lawful for one of them to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath, then it should be lawful for a man to be healed. A human was of greater value in the eyes of God than an animal.
This man was in the synagogue and he had a need. Jesus saw it and addressed it. Are there people in our church like this man who has an obvious need but like the Pharisees we see it but will do nothing about it? Do we resent those who reach out in love and compassion to this person in need? Do we grumble and complain? Would God be happy to accept our worship or our offerings when we are not generous toward that person in our midst? Jesus brought joy to the man. He brought healing and wholeness and showed him that the God he worshipped cared about him.
Just as Jesus valued this man, we should value those around us. Sabbath-keeping does not mean that we should ignore the needs of those around us. The Sabbath is for doing what is good and showing the love of God for His creation. When we do what is lawful on the Sabbath, we are honoring God.