One Sabbath I went to the synagogue as usual and began to teach. A man was there whose right hand was shriveled up. The Pharisees and legal experts watched me carefully to see if I would heal the man’s hand on the Sabbath. If I did, they would have a basis for leveling a charge against me. I knew all along what they were scheming, so I said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here and stand where everyone can see you.”
Then I turned to those who were anxiously watching and posed this question: “If your only donkey, ox, or sheep should fall into a pit, would you not get it out without delay, even though it was the Sabbath? Of course you would! Surely this man is of greater value than a donkey or sheep!”
“I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good [as I intend to do] or to do harm [as your view of the Sabbath would lead you to do] – to restore this man’s hand or leave it withered as it is?” Dead silence filled the room.
I was deeply distressed by their indifference to human distress. Looking around the room at each of them in anger, I said to the man, “Stretch out your withered hand” (and act beyond what the crippled man could do). The man stretched out his right hand, and at once it was fully restored, as sound as the other.
(from Jesus, in His Own Words, by Robert H. Mounce)
I love this story. Partly because of the state of my own right hand – while my hand is not useless, my use of it is somewhat limited and it shows the scars of a car accident from over over 20 years ago, and I literally cannot “stretch out” my right hand.
But there are some important things to take away from this story.
- The Lord is not terribly interested in what is legal – or with what is proper or technically correct. We see this again and again in Scripture. He blatantly disregards some aspects of the law (Sabbath rules, death penalties, uncleanliness), and highly intensifies the standards for others (lust, divorce, anger, love, sacrifice). What we find consistently is that He ignores the ritualistic outer expressions of the law, and focuses in on what is going on inside us.
- The Lord is looking to heal and restore us. We see this everywhere in the gospels. Absolute, complete, full restoration. And not only physically, but He constantly forgave sins and breathed new life into desperate, impossible situations. And sometimes, as with Lazarus, He waits an impossibly long time to respond. Why is that?
- The Lord is waiting for the moment of His greatest glory. We can cry out to the Lord, beg and plead with Him, and it may seem like He ignores us. It may take days, weeks, months, or years. At times, we may even completely give up hope. And at other times, something has died and has already been placed in the grave. But He is looking for His glory to be revealed in the healing and restoration. This is so that when we look back, we will have no choice but to say – “it was the Lord.”
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3, NASB)
Many times, there is little reason for us to understand why things happen the way they do… and we can only trust that the Lord was seeking His glory to be revealed.