Devotional 27: Stretch Out Your Hand

Matthew 12:9-14

Healing on the Sabbath

Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.

11 Then He said to them, “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? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

The Sabbath, the sacred day of rest, when no work is to be done, knows no rest from the Pharisees’ plotting, yet Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law, not replace it.

We read where crowds are astonished at the way Jesus teaches, because He ‘taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes,’ who taught what they were able to glean, or manipulate, to keep the people docile, uninformed, intimidated, and under control of the powerful, and wealthy, religious leaders.

Yet their jealousy persisted, and with every attempt to trap Jesus in the things He said, they lost face with the people, and control of their power.

What they failed to realize is that the Sabbath itself is given to us as a day of restoration, to rest from our labors, restore our strength, our family ties, our relationships with others and our communities, and to reflect on the goodness of the Lord.

Their question “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” was therefore a foolish one.

Jesus, ever teaching to the secrets of the heart, answers them with an analogy that speaks to their need to preserve their wealth, for livestock was wealth, and they would rescue a sheep from a well in order that they might continue to profit from it, because they loved wealth rather than G-d and their fellow man.

But men are more valuable to G-d than livestock. Isn’t that why He sent us His Son?

Also, Jesus asks something of the man with the withered hand. We don’t know if the Pharisees brought him to the synagogue to be complicit in their plans, but we do know he didn’t go unnoticed and ignored by Jesus even if that was the case.

And so, a test of faith and obedience:

“Stretch out your hand.”

Jesus doesn’t touch him, but as the hand draws closer to the presence of the Lord, it’s made whole again, and useful now to the kingdom of G-d.

Obedience and faith must be our hallmarks as believers. We must act, ‘in faith believing,’ and pray ‘as if (we’ve) already received,’ and the restoring power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will do its part.

Therefore I pray:

This, O Lord, is simply a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for restoring me to G-d, that I might see the light of His glory and not die, for You are the light of the world, and the bread of Heaven, and You have promised me eternal life through belief in your Name, and obedience to your Word.

Today, I stretch forth the withered hand of my faith, Lord Jesus, right where I am, right now, knowing You will make it whole again the closer it gets to Your presence.

Your unworthy servant bows low before You, to thank You for paying my debt, and granting me the mercy of Your shed blood for my sake, and Your grace to help me up when I stumble.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for making my spirit whole through Your broken body, now in glory, and seated at the Father’s right hand.

I long for the day we meet, and I am made whole anew, and forever.

Amen.

 

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