One Saturday, on the day of rest, Jesus and his disciples were walking through a field of wheat. The disciples were hungry, so they plucked off some heads of grain and rubbed them in their hands to eat. But when some of the Pharisees saw what was happening, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples shouldn’t be harvesting grain on the Sabbath!”
Jesus responded, “Haven’t you ever read what King David and his men did when they were hungry? They entered the house of God and ate the sacred bread of God’s presence, violating the law by eating bread that only the priests were allowed to eat.
“And haven’t you read in the Torah that the priests violated the rules of the Sabbath by carrying out their duties in the temple on a Saturday and yet they are without blame? But I say to you, there is one here who is even greater than the temple. If only you could learn the meaning of the words ‘I want compassion more than a sacrifice,’ you wouldn’t be condemning my innocent disciples. For the Son of Man exercises his lordship over the Sabbath.”
Then Jesus left them and went into the synagogue where he encountered a man who had an atrophied, paralyzed hand. The fault-finding Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it permissible to perform a work of healing on the Sabbath, when no one is supposed to work?” They only asked him this question because they hoped to accuse him of breaking the Jewish laws.
He answered them, “If any of you had a lamb that fell into a ditch on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you reach out your hand and lift it out? Isn’t a man much more valuable than a lamb? So of course, it’s always proper to do miracles, even on the Sabbath.”
Then he turned to the man and said, “Hold out your hand!” And as he stretched it out, it was restored, exactly like the other.
Immediately the Pharisees went out and started to scheme about how they would do away with him. Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he left by another way. Massive crowds followed him from there and he healed all who were sick. However, he sternly warned them not to tell others or disclose his real identity, in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah:
Take a careful look at my servant, my chosen one. I love him dearly and I find all my delight in him. I will breathe my Spirit upon him and he will decree justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or be found yelling in public. He won’t brush aside the bruised and broken. He will be gentle with the weak and feeble, until his victory releases justice. And the fame of his name will birth hope among the people. (Matthew 12:1–21)
When God issued the Ten Commandments, He spent more time talking about the Sabbath than any other commandment:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8–11 NIV)
When Moses retold these commandments to the Israelites, he added: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15 NIV).
The scribes and Pharisees knew the importance of keeping the Sabbath and they decided to use this knowledge to test Jesus by pointing to a man with a paralyzed hand and asking Jesus if it was “lawful” to heal on the Sabbath.
Joseph Prince taught in one of his sermons at New Creation Church in Singapore: “They were not watching to see if He could heal, but to see if He would heal.” (Prince J., “Live Healed”)
By now, they knew He could heal. That wasn’t in question. The question was whether He would heal and therefore break the Sabbath law.
Jesus does heal the man’s paralyzed hand, but not before He tells the Pharisees that they missed the lesson on love and compassion in Sunday School and therefore were missing out on the freedom that God intended through establishing the Sabbath. Jesus never says He disagrees with the law, in fact, quite the opposite:
“If you think I’ve come to set aside the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets, you’re mistaken. I have come to fulfill and bring to perfection all that has been written. Indeed, I assure you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not even the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with until its purpose is complete. So whoever violates even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do so, will be the least esteemed in the realm of heaven’s kingdom. But whoever obeys them and teaches their truths to others will be greatly esteemed in the realm of heaven’s kingdom. For I tell you, unless your lives are more pure and full of integrity than the religious scholars and the Pharisees you will never experience the realm of heaven’s kingdom.” (Matthew 5:17–20)
It is for freedom that Christ set us free, “not partially, but completely and wonderfully free!” (Galatians 5:1).
Taken from “40 Days Of Healing Promises” from LIFE Today. This devotional booklet is a part of our Health and Hope series with Dr. Don Colbert.