6 On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7 The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.
Religion can help us, but it can also blind us to what really matters. The religious leaders here were so focused on their doctrines and traditions that they cared nothing for the injured man sitting in their midst. Not only were they indifferent to his suffering, but they planned on using him to help them show up Jesus. They knew Jesus was compassionate towards the hurting, towards the suffering, and they planned on using this man to elicit that compassion in the synagogue on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Jesus of working on the Sabbath.
The coldness of heart within the religious leaders is quite stunning, and is testimony that one can be considered pious in our religious institutions, but completely lack any of the qualities of real piety.
Had they cared at all for the injured man, but were worried about violating their traditions then they could have brought him to Jesus earlier.
Our religion is worthless if it does not move us towards compassion and love towards other people. And not just warm, fuzzy feelings of goodness, but actual, demonstrable acts of kindness and love. If we lack empathy towards others, than our hearts and souls are in a dangerous place of self-righteousness and pride.
8 But He knew what they were thinking,
Jesus knows about us. Everything we think and everything we think we’ve hidden from others. He sees right through us. Normally, that would be a rather horrific thought, but the comforting thing is that He sees it all and He loves us still.
and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?”
The question was about actions. Not theory. The traditions dictated that Christ let the man suffer until sunset. The impetus for this man being here was not compassion, but naked self-interest on the part of the religious men. Jesus cuts through it all with a simple question: Does God want you to do good or to do evil even on the Sabbath? Does God want you to heal others or to hurt?
Or in this case, to look about a suffering person and do nothing.
The answer is simple enough. A good God, one that cared for people, would want you to care for them too and His commandments would not keep you from doing that. Doing good acts on the Sabbath was an act of worship towards a good God, and not work. It was an act of service to the Lord.
10 After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. 11 But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.
Jesus heals the man in front of them without saying or doing anything that would directly state that He was the one who healed the man. He doesn’t touch him. He doesn’t lay hands on him. He just tells the man to stretch out his hand and when he obeys, the hand is completely healed. Jesus evades their trap and has tried to give them a lesson on what compassion means and what God expects of us.
The reaction of the Pharisees is anger. Their hearts care nothing for the man who was now healed. They have no empathy for him either in his joy or his suffering. There is only a coldness and an anger towards Jesus for daring to violate their traditions and heal a suffering man on the Sabbath. They are farther away from God even as they cling to the cloak of their religious observance.