1 Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
This is a pivotal moment in the narrative of Jesus’ ministry, because from here on, the Pharisees have only one plan – to trip up Jesus somewhere so they can accuse and execute him. And it all starts with a simple question:
“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
Everyone knows the answer to that, even the Pharisees – everyone knows that even on the Sabbath it is better to save than to destroy…but they remain silent. They are so judgmental of Jesus, so sure of themselves, so focused on their own selfish ends, that they simply cannot bring themselves to answer the simplest of questions, whether it is better to do good or evil.
The text tells us that Jesus was angered and distressed by their stubborn silence, and tells the man to stretch out his hand (and in saying this, Jesus did not violate the law because he did not actually “heal” the man!). And the Pharisees, so caught in their pride and judgment, again cannot even bring themselves to recognize that this man was healed – they only go on to plot for Jesus’ death.
This behavior seems to terrible, and we judge the Pharisees for their pride, and rightly so. But unfortunately…I have felt this way at times too. Someone who I don’t like does something well or says something that is correct, and my stubborn pride refuses to acknowledge the good of his or her actions. I am so focused on their downfall, watching for every slip-up, that I can’t recognize simple good from simple evil. And when I, or any of us act this way, we have to remember that it distresses Jesus, because he does not want his people to live like this, mired in anger and judgment and vengeance, but to be more like him: forgiving, humble, and loving.
Is Jesus distressed by your life right now?
1. Is there someone in your life whom you can’t see any good in right now?
2. A sense of perspective is helpful here, as it reminds us of our own sinfulness – have you ever found yourself acting in the same way as the person you thought of above?
3. Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant is a wakeup call to us all, that the debt that God forgives in us is far larger than the debt we forgive in others – how do the wrongs committed against you measure up against the wrongs you have committed against God?