Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 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. 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? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. (Matthew 12:9-14)
Doing Good On The Sabbath
The enemies of Jesus tried fruitlessly to entrap the Lord in His teachings and to condemn Him when He healed the sick. It seems incredulous that after witnessing a miracle anyone would plan to destroy the Son of God but it happened often. One of the main contentions with Jesus and the Pharisees was Jesus healing on the Sabbath. The religious leaders could not see the power of God in the miracle but had become so narrow-minded in their keeping of the law they denied the miracle and condemned Jesus.
On one of many occasions when Jesus would go to the synagogue, a man was there who had a deformed hand. Seeing an opportunity to challenge Jesus, the Pharisees said, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” They were not concerned about the man with the malformed hand but used the poor soul to find a way to bring charges against Jesus. They hoped that Jesus would say yes so they could condemn Him. Expecting Jesus to perform a miracle so that charges could be brought against Him shows how depraved the hearts of the Jewish leaders had become.
Jesus was not unaware of their deceit. The Pharisees never could trap Jesus in His teaching no more than they could deny His miracles. Responding to their hypocrisy, the Lord poses a question to the Pharisees. If they had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t they work to pull it out? Of course, they would. The Law of Moses did not prohibit taking the donkey or ox from the stall to water it. If a donkey or an ox fell into a pit and it was the Sabbath, the Law did not demand the animal die in the pit. The Pharisees had bound doctrine where the Lord never intended.
The law permitted men to do good things on the Sabbath. A man is of much more value than an animal and the individual with the withered hand deserved the mercy of God to be healed. Arguing about the doctrine of the Sabbath denied the needy the grace of God. Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand and it was restored as whole as the other. Doctrine is given by God as His law and it must remain unchanged. The law of the Sabbath was not changed because Jesus showed mercy to a man in need. What the man remembered about that Sabbath day would never be forgotten.
It is easy to enforce doctrine over mercy. Arguing about the jot and the tittle of the law can produce strife, false teaching, and take the law of God places it was never intended. The Pharisees had taken traditions and violated the commandments of God. Enforcing their doctrines on men, the Jewish leaders had imposed man-made ideas as commands from God. Nothing was further from the truth. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath because it was a good thing to do. The Pharisees did not win the argument and went out trying to find ways to destroy Jesus. They would have their way when Jesus was killed on the cross. Three days later (the day after Sabbath), a new law came into being that would offer all men the mercy and grace of God. Care must be taken not to make the doctrine of the Sabbath become the law of Christ in the church.