Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God that he is the great physician with whom all things are possible. Luke 1:37.
Confess our sin of not seeking with expectant prayer God’s healing in our lives and in the lives of others, recognizing that he does do all things for his own glory, and the good of his people. Romans 8:28.
Let's read Luke 6:6-11.
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
The first clash over Sabbath observance initiated by the Pharisees with Jesus is quickly followed by another. Remember, we are in the final year of Jesus' life at this point, not at the beginning as you might think by the way in which Luke presents what he has to write.
All four gospels cover this event, but none of them names the town it takes place in. Jesus is following his usual practice of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Again, an indication that those who profess faith should be meeting together on the Lord's Day for public worship, current COVID-19 restrictions aside.
V6. The man with the withered hand.
Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and there is a man whose right hand is withered. It is interesting how the account develops. Ordinarily, we read of the sick or disabled person coming or being brought to Jesus with the request to be healed. That doesn't happen on this occasion. How does Jesus come into contact with this man who is just minding his own business? It is the scribes and Pharisees who act as the 'conduit'. It is because they are staring at Jesus to see what he is going to do about this man. The Greek verb indicates that they are looking intensely and continuously. Their eyes are fixed on Jesus, watching his every movement. What he's teaching is irrelevant; it's of no consequence as far as they are concerned. Jesus could be reading from the 'telephone directory' for all they care. Why? What is motivating them? A desire for the healing of the man that he might be able to use his right hand again? A desire to see Jesus manifest his incredible power through another miracle? These are good, religious men; surely, their motives will be marked by kindness and generosity. Regrettably not. There is malice in their hearts. Their fixed gaze is to see if Jesus will heal, and so give them cause to accuse him of Sabbath-breaking.
V7. The challenge sensed and met head-on.
How does the matter escalate? Jesus looks at them and can read what they are thinking. Did Jesus have particular insight because of his deity, or was it simply a matter of intuition? The clarity of the word 'knew', as opposed to 'he had a good idea' or 'he guessed', leads to the conclusion that it was the former. J.C. Ryle says, "Expressions like this are among the many evidences of our Lord's divinity. It belongs to God alone to read hearts." So, Jesus calls them out. How does he so? By inviting the man to stand up. You have to imagine the men all sitting cross-legged on the floor, and Jesus sitting in the same way on the raised platform from where he was teaching. The word 'come' isn't in the Greek; it is literally 'rise and stand up'. So, what Jesus is telling the man is to get to his feet, and stand where he is; that way, everyone will see him. The man does as Jesus tells him without questioning or hesitation. He is now the centre of attention, even though he has not said or done anything other than what Jesus has told him. He has not asked to be healed, or presented himself to Jesus to be healed. How many times has God gone before us and addressed issues in our lives without us asking him to do so? Yet, how often we feel like he never sees or takes much notice of us. Our new life in Christ, borne wholly of his work, should be a daily reminder of just how much the Father has loved us and does love us.
V9. Jesus addresses the scribes and Pharisees.
Having spoken to the man, Jesus now speaks to the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew tells us that he uses the illustration of a sheep that has fallen into a pit on the Sabbath, which the shepherd will lift out. The implication being, why, if they would not find that objectionable, are they recoiling at the idea of this man's hand being healed? Matthew 12:11,12. Luke goes straight to the question Jesus asks.
Note the dignity with which Jesus addresses his question. These men are authorities in Jewish law and have a well-developed understanding of how that law is to be applied to the Sabbath day and, in particular, its observance. While he sees the motive behind their thinking, Jesus nonetheless treats them with respect. He doesn't rail angrily at them. Yes, he speaks directly to the issue through his question, but he does so in a measured, considered way. His goal is not to ridicule nor demean them. The objective is simple, as is the question itself. It is to first correct their wrong teaching, and then to bring clarity concerning the teaching of God's Law on the matter.
So, what does he ask them, and in a very simple way? What choice is Jesus presenting them with? He challenges them to face the inconsistency of their thinking. Due to their predilection of restricting the behaviour of people, yes, for what they see are good reasons, they were constantly on the prowl for infringements of their 'fence' laws. The thought of seeking to understand and apply God's law to reflect his mercy never dawned on them. The second part of his question, regarding whether it is right to save life or harm it, takes the first part to its ultimate end. So, the highest moral excellence, i.e., 'good', would be to save life, whereas the basest moral action, 'to do harm', would be to destroy it, literally to kill it. Jesus has gone beyond the healing of this man's withered hand, and he is forcing them to do so mentally as well.
V10. Silence reigns.
They have been staring at Jesus throughout his entire time in the synagogue; now Jesus looks at them. He scans his eye across the room. Looking at all of them to see if one of them is going to respond to his question. It is a question, after all, that a child could have answered, but these men are silent. Of course, they know the answer, but to reply would be to incriminate themselves, and they aren't about to do that.
What does Jesus do? Four words and the miracle is done! No touching, no command to be healed, just “Stretch out your hand.” and by way of this innocuous little phrase, this man has a completely restored, normally functioning, hand once more. Take note that the man did as commanded. He didn't balk at the suggestion; he didn't laugh at the idea; he didn't ask 'why?' With simplicity of heart, he just did it. Oh, that you and I would just do what God tells us to do. Why is it that we so often balk at what he clearly commands in his Word? Why do we sometimes smirk inside, and say to ourselves, 'if you think I'm going to that…’. Or with a hint of attitude, arising from a misplaced sense of control over our life, ask 'why?' If we would just humble ourselves and say, you love me, you desire the best for me, so okay, I'm stretching out my hand.
Jesus’ words made it incredibly difficult for those glaring at him. He knew it, and so did they. The absence of any physical contact, or words regarding healing, meant that no accusation could be brought that he had actually healed the man. What evidence was there? “Stretch out your hand.” Without any malice or spite, Jesus had exposed them. These men were never exposed, nor were they the type of men who would take it lying down. They were not just a bit miffed at losing an argument; they were incandescent with rage. They were so angry that they lost all sense of reason and were thinking insanely; literally 'filled with madness'. The dignity and simplicity which marked Jesus' sensible, rational speaking and acting is met with overwhelming hatred. As they pile out of the synagogue, there is one thought on their hearts, 'how are they going to destroy this man'. Luke doesn't state it that explicitly, but Mathew and Mark do. The intent is clear. The idea is, 'if we had him in our hands, what could we do to him?' In other words, how could we kill him?
They hated him, and they hate his people too; John 15:18ff leaves us in no doubt of that.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 32A. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
‘Hiding’ the Word of God in your heart is a wonderful thing. It will bless you in ways you will never expect.
Psalm 121C v1-3,
1. Unto the hills I lift my longing eyes; whence comes my aid?
The Lord's my help, the heavens and earth by him were made.
Your foot from stumbling he will always keep;
the One who guards your life will never sleep.
2. He who keeps Israel slumbers not nor sleeps By night or day.
The Lord keeps you, a shade on your right hand The Lord will stay.
Throughout the day the sun will never smite,
Nor will the moon afflict you in the night
3. You will be safe, protected by the Lord, By his control.
For every evil that may come your way He'll keep your soul.
While you go daily out and, in your door,
The Lord will keep you now and evermore
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 33 - What is justification?
Answer - Justification is an act of God’s free grace in which he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight for the sake of the righteousness of Christ alone, which is credited to us and received by faith alone.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you find proof texts.
Thank God that he is able to address the issues of the heart with such directness and simplicity. Ask, that when he does so in your life, that your response would be like the man, and not the scribes and Pharisees.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley