Have you ever noticed how Jesus seems to walk right into traps laid by the Pharisees and religious leaders? Jesus wasn’t dumb, so I sometimes think He stepped into their traps on on purpose. Why? Because usually, their traps used hurting people as the bait. They knew Jesus was a sucker for hurting people.
And Jesus, crazy God-Man that He is, played along, to show us what the heart of God is really like.
One of these instances is in Luke 6:6-11 where Jesus is teaching in a Synagogue on the Sabbath, and a man is present who had a withered hand. Although the text does not say that the Pharisees brought him, the presence of this man in the Synagogue on the Sabbath is still a trap for Jesus, however the man happened to be there that day.
And curiously, Jesus did not have to help this man right there on that day. He really didn’t have it. It wasn’t life threatening. He could have waited until the meeting was over, and then invited the man over for the Sabbath meal, and then after the sun went down, healed the man then. What would have been the harm in that?
Why does Jesus purposefully seem to run headlong into this controversy? Why did He so deliberately and publicly violate some of the Jewish Sabbath traditions?
I think one reason is because it wasn’t just about healing that one man. Jesus also wanted to teach the Pharisees and the other people who were present about the purpose of the Sabbath, and the purpose of God’s Law in general.
Revealing the Heart of God
Jesus wanted to show all the people the heart of God; not just the one man with the withered hand.
And what is the heart of God as revealed in the Law? The Law was given to help people love each other, and treat each other with fairness and respect. It was never intended as a way of barring people from God, or restricting people’s access to God. it was never supposed to be a way to separate the sinners from the righteous.
In many ways, the Law had come to accomplish the opposite of what God had intended. It had become an instrument and tool of death, rather than a means of restoring life and giving health.
This is part of the reason Jesus asks the question in Luke 6:9 about saving a life or destroying it. The Law can be used in either way, and while many religious leaders used it to destroy life, Jesus wanted to show how to use the Law as means of giving life.
How to Help the Poor
And how does Jesus help the man with the withered hand?
He enables the man to help himself. This man wanted his hand back; not a hand out. He was not looking for a free meal or a free bed, but some help getting his feet back underneath him so he could return to work.
This man had been forced to begging, but Jesus was giving back to him his ability to work.
That is how you save a life. That is how you help the poor. You restore their dignity. You treat them as human. You give them the chance to work and provide for themselves and their family.
This post is based on the Grace Commentary for Luke 6:6-11.