4 October 2016

Matthew 12:9-21

“Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?” (v. 9)

Psalm: Psalm 20


Verse 3 of Sydney Carter's hymn The Lord of the Dance spells out something of the words of Matthew's Gospel as Jesus interacts with the temple authorities.

Having had the encounter with the Pharisees regarding his disciples taking and eating the grain on the Sabbath (in yesterday's passage), Jesus moves on, He moves into the synagogue, where he is again challenged with the question of whether or not it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. We might ask ourselves whether the man with the withered hand had been brought along deliberately to enable the Pharisees to challenge Jesus once more, but we cannot tell.

Jesus immediately turns the question back by asking if they would leave one of their animals in distress having fallen into a pit (verse 11). He would know well just how valuable the animal would be to his hearers, after all their stock was their livelihood. Jesus then states unequivocally that surely a human being is of more value than an animal, so of course it is right to do good on the Sabbath (verse 12). He then reaches out to the man with the withered hand, heals him and sends him away cured (verse 13).

Those who had sought to trick Jesus were left thinking of ways in which to destroy him, as he was clearly undermining their way of life and the structure of their faith (verse 14). Jesus has now left the synagogue and with news having spread about the power he had to heal the sick the crowds began to follow him. Some would have had needs and the text tells us that he cured those in need of healing, but probably many others were curious about who he was, and especially so when he tells them not to broadcast his deeds to others.

Matthew then quotes Isaiah, which relates back to Jesus' Baptism. But it also ppoints forward in that God's servant will come to proclaim justice not just to the Jews but also the Gentiles but not in a noisy standing on the street corner style but quietly and, according to Matthew with the modesty of a servant going about his business as he is called to do.

To Ponder

  • Was the man with the withered hand a pawn of the Pharisees placed there to trick Jesus into going against the law as they saw it? What do you think the man with the withered hand felt?
  • Why do you think Jesus called upon the people to keep quiet about what he was doing amongst them? How does it speak to us about how we go about mission on his behalf?
  • Should we as his followers stand shouting out the gospel on the street corner, or use our faith to be servants of the servants in a quiet unobtrusive way waiting for people to ask about our motives and giving us the opportunity to share our faith? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.