The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest. A gift from God to the Jews, meant to remind them of God’s creative work, provision, and care for them. But by the time of Jesus, the Pharisees, the expert observers of Jewish law, had managed to make rest a burden, encumbering God’s people with regulation after regulation about what constituted “work” on God’s day of rest. What God had made to be life-giving had become life-draining. So when Jesus walked into the synagogue that Sabbath, he knew they were ready and waiting to see what he would do.
And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”
hearts of stone
From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus had been a nuisance to the Pharisees. His teaching was like nothing they’d heard before. And the authority of his teaching was only bolstered by the authority of his works. He could cast out demons, heal diseases, make lepers clean, and now he’d begun claiming he had the authority to forgive sins. The fact that the people were amazed everywhere he went and at everything he did only made things worse for the Pharisees. It wasn’t long before they’d had enough and began looking for any reason to bring accusations against him.
They should have wanted healing for the man with the withered hand. Instead, they saw him as nothing more than a good enough reason to trap Jesus. But Jesus knew the Pharisees by now. He must have sensed their eyes following him through the synagogue, because, calling the man with the withered hand to him, he confronted them with the one thing they loved most: the law.
It was a simple question, one that any Pharisee should have been able to answer: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But their hearts were too far gone, too engrossed with thoughts of Jesus’s death to accept the life he offered. So they said nothing. With both anger and grief in his heart for their complete lack of love and understanding, Jesus told the man to stretch out his withered hand and restored it, setting a plan in motion that would cost him everything.
We don’t often like to think of Jesus as “reckless.” But the truth is, he was. His love, compassion, grace, and mercy were costly. They cost him the respect of the religious and political leaders of his day. They cost him followers. And ultimately, they cost him his life. His sacrifice was so exceedingly generous, it came to be known as gospel—good news.
Christ’s gospel is not all that hard for us to grasp. We get that that kind of love is good news because, in the very depths of our being, it’s the kind of love we all long to know. A love that’s all in. A love that holds nothing back. A love that can handle the brokenness of our withered hands and the brokenness of our withered hearts. The New Testament writers came to understand the transforming power of this love, so much that they filled their letters with its message.
More than two thousand years later, we still need to be reminded of this reckless love. Whether we accepted Jesus’ offer of love decades ago or we have never known it, it’s there waiting for us. All we need is to accept it, embrace it, and, like the man who came when Jesus called, allow it to transform us.
Watch Session Four
Jesus Intervenes in the Impossible
Think about Jesus's reckless love for you. In what ways has his love transformed you?
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