[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.” We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]
Withered Hand by Jonathan Holmes
Read: Matthew 12:9-14 (cf. Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11)
It’s ridiculous how easily we take blessings and morph them into curses. We become slaves to the very things that should set us free. In Matthew 12 Jesus is confronted with a view of the Sabbath that has morphed into an enslaving legalistic following of rules. The religious leaders of the time desired to protect and to uphold the Law, so they built a hedge around the keeping of the Sabbath. This hedge looked more like a small book of rules and addendums. Consequently, the Pharisees changed the Sabbath into something it was never meant to be.
The concept of Sabbath is intended to be a blessing rather than a curse. The Sabbath was instituted by God for mankind’s benefit and refreshment. It was not meant to keep regulations (Mark 2:27). Jesus takes the Pharisee’s concept of Sabbath and flips it upside down, revealing the true and intended blessing it was. After the Pharisees pose the legal question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus answers their question, as He often did, with another question. “What shepherd would not lift the sheep out of a pit?” If it is understandable that the shepherd would help his animals on the Sabbath, how much more reasonable is it to take care of people on the Sabbath?
After this pronouncement, Jesus miraculously demonstrates the original life-giving concept of Sabbath as he restores the man’s hand. The healing of this man’s hand is almost expected. The Pharisees are past the point of being amazed by the miraculous power of Jesus, even as it is done right in their midst. They are so stuck on the infraction of their manmade rules, that they miss the blessing of witnessing, firsthand, the miraculous power of Jesus. By this healing, Jesus shows not only that He has power over disease, but also that he has authority over the Sabbath (Mark 2:28).
- Are there ever times in your life that you miss experiencing the freedom God offers, because you are so concerned with following rules?
- Can you think of a time when you took a blessing from God and morphed it into and enslaving curse?
- Do you see your daily devotional time as more of a blessing or a curse? Are you motivated by guilt or your love for God?
- How does Galatians 5:1 relate to this passage in Matthew 12?
Prayers for Lent
- Thank God for demonstrating His incredible power over disease through Scripture.
- Ask God to continue to help you enjoy Him through the freedom He offers.