Luke 6:6-11 NRSVue
6On another Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see whether he would cure on the Sabbath, so that they might find grounds to bring an accusation against him. 8But he knew what they were thinking, and he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand in the middle.” He got up and stood there. 9Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” 10After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. 11But they were filled with fury and began discussing with one another what they might do to Jesus.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
As I read this drama, Lord, two emotions are stirring: the Pharisees show an angry zeal for the Sabbath law; you feel compassion for a crippled man. I marvel at the courage and freedom with which you confront your critics. You are on the side of health and compassion. The withered hand is as unfeeling as the Pharisaic attitude to the Sabbath. You soften its rigidity and let the blood flow again.
Jesus is breaking the law (all work, including the work of healing, was prohibited on the Sabbath), knowing that he is being watched. He is purifying the religion in which he has been reared, with immense courage, because he knew what the scribes and Pharisees are thinking and planning. He is insisting: regulations matter less than the principle that it is right to do good on the Sabbath.
Lord, teach me every day to purify my religion so that it springs from a good heart, not from dead regulations.
The man with the withered hand was ashamed not only of his ugly hand, but of himself. In Jesus’ time illness like this was seen as sinfulness. When Jesus was saving life on the Sabbath, he was doing more than healing the man’s hand. He was healing and making whole the man himself, so that he was healed not only of the illness of the hand but of the shame of his personality. In prayer we bring before God the shame that may often be part of us, and pray for the healing grace of his love.