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day.” To give a person medicine, that he might recover, they thought was right; but to heal a man without medicine, only by speaking a word, they said was breaking the law! The blindness and perverseness of the heart were never more evident than in the conduct of the pharisees towards our Lord.
The enemies of Christ did not cease to watch his conduct. It would appear that some of the pharisees had been appointed by the sanhedrim, or council, to follow in his path, that they might find occasion to accuse him. Wherever he went, they were found by his side, with jealous eye observing every act, and noting every word. His healing on the sabbath had, in particular, excited their ill-will. The law enjoined the keeping of the seventh day; and the Jews, under pretence of strictly attending to the command, had added many superstitious rites, so that it was gradually changed from a day of spiritual rest, and of the worship of God, into a day of ceremonial trifling. But as our duty is not to be neglected, because wicked people may speak ill of us, so Christ did not allow their envy and malice to stay him in his work of love.
Jesus went on his way to Capernaum, and, on his arrival, entered into the synagogue, followed by his plotting enemies, when the subject of keeping the sabbath was again presented in a practical form.
MAN WITH A WITHERED IIAND. Matt. xii. 10–15; MARK iii. 1-12; Luke vi. 6–12. Among those who had come to worship, or to beg at the doors, was a poor man with a withered
Jiand. The muscles, sinews, and nerves, had shrunk and dried up, so that his hand had become quite useless, like a dead branch on a tree. This affliction would sometimes attack a person suddenly: if the hand was stretched out at the moment of the attack, it was impossible to draw it back to its place; or whatever was its position when struck, in that form it remained. It was attended with ceat danger, and often proved fatal. We have an instance of a withered hand in king Jeroboam, who put forth his hand against the prophet of the Lord, when it“ dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him," 1 Kings xiii. 4.
Whether our Lord sought out the man, whether the pharisees drew attention to him, is not stated. They, however, proposed the question, “ Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days ?” not with any desire of knowing their duty, but “ that they might accuse him.” Christ knew their wicked motive, and met them by another question : " What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep ?” This was an appeal to their self-interest, as well as to their own practices; for, according to their interpretation of the law, a man might on the sabbath rescue a sheep that was in danger. As much more valuable, then, as the life of a man is than the life of a sheep, so much better a work is it to save the former than the latter. Besides, they had themselves a maxim, that whoever neglected to save human life, when it was in his power, was a murderer. The pharisees
remained silent at the question. Christ again appealed to them: “ Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?” Yourselves shall be the judges. Ask your own consciences which is right: that I should save the life of this man, or that you should seek to take away my life ?-Still they were silent. They could not say it was lawful to do evil, and their envy would not allow them to say it was lawful to do well. Jesus saw their confusion, and boldly declared, “ It is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.” To relieve human suffering is not only allowable, but to neglect it would be to break the law of charity; inasmuch as the moral law is superior to the ceremonial law.
He then fixed his eyes upon them. they were only influenced in their inquiries by an envious spirit. He knew they would rather that the
without the cure, than that he who wrought the cure should have the praise of it. As he looked on them, he was angry, and grieved at the hardness of their hearts; but this was not the anger that seeks revenge; it was the righteous displeasure of his holy mind against sin, whilst he grieved for the state of the unhappy sinners. It was the same feeling that led him to weep over Jerusalem : he saw their fearful danger, and the misery that awaited them, if they continued to resist the truth.
Having refuted their cavils on the grounds of Scripture and reason, our Lord desired the man with a withered hand to stand forth. He then commanded him to stretch it out. Instead of pleading that he was unable to do it, and that the command was unreasonable, he made an
poor man should
effort to obey, and in the effort the blessing came; his hand
was restored whole, like as the other.”
The man now stood before the assembly as a proof that the Saviour's claim to be the Lord of the sabbath was true; while the cure being effected by a word, without even a touch, the sabbath was unbroken, even according to their own perverted interpretations of the law.
The pharisees were silenced, but not convinced: to be put to shame before the people only increased their enmity; “ they were filled with madness.” They felt they could not stand before his arguments, sustained as they were by such signs and wonders. Their credit was in danger; they saw that if Jesus was allowed to go on, their influence and gains would be lost. What then could be done? It was an affair of so much importance that they called a council. They also united with them a sect of the Jews, called Herodians, who were attached to the Romans, and to whom they were commonly opposed, but with whom they now became friends, that they might compass the death of one whom they hated and feared. After consulting together, they resolved to murder Christ! Oh! what folly to plot against Him who had already shown that he knew their most secret thoughts, and that even the power of devils could not stand before him! Oh! what wickedness to seek to kill Him whose whole life was spent in doing good to man!
Who does not admire the patience and forbearance of the Son of God! Instead of visiting his enemies with deserved judgments, he quietly withdrew into Galilee.
Is the sabbath, then, to be lightly regarded? Is it the design of our Saviour's teaching and example to lessen our reverence for this holy day? Certainly not. What he intended to assert was, that works of mercy are consistent with the holiness of the sabbath. He taught expressly that the sabbath was made for the advantage and happiness of man; and in his own conduct always observed it; nor did he at any time allow of any act which was likely to weaken a due regard to its claims. He opposed the false notions of the Jews in respect to the law—their “ vain traditions,” by which they had made the commandment of God of no effect, Matt. xv. 6; but the law of God itself he neither broke nor slighted, but always respected and perfectly obeyed.
After the resurrection of Christ, the sacred day was changed. To us the day of the Lord should be a season of cheerful, active piety; for on it we commemorate the finishing of our redemption by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. then,“ worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,
enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name," Psa. c. 4. avoid worldly pleasure, trifling, and business, as contrary to the right keeping of the Lord's day, let us not forget that “it is lawful to do well. To attend on the sick; to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction; to teach the young and the ignorant; to distribute tracts, that sinners may be converted—these are works of
and necessity, and to do these is to do well.