"We have Jesus now, right where we want Him. If he doesn't heal the man, then the people will think He doesn't care. If He does heal the man, the people will think He's a Law-breaker. This is a good way to get rid of Jesus. We'll cut His influence in half and word will spread that He's a Law-breaker or He doesn't care about people. And we will look good again."
Jesus walked into the synagogue, and He read the minds of the Pharisees. ?And He saw this dear child that needed healing, a man whose arm was withered and useless. Jesus, knowing that the trap was set, decided to spring it before they could. He pulled a move that is just great. He did something to the man with the withered hand that He didn't usually do, He called him to center stage. He looked over at this man that needed healing and He said, "Stand up."
I'm sure the man kind of timidly thought, "What's going to happen? Maybe (in expectation) I'm going to be healed." But he also saw the situation that was at hand. "Maybe Jesus won't heal me, after all, it is the Sabbath. We don't do things like that on the Sabbath.
You know, the people that were standing in the synagogue. I wonder what was going through their minds. I can picture: "Oh I wish Gertrude were here to see this! Something is going to happen." Or, "Oh, I can't wait to get home. I'm not going to miss a bit of what is going to take place." Some people, did you ever watch a scary movie, put your hands over your eyes but peek through your fingers? They knew something was going to take place. They weren't real sure they wanted to see the confrontation between Jesus, the man they loved, and the Pharisees, the men they respected.
There stands the man in center stage. And Jesus asked the question. He knows that they're thinking about Law, though He says, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" (Luke 14:3 NIV) Silence! Then He says, "If any of you has an animal and it falls into the ditch on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?" Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil? To save life or to kill? Silence! Indignant, resentful silence!
You know, Jesus had other ideas of how the Sabbath was to be observed than those ideas of the Pharisees. By studying the Sabbath-healing miracles that we find in the Gospels, maybe we can find out what the Sabbath is all about. But before we study the other Sabbath healing miracles... You, know the Pharisees kind of had a bad rap, don't they. We kind of look at them... Yeah, that's the Pharisees. We even, under our breath use that term for somebody in the church: Aw, he's just a Pharisee.
But the Pharisees were the good guys, originally, anyway. The Pharisees were the sincere, honest men that wanted to do the will of God, and they did their best at it. And they loved the Sabbath with all of their heart. They truly did! They loved the Sabbath so much that they decided that they would protect the Sabbath. And so they would say, "Okay, to keep the Sabbath holy, the Scripture gives us a few guidelines, but let's put a few more out there that will really protect the Sabbath. It's such a sacred, wonderful day." And so they'd make another rule. "Oh, the Bible says we're not supposed to do any work on the Sabbath. Well, let's explain what that work is." And they'd make some rules about that work. Okay, you can't lead camels on the Sabbath. That's work. Or, you can't start a fire: that's work. And so the rules started to build up. And then more rules came in to protect those rules. And more to protect those, until a fence, if you would, or a barrier had been built all the way around the Sabbath to protect it. The barrier became so thick that people could no longer see that which was being protected.
I had a coin collection. I kept it under my bed as a kid. It was a pretty good coin collection, and I'm sure it was worth quite a bit of money. One day our house was robbed, and they came in and they took everything they could find of value but... As usual, my bedroom was quite messy, but this time it paid off because my bedroom was so messy they couldn't even get to my bed and look under it. My coin collection was saved. But it made me so timid about that collection that I wanted to protect it. So I took it to the bank that was there in Collegedale and I put it in one of those drawers that you have to have two keys for, the safe deposit box. And there it sat for years. I lost all interest in my coin collection. I couldn't see it any more. I didn't even collect any more coins. It was at the bank! Finally I took it out of the bank and I said, "If it gets stolen, it gets stolen. I'm not enjoying it where it is. But don't look under my bed: I've hid it someplace else." I had put such a barrier around it that I could no longer see it or enjoy it. And that is what the Pharisees had done to the Sabbath. They had built a barrier around it and Jesus came to break the barrier down, to show everyone, including the Pharisees that the Sabbath was truly all about.
Let's look briefly at four other miracles of Sabbath healing that are recorded in the Bible, healing miracles that Jesus did on the Sabbath. The first is found in Luke 13. This is what happened to a crippled woman on the Sabbath day. Luke 13:10-17 (NIV).
"On the Sabbath day, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, 'Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.' Then He put His hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
"Indignant, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, 'There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."
"The Lord answered him, 'You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?'
"When He said this, all His opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things He was doing."
Not only did Jesus heal her, He made her an equal. Did you hear that? The Pharisees were good at calling themselves: "Well, I'm a son of Abraham!" Jesus looks at a woman and... I'm sure you understand the position women held in that day: NO position! "This is a daughter of Abraham!" Those were words that nobody used. Jesus not only healed her; He lifted her up from her present standing. Jesus always raises His children up, doesn't He? I like that.
The next Sabbath miracle is very similar. In fact it's found in Luke 14:1-6.
"One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, He was being carefully watched. There in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?' But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, He healed him and sent him away.
"And then He asked them, 'If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?' And they had nothing to say."
There are two more Sabbath miracles in the Bible. We won't take the time to look them up, but we'll briefly go over them. One is found in John 5, and the other is in John 9. The one in John 5, I'm sure you're familiar with is the man by the pool of Bethesda. He had been there for thirty-eight long years waiting to be healed. The difference in this story is, there was nobody there to accuse Jesus of healing him. So what does Jesus do? He calls attention to it by telling the man, "Take up your bed and walk." It was on the Sabbath, remember. So as the man is walking with his bed, he does draw attention to the fact that Jesus healed him.
The second Sabbath miracle found in John 9, is the one where Jesus healed the man who had been blind from birth. Like the previous story, the miracle was performed where there were no accusers. So, what does Jesus do? He puts mud in the man's eyes and tells him to go wash in the pool far away where he would draw attention to the fact that he had been healed on the Sabbath. I love this story. The pharisees get in on the action. They accuse Jesus of healing on the Sabbath. Finally they confront Jesus. Jesus tells them they are the ones that are blind, and He teaches them about spiritual blindness.
Jesus must have known what would result from the miracles that He did on the Sabbath. Certainly He recognized that these were obvious violations of the Pharisees' Sabbath rules, and that it would make Him have a difficult time anywhere He went. Why, then, did He insist on performing these controversial miracles?
Apparently Jesus had good reasons. He wanted to say something through these actions. It seems obvious that Jesus Sabbath healing was purposeful. And we're going to look at three things that point to this purpose. The first, as we've already discussed, all these miracles reflect a controversy over the matter of the Sabbath. Jesus does nothing to avoid the controversy. His miracles are done openly. In some he even puts the person to be healed right there on center stage. This makes the miracles different from many others that Jesus did in which He told the people, "Go and tell no one." There's a difference here.
The second in these miracles that we can find, and each of the five Sabbath-healing miracles that are recorded, Jesus is the one that takes the initiative to heal. This might not seem very significant until we realize that only the Sabbath-healing miracles are the ones that Jesus takes the initiative to heal. Every time else that we see Jesus, people are coming to Him to be healed. "Will you heal me?" or "Will you heal my friend?" or "Will you heal family member which is miles away?" But on the Sabbath, Jesus goes looking for people to heal and they don't ask Him. "Hey, I've been here for thirty-eight years. Will you heal me?" No, Jesus says, "Would you like to be healed?" Or sometimes He doesn't ask, He just heals them right there. The only other times that Jesus took the initiative wasn't on Sabbath was the resurrection or possibly a demon-possession.
A third similarity in these miracles is the nature of the illness that He healed. Now, the Pharisees, they allowed a person to be cared for if they were in a life-threatening situation.
Jesus seems purposefully to have chosen cases that would require the most flagrant violations possible. Again, it appears that Jesus has something important that He is trying to get across.
In the Sabbath-healing miracles, Jesus showed that the Sabbath is not a day for legalistic rules and rituals. True Sabbath observance does not spring from obeying rules or refraining from activities considered unlawful! Jesus said "NO" to a system that had barricaded His people from the Sabbath he had given to them.
Ellen White comments in her Desire of Ages, p. 286: "The Savior well knew that in healing in the Sabbath He would be regarded as a transgressor, but He did not hesitate to break down the wall of traditional requirements that barricaded the Sabbath."
You know, these requirements barricaded the Sabbath because they take one's mind off of the Creator. They detract from the joy of the Sabbath and they blunt our ethical responsibility. Legalism always devastates the value of people, yet God designed the Sabbath to remind us of each person's value.
Jesus challenged specifically the rules that most directly affected the health, welfare, and happiness of people. You notice, He didn't challenge the Sabbath rules by lighting fires, by carrying things He shouldn't. By the way, if I walked around in His day, carrying this ball-point pen, I would be a Sabbath breaker, unless I had it in my pocket. Then my clothes are carrying it and that's okay. They didn't have pockets back then, but if they pinned something to their clothing, it was okay to carry it on the Sabbath, but they couldn't carry it in their hand. Jesus said "no" to that. If that's the rules and the rituals, then we're so busy thinking about all the "do"s and the "don't"s that Sabbath is gone and we missed it. We missed the blessing.
He didn't challenge it by leading a row of camels somewhere on the Sabbath. He confronted the legalistic system by healing on the Sabbath. By doing this, Jesus ties His ministry of healing with the Sabbath, thus showing us what the Sabbath is all about. It's not about rules, but it's about relationships. Now, somebody may be thinking, "Oh, oh. Watch out. Shouldn't we have some rules about the Sabbath? Won't this make people be careless about how they keep the Sabbath?" I say, on the contrary: a proper relationship with God will make us more careful in our Sabbath observance!
For example: If we have a true loving relationship with God, the approach of sundown on Friday night will not fill us with dismay because so many secular things remain undone. It will cause us to look forward to the Sabbath. It's coming, it's here, the secular things can be put aside. I can live for Jesus totally this day. I can commune with Him. I don't want anything to interrupt that communion with Jesus today! Any secular activity I have in mind would only cheat me from a Sabbath blessing.
Oh, I don't know how many times somebody, often young people come to me, "Pastor, would it be okay to do this on the Sabbath, do you think?" or "Would it be okay to do that on the Sabbath?" There are some that are obvious, you know. "No, I really don't see how a football can bring you into a closer relationship with God today." But usually my response to this inquiry is, "You tell me." Will that activity enhance your relationship with Jesus your Creator? Or, will it distract you from it? That's a simple rule to go by when you're wondering about Sabbath observance.
I had a lady come to me after church one Sabbath as I was shaking hands by the door, years ago. And I said, "June, you're staying for potluck, aren't you?" She said, "Well, no. I've been waiting on a sale for tires, and Good Year's is having a sale, and I don't want to miss it. I needed some tires." I was shocked! This is the Sabbath day. It wasn't that the tires were bald or exploding. She was just waiting for a good sale. I was so saddened that she was going to miss the Sabbath-day's blessing. This would be something that would distract her from the Sabbath. She had been an Adventist for a number of years but did not yet understand Sabbath. We should not let anything that would distract us and come between us and our Creator on the Sabbath day.
The four Gospel writers were very particular with the word they chose for healing. They chose a word that has a double meaning. In the Greek the word is "sozo". This word is interchangeable in the translations. It can either mean "save", or "heal". Now they could have used several other words for healing, but they chose "sozo". Jesus' Sabbath healing miracles were also Sabbath saving miracles. They were designed to heal and save a troubled world. The people had come closer to their Creator, saved from the world of sin.
When the Sabbath comes to a close, we don't need to go over a checklist of rules to see whether or not we kept it. But rather we need to ask ourselves the question: Has this day contributed to the special fellowship with Jesus that brings healing and life? If you can answer: yes, then the Sabbath healing miracles of Jesus have happened all over again--in YOUR LIFE!!
Be like the man with the withered hand. Whether or not it was Sabbath when Jesus said, "stretch out your hand", he stretched it out, and he was healed.
Today, Jesus is saying, "Stretch out your hands to Me on this beautiful Sabbath day and I'll bring healing to your soul. I will bring now life, recreation to your heart. Let's stretch our hands to Jesus on this day of rest, this day of gladness.
Openning Hymn: #73 "Holy, Holy, Holy" Scripture: Luke 14:1-4 Closing Hymn: #383 "O Day of Rest and Gladness"
The opportunity for Jesus to teach His disciples about true Sabbath keeping.
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last updated 2/3/98 by Bob Beckett.