THREE of the Gospels (Matt. 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-3:12; Luke 6:1-11) record our Lord’s Sabbath-day experience in the barley fields, His conflict with the Pharisees on that point, and the healing of the withered hand. He and His disciples did not violate the Law in eating the grain, for it was expressly permitted in Deuteronomy 23:25, but they simply violated Jewish tradition imposed by the scribes and Pharisees.
Our Lord gave an unanswerable five-fold argument for His attitude toward the Sabbath. He cited the case of David and the shewbread, the fact that the priests were busy on the Sabbath, the reference in Hosea about God desiring mercy rather than sacrifice, the fact that the Sabbath was made for man rather than man for the Sabbath, and then, the climax of all, that He Himself was Lord of the Sabbath. There are those today who overlook the fact that the Sabbath was done away with in Christ, along with all Jewish ordinances. We observe the Lord’s Day not because of any definite New Testament command but because it was the day of our Lord’s resurrection, the meeting-day of the early Church, and because it meets the principle of one day of rest in seven. We are not to judge one another, however, in regard to days (Col. 2:16) unless false doctrine arises which would revert to legalism instead of the principle of grace. For Sunday is not a “Christian Sabbath.” The Sabbath was never changed but it was abolished, and we are not under law.
After His break with the Pharisees our Lord went into their synagogue—”their” synagogue, mind you—and healed the man with the withered hand. Mark tells us that He looked on His accusers with anger. He had nothing but anger for that religiousness which put a custom above human need. We talk much of the meek and lowly Jesus, but there were other aspects to His character. We need to recover His hatred of sin—His condemnation of whatever stood in the way of the will of God and the good of others.
The healing of the withered hand, far from bringing joy to those who witnessed it, only fanned the flames of opposition. What a depravity that can make of such a blessing an incentive to murder! But that is exactly what occurred here, for our Lord’s enemies took counsel how they might destroy Him. No wonder that it should be the unpardonable sin when men can become so impervious to good as that!
Jesus withdrew to the sea, followed by multitudes whom He healed. Matthew here shows the fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1-4 in our Lord, God’s chosen Servant, in whom He is well pleased; upon whom is His Spirit—showing mercy to the Gentiles, not striving nor crying. His voice was not heard in the streets. He turned meekly from Israel, arrayed against Him, because the time for judgment had not yet come. He will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax until His Second Advent. Meanwhile, the Gentiles in this present age trust in Him.