I was the Bait

HE RESTORED MY HAND (Mk.3: 1-6; Mt.12: 9-14; Lk. 6: 6-11)

For the life of me, I never realized how controversial our legal system was. What was even more controversial was that it was all about me. I ended up playing a major role in the dispute between our leaders and Jesus of Nazareth. I never could figure out how a good deed could be taken to be an act against God and His Laws. It was the Sabbath, our day of rest. As usual we gathered for worship. On this Sabbath, we had a special treat. We were pleased to have with us a new teacher and healer, a Prophet from Nazareth. When it was rumored that Jesus was in town, our Pharisees and religious experts made it their duty to show up. This was suspicious because they belonged to the religious elite. We were the simple country people and not good enough to be in the same room with them. What were they doing here and why had they come? While Jesus was teaching, these experts were looking about and whispering among themselves. At first I thought they were bothered by my presence. I had a dried up hand and I would not have been permitted to be in their assembly. I noticed that they also kept glancing at Jesus. Jesus, too, threw me a glance from time to time as if He had some special purpose for me. He also kept looking at those that had come to find fault with Him. I had this dreary feeling that something was about to happen and I was going to be in the middle of it. I had heard that Jesus could read man’s thoughts and I felt that He knew what was in my heart. And if He knew what I had come for; then, He certainly knew why the Pharisees and law experts were there. I had not quite connected, when I heard Jesus telling me to stand up. I obeyed and stood up.

Then, Jesus looked sternly into the faces of His critics and asked what He should do with me on the Sabbath. He wanted these experts to tell Him what was lawful and what was not. He said to them, “If your sheep falls into a pit, do you let it die?” This question awaked everyone in the room. Was a man less worth less than a sheep? Was I worth less than a sheep? What was Jesus driving at? The critics looked stunned. Obviously, that was not what they had expected. They had come to ask Him what He would do on the Sabbath, but now He was asking them. They could say nothing. It was as if a dark cloud had descended on the room. I began to fear how this would end. While the leaders and Jesus were locked in on what to do on the Sabbath, I was wondering what was going to happen to me. When would I have another opportunity to stand before Jesus so He could heal me? According to our leaders, I was breaking the Law by just standing to be healed on the Sabbath. But Jesus had only started. His next question was even more startling, “What is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” Dead silence followed. There was not a whisper in the Synagogue. But every one present was looking at me and at these people whom Jesus was addressing. They were the experts. How would they rule on what was right and on what was wrong? There was no doubt in my mind that if I were an animal and had fallen into a well, none of them would be here debating what was the right thing to do on the Sabbath. But now that I was a human being, I was breaking the law. They could not help me for fear that they would break the law. What sort of a religion did we have that did not allow a man to be healed? And what Law could it be that interfered with my health?

I was still standing and waiting for their verdict, but none was forthcoming. I noticed how their faces darkened with hatred for the man that had disclosed them for what they really were. They were not servants of the people but enforcers of a law that had no application for handicapped like me. In their eyes I was a no body. Perhaps, even a bad sinner that deserved what I had, a withered hand. There was no mercy in the hearts of these people that had come to look for faults, seek to do harm, even kill if necessary. Then there was Jesus. He, too, showed anger at these men that were ready to condemn but not help. It was quite obvious, no matter what Jesus said or did; He could not transform these hearts of stone into compassionate tender human beings. These Pharisees and experts of the Law believed literally that they were right and everybody that did not think their way was wrong and should be punished. To their delight, Jesus was playing their game and becoming a prey to their evil plotting. They had come with a plan to catch Him and I was being used as their bait. All Jesus had to do is heal me and they had Him where they wanted Him, on the side of law-breakers. At the same time, Jesus could have ordered me to sit down and heal me on another day and escape the claws of these men. Why did He have to challenge them? It was His life He was risking. Why risk it for me? Was I that important to Him?

The truth of the matter was that I was more important to Jesus than the Law or the whole world. He regarded the Law and the Sabbath as appropriate tools to help people like me. There in the Synagogue before everyone, Jesus said to me, “Stretch forth your hand!” I obeyed and instantly, while I was stretching my hand, it was being restored to me. It was a good thing that He did and it was done on the Sabbath. I regretted deeply that because of me, Jesus’ enemies had found a reason to accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath. They used me to make an alliance with the Herodians so they could arrest and kill Jesus. But I had now a real reason to keep the Sabbath holy, not by worshipping alone, but by helping those in need.