On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 

The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. 

But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. 

And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” 

10 After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. 

11 But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.


The second Sabbath “controversy” occurred in the synagogue when Jesus taught a man with a paralyzed hand. 

Once again, the Pharisees were interested in proving that Jesus was a fraud.

 Note that the Pharisees “were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him” (v. 7). If Jesus healed on the Sabbath, then He would be breaking the Law and the scribes and Pharisees could have Him arrested. What’s more, the religious leaders sought to prove that Jesus wasn’t truly the sinless Messiah.

Yet Jesus knew the religious leaders’ thoughts, and He healed the man with the withered hand (vv. 8, 10). The answer to Jesus’ rhetorical question was obvious. Everyone should agree that it was “lawful to do good” and “to save a life” (v. 9) on the Sabbath. Because healing was doing good, it would be wrong not to heal this man, even on the Sabbath.

Jesus proved that He is more concerned in the heart of the Law, for our Lord is more interested in the internal purity of a man’s heart than in his external actions. 

If you obey on the outside but sin on the inside, what good is the Law, anyway? The Law was never meant to lead people away from God, but to bring them closer to Him: “Is it lawful to do good or to harm on the Sabbath…?” (v. 9). Jesus revealed His Father’s heart when He reminded His audience that God’s intention is always “to save a life,” and not “to destroy it” (v. 9). The next time we are caught between legalism and purity, may we always opt for purity.

  • Even though it broke a law, what was Jesus’ reasoning for healing the man’s hand on the Sabbath?
  • The next time you’re faced with the decision to “follow the rules” or to do something life-giving for another believer, how will you discern which choice to make?
  • Pray for wisdom to discern the right choices to make at the right time, that you might please God and fulfill His mission to save the lost.