1.  And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.

The word “again” here indicates that this event takes place on another Sabbath, possibly the very next one.  On this Sabbath, the Lord enters the synagogue, and meets there this man with the withered hand.
 
2.  So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.

Because of His acceptance of tax collectors and sinners, whom they wanted no one to accept, and because of His refusal to bow to their rules regarding the Sabbath, about which they wanted everyone to accept their judgment, the Pharisees are already beginning to reject the Lord.  His actions seem to be a challenge to their power, and so the Pharisees are anxious for a chance to have something of which to accuse Him.  This man with the withered hand seemed the perfect opportunity.  The word “whether” here in Greek indicates that they fully were expecting that He would heal the man even though it was the Sabbath.  They probably surmised this because of the attitude He had shown towards the Sabbath on the week before, and because of His compassion in healing all those who were in need.  In this they surmised correctly.  Our Lord, however, was too intelligent to fall into this trap they hoped to set for Him.

3.  And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.”

The Lord knows the conflict that the Pharisees are preparing for, yet He does not try to dodge the issue.  Rather, He calls the man forward, ready to face the matter head-on.

4.  Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”  But they kept silent.

Christ’s question was meant to make them admit that the true spirit of the Sabbath was not to be a rigid law, but to be a day of rest and goodness for men.  The original idea in the Old Testament, as we read it, seems to be along the lines of our weekend.  The Lord did not want people working all the time, nor did He want masters working their employees or slaves seven days a week.  Thus, He instituted this day of rest, and made special rules to ensure that no employer could find a way around it and force their servants to work regardless.  Yet, though He was strict on ensuring that no one could work their servants on this day, He had never meant it to become a burden on men rather than a blessing.  That was the extent to which the religious leaders of that day had taken the law, however, and they considered themselves as the ones with the authority from God to enforce their own made-up rules about the day.  Thus, when the Lord challenged them like this, the Pharisees were so wrapped up in the power they gleaned from enforcing the law that they refused to admit that God had given it to Israel for their good, not their hurt.

The word for “life” here is the Greek word psuche, which means “soul.”  Saving a soul and saving a life mean the same thing.

5.  And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

The refusal of these proud men to admit to the truth of His appeal both angered and grieved our Lord.  The fact that their hard hearts produced these emotions in Him is the sort of detail that we would only find in the book of Mark, which deals with the life of Christ from the standpoint of the Lord’s suffering servant.

The Pharisees did not accept the Lord’s argument, but neither could they find any way to contradict it.  Thus, even though they were hoping to accuse Him because of this healing, now that they were unable to counter His argument they could not use this action as an accusation against Him.  Therefore, the Lord Jesus had defused their trap, and could heal the man with the withered hand without any direct reprisal from the Pharisees.

6.  Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Although He had stymied their desire to accuse Him because of this healing, that does not mean that this defiance of their power did not enrage the Pharisees, for it did.  Thus, their immediate response is to try to find some way to destroy Him.  At this point this would not necessarily be a way of killing Him, but rather a way of discrediting Him in the eyes of the people so that few would ever listen to Him or follow Him again.

The Pharisees joined with the Herodians in plotting against the Lord.  Probably the followers of Herod also felt threatened by Jesus Christ, since they believed that if He were the Messiah He would attempt to take their power away from them.  Thus these two groups, often at odds, were joined together by their jealousy in plotting against the Lord Jesus.

7.  But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea.  And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea

The Lord does not remain in the city to further His conflict with the Pharisees.  Rather, He removes Himself from the argument, and withdraws with His disciples to the sea.  They are not long alone there, however, for a great multitude follows them.

8.  And Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him.

The Lord Jesus’ extreme popularity with the common people is in stark contrast to His rejection at the hands of the religious leaders.  Instead of viewing Him with jealousy, these people looked on Him as the one to save them from their hardships.  But, in a way, their acceptance of the Lord was for just as selfish a motive as the leaders’ rejection of Him.  This is the reason Jesus often refused to commit Himself to them (John 2:24.)  Yet their response was at least the right one, even if it was for the wrong motives, and so the Lord blessed them for it with His healing and His words.

9.  So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him.

The Lord had knowledge both of people and of situations, and thus He saw this future danger and prepared Himself for it.  That these people would crush the very One Whom they had come out to see seems strange indeed, but we need to remember the mindlessness of crowd action and what can result from it.  No doubt the builders of certain soccer stadiums in Europe would give much to have been able to see future dangers as the Lord did and be able to prepare for them.  Yet, of course, they did not have such power.  The Lord, however, has Divine knowledge of such things, and nothing in the future can take Him by surprise.  Thus, He was ready for this threat before it happened.
 
10.  For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him.

This is the reason that He was in danger of being crushed: the ill were crowding around to touch Him, knowing that such a touch would heal them.  If miraculous healing was still going on today, no doubt sick people would flock to the healers just as these people did to the Lord Jesus.  The reason this does not happen is because the so-called healers of today turn out as many failures as Christ did successes.

11.  And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.”

This action, which would have been so wonderful and meaningful if done by one who was submitting his heart and life to the Lord, was nothing but a bitter mockery when performed by these unclean enemies of our Lord.  Their purpose in this mock worship and declaration concerning Him was not submission or faith, but rather to reveal a truth about Him that He was not yet ready to reveal to the world.  Moreover, the word of a demon would hardly be something that anyone would honor or trust, and so their very declaration of this would be likely to make people think that the very opposite was true.  Think about it…if someone you knew was demon-possessed worshipped someone and called him the son of God, would you believe it?  Thus, their actions, although seemingly reverential and witnessing to the truth, would actually have hurt the Lord’s standing in the eyes of the people far more than it would have helped it.
 
12.  But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.

Christ is acting as the Servant, not the Son, and so He rebukes these unclean spirits for their attempts to reveal Him.  The Greek word indicates that they would be penalized if they did not heed His warning.  What penalty God would enact on an unclean spirit we cannot say for certain, but we can know that it would be appropriate, for He is the righteous Judge of all.

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