Man with the Withered Hand

Healing of Man’s Inability to Work Righteously

“Provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt” (Jeremiah 25:6).

by Rafal Niemczyk

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The man with the withered hand was unable to work with that hand. Let us look more closely at the story of his healing to see what lessons we might discover. The story is recorded in Luke 6:6-11, Matthew 12:9-14, and Mark 3:1-6.

“And he [Jesus] entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:1-6).

Sabbath Day

The Sabbath was given to the Israelites, even the slaves and the animals, to provide them with rest. It was a sign between God and the nation of Israel and was part of God’s Law for His chosen people. “You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that
you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you” (Exodus 31:13 NASB). It provided Israel with time to recover from their physical labors. “Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves” (Exodus 23: 12 NASB). It also provided Israel with time to gather together and worship their God and have His word spoken to them. “You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 26:2).

God gave the Sabbath to Israel as part of the Ten Commandments. “But the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:14-15 NASB). The Sabbath also pictured God’s providence toward and deliverance of Israel from their Egyptian bondage.

To ensure that Israel followed the Sabbath, the nation was given strict rules of observance. Severe punishment, even death, was executed in cases when the Sabbath was not followed. “Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from
among his people” (Exodus 31:14 NASB).

Not everything was forbidden during the Sabbath day. The wife’s work in preparing food for this day is not mentioned in the restrictions regarding work. Leviticus 24:6-8 describes the work to be done during the Sabbath in the Tabernacle. 2 Kings 11:7 mentions the work for the house of the Lord that was allowed on the Sabbath. Jesus frequently spoke about the Sabbath to show its true purpose: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

The Pharisees’ View of the Sabbath

The Pharisees did not understand that the Sabbath was a gift of God’s mercy to the Israelites. They did not grasp this because
they were not reading the Law with mercy and love. Even when Jesus explained this to them in Luke 13:15-16, they failed to understand. “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the
Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (NASB).

Meanwhile, when the people saw Jesus heal the woman who had been crippled for 18 years on the Sabbath, they rejoiced. “When he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done” (Luke 13:17).

Hands Picture Deeds

In the Bible, hands convey an image of both human works and intentions. Clean hands suggest clean actions (Psalm 24:3-4), while bloodied hands represent sinful actions (Isaiah 1:15). Hands folded on the head were an expression of despair and sadness (Jeremiah 2:37). A hand raised to God was an act of
honor given to the Heavenly Father. Lifting up the right hand shows the authority of Lord’s will and voice (Revelation 10:5).

Fallen Man Cannot Perform Righteous Deeds

Disease and pain are evidence of the condemnation of death: “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17 NASB). Because Adam and Eve disobeyed this commandment, “death passed upon all men, for that all have
sinned” (Romans 5:12 ASV). Because of Adam’s condemnation, “trouble is man’s fate from birth, as the flames go up from the fire” (Job 5:7 NASB).

As a result of sin, everyone is unclean, imperfect. No one can work righteously because all are imperfect. Haggai explains, “‘If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean?’ And the priests answered and said, ‘It shall be unclean.’ Then answered Haggai, and said, ‘So is this people, and so is this nation before me,’ saith the LORD; ‘and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean’” (Haggai 2:13-14 JPS).

Under the Law, Israel was not without light. It taught them which actions were righteous and which actions were not. The Law showed Israel the way to righteousness, but the road was
too difficult to follow. “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). The influence of sin and Israel’s imperfection as a member of a fallen race made it impossible for them to offer righteous works unto God and hence, keep the Law perfectly. Every Israelite who reached moral maturity knew he was a sinner. No Jew kept the Law perfectly except our Lord.

Jeremiah writes that Israel provoked the Lord to anger by the works of their hands (Jeremiah 44:8). These works included offering incense to other gods, making idols to worship,
and violence (Jeremiah 1:16, 44:8). “For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 32:30). Their works were like the withered hand of the man Jesus healed.

While Israel was unable to keep the Law perfectly, it was really their lack of trying that angered God. “Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that
they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched” (2 Kings 22:17). God attempted to
recover them through the ministry of the prophets and wise men He sent to them (Matthew 23:34). But Israel rejected their counsel and then rejected Jesus as their Messiah. “Some of
them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah … Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36 NASB).

But God had foreseen this development and made allowance for it in His plan of salvation. He did not reject His people forever but made a great provision of grace for them in the future.
“For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come
in; and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:25-26 ASV).

He who silenced the storm on the Sea of Galilee and has power over the forces of nature, is that deliverer. He will be able to heal
Israel and mankind from all their illnesses in his earthly kingdom. This will include healing all men so they can perform righteous works acceptable to God. Jesus healing’ of the withered hand is a picture of this larger healing.

Picture of the Healing of Christ’s Kingdom

The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2:16-17: “Let no man therefore judge you … of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come.” The Sabbath day pictured a greater day of rest to Israel and all mankind under Christ’s kingdom, a day the entire creation is longing for. “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. … that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:22,21 NASB). The entire creation is suffering now and waiting for the redemption from sin and the deliverance from their slavery to evil and suffering that the
greater Sabbath will bring them. “And it will be in the day when the LORD gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved” (Isaiah 14:3 NASB). God will give Israel and all mankind rest from the bondage of sin, sorrow, fear and death that all have endured in this life.

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26 NASB). Through God’s provision of forgiveness and the blessings first poured upon Israel and then mankind in Christ’s kingdom, God will replace man’s stony heart with one of flesh. “Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you. I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, so
that you will not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations” (Ezekiel 36:29-30 NASB).

Then, God will fill this new heart with His Spirit, which will motivate them to obey His law and keep His judgments. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:27 NASB).

This will change man’s attitude toward righteousness and serving God. They will remember their wrongdoing and for this reason they will be ashamed. “Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations” (Ezekiel 36:31 NASB). When Israel realizes how much they have failed God throughout their history, they will humble themselves. Then God will be able to work with them and teach them how to work righteously.

Humility will be one of the requirements that men will have to embrace to grow in righteousness during the times of restitution. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and
what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). Walking humbly with God, acting according to justice and loving to bestow mercy upon others is what it will take to come into harmony with God’s Law.

What will be written on man’s heart? Certainly, not the strict letter of the Law known from the Old Testament, but rather the spirit of this law: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). The Jewish leaders recognized only the letter of the law, and especially the traditions of men added to it over the centuries.

But the new law, to be written on the hearts of people, will not include such traditions. God’s law in the next age will point to love and teach it: both supreme love of God and love for one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do
well” (James 2:8 NASB). This law will help and not hinder mankind from doing good.

God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, the Logos, to die as “a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). In this way, Jesus provided salvation for the Church during the Gospel Age and for the whole world during the Millennial Age. In Christ’s kingdom, he will teach Israel and mankind how to work righteously
and thus, the withered hands of all who will be obedient to him will be healed.


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