Monday, February 20, 2012

Stretch out your hand!

In Matthew's gospel yet another story is told of Jesus provoking/defying/showing up the Pharisees. This time he heals a man with a shriveled hand (on the Sabbath). There are a couple things to be learned from this story. One thing to look at is the actual act of the man obeying Jesus. The verse says that "he stretched it out and it was completely restored" (Matt 12:13). Although his hand was shriveled, the man believed Jesus in his heart and used his mind to control the muscles of his hand. That is to say, there was both a faith component and an action of the mind which brought about the physical act of the man stretching out his hand. The man had to believe that he could stretch out his hand, then his brain had to tell the muscles of his hand (which were shriveled!) to stretch out.

What can we learn from this? Well, we learn that in receiving something from God, we need to have the faith to do as He tells us, as well as the willingness of the mind to control the physical action of receiving what God promised us. I believe that this is what Peter was talking about when he tells us to prepare our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13). We also learn that at times God may challenge us to attempt to do something that we cannot do in order to be able to do it. Sounds paradoxical, doesn't it? Well, that's God for you!

Another thing to consider is the fact that Jesus told the Pharisees that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matt 12:12). Jesus didn't consider healing this man to be doing work, or doing something against the law, he just saw it as doing good. Jesus doing good equipped the man to do something; now that his hand was no longer shriveled, the man would be able to work. Jesus qualifies his doing good by comparing the man's condition to a sheep that has fallen into a pit (Matt 12:11): the man was in a situation that was not safe for him, and he needed the shepherd's help to get out of it. Jesus took hold of the man and lifted him out of his situation.

What is most interesting about this story is the fact that the man extended something that he didn't have, using muscles that he couldn't use, to receive something that (until Jesus came) he wasn't supposed to receive, at a time that (according to authorities of that time) he wasn't supposed to receive it. Jesus exemplified the sovereignty of God over the reality, the physical body, time and earthly authority.

Be blessed and shine with your mind!

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A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word! -Prov 15:23