Part 3 – Matthew 12:9-14 -DEFORMITIES OF THE HEART AND HAND
Yesterday, with the encouragement of my wife, I got rid of some THORNY WEEDS growing like trees in the back garden. The thorns were now like razor sharp nails and so it was difficult to get to the roots without punctures, scratches and a bad attitude. I knew that if I didn’t get to the roots, they would just grow again so I used the MATTOCK. A mattock is a hand tool similar to a pickaxe, particularly suited for digging. Unfortunately, I am not! It took forever to dig around the roots and pull out the bulbous, deformed hand of the root system with it’s disfigured fingers reaching out insidiously in all directions.
Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) warns us “…Watch out that no POISONOUS ROOT OF BITTERNESS grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” There are some poisonous thorny people Jesus has to deal with in Matthew 12:9. RAZOR SHARP in their responses to Jesus and just as destructive. The CLAWED FINGERS of their law system are DISTORTED AND MALFORMED and particularly difficult to uproot. It is not at all surprising that Jesus uses a man with a DEFORMED HAND to illustrate what needs to be done if ever they are to be healed of their DEFORMED HEART.
I notice in Matthew 12:9-10 (NLT) that it says that “Jesus went over to THEIR synagogue, where He noticed a man with a deformed hand. “THEIR synagogue”. Nice point, Matthew. Not the place where God chose to reveal Himself, but where THEY chose to do THEIR religious rituals and make THEIR rules and regulations.
But this verse also says something about Jesus. He didn’t back away from weeding God’s garden. He meets me on my turf. He confronts me about my LEGALISM in the place where I am more DEFORMED ON THE INSIDE than this man’s withered hand, in the synagogue of my own making (Sorry but I couldn’t help but make the analogy).
The man with the deformed hand is probably not allowed to enter the synagogue because of his disfigurement, yet the fact that he is here perhaps gives me the clue that he is in some way looking to God for help. He happens to be in the place where Jesus is – a good place to be if you are looking for healing. Nevertheless healing is often appropriated in the midst of a SPIRITUAL BATTLE.
The Pharisees could see that Jesus noticed this man and so with their THORNS BRISTLING they ask Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping He would say yes, so they could bring charges against Him.)
There’s all sorts of reasons that I can raise as to why Jesus can’t heal me when I am DEFORMED on the inside, as these Pharisees were. I can be so concerned with maintaining my RELIGIOUS APPEARANCE that I miss the fact that I need healing of my SPIRITUAL DISFIGUREMENTS. When I am so wrapped up in myself and my legalism, and I don’t even notice the needs of others, that’s when Jesus confronts me with a question to counter my MISSHAPEN AND MALFORMED thinking.
In Matthew 12:11-12 (NLT) Jesus says, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Later on Jesus encapsulated the essence of the commandments of the law by saying, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT)
What He says to me is “Do you value your religious rituals more than you value people?” Do I put some of my TWISTED AND WARPED ways of thinking in the way of showing COMPASSION to others? What are my PRIORITIES?
You can determine what kind of person I am by my PRIORITIES and by what I do with the OPPORTUNITIES I have to show compassion. I can equally see what kind of person you are by your priorities and the opportunities you use to show compassion. That day Jesus is not only wanting to heal a deformed hand but SPIRITUALLY DISFIGURED HEARTS. Instead the Pharisees look for opportunities to kill Him (Matthew 12:14).
In Matthew 12:13 (NLT) Jesus says, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was RESTORED, just like the other one!” Jesus doesn’t just give me perspective by His WORDS but also by His ACTIONS. He demonstrates the truth of loving God and loving people. He encourages me to reach out to Him and in that very act I am HEALED AND RESTORED.
God bless you Church as you reach out to Jesus and as He brings healing to the DEFORMITIES of our hearts and enables us in turn to reach out with our hands to others with a compassion that makes a difference.