Picture the scene on this Sabbath day, certainly similar to so many others. There is a man with a withered hand, and perhaps parents tell their children not to stare at him. Some of the crowd likely feels what they consider pity inside themselves, but they don’t dare to show it. The religious leaders have already made it clear what they think of “sinners” such as this man.
The man named Jesus is also here on this Sabbath, and the air feels tense as the religious leaders watch him. He also watches them carefully, as if it is possible for Him to understand exactly what they are thinking of Him. Then He calls the poor man to come. With an air of uncertainty and hope, the man cautiously makes his way to Jesus. What will the religious leaders think? Is it possible that Jesus is taking notice of him?
The question Jesus asks is striking: “Shall we do good or harm? Save life or destroy?” It makes sense: a withered hand is enough to destroy this man’s life and leave him as a poor outcast from society, no matter how hard he works with his good hand. Jesus deliberately looks around at all the people, before instructing the man: “Stretch out your hand.”
How does someone stretch out a withered hand? Certainly, if such a thing were possible, he would have done so long before now. For once, the parents are no longer whispering for their children to look away because now all eyes, including their own, are fixed on the man standing before Jesus.
Incredibly, the man obeys Jesus, doing precisely what he has never been able to do before. Thrusting out his hand, it is there before him, whole and well just as his other hand.
The reactions to this miracle are as unmistakable as they are varied. The man himself appears overcome with wonder and gratitude. He moves and feels his hand, experiencing the wholeness that he never could so much as dream of. But the religious leaders, they turn to one another to speak, and they are filled fury. Impossible as it seems, rage is written on their faces and laced in their low voices. Over the rest of the crowd looking on, a hush has fallen.
A good deed has been done, praise the Lord!
This Savior, God with us, is setting at liberty those who are oppressed,
proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor!
Jesus knew their thoughts, comprehending that healing on the Sabbath would enrage the religious leaders- He did it anyway. There were only two options according to Jesus: save a life or destroy it. Could a truly compassionate heart do such a thing as Jesus suggested: that is, decide to destroy? No. Jesus had true compassion; therefore, He had boldness to do good for a person in need.
Let’s not think of compassion as something for sensitive or weak people, or boldness as something that lacks mercy. Jesus brought these two traits together in a beautiful, revolving way.
Over and over, the example of Jesus is compassion coupled with distinct boldness. Shall we feel compassion inside ourselves but do nothing outwardly? Then it should not be called compassion. True compassion is bold. True compassion does not care what people think of it or shy away from offending. Instead it is exactly what Jesus demonstrated time and again while he walked on earth: love for hurting people that acted to save lives, no matter the cost.