Finding Freedom (Matthew 12:29)

Photo by Marcus Verbrugge

“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his  possessions  unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.”

It is not an easy thing to take the possessions of a dictator. Or that of a local drug lord for that matter. To take what belongs to them you first have to ensure that they are not able to destroy you. Something everyone knows they will try to do if they so much as think for a moment that you are coming to take what belongs to them. 

Yet it is true that Jesus seems to effortlessly plunder what was under Satan’s control. The man He just healed was possessed. He was ‘owned’ by a demon, who had complete control of him, to the point that the demon did not allow him to see or speak. That’s invasive control, not mere harassment. Yet the Word says merely, “Jesus healed him.” As though it was nothing for Jesus – less effort than choosing an item at a grocery store. But Jesus says that He is only able to do that after the ‘strong man’ has been tied up. 

What Jesus gives us here is a glimpse into spiritual happenings that we are physically oblivious to. Effectively, Jesus is saying that in the healing He just did, He bound the demon and then cast him out of the man, so that He can then give the ‘possession’ back to the man who owned it to start with. The question that immediately comes to mind is, “How exactly did Jesus bind the demon to start with?” 

Matthew had earlier told us how Jesus had commissioned and sent out the twelve disciples, commanding them to cast out the demonic; “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” But Matthew does not tell us the results they achieved, or that Jesus subsequently sent out the 72 (or the 70 ‘twos’). However, Luke does, and he writes, “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.””

That is a key insight. It is the Name of Jesus that binds them. They are powerless in the face of His Name because His Name is the advance of His Kingdom. Where His Name is recognized His rule and reign must be recognized. This is why Proverbs tells us, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

But if His Name is enough, how much more His very presence! Amen! People will always find freedom from every kind of sin, ungodly habit and demonic harassment where His Name is lifted up and where His presence is recognized. Which is why it is so important to welcome His presence, to ask the Spirit of God to come, and to lift up His Name at church. It is by these things that people find freedom!  

In God we trust. In God’s Name we find.

It is under Christ’s yoke that we find rest, and in his service that we find freedom.

John Stott


Let us run to the Name of the Lord. In Him we find safety and all we need besides.

Demarcation (Matthew 12:26-28)

Photo by Diana Schröder-Bode on Unsplash

Jesus has taught much and ministered much. Now He has done a significant  miracle,  healing a man who was blind and mute and also demon possessed. Having watched the whole thing, the Pharisees are fuming.  Jesus’ teaching has shown them up as consistently lacking, and this miracle clearly shows God’s anointing and power resting with Him and not with them. Even the uneducated crowd is coming to that conclusion, saying “Could this be the Son of David?” But the Pharisee’s hatred of Jesus does not allow them to come to that same conclusion. It blinds them to the obvious power of God. 

It is problematic when the leaders cannot see what the crowd sees. But worse, these leaders do not want the crowd to consider the miracle as evidence of God’s approval of Jesus, lest they loose even more credibility. So they do something only public figures are known for; they slander Jesus before the crowd. 

On His part, Jesus comments to those listening, “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” 

Jesus’ comment is more than a counterargument. It is more than a jab at the flawed logic of the Pharisees. Every Jew knew that division was disaster. No, Jesus is spelling out a profound spiritual truth here, a truth that the Pharisees are not getting: 

The Kingdom of God is not only a spiritual manifestation. That is, it is not just preaching and teaching and internal truth that renews our minds. It is that, but it is also real transformation. The blind see. The mute speak. The demon-possessed are freed. The coming Kingdom of God has an impact on those around us, and it is easily recognized as the work of the Spirit of God!

This is this same truth that Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”  Yet that very obvious transformation does not mean that everyone who sees it understands it. Some will of course. But some will see exactly the same and think the polar opposite – as the Pharisees are now doing. That is why Jesus had earlier added this comment to John’s disciples, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” 

The appearance of the Kingdom is much like the appearance of Christ – it creates a line of demarcation. It causes a decision to be taken in the minds of those who see what is happening. Those who are in any capacity legitimately searching for God see His hand at work. Those who are not see only trouble and something to be avoided. 

Which camp are we in? 

Having tasted of the “already now,” the believing community prays fervently for God’s name to be hallowed and his kingdom to come. When this desire is no longer present in the heart of the believing community, when the church no longer prays Maranatha, then it no longer loves God with all its heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Robert H. Stein

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Have you not tasted the present reality of God’s Kingdom? Do you not long for it to more fully appear? Then surely you must also do all you can in the here and now to make it more visible! 

Division (Matthew 12:24-26)

Photo by AP

Immediately after Jesus did an unprecedented miracle, the Pharisees  responded with, “It is only by  Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” The Word is not silent as to what Jesus thought about that statement. It says, “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”” 

The Jews – and especially the Pharisees – ought to have known that very well. For Jewish history includes the divide of the house of Saul (with Jonathan his own son siding with David), the historic divide of between the northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms, the treason of Baasha against Nadab, the treason of Zimri against Elah, the further historic divide of the northern tribes between Omri and Tibni and so much more. All of them lead to some manner of bloodshed among the King’s people, and ultimately, to the Jewish exile. Indeed, the word of God is littered with the word “rebelled” in describing the Jewish nations and its kings. 

It is a spiritual principle that a divided group of people is sure to see failure: They will never accomplish what they originally purposed to do. It is for this reason that Satan purposed to divide God and His creation back in the Garden of Eden. Satan knew that if those made in God’s image were one in purpose with God, that God’s plan for the whole of creation would be all but a finished work. Satan’s only hope for obstructing that plan was to divide God’s people from God Himself, and so cut them off from ever being able to worship Him in holiness. This he did quite effectively. Disunity is disaster. 

Jesus obviously knows that. Jesus also knows that Satan knows that! He said, “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” Satan, who used this very tool against those God created in His image, would surely not have a significant kingdom if his own were against him – He could not stand if he himself was divided. Moreover, Satan would never divide his own kingdom because even he knows that nothing helpful comes from civil war! 

A civil war is the low point of any society. It is quite literally the full breakdown of civility. People of the same nation taking up weapons against each other is an obvious sign that the enemy does not need to take up arms against it to see it defeated. It is already defeated. Those watching have only to watch to see just how far it can fall. 

It is no wonder that God is united as the Trinity. It is no wonder that who His people are rightly called to be is also a united whole. To that end Jesus would later pray for all of us, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

We participate in Christ’s purpose by doing all we can to live out the answer to that prayer – because if one thing is certain, it is that the Father is answering the Son’s prayer! So if we are not united, we can know that whatever is compelling us toward disunity is absolutely not of God at all. 

Believers are never told to become one; we already are one and are expected to act like it.

Joni Eareckson Tada

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

We are always wise to abide by the catchphrase started in 1627 by Rupertus Meldenius: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Trapped by Anger (Matthew 12:22-24)

Photo by Raj Rana on Unsplash

At this point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus and the Pharisees are no longer in  actual  productive dialogue with each other. Jesus is now an active threat to the Pharisee’s social-political clout as more and more people flock to Him. Worse, He is a very effective frustration to them as He continues to publicly refute their insistence on Jewish obedience to their interpretation of God’s ceremonial law. Observers on the ground at the time would have picked up on that rising tension, and we see it in the Gospel: 

“Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”” 

Once we make the decision in our mind that the other person is wrong, it is often impossible to see how they could be right. Our bias simply rules out that line of thought from that point forward, so our unconscious mind makes up ways of understanding how what they are saying and doing is patently wrong. As a result, our offence at what they say spills out into our response, which we perceive as correct and timely even if an unbiased observer would be appalled at our words. But we believe our words all the same, and the more we think and say them, the more we become entrenched in our perception. The line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ gets wider and wider with every word. 

Matthew clearly demonstrates that line. The Pharisees have crossed it, the crowd has not. So while the crowd sees an unheard-of miracle and concludes Jesus might be the Messiah, the Pharisees see the same miracle and conclude that Jesus is a slave of the devil. Which means they have not only consciously rejected Jesus as Messiah, they have installed a significant barrier between themselves and The Truth. A spiral of hatred has being engaged, and a wall of hostility has been erected. 

The result is that from this point forward the Pharisees are antagonistic to Jesus instead of merely doubtful. That will become evident in both how they approach Him and how He subsequently responds to them. On their end, every interaction will now be seen as an opportunity to entrap Him. On His end, every interaction will now be a convicting assessment of their error. The divide between them will become more and more obvious to onlookers (and readers of the Gospel). It is literally the divide between heaven (living with God) and hell (living apart from God). It is a divide caused entirely by a human choice. 

This is why Jesus told us to love our enemies – because only by seeking to love them can you even entertain the idea that who they are (let alone what they say and do) has any value at all. Without at least a glimmer of love for the other, you will see only a hard line of division between them and yourself.

Love of God and hatred of others cannot exist in the same person. If there is bitterness in someone’s heart towards any other, that is proof that that person does not really love God. All our protestations of love to God are useless if there is hatred in our hearts towards anyone.

William Barclay

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Can you pray for your opponent without malice? If not, it is well past the time to re-examine your own heart. 

Realization (Matthew 12:22-23)

Photo by Mario Dobelmann on Unsplash

Jesus has healed sick people repeatedly. He has also cast demons out  repeatedly. He  has healed both those suffering from disease and also those suffering a debilitating condition. That’s an important distinction, because healing someone from something that they’ve learned how to live with is obviously harder than healing someone with a disease their mind and body are still fighting. But Jesus has gone further, even healing someone who was suffering from both demon possession and a debilitating condition.
Matthew 9:32-33 records, “While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke.”  When that happened, the people responded with astonishment and wonderment, “The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”” 

That was a while ago in Matthew’s narrative. Now a very similar circumstance arises, except in this case the man is suffering multiple conditions as well as demon possession, “Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.” This means Jesus healed the fellow’s blindness, healed his muteness and also cast out a demon. That’s a three-for-one miracle, a never-before-heard-of event.

In fact, in all the history of the Jewish people, and even in all the history of the whole world – there is no record of anyone ever being healed of such a condition! It is no wonder the people went beyond their previous astonishment. So while before they were simply in wonder, now they add a potential conclusion; “All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”” 

It is a remarkable comment for the crowd. They are only now finally coming to the conclusion that the reader of the Gospel has seen for some significant time. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus fulfilled prophesy in His birth, in His upbringing, in His words, in His ministry and in where He ministered. Jesus did tremendous miracles. He healed the blind, healed the deaf and even raised the dead. Yet up to this point, the people had not concluded that Jesus was Messiah. But now – after all that – the people see this triple healing, and the tipping point comes into sight. They have not yet made the confession of faith, but at least they finally beginning to ask the right question! 

We easily forget how difficult it was to come into the Kingdom of God. The moment of conversion washes away the years of unbelief and the wall of doubt that stood before us for so long, motionless and impenetrable. Like a mother who instantly forgets the pain of childbirth, we forget how thick-headed we were before the realization dawned on us that Jesus was far more than a good man and a prophet. 

Be patient with unbelievers and long-suffering in your witness. It is not a simple thing to cross over from darkness to light. It takes a manifold witness over a good deal of time – and much prayer – to see dead ears opened and hard hearts made soft. 

If it honors Him – even if it blesses you at the same time – you can ask.  You know He can answer, and you know He is faithful to answer.  We just need to persevere in prayer.  His timing is never off.

Marcus Verbrugge

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Keep praying for the salvation of those you love!

Fulfilling Isaiah (Matthew 12:15-21)

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Matthew writes, “Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many  followed him,  and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”

This is not the first time that Matthew writes about Jesus healing quantities of sick people. In chapter 4 he wrote, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” In chapter 8 he said, “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” Chapter 9 says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” There is a very clear trend here. Jesus’ ministry was not a ministry of preaching and teaching and the occasional wonder. Jesus’ ministry was a ministry of healing. Healing others was a key facet of His ministry throughout His public work.

That is because His ministry of healing had a specific purpose. On two of the above occasions the Word records the phrase, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah.” This means that healing the sick was a prophetic mandate that Jesus was fulfilling. But it was more than that. Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophesies.  Matthew is making a special point of this one for a reason: It accomplished two things simultaneously. Firstly, it demonstrated that Jesus was the Messiah that Isaiah spoke of. This is a key motif in Matthew’s Gospel – He wrote the Gospel so that the Jewish people could clearly see Jesus as their Messiah and Lord. Nothing demonstrates that so viscerally as healing. Whenever divine healing happens, it demonstrates the presence, power, rule and authority of Christ. This is true to our day. But also, healing was (and is) a means of bringing about justice. 

Sin brought imperfection into the world God created perfectly. So while disease and sickness is a grief to us who commit sin, it is also a gross injustice to God our creator, who sees how the wickedness we perpetrated is staining that which He made to be holy. Surely from His vantage point, setting creation right again is the very essence of justice! 

A healing ministry is therefore not an optional activity for the minister of the Gospel. It is a necessary ministry. It continues and expands the work of Jesus and it continues and expands the justice of His coming Kingdom. 

The godly are […] God’s appointed instruments of restoration. Such is the ministry of healing and reconciliation which God has given to his people—then as well as now.

Willem A. VanGemeren

APPLICATION: Intentionality

To whom have you most recently ministered for healing?

Protest (Matthew 12:16)

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Some 700 years before He was born, the prophet Isaiah had written, “Here  is my  servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.” 

Isaiah had a long career, prophesying in Judah up to the Assyrian exile. His lifetime was a time of great injustice. Injustice within the city walls, and war outside them. Violence was a part of everyday life. Isaiah spoke to these conditions. He had much to say about God’s love of justice, and of God’s Messiah, who would finally bring about His justice. 

To the Jewish people of his day, Isaiah’s idea of that coming justice would have meant dramatic change for the better. Welcome news for sure, but such change means upheaval, and significant change would seem to mandate significant upheaval. Kings do not willingly give up their thrones! Yet Isaiah’s prophesy is one of a swing to justice without violence. No shouting (“He will not shout or cry out”), no political marches (“or raise his voice in the streets”), no rioting (“A bruised reed he will not break”) and no harm to others (“a smoldering wick he will not snuff out”). Of course, from our vantage point in history, we can look back on Isaiah’s words and see a picture of Jesus. In fact, He is crystal clear in the lines of Isaiah’s prophesy. But should not the world see Jesus in our actions just as clearly? 

To our day, such an idea is still radical. When a swing away from the present government order is in the air, it is considered inevitable to hear and see shouting and picketing and rioting and unrest. But Isaiah is saying that the one in whom God delights is the one who brings about justice without also bringing about civil unrest.

It is not such an easy task. The fallen-ness of our old nature sees the injustice of our world and wants to fight against it with some form of immediate remedial action. The human tendency to some form of violence is merely a manifestation of that primal urge. Faced with an unjust ruler and government, it is our nature to think of defiance and violence  as measured responses (rioting) or at the least violence to the peace and quiet of our city (shouting and marching in the streets). “Correction!,” we shout, “Change, now!,” we demand. It all seems so righteous to us in the moment, and Isaiah does not specifically say that it is not. What he does say is that such is not how the one God delights in would act. Further, Isaiah says it is not how God purposes to bring about true justice.

The greatest change always begins in small and virtually unnoticeable action. Kindness, grace and blessing are the tools God’s chosen use to bring about change. Willing sacrifice – even very costly sacrifice – is the method of payment for that change. 

Food for thought in our restless days. 

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand

the Apostle Paul, writing in Philippians 4:5

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What is your response to the injustices you face? What is your response to the injustices others face?   

Timing (Matthew 12:15-16)

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Jesus had deliberately provoked the Pharisees. He led His disciples through a grainfield
on the Sabbath when He knew very well that they were famished. Subsequently they picked, de-hulled and ate the grain in full view of the Pharisees. When confronted about it, He refuted their arguments (making the Pharisees look like fools who had not even read the Scripture). Then He went to the temple the same day, where He healed a man with a livable but unhelpful condition – only this time He did so after dialogue with the Pharisees about healing (as work) on Sabbath. Jesus was proving a point, and as the man was restored the point was made rather sharply.

Their pride deeply wounded, the Pharisees left to consult with one another. But Jesus knew they had left not so much for consultation as conspiracy. They were plotting His demise. “Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was.” Jesus had done a similar thing before. Back in chapter 4 of his Gospel, Matthew recorded, “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.” This is prudence.

To stay in the temple area would be to put Himself and His disciples in imminent danger. After all, they were guilty of desecrating the Sabbath in the Pharisee’s eyes also. Even worse, it would mean the crowd around Him would be left confused and distraught that their teacher and healer was so harshly treated. In withdrawing to another area, Jesus ensures that both the crowd and His disciples are safe. Besides which, He knows the crowd would follow Him. To keep the situation from unraveling, He tells them to keep His identity from their leaders.

Of course, Jesus did not always put safety first, as it were. When He later finds Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane one night (which should be a safer place than the Pharisee’s place of work during the day), He chooses to stay, knowing full well both that He is about to be arrested, and that Peter will be accused of being one of His own.

The difference between the two situations is one of God’s timing and the nature of the crowd. God’s timing is actually the more obvious, even though it is unseen. The visible crowd is another story. While the crowd that gathered around Him in the temple is in awe and desperate for more healing, the later crowd that gathers in the courtyard of the high priest after His arrest is full of discontents.

Jesus models perfect obedience to the Spirit’s leading and simultaneous care for the crowd that belongs to Him. He is modeling the use of spiritual discernment – the very thing that the Pharisees had failed to employ during their dialogue with Him moments ago.

As always, discernment (or lack thereof) has its fruitful result; Jesus finds Himself participating in a multitude of healings, while the Pharisees find themselves in a conversation about how to kill an innocent man.

A recurring phrase in the Bible is “and it came to pass …” Our timing is not the same as God’s timing.

H. Norman Wright

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

God’s timing is as He is; perfect. Let us be thankful that our lives are not arranged as we would have them to be, because if they were, the ultimate outcome would be very much less than what God has planned for the world. 

Worldview (Matthew 12:13-14)

Photo by Gordon Williams on Unsplash

Matthew reports that Jesus saw a man with a withered hand in the temple.  After a  dialogue with the Pharisees about the appropriateness of healing on the Sabbath, Jesus acts; “Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”

The reader of Matthew’s Gospel might conclude that the Pharisees have lost their minds. After all, their reaction at witnessing a divine healing appears bizarre. Why not be filled with wonder? Why not be filled with praise? Why not just be curious? Even if Jesus did ‘break the Law’, why not rather be merely upset? But that last sentence is there for a reason, and it isn’t that Matthew is making a dramatic point about how much Pharisees disliked ‘work’ on the Sabbath. For God Himself had said to Moses, “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people.”  

All of us filter what we experience through our worldview. Our worldview is how we make sense of reality. It underlies and informs our beliefs, our values and our actions. So when the Pharisees saw the obvious – a healing that is otherwise unexplainable being done by someone who is making a point of doing so on the Sabbath – their worldview mandated that the Law (which was their worldview) be religiously followed. Even if that meant killing the very one who was healing (benefitting) one of their own disciples. After all, if God had told them that, “Anyone who desecrates [the Sabbath] must be put to death,” then surely that is the right course of action. The Law was the Law, and the Law must be followed in order to honor the Holy Name of God and remain who God called them to be as His people. To not follow the Law literally would be to break away from God’s clear and well-understood commands. It was unthinkable – a thought to be dismissed immediately. 

What they failed to realize is that Jesus was challenging that very worldview. A dogmatic obedience to the Word should not trump the reality of the One who spoke the Word. For sure, the Bible is absolutely true and can be absolutely trusted. But the reality of God is greater than the Bible – as the reality of an author is greater than anything they could write. The Pharisees should have had enough discernment to realize that if God’s Law was being violated in God’s Name for the benefit of God’s people in God’s temple, it must be because something new was happening. Even if they could not immediately realize that God was in their midst, at the very least such events called for a fuller dialogue with the one perceived as violating the Law, and/or a careful and prayerful review of Scripture to see what the best course of action would be. 

In this the truth of the matter is found; The Pharisees were so proud and sure of themselves they could not even imagine a challenge to their worldview. In haste they rush off to commit the gravest error humankind could ever make. 

We may think that we are above making the same mistake. If so, we best remember that the Pharisees were those who studied God’s Word day and night. They would not have thought they were foolish either. May the Lord grant us pause before our decisions, so that we do not make the same foolish mistake! 

We feel our way around our world more than we think our way through it.

James K.A. Smith


Keeping a focus on the awesome reality of God helps us avoid the limitations of our fallen worldview. Today, focus on experiencing God’s presence.

Sheep (Matthew 12:10-13)

Photo by Fabian Betto on Unsplash

Seeing with a man with a withered hand in the temple, Jesus is confronted  by the  Pharisees with a question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Matthew continues the narrative with Jesus’ response; “He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.” 

A reasonable argument can be made that a sheep that falls into a pit and is clearly still alive is likely not in danger of imminent death. After all, all a person living in Jesus’ day could to help such an animal would be to ensure it has water and food and not require it to move. There were no veterinarian hospitals to bring it to, so if the animal rests at the bottom of the hole or in a stable is more a matter of geography than help. The practical implication is that if one fell in on a Sabbath day the Jews could wait till the day after to pull it out. A day at the bottom of a hole might be a sentence of some significant discomfort for a distressed beast, but it is not an automatic death sentence. 

Yet no one in their right mind would respond that way. If your animal fell down a pit and could not get itself back out, you would feel compassion for the animal and immediately go to its rescue. Even if you didn’t have any love for animals at all – you would still respond on account of your concern over your investment. After all, you had to pay for the animal and have made an investment of your time in raising it to this point. That it could stay in the pit for the day would not really be the point. The point is your concern for the welfare of a being of which you have some sense of compassion (or at least ownership). 

How much more then, does God have compassion on those He made and cared for all their lives? For who can argue that a sheep is more important or valuable then a person? A sheep is livestock – at most a pet that lives a fraction of our lifespan. A person is irreplaceable. And who can argue that God should not have compassion for that which He has a sense of ownership? For He defines Himself as, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” 

It is no wonder Jesus healed the man. God has compassion. God is gracious. God is abounding – overflowing with love and faithfulness! 

The principle here is yet another example of God’s moral law taking precedence over His ceremonial law, which defined the Jewish people. This is a key take-away for all who call themselves disciples of God: Compassionate ministry trumps legalistic obedience. Not because God’s ceremonial laws are unimportant, but because compassion for people is a far greater expression of God’s character than adherence to the cultural rules that define our particular people group. 

Compassion costs. It is easy enough to argue, criticize, and condemn, but redemption is costly, and comfort draws from the deep. Brains can argue, but it takes heart to comfort.

Samuel Chadwick

APPLICATION: Intentionality

We are thankful that God cares so much for us that He acts out His compassion for us. How much more than should we do likewise for those just like us!