“And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.” (Mark 3:4, ESV)
Jesus questions those at the synagogue who are witnesses to the man with the withered hand. Luke tells us that the man’s right hand was withered, which must surely mean that he could do no manual labor, or none for which anyone would pay him a living wage. He was most surely destitute and unable to provide for himself or his family (if he had one). This was an intolerable situation in a culture in which men were obligated to provide for their families, indeed what made one a man was his ability to do just that.
The Pharisees and those in attendance at the synagogue know all this. They know what it meant to have a useless hand. They knew that God called men to provide for themselves and for their families. At the moment of truth (as it were) when Jesus confronts them with this stark question, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” They stand mute. They refuse to answer, and their refusal is damning for it surely indicates that they fully understood both Jesus’ question and the answer to that question.
- They were silent because they knew the answer to Jesus’ question. They knew what ought to be done.
- They were silent because they fundamentally lacked compassion for people around them, especially people in vital need.
- They were silent because the rules they followed were more important than a man’s well being and ability to work for a living.
- They were silent because they hated Jesus and wanted nothing more than to destroy him.
But Jesus was not silent.
“Stretch out your hand.” Three words [in the Greek], that is all that Jesus says and that is all that he needs to say. The man stretches out his hand and in an instant it is restored and he is whole.