He might have expected it to be just another Sabbath, but the day would be anything but ordinary for this man. He, with his crippled hand, was about to be drawn into the spotlight, so as to expose our sinful hearts.
He likely wasn’t expecting the confrontation he encountered between the religious leaders and Jesus of Nazareth. In the audience that particular Sabbath, he sat, suffering from a hand he could not use and which no doubt caused him much pain. Jesus calls the man into the open. It’s clear that the religious leaders wanted the man to stay in his suffering. They considered the act of healing him on the Sabbath to be illegal. They had no concern for his pain. They were self-righteous and good living. But they were merciless.
Even their visible acts of mercy were false. Matthew reports that Jesus challenged them, saying that, if it was one of their own sheep in trouble, they would show mercy. This was not because they cared for the sheep. They were businessmen and sheep were an investment. They would rescue the animal because it had something to offer them. And sadly, as the story continues, we see these same men discussing (on the Sabbath of all days) how to kill Jesus for His act of mercy. That crippled hand exposed their true condition.
Mercilessness is evidence of sin that no amount of self-righteousness or good morals can hide. It is why Cain killed his brother, why, in our present day, we need referees in our sports and police on our streets. If we examine our own hearts, we will find the same mercilessness that marked these religious men. We have hated. We have gossiped. We have sought revenge and carried grudges. Our lack of mercy is exposed. Our sin is obvious.
Yet that same crippled hand also revealed Jesus to be full of true mercy. He was not just merciful to this man, but He was also merciful to the merciless. As Jesus looked on this self-righteous group, He knew their murderous thoughts, and He was angry.His anger was caused by intense grief for them. He was passionate to save the most rebellious and stubborn from their sins.
He healed the man at great cost to Himself. They were determined to kill Him for it. And from that perspective, we can view the cross of Christ, where the Merciful One met the depth of our cruelty and His mercy did not fail. The greatest act of compassion happened on that cross. Jesus Christ endured the cruelty of men and the wrath of God so that merciless sinners could be forgiven.
That crippled hand pointed people away from their own sinful hearts to a merciful Savior. The hand that Jesus healed beckons us to look away from ourselves and trust in Him alone.