Read Matthew 12:9-14.
Was there no limit to how low they would stoop? Those Pharisees would do anything to find a way to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing, even if it meant exploiting a poor, crippled man.
They tried to bait him with this question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (I guess they hadn’t learned from their encounter in the wheat field).
Jesus’ response was bizarre. He started talking about sheep.
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?
What’s a sheep got to do with anything? Did Pharisees even have sheep? They must have, because he continued…thankfully.
How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
So, if a sheep is suffering, because he fell into a pit and can’t get out, I will naturally want to help the poor creature out, Sabbath or no Sabbath. After all, it’s not his fault he fell into the pit on a holy day. He doesn’t know.
Thus, if a man is obviously more valuable than a sheep, and he also is suffering out of no fault of his own on the Sabbath, can I not help him too?
Jesus says, “yes”, because it is lawful to do good things on the Sabbath. Then he does something to prove it. He heals the man’s hand.
That did not go over well with the Pharisees, but that’s another story.
I’m going back to the point about the sheep. Do I hesitate to help others because I’m not seeing their value in the eyes of God? If I help my cat down from the top of my kitchen cabinets, will I not help a homeless woman who’s lost her way?
What good am I doing? Am I doing good? Or, am I looking for excuses not to help the ones I undervalue? Ouch.
Jesus may have been responding to the Sabbath issue, but I also think he was trying to prick their consciences in relation to how they valued others. They didn’t care about the crippled man. They just grabbed him as an illustration, not considering his feelings.
That’s why Jesus showed love toward the man. He knew he was just like a poor lost sheep, but he was standing next to the Good Shepherd. He healed him out of love and compassion, as a man made in the image of God.
What gets me most? Being unwilling to do good or being unwilling to see value in my fellow man. Maybe both. “We all like sheep have gone astray.”
Are you ready to follow the example of the Good Shepherd? I am.