Going on from that place, [Jesus] went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 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 person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So [the man] stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. (Matthew 12:9-13 NIV)
Jesus said, Stretch out your hand.
This man could have responded, But I cannot sir, as you see it is withered and shriveled. It has always been so. It most likely will always be so. You don’t understand the true nature of this situation. This man, however, responded to Jesus in faith –believing that somehow Jesus would do for him what he could not do – that it just might be different than it had always been before.
He must have made some attempt to try to stretch it out. And in that attempt, Jesus made it whole, restoring his hand to what it was intended it to be.
It was not the location (the synagogue) that brought healing to this man. Nor was the religious leaders that brought healing to this man. It was not this man that brought healing to himself. It wasn’t even knowing God’s perfect law and ‘rules’ for right behavior that brought healing. It was Jesus.
The healing came as this man responded in obedience to what Jesus said to him, Stretch it out.
Wouldn’t it really just be so nice to feel healed first and then stretch out? Likewise, wouldn’t it be so wonderful to feel loving first towards those Jesus calls us to love, and then act on it? But Jesus commanded this man to do what he could not do, indeed, had never ever been able to do.
When Jesus commands me to love and I know I cannot, or to be at peace in Him and I cannot; to be patient where I cannot; to be content where I cannot; to love him more than anything else and I cannot; or believe and trust in Him or obey him and I cannot…
…this is the moment of great opportunity! These are the places where He makes his power known. This is where I can pray as one father did, Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24 NIV)
Or where the Apostle Paul proclaims in similar fashion,
But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NIV)
It was in the effort, the motion, the desire to move as Jesus commanded that this man experienced healing. So, when God is stretching us to what is beyond, but our heart is withered and strangled by worries and cares, or hardened by grief and loss and unresponsive to him, he can untwist what has curled in upon itself as we seek to respond in trust to him. This man not only believed in Jesus’ power – he experienced it and his healing became an opportunity for God’s glory to shine!
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18 ESV)