Jesus was nobody's fool. He knew everybody's motive and the schemes that they were cooking (Luke 6:8). He knew why they had come to the synagogue - not to learn from Him but to find a reason to kill Him. They were waiting for their chance to pounce. Jesus knew the religious leaders were out to get Him but, unafraid, He chose His moments deliberately to demonstrate His divine authority even though it would mean a fresh confrontation with His accusers. This was not for fun, or ego, but as proof that He had the power of God that was noticeably lacking in their religion. Jesus took the truth to their front door; as He did with Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).
The synagogue was the local congregation of Jews. It was their 'House of assembly', 'House of worship' and 'House of study'. It was not the place of sacrifice – that was the Temple in Jerusalem. It was where the scrolls of the Old Testament were stored carefully and brought out, read and interpreted (Luke 4:16-21). Respected people would stand to read the Scriptures and then sit to teach. Jesus took the floor and invited a man with a shrivelled hand to stand also. That was like saying, 'This is God's Word'. It certainly challenged the power-hungry clerics and inflamed their desire to kill Him (John 5:18).
Nothing secret here: in full view of seething opponents, Jesus selected a disabled man and commanded him to stand. The man had everything to gain if he was healed, but Jesus had everything to lose ... and that is really the whole story of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus loses everything so that we can gain everything (Romans 8:32). But what if the man had remained seated, had refused to obey the Lord's command, had refused to be identified as a person in need of divine help? Then he would have missed the blessing; the power of Christ would not have been seen. The man's act of obedience was all part of the gospel story too, because the good news is not just information. It is an invitation to be accepted; a call that demands response (John 3:16).
Jesus still sets up those moments when He is going to bless the helpless and confront the cynics. What will you do if He wants to involve you? There is no value in pretending that you are well when you are sick, or happy when you are sad. But when the Lord wants to work in you, He will call you to admit your weakness and sinfulness, and then demonstrate His power in your life (John 9:1-5). His work will bless you, and also provide a challenge to those who are with you. His work in you is for His glory, for your blessing and to be evidence to those around that only He has the power – so that they should also follow Him. Many will reject Him (John 6:66), but some will respond. So, when He sets up the encounter, don't shrink back!
© Dr Paul Adams