Now it happened on another Sabbath,
also, that He entered the synagogue
and taught. And a man was there whose
right hand was withered
So the scribes and Pharisees watched
him closely, whether he would heal on
the Sabbath, that they might find
an accusation against him
But he knew their thoughts and said to
the man with the withered hand, “Arise
and stand here.” And he arose and stood
Then Jesus said to them, ” I will ask you
one thing: Is it lawful to do good or to do
evil, to save life or destroy:”
And when He had looked around at them
all, He said to the man,”Stretch out your
hand.” And he did so, and his hand was
restored as whole as the other.
But they were all filled with rage and
discussed with one another what they
might do to Jesus.
He arose early this Sabbath morning as he always did, to spend the entire day in the synagogue in his home town. Ever since that fateful day in 2 A.D. he had lived alone.
That day, he along with 217 Jewish stonemasons, were punished for working on the Sabbath. Their right hands were crushed and shattered, becoming useless and withered for the rest of their lives. He was forced to wear sackcloth wrapped around his right arm and hand as an example of what would happen to anyone who would dare break the law of the Sabbath.
Ever since that day, he had never heard from his wife and children. The eyes of his children were gouged out and they spent the rest of their lives begging in the streets, never to see their parents again. His wife had one eye gouged out and the fingers of her right hand cut off. She was sent to the garbage dump of Gehenna. The family, which had been so close was now separated forever.
Every day he went to the streets, his head bowed. He never was allowed to look anyone in the eye in public. The High Priest had declared that God was greatly displeased with the stonemasons and had abandoned them and their families forever. Officially, this proclamation was called the Masons Disallowance. The religious leaders had agreed that the stonemasons could never be forgiven but their families could be forgiven for the sin of the stonemasons. However, if a stonemason took his life to escape the horror of his punishment, then God would not forgive his family and transfer the punishment to the next 3 generations.
Every morning since that day, the stonemason awoke convinced that God Himself had forsaken him and that he would never be forgiven. No one, absolutely no one, could talk to him and he could talk to no one. If this took place, the curse would come upon the other person. Crushed by despair, he made his way to the synagogue.
The ancient records give us the details and the historical setting. Herod the Great had a desire to enhance the Jewish Temple of Worship in the city of Jerusalem. It was one of the great architectural and engineering wonders of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. He hired the most talented master builders, including 217 Jewish stonemasons.
In 5 B.C., Herod began to have a premonition that he would die before the Temple’s completion.
The substructure work involving the stone masons was not yet done, so he gave the order for them to work around the clock, seven days a week.
The Jewish stonemasons knew that to work on the Sabbath was against Jewish law and to do so would cause them to break the law. However, the Jewish chief priest that oversaw and supervised the construction of the Temple was handpicked by Herod the Great himself. His name was Jeshu ben See and not wanting to offend Herod, he gave his approval for the stone masons to work on the Sabbath. He convinced the High Priest, the most powerful religious leaders and the Sadducees to agree with this, saying it would benefit the Temple.
In 4 B.C., Herod died but Herod’s successor, Archelaus continued the project with Jeshu ben See overseeing the work as before. Within 4 years the work was done but the story does not end here.
Rome wanted to build the Tower of Antonia, the administrative headquarters of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. Coponius, the Roman Governor at the time demanded that Jeshu ben See order the 217 Jewish stonemasons to once again work seven days a week, around the clock on the Tower. This time Jeshu ben See convinced Elazor, the new High Priest to issue a Proclamation, known as the Sabbath of Weeks Proclamation. This would allow the stone masons to work 126 Sabbaths to finish the work on the Tower and in 2 A.D., the work was completed.
History records that Jeshu ben See invited the stone masons and their families to a celebration in their honor for all the work they did in building the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It was a joyous time for the stone masons and their families but then there was a pause in the ceremony
Jeshu ben See declared that working on the Sabbath was forbidden by Jewish law. The stone
masons had broken the law by working on the Sabbath in building the Temple but because it was the Jewish Temple they would be forgiven and not be punished. However, they would be punished for working on the Sabbath to build the Tower of Antonia because it was for their enemies, the Romans. It would have been better for them to not
obey the High Priest then to work for the good of theRoman Empire.
It was then that the carnage began. By law, no one had the right to punish anyone for Sabbath breaking by taking away their livelihood but this too was overruled and the right hands were smashed denying them their livelihood forever. As the screams of children and wives having their eyes gouged out grew louder and louder, the Roman authorities began to arrive but it was too late to stop the bloodshed. They arrested Jeshu ben See and the High Priest but Jeshu said it was his doing and the High Priest was innocent.
Jeshu ben See was convicted of inhumane treatment by Roman Court of Law and sentenced to three years in a Roman Prison.
One day a young boy noticed a man sitting in the back of a synogogue on a Sabbath day. The man never looked up and his right arm and hand was wrapped in sackcloth. He never spoke and no one spoke to him and he was still there when the boy left to go home. “Who is that man?”, he asked Joseph and Mary, his parents. They told him the story of the stone masons.
As the years went by, the young boy became a man and then the day in the synogogue in his home town, he announced that He was the one prophesied about long ago upon whom the Spirit of the Lord would come. He would heal the brokenhearted, set free the captives, give beauty for ashes, joy for sadness and liberate mankind from every form of oppression. He was the Lord of the Sabbath, it was His day and He would bring that day back under the Law of Love and destroy the heartlessness, the hypocrisy, the cruelty of manmade religious concepts about the ways of God.
He should know. He knew His Father. He was His Son, the Son of HIs Love. His name was Jesus Christ and He had waited years for the day when He would restore the man with the withered hand. He too, was on his way to the synogogue.
Imagine that moment when all eyes were upon Jesus as he entered the synogogue. Here and now He would confront the spirit of religion in religious leaders who had created the Sabbath after their own image not the image of His Father. This kind of religion thrives where there is hardness of heart and creates Sabbaths that keep love and compassion, healing and deliverance, out of the synogogue(churches) in the name of God, worshipping correctness in outward externals and programs devoid of His presence and form without any display of power. Structures without life, all the names written on tombstones, no resurrection life on display.
There are many who have been wounded by religion, shepherds not after God’s heart, confined by systems of dos and don’ts, confronted by what God wants, instead of revealing WHO GOD IS. Jesus came to reveal who His Father was, the way His Father Feels and pour out unconditional love upon the broken and undeserving. He would be smashed for every law broken, for every mistake, so that we could be made whole.
No longer would the stonemason hang his head in shame, his dignity and value as a human being smashed by those who exalt the demands of the law over the smile of the God who is love and whose bowels of compassion are moved when He sees us. Jesus has him stand up and SPEAKS to him, the silence of being driven away, embraced by the voice of the ONE whose words dispel the shame.
God does not stand aloof from our pain and weeps within our weeping. He runs to embrace us, He yearns to lift our head to look into His eyes and wash our souls and spirits by His love. He can do so because His Son was crushed and withered away for us, so that every area of our lives that is withered, meaning dry and useless, shrivelled up and lifeless, can respond to the words the stone mason heard that day;
“Stretch out your hand”
God does not shun us but gives dignity, even to the fallen, even to the erring, even to the one that others judge, ignore, look down upon because they don’t live up to the law or the way they or their church does things. A speck in the eye, a mote in the eye is what Jesus calls our weaknesses. The hand that was to serve Him, extend from the heart towards heaven to worship Him and reach out to others to touch them as HIm is not to be smashed but restored and made whole. Brokenness and tenderness of heart for our brethren does not smash the hand, take away the vision and punish.
We need not duck the beams which are the created expectations of those who crush the preciousness and value of the one with a mote in his eye.
Take off the sackcloth. Stand in the presence of God, even in the presence of those who look away from you because they really cannot see you. The Lord of the Sabbath has come to you today. That area of your life that has been withered, that area of your soul that has dried up, that place within your emotions that is dead, “Stretch it forth!”
Maybe it came because of unfairness, or lack of love from others. Maybe some deep disappointment or failure. Hurt or abuse might have crushed you in some way. Things that were said to you, misunderstandings or lack of sensitivity in your situations.
The Lord of Life understands. He has been waiting for the day to arrive to weep with you and then joyfully to YOU, say “Step forward”, “Stretch forth your hand”.
He has not turned His back on anyone and we can take off the sackcloth and expose ourselves in His presence because He loves us and in His presence there is a release of His power to make us whole as we extend ourselves to Him in our deepest need. To do so will see God do what no man can do and He will undo all that man has done to us that was not born out of the heart of God………