Jesus and His 7 Sabbath Healings

Jesus and His 7 Sabbath Healings

Jesus and His 7 Sabbath Healings.

Seven (7): The Biblical number that represents perfection, completeness, fulfillment, wholeness, finished.

“As an observant Jew, Jesus loved the Sabbath. Nowhere did He teach that Sabbath was to be broken. He encouraged the people to have biblical balance, to bypass only those rules that were the traditions of the religious folk and not of God. Jesus affirmed the keeping of the Sabbath. He desired that His people get past the traditions that had obscured the true meaning of Sabbath. Jesus wanted them to experience the blessing of rest, the remembrance of the Creation, the reflection of the covenant God had made with Israel, and the realization that Sabbath was a picture of eternity.” (David Stern).

Jesus did not hesitate to show mercy through healing on the Sabbath. In fact, He engaged in 7 Sabbath healings. Seven, God’s favorite number in the Scripture; seven to show that He desires the sick to return to Edenic wholeness; seven to show He healed in the spirit of Creation; seven to show He wanted to honor Creator Father on the Day set apart to honor Him; seven to continue Creation through human renewal and  flourishing; seven to show that doing good on the Sabbath is acceptable to the Lord of the Sabbath; seven to remind all people that mankind was made in the image of God and deserves the dignity of good health.

But why did Jesus heal in the first place? Why was so much of His valuable time on earth spent on healing people every day of the week? Maybe it was because it was in his spiritual DNA… He co-created them whole and wanted to see them whole again. Maybe it was because He wanted to prove that He was not some distant, ethereal spirit but was the incarnate Son of God, close and personal and willing to get involved in all the problems and difficulties of the flesh. Perhaps Jesus healed because healings were fulfillment of Scripture, prophetic proof that He was indeed the Messiah, a living testimony to the truth of the Hebrew Bible that the messianic age came to earth in Jesus. Perhaps Jesus is so full of love and kindness that He almost couldn’t help Himself, He simply enjoyed making people well, making them happy and healthy, and healing was the most helpful thing He could do for those who were burdened with sickness and brokenness.

These 7 Sabbath healings reveal Someone who can be utterly tender and compassionate to those who are hurting in some way, and totally confrontational to those who think He is breaking the Sabbath. Tender and tough. Here follows a brief review of the 7 Sabbath healings of Christ:

(1.) Matthew 12:9-13 = The Man with the Withered Hand. (also in Mark 3:1-6). In Mark 2:27, just before this incident, Jesus said this to the Pharisees: “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” (NLT).  Once again, Jesus is going to test the petty rules of the religious leaders. According to Jewish tradition, one cannot practice medicine unless it’s a matter of life and death for the patient. All eyes were on Jesus, because if the Pharisee could catch Jesus breaking the Sabbath law, perhaps they could sway popular opinion against Him. Jesus had His eyes wide open wherever He went. He saw a man with a paralyzed hand in the synagogue. Since it was his right hand (Luke 6:6), he was unable to find work in a meaningful and self-supporting way. This man needed both hands to function in order to support a family. So Jesus wanted to help him. Jesus brought the man with the crippled hand to the front of the crowd, front and center. He wasn’t afraid to confront the religious leaders. He asked the leaders, “So, is it okay to do a good deed on the Sabbath? Or would you rather have me do something evil? Should I be helping people or leaving them helpless?” The leaders would not answer Jesus’ question. Jesus was clearly put out with these leaders. He was downright angry with them. They were hard-hearted rule-keepers, not life-giving God followers. Jesus was angry, but He was also sad… Why can’t they see the emptiness of these traditions? Why can’t they put mercy ahead of tradition. So, right in front of everybody, the man held his hand out and Jesus healed him, right there in the synagogue for all to see. Now it’s the Pharisees’ turn to get angry. They were outraged that Jesus showed them up, embarrassed them to the crowd. Their anger, unlike Christ’s, is not righteous, however. They wanted to use their anger to kill Jesus.

(2.) Mark 1:23-26Demon possession. Jesus seemed tireless on this one full day in Capernaum. He taught with authority in the synagogue, He cast out a demon after His teaching, He healed Peter’s mother-in-law at Peter’s home, then after sunset Jesus continued His powerful healing ministry with sick and demon-possessed people from all over the area. Undoubtedly, Jesus slept well that night. Near the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath. Capernaum was to be their adopted headquarters and home site for the duration of Christ’s ministry. In this synagogue, the people were amazed at the teachings of Jesus, astonished that He didn’t teach like the scribes. They were thrilled that “He spoke as one having authority.” In other words, His teaching wasn’t mere God-talk, repeating mindlessly what everyone had always said. The words weren’t empty, hypocritical, or full of hidden motives. Jesus spoke with authority because He was the true “author” of His words. He taught from His heart, honestly and transparently, and His words were not spoken for show or for appearance’s sake. Jesus opened up Scripture in a fresh way, and the hearers were inspired by what He said to them. The fact that his life was consistent with His speech only added to His credibility. In this synagogue was a man with an evil spirit. Once Jesus entered the synagogue, the demon in the man knew immediately who Jesus was and was alarmed at Jesus’ presence. The spirit started to foolishly give commands to Jesus, as if it had power over Jesus to make Him leave the synagogue. But the demon ended up by acknowledging that Jesus is truly “the Holy One of God.” Jesus told the demon to be quiet and to come out of the man. The evil spirit had no choice but to obey. Not only did Jesus speak with authority there in the synagogue, He also proved He had authority over the demonic world. Soon He would prove His authority over sickness as well. Apparently, despite His intentions, the fame of Jesus started to spread around the region of Galilee. The word was getting out.

(3.) Mark 1:29-31 – Peter’s Mother-in-Law. Jesus, accompanied by James and John, walked from the synagogue to Simon Peter’s house nearby. It must have been a short walk, because travel was limited during the Sabbath. Upon arriving at Peter’s home, Jesus was told that Peter’s mother-in-law was very sick with a high fever. She was evidently a much beloved person, because everyone in the area begged Jesus to heal her. Jesus approached her, tenderly touched her, and took her by the hand, helping her to sit up. Jesus rebuked the sickness, essentially telling the fever, Who do you think you are? You don’t belong here! How dare you invade this woman! Leave her, now! And the fever immediately left her. She was fully restored to good health in an instant. Peter’s unnamed mother-in-law is an excellent model for all of us. As soon as she was healed, she rose up and without hesitation prepared a meal for Jesus and the disciples. Her instinct was to serve after the fever left her. She was healed, and then she served. She was blessed in order to be a blessing. She was healed in order to be a servant. Capernaum was abuzz with news of what Jesus was doing. He opened up the Scripture like no one else, He cast out a demon, He healed a fever. All in one day! People couldn’t go to Peter’s house during the Sabbath, so they stayed away for the afternoon. There were travel restrictions during the day, and they weren’t comfortable yet approaching Jesus for a healing on the Sabbath. But as soon as Sabbath ended at sunset, people came from all over the area. It seemed that the whole town of Capernaum was at Peter’s door, bringing the sick and the demon-possessed. “No  matter what their diseases were, the touch of His hand healed everyone… and the demons came out at His command, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But because they knew that He was the Messiah, Jesus rebuked them and refused to let them speak.” (Luke 4:40-41).

(4.) Luke 13:10-13The Crippled Woman. Jesus was an orthodox Jew in good standing, spreading the Word in the presence of other orthodox Jews, in the local meeting place for such things, the synagogue. He was teaching Scripture, reading from Torah, leading discussion, answering questions. Jesus did this virtually every Sabbath, it was part of His ministry, his duty as a well-respected rabbi. Good things tend to happen when you’re just doing your duty. There was a woman at the synagogue who was seriously handicapped, painfully disabled, doubled over for 18 years. She couldn’t straighten her back all that time, she was unable to stand up straight and look people in the eye. Luke says that she was crippled by an evil spirit, that her infirmity was caused by a demonic spirit of bondage. What quality must this woman have had, to endure this for 18 years? What would be going through her mind and emotions in the synagogue, standing near Jesus? Jesus saw this woman who was suffering. He had compassion on her, and He called her over to Him. She did her part, she came over to where Jesus was standing. He then gently touched her and spoke words of healing over her, and she was immediately released from her terrible disability. She instantly stood up straight and tall, looked Him in the eyes, and she began to praise God. Jesus didn’t have to mumble some special formula for exorcising the spirit. He didn’t even ask about her faith. He just spoke sweet words of endearment, “Dear woman,” and released her from her miserable condition. There was no conversation. In fact, we didn’t hear from the woman until after she was healed. Can you imagine the joy and relief she must have felt? The leader of this synagogue was offended that Jesus would do the work of a doctor and heal someone on the Sabbath, when there wasn’t any type of emergency with a life hanging in the balance. He considered it unlawful labor, and he told the crowd what he thought of Jesus the law-breaker. The leader even accused the sick people of starting the whole problem by coming to get healing on the Sabbath. How dare they want to get healed on this of all days! After the leader spoke his piece of nonsense, Jesus in return called his critic frauds for believing this sort of thing. He called them hypocrites, since all technically break the Sabbath every week by caring for their animals. Isn’t a woman crippled by Satan valued more highly than farm animals, Jesus asks, since she needs someone to care for her? And this beloved woman is a true daughter of Abraham! The leader and the critics could say nothing in return. They were red-faced with shame. They were made to look silly and they were humiliated in public. The rest of the crowd was delighted, they were overjoyed with what they saw Jesus say and do, not only for silencing His enemies, but also advocating for and healing the sick. They rejoiced in loud voice, Luke says, over the glorious things Jesus was doing.

(5.) Luke 14:1-6 – The Man with Dropsy. Jesus entered a house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees. He wanted to share some Sabbath bread with this religious leader. He knew He was being closely watched for any kind of slip-up, any mistake they could charge Him with. They were obviously trying to trap Jesus, trying to trick Him into breaking the Law. But Jesus was unafraid to spent time with the Pharisees, even when He realized they had ulterior motives. A man was there in the house who had what was called dropsy, which is when one’s body had an abnormal amount of swelling due to an excessive retention of water. Jesus asks a question of the Pharisees: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” They were all silent in response. So Jesus took this man in hand and healed him right there in the Pharisee’s house. Jesus then implied that they would undoubtedly pull one of their donkeys or cows out of a pit on the Sabbath. He is implying that they would rescue an animal out of trouble, but not a human being made in the image of God? The Pharisees didn’t have an answer. They were outfoxed, shamed, and stupefied into silence.

(6.) John 5:1-13 – The Lame Man at Bethesda. All Jewish men, usually accompanied by their families, were required to go to Jerusalem each year to celebrate 3 holy days: Passover, Pentecost, and Shelters. Jesus was merely being faithful to His Jewish faith by being in Jerusalem at this time. He was raised in an observant home with religious parents (Luke 2:41), and He as an adult continued exercising His faith the way He was raised. Jesus was fully Jewish in both race and religion. While in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, Jesus happened to stroll by a big pool of water that was a local gathering place for those with disabilities – the lame, sick, crippled, blind. This place, Bethesda, which means House of Loving Kindness, was often seen as a miraculous pool that healed the sick. It was thought that when the natural spring in the water caused a bubbling on the surface, it was a healing angel stirring the water. The disabled were desperate to touch the water during the bubbling up, and were looking for any hope they could find to be cured. There was a man lying near the pool who had been lame for 38 years. We never know his name. He was hopeless, in his own mind, because no one had ever helped him touch the bubbling water for healing. There’s a good chance that being lame for this long meant that his condition had become a life style, a way of living, that he had grown accustomed to. No doubt his own identity was wrapped up in his crippled condition. Being crippled for that long probably meant that this is how he sees himself, it’s a part of how he defines himself. Jesus seemed to have eyes only for this lame man as He approached him and asked him a question… “Would you like to get well?” The lame man lying there helplessly on his mat could be excused for thinking, “What?! Of course I want to get well! Why would you even ask a question like that? Do you think I like being crippled?” Jesus must have had something in mind particular to this man when He asked that question. It’s as if Jesus was asking this lame man a loaded question, just for him. Perhaps that question implied these deeper questions from Jesus that the man needs to answer for himself: Seeing his hopelessness, yet sensing a Yes to His question, Jesus had mercy and healed the lame man, right where he lay. Jesus simply told him to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk. So that’s what the man did! All it took was a word. Jesus never touched him that we know of. After lying on his mat for all those years, it was a miracle that he could even stand. Soon after the healing, Jesus disappears into the crowd, without even telling the man His name. Sure enough, no one is better at raining on a parade than the rigid Temple leaders, the self-appointed religious police, who are all about keeping all the tiny details of Jewish tradition. They were more concerned with their petty rules, like carrying a mat on the Sabbath, that the fact that a miracle has been done in their presence! The Pharisee leaders thought that the broken rule was more important than the fact that a broken man was healed. This particular law wasn’t even in Scripture, the leaders made it up, and it was one of hundreds of laws they added to the Old Testament law. With this healing, Jesus implied that people are more important than irrelevant or empty rules. So the strange, rather obvious question that Jesus asked the lame man turned out not to be such an obvious question after all. And when we ask God to heal us or to help us make a major change about ourselves, Jesus is asking the same questions of us. Do you tend to define yourself by what needs to be healed? Are you ready for others to see you differently? Can you claim a complete self-identity without focusing on your deficits or challenges? Can you reject the victim label and take responsibility for your life? Will you recognize God the Healer as also Savior and Sustainer?

(7.) John 9:1-16 The Man Born Blind. Jesus was simply walking down the road in Jerusalem, and He spotted the blind beggar. Unlike the blind man, Jesus saw everything. Nothing escaped His notice. His eyes were open 24/7 to see those in need, and He didn’t miss a thing. The rest of humanity has fallen eyes, half-closed to others who are unfortunate or who don’t scream for attention. Jesus had fully redeemed eyes with an eternal attention span, perfect eyesight, able to observe those whom others overlook. This story begins with the simple fact of the careful observation of the Lord. But that only makes sense, doesn’t it? “He who formed the eye, shall He not see?” (Ps. 94:9). The disciples saw the man born blind, begging by the side of the road, and assumed that his blindness was a punishment from God for a sin committed by him or by his parents. It was common in that era for people to trace any disability or illness to a particular sin that was committed. Jesus did say this man’s blindness will be redeemed, that it will be used to glorify God and reveal His glory. This entire story reveals Jesus as the incarnation of God’s words at creation, “Let there be light!” (Gen. 1:3). He brings the light of eyesight to a blind man who has never seen light. And He brings the light of spiritual understanding to those who witnessed this miracle with eyes wide open, and to those who read about this miracle centuries later. Immediately after declaring Himself to the world’s light, Jesus proceeded to bring light to this man’s world. He used creation materials, water and dust, to bring a new creation to this man, the light of faith as well as light to the eyes. Jesus spit on the ground, mixed it together with the dust, and made an ointment of mud. He then rubbed the mud on the eyes of the man.  This wasn’t as distasteful as it might appear now, since saliva was commonly accepted in biblical times to have some medicinal value. After the mud was applied to the blind man’s eyes, Jesus told the man to go and wash off the mud in the pool of Siloam. “So, he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:7). Once again the waters of creation, in this case the waters of recreation, is evoked. The people witnessing this healing were shocked and then very skeptical. They couldn’t believe what they just saw. Isn’t this the blind beggar we see every day? There was some controversy whether this man was actually the same beggar they had seen all these years. Finally, the healed man put an end to that controversy by saying, “Yes, it’s me!” Jesus slipped away when the blind man went to the pool of Siloam. No one seemed to know where Jesus went. The bewildered witnesses decided to bring the healed man to the Pharisees for a formal investigation in order to certify the healing. Some of the Pharisees couldn’t accept that this healer could be from God, since He broke Temple law by healing on the Sabbath, He didn’t rightly keep the Sabbath. This so-called healer is obviously a sinner, they thought, so they didn’t believe the healing actually occurred.  After more intense questioning of the healed man by the Pharisees, the exasperated man told them that there may be some doubt about who the healer is, he does know one indisputable fact… “Though I was blind, now I see!” And he followed that up with… Obviously, if this was a mere sinner who healed me, He wouldn’t have been able to do this! The Pharisees responded by casting this man out of the Temple. The blind man’s faith progressed before our very eyes as we read this story. He started out not knowing the first thing about Jesus. He didn’t even know who this man was who was applying mud to his eyes and instructing him to go wash it off. He was happy to oblige the man who anointed his eyes, probably figuring that it wouldn’t hurt to give this a try. Why not? Finally, after meeting up with Jesus again outside the Temple, the healed man is convinced. “Lord, I believe!” And the man immediately bowed down and worshipped Jesus as the Son of God (V. 38).