One of the most fascinating episodes in the life of Jesus is when he heals a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath day. Compared to some of His other miraculous works, this particular healing may not seem as impressive. But the reaction of the bystanders sets this miracle apart because it reveals just how hardened and untrustworthy our hearts can be. Recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke the story is brief but powerful. It was the Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and the religious leaders watched Him closely, waiting for Him to violate one of the many rules they had established for avoiding work on that day. Knowing the intentions of their hearts, Jesus called the man with a withered hand to come near. Now imagine yourself in the crowd. Maybe you had noticed the man in the corner with his deformed and useless hand. Perhaps you had stared in pity or turned in disgust at its lifeless and inhuman appearance. Because you had heard of Jesus the “miracle worker” your attention is rapt as you see the man slowly approach the Master obeying His command to stretch forth that gnarled extremity. In a surreal moment of shock that withered hand is transformed, completely new and functional, its owner with eyes fixed in awe, slowly flexing and extending his beautifully normal fingers. What would your reaction be? How would you expect those around you to react? Some likely marveled at who this Jesus could be . . . a healer, a prophet, the Messiah? But the religious leaders were filled not with wonder but with wrath and they conspired together how they could destroy Jesus.
In the face of overwhelming physical evidence witnessed first-hand, those with hardened hearts did not believe. They dismissed the works of Jesus just as quickly as they had dismissed His words and they planned how to get rid of Him. It was not evidence nor information they lacked, it was the ability to see. They were blinded by their own selfish agendas as well as their preconceived ideas about what the Messiah would look like and therefore they missed Him altogether. Their hearts of stone blocked any illuminating truth from enlightening their minds and souls.
Seeing is not believing, rather believing is seeing
Though the historical, philosophical, and observational evidence in favor of it is overwhelming, Christianity is not primarily an evidence based religion. To be sure, all the information is there and available for most anyone to see and yet what the heart rejects the head cannot accept. We can quickly become like the religious leaders who suppressed the Truth that was quite literally staring them in the face. Acceptance of Jesus Christ is based on faith. Seeing is not believing, rather believing is seeing. A work of faith must begin in the heart before the eyes can see and accept the evidence. That is why the heart is not to be blindly followed because we can easily be deceived by it and led astray as objective truth, like the miracle of a hand restored, is concealed.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And also while praying for future Christians He said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
God has provided us with the source of truth that is found in His Word. It is the one and only unobstructed and accurate view of reality upon which we can build our lives. We are bombarded daily with countless voices who claim to know the truth. Many of those voices come from without, but some come from within. It is vital that Christians filter the desires, passions, and biases of our hearts through His Word submitting to His wisdom above all others. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Coming soon: Part two on the problem of following your head based on Luke 6:27-31