Being consistent in our thinking, speech and actions has to be one of the most difficult challenges we face. It is obvious that the consistency in Jesus life was often the very thing that got him into trouble with the religious leaders of his time. If you read the Gospel accounts it quickly becomes obvious that one of Jesus habits was to heal those who were sick or afflicted in some way, on the Sabbath Day. It was such a common thing with him that the Pharisees and Scribes would actually watch him on the Sabbath Day worship in the Synagogue to see if he would heal someone during that time together so they could bring charges against him.
One example of their actions and Jesus habit is found in Matthew 12:9-14. Jesus entered the Synagogue and there was a man there who had a withered hand. They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? – so that they might accuse him.” Whether these particular people had seen Jesus perform miracles of healing on the Sabbath or not we don’t know. But even if they hadn’t observed it for themselves they knew his reputation for not observing the rules set up by the rabbi’s of the day on how to observe the Sabbath Day. The law that Moses had given the people on the subject came directly from God and was quite simple. “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days you shall work and do your labor, but the Sabbath Day will be holy to you and you shall do no work on that day because God created the world in six days and on the seventh day he rested from his work.” But the religious leaders through the years had added more and more regulations specifying exactly how much one could do on that day without it being regarded as work. You could travel 7/8 of a mile without it being work, but if you went beyond that it was work. They even determined exactly what weight one could lift on the Sabbath before it became work. Jesus broke their rules over and over again, not just by healing the sick and hurting on that day but with his disciples walking through the grain fields plucking some of the heads of grain and eating it. That was work in their eyes and was completely wrong. So it is no wonder they would ask Jesus about healing on the Sabbath because of what they knew he had done already and what his habit was with regard to the Sabbath Day.
Jesus answered their question by saying, “Which one of you who has a sheep if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Notice Jesus pointed to their inconsistency to demonstrate to them that it was right to heal a person on the Sabbath Day. How could they possibly condemn his actions in rescuing a person, when they would go to all kinds of effort to rescue a sheep if it fell into a pit and couldn’t get out on its own. The reality is that he could have made tons of other such points such as if your child or even if you got hurt or sick on the Sabbath you or the ones who love you would do what is needed to take care of the child or of you. But by pointing to the care they would give to a sheep his point was even stronger. If you will take care of a sheep, then surely it is right for me to heal a person since the person is made in God’s image and is much more valuable than a sheep.
On other occasions, Jesus made the point to them that the Sabbath was made for people not people for the Sabbath. It was to offer them rest and a time to worship God. It wasn’t just an arbitrary law to force people to do something that had no real benefit for them. It was for their good. He also made the point that the Son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath. He told them that their actions were like the person who poured new wine into an old wineskin that would burst when the new wine began to ferment and expand. He said it was similar to the person who wanted to patch a torn garment that was old and patched with a new piece of cloth which would shrink when it was washed, thus tearing the garment again.
But notice in this story in Matthew 12 after telling them it was lawful to heal a person on the Sabbath he turned to the man with the withered hand and said, “Stretch out your hand.” The man stretched out his hand and it was restored and made healthy like his other hand. Jesus knew how they felt about him healing on the Sabbath. He knew they were looking for a way to accuse him of breaking the law. Even though he had convicted them of being inconsistent in their own observance of the Sabbath, notice what was said in the last verse of the paragraph. “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.” These religious leaders were inconsistent in how they observed the Sabbath, but they were totally consistent in their condemnation of Jesus. No matter how much good he did, how many powerful lessons he gave of the gospel and the promised kingdom of heaven, how many people he healed and how many times he fed the hungry, even providing a meal for over 5,000 people from a little boys lunch, they couldn’t see the good. They only saw the ways he broke their homemade rules, so they condemned him. Ultimately they would conspire to have him crucified like a criminal.
I understand that none of us as humans are totally consistent about our life for God in this world. But it ought to be the case that the closer we come to the Lord, the more consistent we become both in how we apply the Scriptures and how we live daily for Him. When we see our inconsistency it should lead to a re-examination of what is causing such action in us. On re-examining our lives with God’s word, we should make the moves necessary to become consistent in our actions, like Jesus.