Luke 6:6-11 (New International Version)
On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Jesus went to the synagogue to teach, but, as we’ve seen before, for Jesus teaching is not just about words. It’s also about modeling God’s love and grace with powerful action. As he was speaking, he saw a man whose right hand was disabled. It being the right hand might not mean much to us, but in those days the right hand was considered the only socially acceptable hand for greeting and gesturing. The left hand was used for personal hygiene. Using the left hand for gesturing — as this man would have been forced to — would have been shameful.
Could Jesus have waited until the Sabbath was over in order to heal this poor man? Of course. But he wanted to make the point to all those gathered in the synagogue that day that in God’s eyes compassion and grace would always be more important than legalistic adherence to the Law.
Can you think of a circumstance where it would honor God more to break a rule than to keep it?