Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 32: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Matthew 12:9-13; Mark 3:1-5; Luke 6:6-10
9. And having departed thence, he came into their synagogue: 10. And, lo, there was a man having a withered hand, and they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbaths? that they might accuse him. 11. But he said to them, What man shall there be among you who shall have one sleep, and if it fall on the Sabbath into a ditch, will not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12. How much more then is a man better than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbaths. 13. Then he saith to the man, Stretch out thy hand. And he stretched it out, and it was restored to soundness like the other.
1. And he entered again into the synagogue, and there was a man there having a withered hand. 2. And they watched him, if he would heal that man on the Sabbath, that they might accuse him. 3. And he said to the man having the withered hand, Rise up in the midst. 4. Whether is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil? to save life or to kill? But they were silent. 5. And when he had looked round upon them with indignation, grieving on account of the blindness of their heart, he saith to the man, Stretch out thy hand; and he stretched it out, and his hand was restored to soundness like the other.
6. And it happened also on another Sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue, and taught; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, if he would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an opportunity of accusing him. 8. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man that had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand in the midst. And he rose up and stood. 9. Jesus therefore saith to them, I will ask you, Whether is it lawful on the Sabbaths to do good or to do evil? to save life or to destroy it? 10. And when he had looked round about upon them all, he said to the man, Stretch out thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored sound like the other.
Matthew 12:9. And having departed thence. This narrative and that which immediately precedes it have the same object; which is to show, that the scribes watched with a malicious eye for the purpose of turning into slander every thing that Christ did, and consequently that we need not wonder if men, whose minds were so depraved, were his implacable enemies. We see also, that it is usual with hypocrites to pursue what is nothing more than a shadow of the righteousness of the Law, and as the common saying is, to stickle more about the form than about the substance. First, then, let us learn from this passage to keep our minds pure, and free from every wicked disposition, when we are about to form a decision on any question; for if hatred, or pride, or anything of that description, reign within us, we will not only do injury to men, but will insult God himself, and turn light into darkness. No man, who was free from malice, would have refused to acknowledge that it was a Divine work, which those good teachers do not scruple to condemn. 85 Whence comes such fury, but because all their senses are affected by a wicked hatred of Christ, so that they are blind amidst the full brightness of the sun? We learn also, that we ought to beware lest, by attaching undue importance to ceremonial observances, we allow other things to be neglected, which are of far higher value in the sight of God, and which Christ in another passage calls the more important matters of the Law, (Mt 23:23.) For so strongly are we inclined to outward rites, that we shall never preserve moderation in this respect, unless we constantly remember, that whatever is enjoined respecting the worship of God is, in the first place, spiritual; and, secondly, ought to be regulated by the rule which Christ has laid down to us in this passage.
10. They asked him, saying. Mark and Luke say only that they watched what our Lord would do; but Matthew states more clearly that they also attacked him by words. It is probable, that some others had been previously cured on Sabbath-days; and hence they take occasion to ask if he believes it to be lawful for him to do again what he had formerly done. They ought to have considered whether it was a work of God, or of man, to restore a withered hand by a mere touch, or by a single word. When God appointed the Sabbath, he did not lay down a law for himself, or impose upon himself any restraint from performing operations on the Sabbath, when he saw it to be proper, in the same manner as on other days. It was excessive folly, therefore, to call this in question, and thus to prescribe rules for God himself, and to restrain the freedom of his operations.
11. What man shall there be among you who shall have a sheep? Christ again points out what is the true way of keeping the Sabbath; and, at the same time, reproves them for slander, in bringing as a charge against him what was a universal custom. For if any man’s sheep had fallen into a ditch, no person would have hindered it from being taken out: but in proportion as a man is of more value than a sheep, so much the more are we at liberty to assist him. It is plain, therefore, that if any man should relieve the necessity of brethren, he did not, in any degree, violate the rest which the Lord has enjoined. Mark and Luke take no notice of this comparison, but only state that Christ inquired, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil?
He who takes away the life of a man is held to be a criminal; and there is little difference between manslaughter and the conduct of him who does not concern himself about relieving a person in distress. So then Christ indirectly charges them with endeavoring, under the pretense of a holy act, to compel him to do evil; for sin is committed, as we have already said, not only by him who does any thing contrary to the Law, but also by him who neglects his duty. Hence also we perceive, that Christ did not always employ the same arguments in refuting this slander; for he does not reason here about his divinity as he does in the case mentioned by John, (Joh 5:18.) Nor was there any necessity for doing so; since the Pharisees were completely refuted by this single defense, that nothing could be more unreasonable than to pronounce a man, who imitated God, to be a transgressor of the Sabbath.
Luke 6:8. But he knew their thoughts If Matthew states the truth, they had openly declared by their language what was in their minds; and therefore Christ replies not to their secret thoughts, but to express words. But both may be true, that they spoke plainly, and yet that Christ discerned their secret thoughts; for they did not openly avow their designs, and Matthew himself tells us that their question was intended to take Christ by surprise; and, consequently, Luke means nothing more than that Christ was aware of their insidious designs, though not expressed in words.
Mark 3:5. And when he had looked around upon them with indignation To convince us that this was a just and holy anger, Mark explains the reason of it to be, that he was grieved on account of the blindness of their hearts. First, then, Christ is grieved, because men who have been instructed in the Law of God are so grossly blind; but as it was malice that blinded them, his grief is accompanied by indignation. This is the true moderation of zeal, to be distressed about the destruction of wicked men, and, at the same time, to be filled with wrath at their ungodliness. Again, as this passage assures us, that Christ was not free from human passions, we infer from it, that the passions themselves are not sinful, provided there be no excess. In consequence of the corruption of our nature, we do not preserve moderation; and our anger, even when it rests on proper grounds, is never free from sin. With Christ the case was different; for not only did his nature retain its original purity, but he was a perfect pattern of righteousness. We ought therefore to implore from heaven the Spirit of God to correct our excesses.
“N’ont point de honte de condamner;” — “are not ashamed to condemn.”