Simon stood outside the synagogue on the Sabbath day, looking down the dusty path, watching the crowds shuffling past him into the synagogue. He knew they were anxiously waiting to hear Yeshua, that trouble-making rule-breaker, teach again. It seemed the entire town was showing up, young and old, beggars, fishermen, tax collectors, even prostitutes.
Filth, Simon thought disgustedly to himself as a man with a deformed hand slunk by him, hiding his deformity in the oversized sleeves of his robe.
Ciaphas, the high priest had recently warned Simon that Yeshua would come here. “Catch him in something illegal, anything! He is threatening our power!” Ciaphas had said. Simon smiled slyly. Maybe that deformed man would come in handy.
Simon’s eyes traveled from the path to a nearby wheat field. There he was, Yeshua and his disciples, walking through the field towards the synagogue. Anger raged inside of Simon just at the sight of this man who captivated the attention of so many. Suddenly a smile crept over his face as he watched Yeshua’s disciples break off heads of wheat and eat the grain.
Simon approached Yeshua and put on a facade of being genuinely outraged and concerned by this open defilement of the Sabbath law.
“Your disciples shouldn't be doing that!” Simon rebuked Yeshua. “It's against the law to work by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
Yeshua sighed and looked sadly at him. "Haven't you ever read in the Scriptures what King David did when he and his companions were hungry?” he asked. “He went into the house of God and ate the special bread reserved for the priests alone and gave some to his friends as well. That was breaking the law, too."
Simon was filled with rage. How dare this mere carpenter quote the Scriptures to him?
“And haven't you ever read in the Law of Moses,” Yeshua continued. “That the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! If you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices’, you would not condemn those who aren't guilty.”
Simon was indignant. As a Pharisee, he was an expert in the Law of Moses, and knew them by heart. But before he could think of a response, Yeshua and his disciples walked past him and headed for the synagogue. Simon stormed after him.
Yeshua sat against a wall in the synagogue and the entire crowd silently listened to him, hanging onto every word he spoke. Simon joined his fellow Pharisees and approached Yeshua again.
“Excuse me, Rabbi,” Simon interrupted. "Is it legal to work by healing on the Sabbath day?"
“I have a question for you,” Yeshua replied. “Is it legal to do good deeds on the Sabbath? Or is it a day for doing harm? Is this a day to save life? Or to destroy it?"
Incensed, Simon desperately tried to reciprocate with a condemning retort but could think of nothing. Yehsua stared angrily at Simon and his companions but shook his head sadly, disturbed by their hardened hearts.
“If you had one sheep, and it fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn't you pull it out?” he asked, his eyes blazing but his voice even and calm. “Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, it is right to do good on the Sabbath.”
Yeshua looked in the back of the room and motioned to the man with the deformed hand. "Come up here and stand where everyone can see." The man hesitantly stood and walked to the front of the synagogue. “Now hold out your hand.” Yeshua said gently.
The man pulled his sleeve up revealing his withered hand but a second later it was completely normal. The crowd gasped.
Yeshua turned back to Simon. “The Sabbath was made to benefit people, not people to benefit the Sabbath.” He paused to let those words sink in and then added, “I am master even of the Sabbath.”
At those last words, Simon stormed into a back room motioning for his companions to follow him.
“I want this man dead! Do you hear me?” Simon hissed. “We have full support from Ciaphas the head priest. I will not allow this rebel and breaker of the rules to mislead the people and take away our power! We must find a way to kill him!”