n order


By Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

This is the nineteenth Shofar study of Dr. Fruchtenbaum's Christology series. Previous studies may be accessed by links in our Library and Sound Doctrine pages.

  • Before Abraham was born, I am ~ John 8:58

  • I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me ~ John 14:6

  • He that hath seen me hath seen the Father ~ John 14:9

Few doctrines can be considered more fundamental than the nature, character and works of Messiah, and few teachers are able to convey such truths with the thoroughness, detail, accuracy, clarity, organization and fluidity that characterizes Dr. Fruchtenbaum. So let's sharpen our focus and continue.

Study 19: Ariel Ministries' Messianic Bible Study #036:


By Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

© 2004, 2005 Ariel Ministries. All rights reserved. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced in any form, except in brief quotation in a review or professional work, without written permission from the publishers. Cover illustration by Olivier Melnick.

Email: Homeoffice @ ariel . org. When email, remove the spaces.
Website: www.ariel.org.

This manuscript is republished by special permission of Ariel Ministries.


A. The Physical Healing: John 5:1-9
B. The Spiritual Healing: John 5:10-18
C. The Messiah’s Defense: John 5:19-29
D. The Fourfold Witness to His Messianic Claims: John 5:30-47


For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

~ John 5:18 ~


To understand the controversial issues between Yeshua (Jesus) and the Pharisees in this study, it is necessary to look at the historical background as to how Pharisaic Judaism developed. When the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian Captivity, the spiritual leaders recognized that the reason for the captivity had been disobedience to the Mosaic Law. Ezra began a school called the School of the Sopherim, or the School of the Scribes. Their plan was to go through each of the 613 commandments God gave to Moses and expound them to the Jewish people. Their thinking was that, by giving them a clear knowledge of what the Law was and how to keep it, they would not bring on another divine discipline like the Babylonian Captivity.

When the first generation of the Sopherim passed away, the second generation took the task more seriously. The second generation said, “It is not enough for us to expound the Law; we must build a fence around the Law.” The fence they would build around the Law would consist of new rules and regulations logically derived from the original 613 commandments. The principle they used was: a sopher may disagree with a sopher, but he may not disagree with the Torah, which was sacrosanct. Therefore, there was no basis for denying the validity of that Law. In making these new rules and regulations, they could disagree among themselves until they reached a decision by majority vote. Once a decision was reached, it became mandatory for all Jews everywhere in the world to follow. This process of building a fence around the Law began around 450 B.C. and finally ended in 30 B.C. Normally, it passed from rabbi to rabbi. The Sopherim is said to have lasted from Ezra the Scribe to that of Hillel, at which point it came to an end.

Then came a second school of rabbis called the Tannaim, meaning “teachers.” The Tannaim looked upon the work of the Sopherim and declared, “There are still too many holes in this fence.” They continued the process for a period of two hundred and fifty years, from 30 B.C. until A.D. 220. However, the principle of operation changed. The new principle was: a tanna may disagree with a tanna, but he may not disagree with a sopher. This meant that from 30 B.C. all the thousands of rules and regulations passed down by the Sopherim became sacrosanct and of equal validity with Scripture.

In order to validate to the Jewish audience why the laws of the Sopherim were equal to the laws of Moses, they came up with a teaching that all Orthodox Jews believe and teach to this very day. Their teaching was that what really happened on Mount Sinai was that God gave Moses two laws: the Written Law and the Oral Law. The first law is called the Written Law because it contains the 613 commandments that Moses actually penned in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The second law is called the Oral Law because Moses did not write down those commandments; he memorized them all. By memory, they were passed down to Joshua, who then passed them down to the Judges, who then passed them down to the Prophets, who then passed them down to the Sopherim. So the Sopherim did not really innovate all these rules and regulations; they got them from the Prophets who got them from the Judges, who got them from Joshua, who got them from Moses, who got them from God. Indeed, from about 450 B.C. until A.D. 220, these rules were never written down. Key rabbis and scribes had them memorized, and thousands and thousands of laws were kept strictly on the basis of memory. They were not written down for about six centuries. By A.D. 220, fewer and fewer people were around to memorize all these laws, so they finally wrote them all down at the order of Judah Ha-Nasi, the patriarch in the Land. This ended the period of the Tannaim.

The work of the Sopherim and the Tannaim together is now called the Mishnah. It is the Mishnah that became the cause of controversy between Yeshua and the Pharisees. The Pharisaic concept of the Messiah was that He would be a Pharisee; He would be in submission to the laws of the Mishnah; in fact, He would join them in the work of making new laws to plug up the holes in the fence. A Messiah who was not a Pharisee under the Mishnah’s authority could not possibly be the true Messiah. Any time the terms Mishnaic Law, Pharisaic Law, Rabbinic Law, or Oral Law are used, they refer to the body of material now known as the Mishnah.

The Sabbath had become a major observance in Pharisaic Judaism, to the point that it was personified as the Bride of Israel and as Jehovah’s Queen. When the question was raised, “Why did God create Israel?” the answer was, “God made Israel to honor the Sabbath.” Therefore, Israel was made for the Sabbath. While the Messiah and the Pharisees debated over the authority of the Mishnah in general, one specific area of debate was on the proper way of observing the Sabbath.

This study of the three Sabbath controversies is divided into three sections: the healing of a paralytic, the controversy over grain, and the healing of a man with a withered hand.


A. The Physical Healing: John 5:1-9

Verses 1-3 describe the scene:

After these things there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a multitude of them that were sick, blind, halt, withered.

As in verse 1, generally, if a feast is mentioned but not specifically named, it would be the Feast of the Passover. If this is the case, then this is the second Passover mentioned in Yeshua’s public ministry, which was about a year-and-a-half old. In verses 2-3, Jesus approached a man at the Pool of Bethseda, a pool located in the Moslem Quarter of the Old City that has been uncovered in recent times.

The three-step procedure Yeshua used in dealing with the man is described in verses 5-9a:

And a certain man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity. When Jesus saw him lying, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he said unto him, Would you be made whole? The sick man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steps down before me. Jesus said unto him, Arise, take up your bed, and walk. And straightway the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked.

In the first step, He sought the man out. The man did not come to Him because he could not do so on his own, nor was he taken to Yeshua, as was the case in a previous instance. In the second step, He did not demand any faith on the part of the man. At this point in His public ministry, faith was not necessary for a miracle to be received because the purpose of His miracles was to authenticate His messianic claims and to get them to believe. In the third step, there was no revelation of His Messiahship. Initially, He did not tell the man He claimed to be the Messiah. Later in verse 13, when the man was asked who had healed him, he said he did not know who Jesus was or who He claimed to be.

In verse 5, Yeshua went to the Pool of Bethseda and saw a man lying there who had been ailing for thirty-eight years. In verse 6, Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed and received a positive answer in verse 7. In verse 8, Jesus told him to do something that went contrary to the Jewish practice of that day. In verse 9a, the man was healed immediately.

John mentioned an additional detail in verse 9b: Now it was the sabbath on that day.

What Yeshua had asked the man to do was a breach of the Pharisaic interpretation of keeping the Sabbath. Among the fifteen hundred Sabbath rules was one that forbade a person to carry a burden from a public place to a private place or from a private place to a public place. Yeshua knew that asking the man to pick up his bed would raise the issue regarding His Messianic claims, but He wanted the people and the leaders, in particular, to come to a decision concerning Him.

B. The Spiritual Healing: John 5:10-18

After the man’s physical healing at the Pool of Bethesda, he was quickly confronted in verse 10: So the Jews said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.

The man was questioned further by the Pharisaic Jews in verses 11-13:

But he answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up your bed, and walk. They asked him, Who is the man that said unto you, Take up your bed, and walk? But he that was healed knew not who it was; for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in the place.

The man’s response in verse 11 was that the One who had healed him told him to do this. In verse 12, they asked him who it was that healed him. In verse 13, the former paralytic said he did not know.

The spiritual healing of the man is recorded in verses 14-15:

Afterward Jesus finds him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall you. The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole.

In verse 14, after the healing, Jesus found the man again, this time in the Temple where he was perhaps thanking God for his healing and participating in the Temple festivities of the feast. Yeshua told the man, “See, you are made whole; do not sin any more, unless a worse thing befall you.” This indicates the spiritual healing of the man. At that point, he discovered who Jesus was, and he informed the others in verse 15. There is no need to see anything sinister here. Although the response of the hearers was negative, the motive of the former paralytic may have been nothing more than to give them the information they were seeking.

This incident led to two specific accusations against Yeshua in verses 16-18. The first accusation came in verse 16: And for this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath.

The first accusation was that He had healed someone on the Sabbath day. This did not violate the Mosaic Law, but it did break Pharisaic Law that forbade healing on the Sabbath day, except in one situation, if there was a danger to life. As long as the man’s life was not endangered, he should not have been healed on this day. John stated that this was a key reason why they persecuted Jesus.

Yeshua’s answer is given in verse 17: But Jesus answered them, My Father works even until now, and I work.

The second accusation came in verse 18:

For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

His answer brought on the second accusation. To a Jewish audience, calling God His own unique Father meant He was making Himself an equal with God. Cultic groups tend to deny the deity of the Son, often on the basis that a son is less than his father; therefore, if Yeshua is the Son of God, He must be less than God. This was not true in Jewish reckoning, because the firstborn son is considered to be equal to the father. The real issue is what did the Jewish audience understand Him to mean when they heard him speak? When He stated, “My Father works . . . and I work," they clearly understood that He was claiming to be equal with God. There was no ambiguity to the Jewish mind what He was claiming.

C. The Messiah’s Defense: John 5:19-29

Jesus defended Himself by making four specific points in verses 19-29. The first point of His defense is given in verses 19-21:

Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing: for what things soever he does, these the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all things that himself does: and greater works than these will he show him, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he will.

He was doing the works of the Father in three ways. First in verse 19, He has an equal relationship with the Father; what One does, the other does. The works of the Father are also the works of the Son. If it is the work of the Son, it is also the work of the Father. Secondly in verse 20, there is also equal love between the Father and the Son; both give rise to equally mighty works. Thirdly in verse 21, there is equal power; the Son shares the Father’s power to give life. The giving of life was a divine ability; therefore, He must be divine. Because He does the works of the Father, works that only God can do, it means that He must be God.

The second point of His defense was that the Son will judge all men, according to verse 22-23:

For neither does the Father judge any man, but he has given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father that sent him.

In the Old Testament, the final judgment is the prerogative of God. If the Son is the One who will do the judging, the Son must also be God. This also means the Son has equal honor with the Father.

The third point of His defense was that He has the power to provide eternal life, according to verse 24:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes him that sent me, has eternal life, and comes not into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

In the Old Testament, the One who has the ability to provide eternal life is God. Therefore, if the Son has the power to provide eternal life, He too must be God.

The fourth point of His defense was that He will be the One to bring about the resurrection of the dead in verses 25-29:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour comes, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father has life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself: and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

In the Old Testament, only God brought about the resurrection of the dead. If the Son is the One who will raise the dead, it means He must also be God. Therefore, Jesus is the God-Man, and both facets are stated here in title form. In verse 25, He is the “Son of God,” emphasizing His deity; in verse 27, He is a “son of man,” emphasizing His humanity. Verse 29 points out that there will be two distinct kinds of resurrections. For the believer, it will be the “resurrection of life” or what the Book of Revelation calls the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5). For the unbeliever, it will be the “resurrection of judgment,” also known as the second resurrection, which leads to “the second death” (Rev. 21:8).

D. The Fourfold Witness to His Messianic Claims: John 5:30-47

I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. It is another that bears witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesses of me is true.

After He made these four claims to being the God-Man, Yeshua then showed that there was a fourfold witness to His Messianic claims. Why four? In the Law of Moses, two or three witnesses were sufficient to establish a case. Yeshua provided four, going beyond the demands of the Law.

The first witness was John the Baptist in verses 33-35:

You have sent unto John, and he has borne witness unto the truth. But the witness which I receive is not from man: howbeit I say these things, that ye may be saved. He was the lamp that burns and shines; and ye were willing to rejoice for a season in his light.

It was John who identified Yeshua as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).

The second witness was that His works, His miracles, authenticated His claims in verse 36:

But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me.

The third witness was God the Father in verses 37-38:

And the Father that sent me, he has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form. And you have not his word abiding in you: for whom he sent, him you believe not.

God the Father spoke audibly at the Son’s baptism when He declared out of Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Mat. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Lk. 3:21).

The fourth witness was the Scriptures in verses 39-47. The Scriptures bore witness because He was fulfilling the prophecies of His First Coming in verse 39:

You search the scriptures, because ye think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me;

Because the Pharisees did not understand Scripture, they failed to understand Him in verses 40-44:

…and you will not come to me, that ye may have life. I receive not glory from men. But I know you, that you have not the love of God in yourselves. I am come in my Father’s name, and you receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that comes from the only God you seek not?

Because they did not understand Scripture, they did not have the love of God; they sought the glory of men, not the glory of God.

Therefore, the very Law of Moses on which they had set their hope condemned them in verse 45: Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, on whom you have set your hope.

With four witnesses such as these, the problem was not that there was a lack of testimony to His messianic claims. Yeshua said that their real problem was their failure to believe Moses in verses 46-47: For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words?

Accusing the Pharisees of not believing in Moses seems to be a stretch. It would be like approaching an ultra-Orthodox Jew today and saying, “You do not believe in the Mosaic Law.” Who is more zealous for this Law? Yet it was a valid accusation. The Pharisees believed in Mosaic Law as it had been reinterpreted through the Mishnah. They did not believe Moses “as it was written.” Had they accepted Mosaic Law as it was written, they would not have failed to recognize that He was the Messiah.

MATTHEW 12:1-8; MARK 2:23-28; LUKE 6:1-5

Luke 6:1-2 reads:

Now it came to pass on a sabbath, that he was going through the grainfields; and his disciples plucked the ears, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. But certain of the Pharisees said, Why do ye that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath day?

Verse 1 provides the historical background to this controversy. Verse 2 records the Pharisees’ attack, which occurred because the disciples had broken four of those fifteen hundred rules and regulations. First, when they took the wheat off the stalk, they were guilty of reaping. Secondly, when they rubbed the wheat in their hands in order to separate it from the chaff, they were guilty of threshing. Thirdly, when they blew into their hands to blow the chaff away, they were guilty of winnowing. Fourthly, when they swallowed the wheat, they were guilty of storing the wheat. This is how extreme the “building of the fence” had become by this time.

Because of these rules, some Pharisees would not walk on the grass on the Sabbath day. If someone asked such a rabbi, “What is wrong with walking on the grass on the Sabbath day,” his answer would be, “Nothing. It is permissible to walk on the grass on the Sabbath day.” However, there is a problem. What looks only like a grassy field might have one stalk of wheat growing wild in it. A person walking through the field of grass might inadvertently step on that one stalk of wheat, separate the wheat from its stalk, and become guilty of reaping on the Sabbath day. Furthermore, if his foot came down and twisted the wheat just enough to separate the wheat from the chaff, he would be guilty of threshing on the Sabbath day. If he continued to walk, the outer hem of his garment might cause just enough breeze to blow the chaff away, and he would be guilty of winnowing on the Sabbath day. Finally, once the person had gone, a bird or rodent might see the exposed piece of wheat and swallow it, causing him to be guilty of storing the wheat on the Sabbath day.

Yeshua responded by making six statements. First, He made an historical appeal to King David in verses 3-4:

And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read even this, what David did, when he was hungry, he, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and took and ate the showbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat save for the priests alone?

He pointed out that David also violated Pharisaic Law when he ate the showbread. Moses never said that a Levite could not give the showbread to a non-Levite. Pharisaic Law, however, did say that. In the case of the Pharisees, they could not claim that David lived before the Oral Law, because in their theology, God gave the Oral Law to Moses; therefore, it preceded the time of David. So David himself broke Pharisaic Law, yet they never condemned David. If David could break Pharisaic Law, so could David’s greater Son (Mat. 12:3-4; Mk. 2:25-26).

Secondly, the Law of Sabbath Rest did not apply in every situation, according to Matthew 12:5: Or have ye not read in the law, that on the sabbath day the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless?

One such situation was the Temple Compound. For those in the Temple Compound, it was not a day of rest, but a day of labor. In fact, those in the Compound had to work harder on the Sabbath day than a normal day. There were daily sacrifices and rituals, but on the Sabbath, all sacrifices were doubled. Furthermore, there were special rituals performed only on the Sabbath. Therefore, the Sabbath was not a day of rest for those working within the Temple Compound. This shows that the Law of Moses allowed and even commanded certain works to be done on the Sabbath day. Even the Pharisees allowed certain works such as midwifery, circumcision, and the preparation of a corpse on the Sabbath day. The point was that the Law of Sabbath Rest did not apply to every specific situation.

Thirdly, as the Messiah, He is greater than the Temple in Matthew 12:6: But I say unto you, that one greater than the temple is here.

If the Temple allowed certain works to be done on the Sabbath without violating the Sabbath, so could He allow certain works without breaking the Sabbath.

Fourthly, He pointed out that certain works were always allowed on the Sabbath day as stated in Matthew 12:7: But if ye had known what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

Quoting Hosea 6:6, works of necessity such as eating, and works of mercy such as healing were always allowed on the Sabbath day.

Fifth, as the Messiah, He was the Lord of the Sabbath in Luke 6:5: And he said unto them, The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.

As Lord of the Sabbath, He could allow what they disallowed, and He could disallow what they allowed. As long as He did not violate the Mosaic Law Himself, they had no grounds for any accusation against Him (Mat. 12:8; Mk. 2:28).

And sixth, He declared that they had totally misconstrued the purpose of the Sabbath in Mark 2:27: And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: …

Pharisaic Judaism taught that the reason God made Israel was for honoring the Sabbath. Therefore, Israel was made for the Sabbath. Jesus, however, taught that the exact opposite was true. Israel was not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for Israel. The purpose of the Sabbath was to give Israel a day of refreshment and rest, not to enslave Israel to Sabbath Laws. Yet these fifteen hundred additional rules and regulations had the effect of enslaving Jews to the Sabbath. Therefore, they had totally misconstrued the purpose of the Sabbath.

There have been similar problems in Church history. The Church has misconstrued the Sabbath in two ways. The first is by assuming that Sunday is the “new Sabbath.” Nowhere in Scripture is Sunday ever called the Sabbath. The Sabbath always is, always was, and always will be from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Today, under the Law of the Messiah, there is no obligation to keep the Sabbath; but the day of the Sabbath has never changed. The Bible never calls Sunday the Sabbath, nor does it call Sunday the Lord’s Day. That is a “Christian Mishnah.” It is only by tradition that Sunday is referred to as the “Lord’s Day.” In Scripture, Sunday is always called “the first day of the week.” Not only has the Church defined Sunday as the new Sabbath, it has also begun to apply Sabbath rules and regulations to Sunday that are not warranted. As a result in some circles, Sunday has become the obligatory day of congregational worship and the obligatory day of rest. Limiting ourselves to the text of Scripture, believers are commanded to meet corporately on a regular basis (Heb. 10:25). This is not an option; it is a biblical command. However, the day of the week is optional (Rom. 14:4- 11).

The second way the Church has misconstrued the Sabbath is by insisting that the Sabbath is still a mandatory day of worship. This is based on a misunderstanding of the Mosaic purpose of the Sabbath. Moses said to stay home and rest on the Sabbath, not have corporate worship on the Sabbath. The Pharisees understood this, so as part of their building a fence around this law, they declared that it was forbidden for a person to walk more than a Sabbath day’s journey from his home, two thousand cubits, equal to approximately a kilometer or three-quarters of a mile. Therefore, a person who gets up Saturday morning, starts his car engine, and drives to church is breaking the Sabbath every week.

Rabbinic Judaism later made the Sabbath a day of corporate worship; however, this was not its purpose according to the Law of Moses. Furthermore, synagogues were located within the two-thousand-cubit perimeter. Corporate worship under the Mosaic Law was allowed only where the Tabernacle or Temple stood, which ultimately became Jerusalem. Only those living in Jerusalem could enjoy corporate worship every Saturday, not those who lived in Galilee, which was a three-day journey from Jerusalem. Pity the Galilean Jew if he had to participate in corporate worship every Sabbath in Jerusalem! He would have to walk up for three days to get there in time for Sabbath worship, and then walk down three days to get back to Galilee. Upon arriving in Galilee, he would have to make a U-turn and walk up three days to get back to Jerusalem for the next Sabbath. He would be walking for six days instead of working for six days. For this reason, the Law of Moses mandated corporate worship only three times a year: the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

MATTHEW 12:9-14; MARK 3:1-6; LUKE 6:6-11

The third Sabbath controversy took place in the synagogue. According to Luke’s account, Yeshua was expounding the Word in verse. 6:

And it came to pass on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man there, and his right hand was withered.

On that Sabbath, there was a man in the audience who happened to have a withered hand. This was a medical problem, but it was not life threatening. Again, Luke’s profession becomes evident. Both Matthew’s account and Mark’s account simply state that the man’s hand was withered; however, Doctor Luke specifies it was his right hand.

Verse 7 states: And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath; that they might find how to accuse him.

It appears that the man was a plant for the purpose of entrapment, because Matthew 12:10 states that members of the audience asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” with the goal “that they might accuse him.”

Since this occurred during the Interrogation Stage, they were still looking for a basis to accuse and reject Him. Under the Sanhedrin laws of that day, if any kind of messianic movement occurred, they had to investigate it in two specific stages: the Observation Stage and the Interrogation Stage. In the Observation Stage, a delegation was sent out to do nothing but observe what was being said, taught, and done. At this point, they could ask no questions, they could raise no objections; they could not verbalize anything. All they were allowed to do was observe. After a period of observation, they were to return to Jerusalem to give a report and issue a verdict as to whether the movement was significant or insignificant. If they declared the movement was insignificant, the whole matter was dropped. However, if they said the movement was significant, then the Interrogation Stage would begin. At this point, a second delegation was sent out. This time, they would ask questions, raise objections, and look for a basis to either accept the person’s claims or reject them.

Jesus clearly understood what the circumstances were in verse 8:

But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man that had his hand withered, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.

Nevertheless, He again showed that He would not accept their Pharisaic Mishnaic authority.

He began by reminding them of their own particular practice in Matthew’s account verses 11-12:

And he said unto them, What man shall there be of you, that shall have one sheep, and if this fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man of more value than a sheep! Wherefore it is lawful to do good on the sabbath day.

This shows that even they believed that it was permitted to do good on the Sabbath.

However, He challenged them with a question in Luke 6:9: And Jesus said unto them, I ask you, Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to destroy it?

According to Mark 3:4, they chose to remain silent. He used a type of argument called kal v’chomer, which argues from the lesser to the greater. He stated that if it was permissible to do good for an animal on the Sabbath day, the lesser, how much more would it be permissible to do good for a man on the Sabbath day, the greater? He repeated two lessons previously mentioned: first, works of necessity and works of mercy were allowed on the Sabbath day, even for animals; and secondly, healing was an act of mercy; therefore, it did not violate the Sabbath.

Having made His point, He proceeded to heal the man’s hand in verse 10:

And he looked round about on them all, and said unto him, Stretch forth your hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored.

By doing so, He again showed His negation of Pharisaic authority. The wording of Mark 3:5 implies He did it to spite them. The means of healing was merely by ordering the man to stretch out his right hand, and he was immediately healed. Yeshua did not ask the man if he believed or had faith; at that point, faith was not essential. Although the man himself was a plant, Jesus went ahead and healed him, because at this point in His career, the purpose of His miracles was to authenticate His messianic claims.

The Pharisaic response to this incident and to the Sabbath controversies in general is given in verse 11: But they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

Their response was threefold. First, in verse 11 they were filled with madness. They let the emotion of anger control them. They could no longer think logically and rationally.

Secondly, according to Matthew 12:14: But the Pharisees went out, and took counsel against him, how they might destroy him.

They conspired how to be rid of him in one form or another and how to reject His messianic claims, in spite of His special abilities.

Thirdly, according to Mark 3:6: And the Pharisees went out, and straightway with the Herodians took counsel against him, how they might destroy him.

The Pharisees joined with the Herodians in their conspiracy against Yeshua. This, indeed, made for strange bedfellows, because they were at the opposite ends of the political spectrum and bitter enemies toward each other. The Pharisees were opposed to Roman rule in any form, but the Herodians favored Roman rule if it came through the House of Herod. Yet, on the issue of Jesus, they had a common cause.



If you enjoyed this Bible study, Dr. Fruchtenbaum recommends the following messianic Bible studies (mbs):

mbs 009: The Trial of the Messiah
mbs 016: Nicodemus, A Rabbi's Quest
mbs 020: How Did the Wise Men Know? or Is Astrology Valid?
mbs 028: The Olivet Discourse
mbs 031: Highlights of the Birth and Early Life of Jesus
mbs 032: The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus
mbs 035: The Three Messianic Miracles
mbs 040: The Parables of the Kingdom
mbs 043: The Confession of Peter
mbs 044: The Transfiguration of Jesus
mbs 048: Mammon of Unrighteousness
mbs 049: The Adulterous Woman
mbs 056: The Triumphal Entry
mbs 060: The Upper Room Discourses
mbs 061: The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus
mbs 069: The Agony of Gethsemane
mbs 070: The Death and Burial of the Messiah
mbs 075: The Resurrection of the Messiah
mbs 076: The Ascension of the Messiah
mbs 094: The Sermon on the Mount
mbs 099: The Results of the Death of Messiah
mbs 127: The Birth and Early Life of the Messiah
mbs 134: How the New Testament Quotes the Old Testament
mbs 183: The Healing of the Man at the Pool of Bethesda: John 5
mbs 185: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman: John 4:1-42

Many of Dr. Fruchtenbaum's studies are available for free online reading and listening at Ariel Ministries' Come and See. All of his materials are available for purchase at Ariel Ministries in various formats. Other select materials and resources are available at Ariel, as well.

Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Th.M, Ph.D, is founder and director of Ariel Ministries.

Return to Home Page