1 ¶ At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
4 “how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 “Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
6 “Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.
7 “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
9 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue.
10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him.
11 And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out?
12 “How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other.
While reading the above passages verse nine leaped out at me. It doesn’t say the synagogue, it says Jesus went into their synagogue. Prior to verse nine, Jesus had been berating the Pharisees for their hardness of heart. When verse nine says He went into their synagogue it is conveying a lot more than just Jesus going into a building. The synagogue comes to represent the religious realm that exists apart from the Spirit of God. The “Synagogue Realm” exists in each of us. It is the religious realm of our old nature as it attempts to appear righteous and spiritual before man.
It’s significant that when Jesus was 12 years old and disappeared from His parents’ caravan, Joseph and Mary found Him, not in the synagogue, but in the temple, both listening to, and questioning the teachers.
42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.
43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it;
44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.
45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.
46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.
47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”
49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.
In verse 49 Jesus tells His parents, “Did you knot know that I must be about my Father’s business?” The temple therefore represents the realm of spirit, which is God’s world. It’s where the true presence of God is found.
Back in our text from Mat.12, verse 10 states that there was a man in the synagogue whose hand was withered. The hands represent ministry in the Scriptures. Withered hands mean an inability to minister effectively. Our hands will always be “withered” when we dwell in the synagogue realm. The synagogue is the realm of the religious self-life and the ministry of Christ can’t flow through withered hands. Let’s look at some more passages that reveal the self nature of the synagogue realm.
Luke 11:43: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the front seats in the synagogues, and the respectful greetings in the market places.
45 And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples,
46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets,
47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
42 ¶ Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;
43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
Our religious self nature loves the chief seats in the synagogues. It loves to be seen and praised for its “spirituality.” What’s especially disturbing is that most of Christianity lives in the synagogue realm. It’s the realm created by man, not God. Unlike the temple, God never instituted the synagogue. They sprang up in Israel through the centuries as a means of having a convenient meeting place to teach and expound the Scriptures. That sounds spiritual enough, but they were never blessed and commissioned by God as the temple was. The temple eventually became profaned also, but its origin was in God, thus it represents God’s realm.
As to the majority of Christianity living in the synagogue realm, lets look at some more passages and see the parallel between then and now.
In John 9:1-17 is the story of Jesus healing a blind man. Let’s pick up the narrative in verse 18:
18 The Jews therefore did not believe it of him, that he had been blind, and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight,
19 and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?”
20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;
21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he shall speak for himself.”
22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed, that if anyone should confess Him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
The Jews had agreed that if anyone confessed Jesus as the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Today, Jesus is proclaimed as the Christ throughout the synagogue realm. However, it’s a futuristic or historical Christ. When Jesus is proclaimed in a “now manifestation” as One who is coming forth in a people, it gets you an invitation to the door every time. It’s “Christ in you” that is the hope of glory, not Christ off in heaven (Col. 1:25-28).
18 ¶ “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
22 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.
24 “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.
25 “But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’
26 ¶ “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me,
27 and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
1 ¶ “These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling.
2 “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.
3 “And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me
The above passages from John 15 and 16 reveal a deep truth. There is a spirit of hatred that fills the religious synagogue realm. The religious realm of our flesh natures is under such gross deception that when the true revelation of Jesus Christ is presented, its intent is to kill it. Jesus states clearly that although those in the synagogue realm think they are serving God, they have no true revelation of Him at all. “And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me.”
True discipleship means being outcasts from the synagogue realm. It means an emptying out of the self-life so that Christ’s life and Lordship can rule in us. This is why Paul said, “All who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2nd Tim. 3:11).” The religious synagogue realm always wars against the true manifestation of Christ. How many times have our religious flesh natures been offended when confronted with truth that contradicted our pet doctrines? In times past I have been enraged when presented with teaching that contradicted my interpretation or perspective of the Scriptures. I have had malice surface in my heart when a true, living Word was spoken. What triggered such deep reactions? It was the religious synagogue realm rising up to oppose the revelation of Christ. Fortunately, God’s grace so worked in my life as to enable me to see the truth in those instances. But it’s not a one time deal. We must constantly be dedicated to walking as outcasts from the synagogue. There must be a perpetual emptying out of self as the Holy Spirit reveals that realm in us on deeper and deeper levels. True discipleship is not going to win any awards in the synagogue, but it becomes the means by which we really grow to know the Lord.
“Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you (Rev. 3:9).”
It’s very important to realize that while the synagogue is a realm that opposes the true revelation of the Lord, God has many people trapped inside it and He loves them. In Luke 4 we find:
15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.
The Lord constantly desires to enter our “synagogue” and teach us. In Rev. 3:20 Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him, and dine with him, and he with Me.” The Lord greatly desires to heal our withered hands. As the Lord delivers us from the synagogue realm, we are to become channels of liberation to others. It’s our hands He wishes to flow through to free others into a revelation of Himself.