“If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit ...” (Matthew 12:11-12)

“If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12)

Can Jesus heal on the Sabbath?

Jesus has walked into a synagogue, and there in the synagogue was a man with a shriveled hand. The Pharisees tested Jesus with the question:
“Ís it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Matt. 12:10)
The above statement was Jesus’ reply to this question.

First Jesus utilizes an analogy to the situation. What does it mean? Jesus is asking if they would save a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath, and if so, then why would helping a man on the Sabbath be wrong?

One of the key elements of Jesus' statement is the word "good" - translated from the Greek word, καλῶς (kalōs) which means "fine," "beautiful" and "noble" according to the lexicon. Thus the act that Jesus is speaking of - healing a man - is more than just "good."

We can see from his answer and other statements that Jesus’ focus was not in rituals. His focus was the welfare of others - especially related to their spiritual lives.

What does the sheep analogy mean?

The metaphor with regard to the sheep and the pit indicates a deeper element - one deeper than simply healing a person's physical body. Jesus frequently utilized the sheep metaphor, because this communicated innocence, especially among those who needed help.

This was illustrated repeatedly. For example:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)
We can understand from this that that healing the body was not as important as healing the soul - the living being occupying that physical body.

And the relationship between the "pit" and those Jesus was trying to teach and save is that we have all fallen into a pit - the pit of the physical world.

In this pit of the physical world, we are blinded by our misidentification with our physical body and our mistaken dreams that the forms and things of this world will make us happy.

Who gets pulled out of 'the pit'?

This illusion that the things of the material world will make us happy requires our being pulled up out of this pit. We cannot pull ourselves up. We might try very hard, but the illusory nature of the physical world will keep us down within the pit unless the Supreme Being pulls us up.

This is why Jesus chose to utilize a pit in his analogy of the sheep It is because his teachings regarding the Supreme Being provide a means to pull us out of the pit of self-centered hell.

And what was the foundation of Jesus' teachings?
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)