Cut off your hand literally? Ouch!

I have been reading Josephus, a Jewish historian born a few years after Jesus’ crucifixion. I have learned that people really did cut their hands off, literally, to demonstrate that they were going to no longer do something. Well, sometimes someone else cut off their hands to demonstrate that they could no longer do something. 

I am reading an ebook without page numbers, so I can not provide actual page numbers. However, by the time I have gotten to what must be the equivalent of page 10 out of about 950 pages, three people have lost their hands! Two have had their hands cut off by others. The third takes his sword in his right hand and uses it to cut off his left hand. Yuck! and ouch! 

Why was it done? Well, in one case,  it seems the Galileans cut off both of a rebel’s hands because of his rebellion. (Location 470) In another, Josephus, who was a military leader, has a rebel severely beaten, cuts off one of his hands, hangs it around the rebel’s neck, and sends the rebel back out to the other rebels around his house. (Location 404) 

But the other case is the one I found most intriguing because a rebel cuts off his own hand to spare himself getting both hands cut off instead. And so, Josephus notes, an end was put to this sedition. (Location 462) 

Such were the times in which Jesus lived! 

As I read the example of the man cutting off his own hand to spare his own hide, Jesus words came to life! 

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. Matthew 18:8

Jesus wasn’t talking about something which his listeners never saw. He was speaking about something with which they were intimately acquainted. In their society, rebels had their hands cut off to demonstrate their repentance and their powerlessness to continue fighting against the legitimate power. At least in some instances, they even cut off their own hands! 

Am I suggesting that Jesus meant for us to literally cut off our hands and gouge out our eyes in order to keep from sinning in our lives? 

Perhaps not. 

I am suggesting that Jesus was really serious about the consequences of sin. It really is a life and death matter. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Jesus knew this. 

Am I suggesting that our works or lack of sin is what saves us and gives us eternal life? 

Absolutely not! 

Romans 11:6 says, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” 

I am suggesting that we will reap what we sow. If we watch porn, if we curse and swear, if we gamble, if we overspend and live in luxury instead of caring for the poor, we will reap what we sow. 

Romans 6: 16 says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” 

Today let us run the race well! Let us do whatever is necessary to get rid of that which destroys and kills! Let us be serious about loving God and loving our neighbor. With soft hearts, let us turn to the Lord and rejoice as we do His will! 

Information taken from The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, which can be purchased on Amazon

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