Mark 3:1-6 NLT
Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.
Today, the two characters we are asked to look at and to try to identify with are the man with the withered hand, and the pharisee. Although, none of us would want to identify with the pharisee if I am honest as I look at this passage, I find myself more like him than I would like to confess. The Pharisee liked things all tight and within the law. He required certain practices done certain ways. He had an order by which he conducted his life. Jesus challenged that order, and the intent of those certain practices. I find with my mouth I am quick to confess that I want the religious box to be broken, but when Jesus comes and even shakes it up a bit, I get very uncomfortable. This reality creates some very challenging thoughts. How much of what we do in our religious circles are really what He is even asking for and how much of them are the “religious boxes” we have created for ourselves? We like the order of things even when we complain about them. I am challenged by the realization of just how much I really can identify with the pharisee.
How would I respond if Jesus came and did something that did not fit into my perception of how He should work? Would I respond any different? I have listened to people over the years when God would be doing something and often the voices within the religious walls became the greatest critics of what He was pouring out. Why is that? Could it be we are a bit more like the pharisee then we are willing to look at? I am realizing that I am, but I willingly bring that heart to Him to change.
I also can identify with the man with the withered hand. He represents limitation. I have felt limitation in life for obviously different reasons. Sometimes my gender in ministry has been my limitation. Other times, different things, but I can identify with the longing for Christ to come into that limitation and breathe life to the heart and healing to the life. It is a place that those who don’t identify with can’t understand. So, when Jesus came and broke the religious box, he was letting this man with limitation know you are more valuable than any rule. I came for you. I have had moments where Jesus has come and done for me the same. He bypassed mans “defined terms” and met me in my place of need. For that my heart is grateful.
There is much to digest in this parable. I am challenged to reassess my limitations and bring them to God, but I am also challenged to ask the Lord to show me where I am the Pharisee and to want Him more than the religious ideas that bring a false security into my life. He is my safe place. Nothing else will do.
Pat McRae says:January 13, 2014 at 11:15 pm
I am not sure I am getting this “picture it” but here goes. Well I sure know where Jesus was coming from! He has just explained to these holier-then-thou people that the sabbath was made for man and now He is going to give them an example of what He is talking about. How often have I tried to explain something to someone with examples and all, but they had their minds made up and would not even hear. Jesus just does what He was sent to do and me I just get frustrated even to the point of tears at times. Then there is this innocent guy just there for his Sunday go to meeting time and BAM! life is changed. God is so good at that isn’t He? This guy comes crippled, not able to use a hand but leaves whole able to do all things. Yes I am this man, so many times I come into God’s presence broken, unable to accomplish the simplest tasks because my spirit is crippled. But oh how in that presence my life is changed! The broken pieces are made whole, the lack of ability is turned upside down and I find I can do all things through Christ. But most of all my spirit is set free, for His love has brought light, life and liberty to me. Hallelujah!
Sue says:January 13, 2014 at 11:28 pm
We aren’t told much about the man who had Jesus’ attention except that he was in church on the Sabbath. It isn’t clear if he had come there of his own initiative or if he was a ‘plant’ in the audience to trap Jesus. Did the church leaders make him an offer if he would just show up? The text says, “ Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath”. It wouldn’t be the only time the Pharisees would appeal to someone’s weakness in an effort to trap Jesus.
This man’s physical weakness was his hand. A deeper look at the context tells us that the hand to the elbow was atrophied making the arm practically useless. His ability to make a living and support his family was limited and his physical strength was diminished. All he had to do was sit and wait to see if Jesus would fall into ‘the trap’ of being his healer. He didn’t rush up and ask/beg Jesus to heal him as so many others had in scripture.
I can so easily relate to this man with his limitations. I can understand the desperation he must have felt. I know what it is like to lack strength & ability. I know the desperation of so often being at the mercy of others, not being able to meet my own needs. I can understand how he must have felt as he looked to his future.
These physical limitations play over into so many other areas of life. They can either make social interactions with others frightening and fragile … or they can produce strong bonds depending on the people involved and past experiences. They can cause our spiritual lives to be filled with fear & doubt or cause us to rise in faith and assurance depending on how what. they are feeding on. I’ve experienced both extremes in both the social & spiritual realms and I suspect that the gentleman in this story did as well.
The Pharisees felt they had a duty to protect their church. Their system of beliefs, their tradition, their faith, and their comfort zone were being threatened. They felt that they were the protectors of the faith and this scoundrel was already upsetting everything.
I would like to think that I would totally embrace the Jesus who would enter our religious circles, heal the sick & set the spiritual captives free. But sometimes He has taken measures or acted in ways that didn’t fit my picture of Him. At these times I admit to feeling uncomfortable both as a leader and as the one in need of healing.
My heart begs for Jesus to break the mould that I have put Him in … to destroy all the false images I have created of Him based on my experiences instead of His reality. I desperately need Him to shatter the small ‘god’ that I have created in my mind and meet me in my desperation.
There truly is so much in this one story that I have quickly overlooked in the past. It is going to take a few re-reads. 🙂
Jim Holmes says:January 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm
It was the Sabbath and I heard that Jesus was going to be in the synagogue today. I tried to pull my clothes on in a hurry in a rush to be there but my withered hand did not work well at all. In fact many people made fun of me. My hand was ugly and very scarred, somewhat limp…smaller than my good hand…withered. A lot of people think I can’t do anything and even think I am mental. So, I don’t have many friends…well, one or two maybe. Others don’t want to identify with me…the so called “friends of a kind flock together mentality”. Anyhow…I heard that Jesus was a nice man and that He did miraculous things. Maybe He could heal my withered hand? This hope kinda drove me to go see Him. I had to get there early because of possible crowds.
Well…here I am among a bunch of pushing people…some laughing at me…some pushing me ahead and others pushing me back saying…it’s not lawful for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath! He’s not going to heal you…
When things quieted down a little, I heard Jesus say to “come to the front” and He was pointing to me! Well, I’ll tell ya…it didn’t take long to get to the front….and some pushed me to the front like they were going to get some fun out of seeing me up front. And then, I saw Jesus face to face. And He was angry at the people and said: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” And nobody said anything…and tears were coming to my eyes…like…com’on people…and I wanted to be healed so bad…and it was if they dared Jesus to heal me….and I was very scared and alone.
And then suddenly Jesus turned to me and said to “stretch forth my hand”…this ugly hand of mine! Everybody would see it then! And I heard the compassion in His voice on the Sabbath…and I did as He had said….and it…it was immediately restored completely whole! Well…I was crying and laughing…Jesus was so good to me…
And guess what…the Pharisees then left before it was all over…guess they were frustrated about something and soon afterwards Jesus and His disciples left. I am so grateful to Jesus…and I can’t wait to hear Him again.
.Now I want to share my story with you…and this is a very real and true testimony of mine. God has forever transformed us little by little…a little here and a little there…but these littles are major in our lives. It was during the evening, some time ago…that I sat listening to Kathryn…and a young girl came up…and the girl was crying…and Kathryn asked her what she was crying about….and her hands were disfigured…and ugly….and Kathryn was crying….and she was telling the girl how beautiful her hands were….and I was crying….and she was healed. The Bible story tells how Jesus kept His eyes on the Father and said and did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus saw the withered hand whole when the world could not see it. Kathryn had spiritual eyes that did not look to the world’s fleshly view of things. So I leave you this scripture: From Rom. 8:5…For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.”
Susan Craig says:January 14, 2014 at 3:36 am
I honestly do not know who I identify with in this story. I see the poor man with the withered hand as being a pawn in the middle between 2 opposite sides of an argument. All he wanted was to be healed-he was not wanting to be used to make a point to the pharasees or as tool to provide the ammunition to bring on the demise of this healer Jesus. All he wanted was to be healed. Sometimes we come to Jesus wanting Him to heal our broken heart or body or spirit not knowing what God’s purposes may be-we have our own agenda and that is all we see. But sometimes God has several purposes in mind when we come to Him with our requests-sometimes when He grants our request it is not just for our good but for purposes in other people’s lives that we are not even aware of. Jesus not only wanted to heal this man but also wanted to teach something to the pharasees who were there-dual purposes for one healing. Jesus was upfront with what he was trying to teach the pharasees. But the pharasees were covert with what they wanted-they were hoping to trap Jesus into breaking their law and when he did, they went out and started making plans to kill Jesus. Be aware if you are trying to go about doing something that has a hidden motive-that is false and a lie and contrary to the will of God- nothing is hidden from God no matter how hard we try to hide it. God not only sees what we do but also the motive behind it. Truth does not have to sneak around or hide in the darkness ready to pounce. Truth is in the light as God is in the light-it does not need to be hidden from view. So beware if you are harboring secret sins that no-one else may know of-nothing is hidden from God. Jesus came to fulfill the Law- the heart/motive/response to the law-not the letter of the law. The Law was given so that man would recognise that He cannot obey it no matter how hard he tries-the law was given to point out to man that we all sin and fall short of it. The law was condemnation-to point us to the need for a Savior. The Parasees studied and tried to enforce the letter of the law. Jesus was radically different in that he emphasized the heart of the law-not the letter of the law. When He tried to point that out to the Pharasees, He knew what their hearts were like and knew that they would reject what he was trying to tell them. Even so,he told them the truth anyhow-knowing that by doing so,he would be providing amunition for them to use against Him later. Jesus was sad and angry because He was well aware that His message was not going to be received favorably by most of the religious elite of His day. Not everyone wants to hear truth or allow the truth to change their hearts and minds. Some of us would prefer to believe the lie because truth calls for a radical change in the way we live our lives,and we are oh soo comfortable in our disguises.
Karen says:January 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm
Now don’t take this the wrong way but I relate to Jesus……..”Jesus entered the synagogue again and noticed a man with a withered hand”.
Today I entered work again and noticed my colleague not quite herself. What do I do? I entered church again last Sunday and noticed my friend a bit cranky. What do I do? I took a phone call from a family member who is hurting again. What do I do?
According to this parable I am to reach out and touch those people…….again, and again, and again despite everything and everyone around me.
Susan Craig says:January 15, 2014 at 2:45 am
Karen-I love the way you can sum up the message in these readings so concisely. I once heard a christian speaker say that the problem with the christian life is that it is soo daily. I agree with that statement but I am also learning that being faithful in the daily happenings of life is what is most important for us to be. Daily life can be monotonous and boring but only if we let it. Allowing God to work through us everyday is exactly what the Christian life is all about!!
Karen says:January 16, 2014 at 10:07 am
Susan, do I understand correctly that you are in health care? I too work in health care and have anywhere from 8-15 patients/day that I “serve”. The “stories” that come with each and every person is an opportunity to touch a life. Then there are those I work with daily. Sometimes I become overwhelmed with NEED. The parables we are studying remind me that for three consecutive years Jesus touched lives in a personal way. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes in crowds. Teaching, healing, instructing, feeding, listening, correcting, serving…..
I have been challenged to move past my work, family, and church environments and see the NEED in ALL aspects that touch my life and to be willing to DO what God would have me do (listen, teach, correct, serve) at that moment because it is only that moment that I have.