Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jesus Heals the Withered Hand

Jesus went again to a synagogue, and there was a man there with one hand withered. And the Pharisees were watching him closely, to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, in  order to get a charge to bring against him. Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward." And he said to them, "Is it allowable to do people good on the Sabbath, or to do them harm? To save life or kill?" But they made no answer. And he looked around at them with anger, hurt by their obstinacy, and he said to the man, "Hold out your hand." And he held it out, and his hand was cured. Then the Pharisees left the synagogue and immediately consulted with the Herodians about Jesus, with a view to putting him to death.

A withered hand is powerless and useless. Maybe the man was born this way, had a stroke or suffered an accident. The Pharisees are un-relenting, still looking to gather evidence against Jesus. Perhaps what's really bothering them is that Jesus is more popular than they are. We might wonder if they put this handicapped man up to it - paying him off and making him a stooge for their purposes. 

But Jesus brings the man out into the open, Come and stand up here, he says. He will not hide his priorities: Human need trumps holy-day prohibitions.

Jesus is widening the field of religion which is more than the leaders can handle. While they know all about religious prohibitions, permissions and penalties, they don't  know how to speak  about the matters of the heart.

The question for these pious men is: How to keep the Sabbath holy? But for Jesus the question is: How can the Sabbath lead us to love and serve people? And if the Sabbath rules prevent that care of others then the rules have to go. And to make the point, Jesus heals the man.

The Evangelist Mark is very close to the Incarnation (God is with us in Christ) in this gospel scene, allowing us to witness the deeply felt emotion of Jesus in his sad-anger and hurt. But what is it that angers Jesus? That we allow religion to be kidnapped and used by political agendas or that we twist up religion into something foolish and ugly, calling man-made rules divine. Maybe Jesus is hurt and sad that these men are out to get him.

Let's be on the lookout for religion that loses its way, resolving to stay clear of it. Psalm 51:10 says: A clean heart create in me, O God, put a right spirit within me. 

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