Withered Hands and Hard Hearts

In Mark 3:1-6 we read that Jesus once again entered the synagogue and the Pharisees were there to watch Him. They had been hearing stories about the Man from Galilee and they were growing more and more concerned.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law were angry because Jesus forgave a man’s sins, ate a meal with sinners, refused to honor their rituals, and allowed His disciples to pick and eat grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2). With every miracle and every message, Jesus revealed the intentions of God’s heart. In doing so He exposed the wrong understanding and application of God’s law by the Jewish religious establishment. They despised Him for it. They loved their own power and authority more than God’s people. We are told “there was a man there which had a withered hand.” The word “withered” means paralyzed or atrophied.  I can’t imagine this man going around showing off his withered hand. In fact, he probably kept it out of sight as much as possible. Either the Pharisees had planted this man, or they had noticed him in the crowd. Either way they were “watching” Jesus to see what He would do. Jesus asked a very simple question: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life or to kill?” In Matthew 12:11 we learn that Jesus also asked, “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out?” They had no answer for Jesus because any answer they might have given would have contradicted their own teachings. These Pharisees did not care about the needs of a poor, injured man. All they cared about was their rules and their ways. Mark tells us that they suffered from “hardness” of heart. The word for “hardness” is a word to describe a type of marble. The word eventually came to be used of something covered with a callus. The callused heart will get to the place where it is insensitive to the voice of the Lord. Jesus knew what the Pharisees were doing and He called for the injured man to “stand up in front of everyone.” In spite of their attempt to trap Him, Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand. When he did, it was healed! In spite of His anger at their hypocrisy, Jesus still had compassion on the man with the withered hand. What a contrast between the hard hearts of the “religious” and the compassionate heart of Jesus! We all hide things. We often attempt to cover up the physical and spiritual parts of our lives that have withered. Maybe there is an aspect of your life that could be described as paralyzed, atrophied or wasted away. You may be thinking of a withered relationship. You are possibly experiencing a withered prayer life. Maybe you feel paralyzed financially. Has your marriage become lifeless and without joy? Jesus stands ready to compassionately restore life to what has become withered. Stretch out that which has withered and ask Jesus to restore life.

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