Mark 3:1-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.”

Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Mark 3:1-6

Suppose you are a Pharisee. You are part of the Jewish fundamentalist movement. You are a real back to the Bible kind of person. Unlike those Sadducee priests you truly despise, who have sold their souls to the Romans so they can enrich themselves from the temple treasury, you see yourselves as a purifying movement for the good of the people.

You are a reformer.  You value all of the ancient writings, not just the Torah. You “know your Bible” through and through. You believe you are quite loving in your interpretation of God’s words.

You are well aware that there is a man with a deformed hand among you in your Sabbath worship. You know what it says in Leviticus 21 about those who aren’t welcome in the tabernacle: For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.” You might even feel good about yourself for letting one of “those people” join you.

Then Jesus shows up. There he is again. You’ve heard about him. He and his stinky fisherman friends don’t know enough to stay away from obvious “people in sin.” He doesn’t respect God’s word. But he is developing a following amongst the people and that is threatening to you so you watch him closely. You just know he is going to do something wrong. And he does.

He heals the man’s withered hand on the Sabbath!!!!!

And you think that is such a bad thing that you leave the group and start plotting how you can kill him and get him out of the way.

Is it possible? Can it be true? Can it really happen that people with a deep and abiding faith in God, who know their Bible through and through, can end up utterly blind to the healing, liberating action of God in the lives of those they deem deformed and unclean?

What the Pharisees missed was that Jesus didn’t show up just to heal a guy’s hand, he showed up to heal a community’s broken faith, including the broken faith of the Pharisees who had locked God into a little box they controlled.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, may we always put people first and may we always be open to your healing power. The power than can open hearts and minds and move us from certainty to trust. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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