1 Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20, 11:14, 15, Psalm 138, 2 Cor 4:13-5:1. Μark 3:1-17
There is a lot contained in our gospel reading today. It reminds me of how much can pass by in a week and it takes a while to catch my breath before reflecting on the events of the week. Instead I want to focus on verse 1 to 6 with Jesus in the Synagogue where a man with a withered hand is also present. It is the Sabbath day. The Pharisees are there, ever watching to see what Jesus would do. They are ready to trap him, seeking for a way to destroy Jesus.
It is clear that Jesus desired to heal this man, to bring wholeness to his life. The Pharisees were clear about the requirements of the Law. There is distinct conflict between what Jesus seeks to do for the man and what the Pharisees believe should happen according to the Law. The question Jesus asks them, Is it lawful to do good or to harm on the sabbath, to safe life or to kill? Jesus attempts to appeal to their sense of compassion for the man. They are silent. They don’t question Jesus nor do they oppose his question. Instead they remain quiet. And we read of Jesus anger, the scripture reads, ‘[Jesus] looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart (Mark 3:5). There are not many incidents in scripture where Jesus’ anger is on full display. This is one of them. It is an anger that is disappointed by the lack of compassion for the man who desperately needs healing. A lack of compassion toward the need of a fellow human being. And because of this he requests the man to stretch out his hand and it is healed. The man is made whole.
In Jesus time, someone receiving such healing and wholeness had a huge impact on their lives. Those who were disabled, disfigured, lame, or blind, could not fully participate in society. They were often considered outcasts, not accepted by even their families. This in turn meant they could not earn an income. This in turn required them to beg in order to eke out an existence. The healing of this man’s arm restored not only his humanity, it restored him to the health of his community, the very connections he needed to live well, to eat, build relationships, to share life with others.
Jesus comes to bring healing and restoration so that this man could live. Prior to this, he would have just been surviving as best he can. There are so many here and across the world for whom life is about survival. So many trapped by war, hunger, poverty, and injustice who cannot imagine life being better. Jesus came to restore humanity, to bring life, healing, love and compassion. Compassion.
I read on the news recently of two policeman here in Melbourne who helped a homeless man on that very cold evening just past. Someone recorded the interaction. They thought the police could have been asking the gentleman to move on, but instead, they went into the shops, bought some food, some milk, placed it in a bag and gave it to the man. For me this is a story about restoration. It didn’t solve the problem of homelessness for him, but in that moment, his dignity and sense of self was restored.
Jesus went about healing people, restoring their humanity, creating a world where people could be welcomed back into community. This is true wholeness. The report of Jesus healing stretched far and wide, so much so that people came in crowds to attempt to get close to Jesus just so they could touch him (Mark 3: 10). People knew that if they could only just touch Jesus, their lives would be turned right way up.
I understand a little of why Jesus was angry. I recall as a youngster wanting so much to be just like everyone else. It had been reinforced to me from a young age what I could and couldn’t do. I didn’t want to be the shortest nor did I want to be the one with a lazy eye that just meant the kids at school taunted me all the more for. I wanted what the man with the withered hand wanted. To be made whole. Now none of us can quite understand why some people are healed and others are not. But our healing may be that we have been restored into the family of God. I remember going to church as a youngster sensing the genuine love of the people, the acceptance, the welcome. That to me is the work of restoration. The work of welcoming others into the kingdom of God without comment, and without judgement. Jesus was angry because of the lack of compassion or a desire to see someone made whole on the Sabbath. Their concern was with the letter of the Law, not the love or compassion of God that is shown to us through others.
I’m sure each one of us has stories in our life where we were not accepted or felt differently from those around us. What we wanted was genuine love and acceptance. That is what God does for us. God welcomes us fully into the family of God, no questions, no judgement, no accusations. God loves us, forgives us, welcomes us into the body of Christ and we are made whole.
It is right that we feel anger toward injustice, toward the brokenness in our world around us, anger toward inaction to bring such wholeness to others.
The mission of God is to see people restored into the Kingdom of God. For people to be brought back into right relationship with God. Welcomed into the family of God. And it begins with us, loving, accepting, and having compassion upon those who in our community who are doing it tough. Amen.