Eleven days into my Lenten journey and I realize I’ve slowed down……a little. I’ve allowed for more quiet time in the morning….reading, praying, listening and reflecting, but I’m still trying to find a consistent soul-speed.
I’m reading a daily online Lent devotional and the Gospel of Mark during my Lenten journey. This week the story of a man with a withered hand in Chapter 3 struck a chord. Or maybe it hit a nerve.
Jesus walked into the synagogue and noticed a man with a withered hand. Some versions say his hand was shriveled. Others use the word deformed or crippled. Whatever word described it, the man’s right hand was useless. The same story in Luke 6:6-11 says Jesus asked the man to stand in front of the crowd.
Jesus wanted the people to see the man and his gnarled hand. Perhaps some in the crowd were moved to compassion. Some wondered what Jesus would do. The Pharisees and scribes looked for a way to accuse Jesus.
In all three Gospel accounts of the story, Jesus questioned the crowd.
“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm?”
“If your sheep fell into the ditch on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you lift it out?”
“On the Sabbath should we save someone’s life or destroy it?”
The four words at the end of verse 4 in Mark’s version say it all.
“But they were silent.”
No answers. Not a word. Only silence. The religious leaders were unyielding. The sight of the disabled man and the pointed questions did nothing to soften their hearts. They were consumed with the idea of catching Jesus in breaking the Sabbath.
I wonder about the onlookers, though. The other ones in the synagogue. Why didn’t one of them answer Jesus and say, “I would rescue my sheep” or “It’s lawful to save a life any day of the week.” Had they heard the man-made rules about Sabbath for so long they forgot what God said? Were they scared into silence? Afraid of what the religious leaders would do if they spoke up?
Verse 5 says, “And Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart….”
Then Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand and it was restored.
Such a work of mercy should have tendered hearts and caused amazement and faith, but they wouldn’t be moved. They persisted in unbelief and set out to destroy Jesus. The ones determined to uphold the law missed the whole point of it: to love God and love people.
Are our hearts hard? Are we unmoved? Do we value man-made rules and traditions over people? Are we determined to move our agendas forward even when it means hindering others’ journey toward God? Are we holding onto status or position or reputation instead of trusting God?
Father, show us our hearts. Reveal the deepest places – the ones we try not to see. Make our hearts tender so we are moved by what moves You. May we love you wholeheartedly and may we see those around us the way You see them.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26