Reflections on Mark 3:1-6 Part 4

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"He stretched it out, and his hand was restored." (Mark 3:5)


Third Contrast: The response Acceptance and Rejection

It is interesting to note that the man with the withered hand did not ask for healing. Neither, of course, did the Pharisees. No one present asked for healing. The man obtained healing, the Pharisees did not; yet all had the chance to be healed and all needed healing of a sort. It was only the man with the withered hand who actually recognized his need, entered into a relationship with Jesus and, in faith, obeyed the command of Jesus to stretch out his hand. Recognition of a need, entering into a relationship, responding to the call in faith, these are the steps necessary for healing.

These steps were totally lacking in the case of the Pharisees. The question Jesus asked (v. 4) should have prompted them to enter into dialogue, establish a relationship and eventually recognise their need. They remained ignorant of their “hardness of heart”; they were neither willing nor able to enter into a relationship and therefore they were not open to healing. The gifts are inseparable from the giver. It is the same today; if we want the healing we must welcome the healer, enter into a relationship with him and trust him.

It is Jesus who takes the initiative. He invites the man to come forward. He obviously knew that he was in need of healing. In one heart alone could he see that openness, that expectation and that unexpressed faith necessary for healing. One heart alone was right with God, one heart alone was there to worship; only one heart was ready for the creative power of Jesus.

Both the man with the withered hand and the Pharisees had a personal encounter with Jesus in a physical sense. He spoke to both, he could have healed both. One came to him when called forward, the others did not “yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:40). What will our response be? Do we cling to our hardness of heart, to our unforgiving spirit? Do we cling to these instead of to Jesus who brings forgiveness, healing and makes us whole?

The hearts of the Pharisees were full of negativity; they were spiritually dead. They were travelling swiftly along the road of death despite being in the presence of the source of life. That their heart was not right is clear. They were in a place of worship, the synagogue, yet apparently their thoughts were not focused on worship but on spying on Jesus to catch him out (v. 2). This sounds familiar does it not? There are people even today entering in a church and worship is only a second thought; they are more intent on observing others or chatting or commenting on what so-and-so is wearing!

Jesus did nothing to cure the withered hand. It was the power of his word that did everything, hence the disappointment shown by the Pharisees. The creative word speaks healing into existence just as in Genesis the Word said “’let there be light’, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). He who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature”, who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), he who calmed the storm (Mark 4:36-41), that very same person now said “Stretch out your hand.” The power inherent in the Word enabled the man to stretch out his hand: “He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” (v.5). The power of he who created the universe now restores the withered hand of this man of whom we do not even know the name. This is the saviour to whom we surrender everything. It is he who stoops down from on high to transform us into what we were meant to be.  “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).

The command of Jesus to stretch out his hand must have sounded somewhat strange if not absurd, not only to the man himself but also to the onlookers. Whoever has seen a withered hand would know that it is impossible to stretch out such a hand. He was asked to do the impossible; but in faith he did it and as he did so healing took place. The action of stretching out takes place when the healing word was spoken. It is the Word that heals, that restores, as it is accepted in faith. There is power in the Word:

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the    thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
The only one to speak here was the Word of God bringing the compassion of the Father into action. The words of Jesus must have resounded throughout the synagogue to the amazement of all present!

There is also a lesson for us here. Is there something that needs to be restored in our lives? Is there unforgivenness in our hearts? Are there dark corners deep within? Are we ready for that healing that we crave? Do we have that genuine disposition, that worshipful heart that readies us for healing or is our heart as hard as stone, so solid that it prevents the healing power of Jesus from penetrating it? Do we recognise our need? Do we come forward in expectation and faith? Let us open ourselves up to the healing power of the Word; let us welcome the creative power of Jesus into our mind, heart and spirit.

The man with the withered hand came forward, the Pharisees did not; he received healing, they did not. What about us? Let us open ourselves to the gift of God, let our hearts open up in joyous expectation and grateful awe to the presence of the Lord of life to receive that life, that love and that freedom which we crave. Let us have an open mind, an open heart and an open hand to receive the love, the peace and the joy of Christ. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Robert Walsh

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Mark 3:1-6 Questions for Group Leaders

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