Do you ever (dis)miss the withered handed?
On another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand. ”And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. – Luke 6:6-11 [ESV]
There was a loud clunk. The sound of a head hitting the wooden pew. No cushions. Nothing to soften the blow. Or muffle the sound. But I didn’t know what had happened. Fortunately my vicarage supervisor pastor realized what had happened. He saw the comotion. And he stopped his sermon mid-sentence and said, “Let’s pray for him while he’s being helped.”
That was 45 years ago, and I learned something that day; two things actually. I learned that when someone suffers some sort of medical or personal incident in the middle of the service, you need to take note. And pray. And make sure he is being attended to. Since that time I’ve been preaching or leading worship which such a thing happens and did just that. I called it out, and offered a prayer. On one occasion we prayed while we waited until the EMS personnel arrived with gurney and all to take the man to the hospital. Thankfully he was OK. On another occasion a gentleman actually regained enough strength to remain in the service!
But I believe that worship was made for man, not man for worship. In other words worship is important for the good of men, women and children. But worship blesses us. We don’t bless worship. Worship is a means by which we receive God’s gifts, but so is human kindness, physical care, and prayer support. Jesus knew this. He stops the service in the synagogue that day and brings the man front and center for his healing touch.
It is quite noteworthy that he brings the man up for all to see. In that moment, the man is more than a disabled man. He is the center of God’s attention. Perhaps there was a smirk on his face since he was being honored when all other times he was ignored, ridiculed, or even treated as one cursed by God. He might have been embarrassed at all the attention; one who would rather hide in the corner than be the center of attention. Soon he will a healed man, and a hero to some or a villain to others.
No matter. Jesus sees a man who needs his help. He sees a man who is more important than the sabbath laws. He sees a man who will receive God’s glorious grace. To be sure the sabbath laws the Pharisees were some of the most strict and detailed laws of the Jewish people. There are 39 categories of work that are prohibited on the Sabbath. Thirty-nine! Categories:
1. Carrying 2. Burning 3. Extinguishing 4. Finishing 5. Writing 6. Erasing 7. Cooking 8. Washing 9. Sewing 10. Tearing 11. Knotting 12. Untying 13. Shaping 14. Plowing 15. Planting 16. Reaping 17. Harvesting 18. Threshing 19. Winnowing 20. Selecting 21. Sifting 22. Grinding 23. Kneading 24. Combing 25. Spinning 26. Dyeing 27. Chain-stitching 28. Warping 29. Weaving 30. Unraveling 31. Building 32. Demolishing 33. Trapping 34. Shearing 35. Slaughtering 36. Skinning 37. Tanning 38. Smoothing 39. Marking
And healing is actually not prohibited. But even if it was, Jesus has the prerogative to determine what is good and evil any day of the week. And the good thing is for Jesus to heal this man. I don’t know what might stand in your way of God’s attention or favor. But trust me, it’s nothing God would abide. His love covers a multitude of sins. His blood cleanses us from all sins. He never overlooks a person with a withered hand or a broken heart.
I’ve thought about your last statement off and on all day. I really appreciate your acknowledgement that Jesus cares about our hurts inside us as well as our physical infirmity. This reveals his compassion and tenderness for our whole being. Often, I really need this. Thank you for bringing it into focus today!