Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hold Out Your Hand

The beginning of Mark 3 sets the scene with Jesus and the Pharisees in the meeting place. They had been walking together, and the Pharisees had been pointing out all that was incongruent with the law in what Jesus and his Disciples were doing. Jesus was refuting their puffs and harumphs with logic and truth, but they were no closer to believing - they simply wanted to catch Him doing something that would be judge-worthy. 2015 is a great remake of this story - so many watching and waiting for a Christian to mess up so they can point their fingers and go, 'HA! See!? You're not doing it right!" But I digress.....

Take a look at the passage, and pay close attention to the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees.

Mark 3:1-6 NASB

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!"  And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

As I read this I tried to get a picture of what was going on. Picture this with me....
The Pharisees are huddled in a bunch (there's power in numbers, and knowing they've got the numbers gives them courage to be what they are....self-righteous zealots), watching and waiting to pounce on anything Jesus does that defies and/or breaks the law of the Sabbath. They are like a cat sitting in front of a mouse hole - waiting with tendons stretched and muscles tensed so they can "git him!"

Jesus stands in front of the man whose hand is crippled and probably unusable. He looks on him with tenderness, compassion and a desire to help. As they stand together and He asks the question, the stares of the Pharisees are clear - He knows they are waiting for Him to heal this man so they can call him a criminal - so He asks them a question. Isn't it great ? He doesn't just do it - He gets them *thinking* about what is right, what is wrong, and the dilemma inside each of us when faced with this question of what to do!

"Is it lawful to do GOOD, or to do HARM on the Sabbath? Huh? Should I save a life, or should I take a life?" and the unspoken...."what would you do? What would you have ME do?


No one says a thing. As the crowd of onlookers and Jesus' disciples wait to see what's going to happen (ever been in that place? standing and watching the tension between people and just waiting to see what's going to happen next?), the Pharisees probably shuffled their feet and refused to make eye contact. Or they may have defiantly stood with arms crossed as if to say, "I don't need to answer that question."

Jesus looks at them in anger. Imagine the thoughts going through the Son of God's mind as He who knows us better than we know ourselves looks at each Pharisee individually - and all He sees is hardened hearts. He knows then. He knows they won't change, and that they are a part of the enemy's plan to try to defeat the Kingdom of God.

I don't know about you, but as I read this I hear the pounding of a hammer on a nail as the very One Who could bring them everything in life they truly wanted - peace, wisdom, justice - is faced with the facts of human choice and the fallibility of the human race.

His heart grieved.

His anger stoked - at the hardened hearts, the plan of the enemy, the fallenness of this world - and He turns to the man and says, "stretch out your hand."

No healing words were needed, just obedience on the part of the man.

And the Pharisees rejoiced inside as they found their reason for bringing This Man Who claimed to be God to the judgement seat of Herod. They couldn't turn and run fast enough!

Which side would you have been on?

Would you have answered Him when He asked which was better?

When faced with the decision of what to do, what would you have done? Would you have followed
the letter of the law and maybe come back the next day to help? Or would you have seen the need and done something about it right then?

We can't answer that last question in light of our current culture. Put yourself back in that time - the time when the law MADE the land. Lawbreakers didn't get slaps on the wrist, they got thrown into prison and/or killed. What would you have done?

Take some time to dig into those questions and this passage. Dig into your heart with God and really examine your motives, your beliefs, your reasons for not helping those in need. (caveat: I am NOT saying go ahead and break the law if it seems like a good idea! In fact, if anything, I'm asking you to look at the law and examine your willingness to be obedient to it as a Christian. There are times, aren't there, when we need to take a stand for righteousness because God's ways are not the ways of man.)

My final question for you is this: What are you hiding behind in order to be safe from taking a stand for Jesus?

And one last thought...I read a great quote in an article a friend posted on Facebook today.  The article is an excellent commentary on why Christians should avoid the movie and book "Fifty Shades of Gray" (and those like it) and can be found here: HERE, but I just want to share this description of the Christian walk Carmen quoted from "Got Questions."
"One writer describes growing in the Christian faith as being “on a never-ending downward escalator. In order to grow we have to turn around and sprint up the escalator putting up with perturbed looks from everyone else who is gradually moving downward.” Christ never deluded anyone into thinking it would be easy to follow Him (see Matthew 10:34-39). It’s not easy, but the hardships help prevent boredom.

Excellent, huh?

Let's grab hands and run up the down escalator at full speed. It'll be worth it!