[They] immediately took counsel . . . to put him to death. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand while his opponents—some Pharisees and Herodians—condemn him for violating the Sabbath. Instead of glorifying God and rejoicing at the man’s restoration, they “immediately took counsel” to put Jesus to death (Mark 3:6). What a strange reaction to a healing!

This story of God’s healing power and human resistance to him holds many lessons for us.

First, we can see ourselves in the man with the withered hand. He was probably limited in his ability to take care of himself or provide for his family. Mark doesn’t indicate whether he had injured his hand or if he was born with that limitation. Perhaps he blamed God for his condition. Similarly, we may have parts of us that are symbolically “withered” or out of shape and keep us from functioning as we ought. Jesus wants to heal and restore us so that we can live as God intends for us.

Second, we should pay attention to the Pharisees and Herodians. Even worse than the man’s condition, you might say that they suffered from “withered hearts.” The long-awaited Messiah stood right before them, yet all they could see was someone who violated their regulations. Their assumptions about the Sabbath made them indifferent to the man’s suffering. Even worse, they placed conditions on God and rejected Jesus’ attempts to soften their hearts.

Nobody’s heart gets withered overnight. Like these men, we also can resist God’s ways and slowly close ourselves off to God. Through lack of contact with the Lord and by listening only to our own desires and to worldly philosophies, we allow our hearts to grow calloused and cold. We can even do all the “right” things and yet wither away inside. Our hardened hearts distort our empathy for people who are suffering and move us to reject God’s efforts to heal them—and us.

Whether it is our hands or hearts that are withered, God wants to bring us love and healing. And the good news is that Jesus has authority over this and every other part of our lives. He can restore us to freedom and wholeness.

“Change my heart, O God.”

1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51
Psalm 144:1-2, 9-10
Mark 3:1-6


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