Stiff-Necked or Stretched Out (Mk 3:1-6)

Meditating on Mark — Mark 3:1-6

(I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark, seeking what I can learn about God and about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.)

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.   (English Standard Version)

The Man With The Withered Hand

It doesn’t seem that anything grieved Jesus like this silence, this refusal. These men had heard Jesus teach and seen him perform miracles. They absolutely knew that he spoke truth, yet they refused to yield to it. They saw miracles and refused to believe. In fact, in this instance, immediately after witnessing this miracle with their own eyes, rather than following Jesus, they began to plot his death. 

I can’t imagine anyone doing this. Who could be so stiff-necked? But then, with little effort, I can feel that hardness of heart. I can remember in my body the refusal — refusal to be moved, feet planted, legs stiff, shoulders squared, hands shoved in pockets, chin up, jaw set, eyes hard, and heart unyielding. I’ll do it my own way, thank you. Don’t tell me what is right; I’ve got this figured out. 

Today I ponder the contrast between the man with the withered hand and the Jewish leaders. I think it was this: The man’s simple response. See, the leaders hardened their hearts, refused to respond, and both they and Jesus became angry. But the man stretched out his hand. That’s all he did. He simply reached toward Jesus. But in so doing he responded to Jesus’ call and he was healed, and I’m pretty sure the atmosphere in that room changed as undoubtedly both he and Jesus rejoiced.  

Oh, Lord, it isn’t just the Scribes and Pharisees. Sometimes it’s me, too. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. I don’t ever want to grieve you. I don’t want to have a stubborn heart. Guard me from hardness; keep my heart soft. Keep me pliable in your hands. Give me always a responsive spirit. I stretch out my hands and my heart to you. Teach me, shape me, soften my heart. Let me always hear your voice and let me always respond. Oh, patient and loving God, I don’t ever want to grieve you.

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