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January 23, 2019 Featured

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book PNG2112Gospel: Mark 3:1-6
Again, Jesus entered the synagogue. A man, who had a paralyzed hand, was there; and some people watched Jesus: would he heal the man on the Sabbath? If he did, they could accuse him. Jesus said to the man with the paralyzed hand, “Stand here, in the center.” Then he asked them, “What does the law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent.Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness at their hardness of heart. And he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was healed. As soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.

“Stretch out your hand.”
This text offers a sharp con­trast between a religiosity fo­cused on laws, judgment, and purity codes, and the gospel of Jesus. It is wrong to regard this as a contrast between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus and his disciples were faithful Jews. By the same token, Christians are every bit as capable of ascribing limits to God’s mercy. In fact, it seems to be a congenital defect among people of all religious traditions to draw a circle that includes themselves among God’s favorites and excludes everybody else. “Stretch out your hand,” Jesus says—dramati­cally poking a hole in such exclu­siveness. God’s law is directed to mer­cy, to goodness, to  saving life. That is what the Sabbath and re­ligious law are for—not to bols­ter our own sense of superiority. How ironic that in this case the good religious people take this good news as a pretext for seeking to destroy Jesus. Before we smugly assume that we, as Christians, are on the right side of this story, let us ask ourselves if we are not also capable of as­suming that God’s love is our special property. If so, let us shudder at the thought that Je­ sus is also looking with “anger and deep sadness” at our hard­ness of heart.

© Copyright Bible Diary 2019

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