Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was 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 conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Throughout the gospel narrative there are many accounts of Jesus changing the lives of ordinary men and women by healing them from life-inhibiting disabilities and illnesses. Through his words and actions lives were changed in radical ways. Today we hear of one such moment in Jesus’ ministry. In the synagogue Jesus encountered a man who had a withered hand. Setting aside the desire of the Pharisees to find an excuse to accuse him, we find Jesus doing good on the sabbath by restoring the disabled man’s damaged hand. Another miraculous healing!
As we read of Jesus restoring that which was damaged, I often find myself pondering what difference it made to the way in which those who had been healed lived the rest of their lives. The gospel narrative focuses on the mission and ministry of Jesus, but I often find myself wondering about how the story unfolded for those who heard him preach and teach, for those who felt his loving touch, for those whose lives were physically changed for the better. We cannot know the answer to this question because the lives of ordinary people, many of whom would have been considered outcasts, were not recorded in any way. But I do not think that such a question is idle speculation.
Jesus’ ministry of healing and wholeness was passed on to his disciples. That same ministry has passed down the generations to us. Whilst we may not be able to restore withered hands, we are able to inject life, light and hope into damaged lives … in the name of Jesus Christ. Maybe we have known such a moment of healing and change in our own lives! But, what difference has it made since that sense of release and joy swept over us? Have we gone out praising God, or have we kept the Good News of that healing to ourselves?
Today’s reading ends with the Pharisees and the Herodians conspiring to destroy Jesus. But what about the man who had been healed? Sometimes we read of the healed person going out and shouting their joy from the rooftops and sometimes, like today, we are told nothing about the reaction of the one who received Christ’s healing touch.
The challenge for us is to consider what our reaction might be. We will all know times when Jesus shares his peace and his joy with us. What do we do with that great gift? Do we step out as ones changed by Christ, or do we revert to type … rejoicing in the negative, finding fault in all around us? Let us pray that we might know and recognize Jesus’ healing touch in our lives, and let us pray for the strength to share the joy we have received with others.