By David Faust
We don’t know why. Maybe he was born that way, or a disease crippled him. Maybe his hand was hurt in an accident—crushed by a rock or trampled by an ox. Or perhaps the man did something foolish to damage his hand—fell on the ground in a drunken stupor or punched a wall in a fit of rage.
Whatever caused his affliction, the fellow was at a decided disadvantage in a society that prized manual labor. Limp, useless fingers limited his ability to grasp an axe or steer a plow, to plant seed or row a boat—even to dress himself. Bullies subjected him to awkward stares and heartless comments.
If he had a family, it was hard to hold his wife’s hands or lift his children and play with them. If he made his living by begging, he had to do it with one hand.
No matter what caused his affliction—whether he was born that way, experienced an unfortunate accident, or brought his suffering on himself—the Lord cared about him. He encountered Jesus in the synagogue, along with others who had gone there not to worship but to find fault. They watched closely to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath, which they considered a violation of tradition, and the Lord boldly accepted the challenge.
Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus (Mark 3:3-6).
The Lord’s enemies offered scorn instead of sympathy, criticism instead of compassion. They plotted against Jesus instead of examining themselves. Which is worse: a useless hand or a stubborn, shriveled soul? Better to have a withered hand than to receive a withering look from the Master.
God’s Outstretched Hands
All of us have withered hands. All of us have disappointments we endure, limitations we despise, afflictions we wish we could eliminate.
Thankfully, the Lord loves us in spite of our weaknesses. Looking toward the messianic kingdom, the prophet foretold, “‘In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought to grief’” (Micah 4:6). And that’s exactly what the Lord has been doing ever since the church was born in the first century.
He has been gathering the lame, showering blessings on the poor in spirit. The “healthy” won’t schedule an appointment with the Great Physician, so he opens his office hours to all who recognize their brokenness. When we meet around his table on the Lord’s Day, it’s a great gathering of the lame—a convention of the scarred and the scared who find strength in Christ alone.
Is some weakness holding you back and dragging you down? Whether the Lord heals it or simply helps you deal with it, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you stretch your feeble hand toward him.
1. What is your greatest weakness?
2. How has the Lord helped you to cope with it?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for April 14, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Corinthians 6:1–11
1 Corinthians 6:12–20
Joshua 18, 19
1 Corinthians 7:1–16
Joshua 20, 21
1 Corinthians 7:17–40
Joshua 22, 23
1 Corinthians 8
1 Corinthians 9:1–12