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On your Mark


Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. (Mark 3:1,2, NIV)

Whenever Jesus shows up, things happen.

The previous time He was in the synagogue (1:21-28), a demon-possessed man confronted Him. Part of Jesus’ synagogue ministry in general involved the driving out of demons (1:39).

This raises the question as to how many seriously disturbed people attend houses of worship but remain unchanged. Why? Could it be that we go through the motions of worship, but have not invited the living presence of Jesus into the house?

As Mark 3 begins, we see Jesus again in the synagogue — but this time the action is different. He previously healed in Simon’s home (1:29), the street (1:33), out in the open (1:40) and at home in Capernaum (2:1). Now, His healing power is released in the synagogue for the man with a shriveled hand.

I wonder how many people who love Jesus today come regularly at the appointed time for worship — but something in their life has shriveled.

Perhaps you have never had a shriveled hand, but instead have had shriveled emotions, shriveled ambitions, shriveled longings, shriveled relationships. Your reach in life is not as far as you wanted it to go. You want to put out your hand toward a goal, but can’t.

Unlike the leper or one who has cancer, you are not on the verge of dying. You are not possessed by evil spirits who force you to act on uncontrollable urges. You are just not all that you could be.

The good news is that the Lord stretches out His hand to your shriveled life. His power makes you whole — so reach out your hand to Him!

But Jesus had His critics. They didn’t like it that He healed on the Sabbath. Even Jesus could not and would not make everyone happy.

Criticism feeds criticism. Once you start being judgmental and negative, you’ll feed on that. That’s so with the negative people around Jesus. They can’t see the good, because they are too much caught up with the fact He’s not doing everything the way they would do it. So, they are now watching Him “closely.”

The criticism against Jesus repeatedly lay with “the teachers of the law” (Mark 2:7,16,18,23). That’s the problem. They gained their title through years of schooling and proven ability to master the minutiae of religious regulations. However, they missed something better than the title, “teachers of the law.” Never are they called teachers of grace!

When we practice and teach grace rather than law we don’t have time to sit around and pick at every nit and thistle. Grace reaches out to help. Legalism can only judge.

Those who are shriveled in life can only be helped by grace. In Jesus, the grace of God reaches out to take our hand and restore us to fullness of life.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, show me my own blind spots about being judgmental. Help me not to postpone to a more convenient time any act of mercy or care. Your critics did not realize that in being critical they were working on the Sabbath far harder than You. Healing and giving grace is a far less laborious task than being critical. Help me to be full of grace and not full of legalism.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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