Published on February 6th, 2020 | by Stephen Barrington0
Jesus heals on the Sabbath, Mark 3:1-6. January 22, 2020 by Buckshot
Nga mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa hoki, ma te atua te atawhai me te rangimarie ki a koutou. Warm greetings to you again, may the grace and peace of God be with you all.
Welcome to the western Julian calendar new year, I hope you have been refreshed by whatever break you have had while we have been off facebook. In our news recently there have been reports of many families unable to enjoy a traditional ‘kiwi beach break’ due to the financial reality they live with. Clearly things are not equal for everyone in our world.
Our gospel text today is Mark 3:1-6 and I hope an encouragement to live the best you can despite whatever difficulties cross your path. We started reading Mark’s gospel last week with plenty of action leading to today’s episode. Since our last post by Isak about Jesus being born as an outcast and driven from his homeland as a refugee, the first Christmas, lots has happened in our world. The madness of violence has continued unabated. A western president has lead the charge, others have responded and many others at lower levels are perpetuating behaviour that has lead us to the point where I read a few weeks ago that ‘American society (read western democracy as well) is at its most polarised in history’. It is now harder than ever before to have a civilised conversation or debate with someone who is different to or disagrees with us. The fangs of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, despite the elusive lure of connection and community, are corralling us into separate interest groups, manufacturing division and the resulting polarisation we feel.
Since I was last on here I have had the absolute joy of traveling with my family to Kenya and Uganda to introduce our children to the legacy of their grandparents; and childhood memories of my wife. Too many highlights for here, incredible hospitality, managed a few motorcycle rides, blown away by the weird and wonderful creatures of Africa – but one un-looked for encounter stands out though in relation to today’s gospel. While walking with my son down a road Crumpy would have loved to drive his Hilux (which we did drive down) we met a Masai villager walking the other way. He didn’t need to do this, but he changed direction from the path he was on to come over to both of us, stretch out his hand, looked us in the eye and said ‘welcome’. We were far from the main road and obvious outsiders. We responded with our best ‘sopa’, had a very brief few words in English and carried on feeling very welcome and secure in this beautiful, but strange and far away place.
Jesus has gone to the synagogue today, as was his habit. Already Mark has told us about how he has upset the religious elite with his brand of free for all love and welcome. Today they got there early and had grabbed the best seats so they could see what Jesus might do this time. They were wanting to trap him, so watched eagerly for some sort of transgression to accuse him of.
Sure enough, there is a poor fellow there who has a withered and disabled arm of some sort. Imagine being him, you probably like hiding in the corner out of the spotlight to avoid the stares and gossip of the others. So Jesus calls this man to stand on his feet and come to the middle of the gathering. All are wondering, what is he going to do?, why embarrass our brother, how is this going to end??
First Jesus poses a question; “is it permitted on the Sabbath Day to good, or to do evil……”, then after a stony dead silence he says to the man in the middle – ‘Stretch out your hand’. And the man did, and his arm was healed.Right in front of the power-hungry and miserable Pharisees.
Again they were angered that Jesus had done something they deemed ‘illegal’ on the sabbath day. They immediately went to see the ‘Herodians’ – those sell out Jews to the Roman occupiers who hardly kept the rules either, only confirming the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. But the Herodians had political power which they wanted to use to get rid of, to destroy this embarrassing rabbi of love. Power then, and power now does whatever it wants or needs to show that we damn well have the power.
Yet right in front of this abusive bunch, Jesus empowers a poor and broken man to reach out his hand. I believe in you, you can do this, stretch our your hand my friend. And it was made well.
May we have the courage to listen to Jesus, and ignore the idiocy of power, to reach out our hands like our Masai brother did for us a few weeks ago. To stretch across the divides that are growing in our world and discover the healing that comes when we embrace the other, the stranger, the alien. Healing for us as we trust God, trust each other. And healing for the other as they experience welcome and love. We don’t need to be perfect, in fact, perfect will ruin this – our ordinary broken and withered arms have the real power to transform our world. Keep the faith, keep doing good whenever you can, sabbath or not and watch the world be healed in front of you.
‘Stretch out your hand’ – he stretched it out and his hand was restored.
Buckshot – Wellington chapter, New Zealand