Friday, February 11, 2011

Holy Land Pilgrimage – Lessons from Mark 3

Note: In January 2011 my wife and I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was a very moving experience. This post is part of a series of blogs I have written to convey what I sensed while on this life changing trip. You can read about the entire trip in a devotional book called "Touching the Footprints of Jesus."

On the day we visited Capernaum we saw the site where Jesus performed his first miracle, which was turning water into wine at a wedding. Though that was interesting to see, it was much more moving later in the morning when we found ourselves standing in the middle of the very synagogue described in the third chapter of the Gospel of Mark. The first six verses record the story of Jesus healing a man with a crippled hand in that ancient synagogue on the Sabbath.

“And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Mark 3:1-6

The good news in the passage of scripture is that Jesus has the power to heal. Jesus can heal us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Jesus offers that healing freely to anyone willing to “step forward” and “stretch out our hand.”

The sad news in this passage of scripture is that instead of rejoicing that a crippled man was healed, the Pharisees condemned Jesus for doing what they considered “work” on the Sabbath. They became so focused on what their own opinion of what “work” was that they missed the very point of what Jesus did, which was touch a person who had no hope of healing apart from Christ.

Though it is easy to judge the Pharisees for the hardness of their hearts, I wonder how many churches in our modern era miss opportunities to touch the lives of people who are crippled by sin or who find themselves in some other desperate situation? Broken people often wander into the church hoping for some fresh touch from God. When Christians act like the Pharisees, we miss out on the possibility of acting like Jesus, who healed the man in Mark 3. The Sabbath may not be a day for working, but surely it is a day for healing!

Lord, help us touch those who are physically, emotionally or spiritually crippled. May we help them step forward and stretch out their hand to You so that You can heal them.

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