Commentary on the Gospel of
Today’s Gospel regarding the man with the withered hand and the indignant, enraged Pharisees is very familiar to us. We often simply see it as a put down to those who are so concerned about following the letter of the law that they don’t see the need their neighbor has, right in front of them.
We feel validated because we think, surely, we would be like Jesus and not like the self-righteous Pharisees, who were seeking to entrap him. We often take away that Jesus is saying it is more important to God to show love and compassion to someone who is suffering, rather than to follow a strict adherence to a rule that would deny or postpone helping someone.
A couple thoughts came to me in reflecting more upon this beloved Gospel account:
The man whose hand was healed is silent throughout the whole story. What might have been going through his head? Fear over being called forward in front of all those gathered? Perhaps he was even forced by the Pharisees to be there, as a trap for Jesus, and he was thinking “Oh no, I do not want to be a pawn in a legal debate. This is not going to be fun.”
Maybe he was familiar with Jesus’ reputation and he was filled with excitement and joy that Jesus singled him out. But, unlike many of those whom Jesus heals, he says nothing. He keeps his thoughts and fears to himself, and instead does exactly what Jesus tells him to do. The lesson in that for me? Don’t be so quick with my fears, my questions, my self-interests. Just calmly do what Jesus asks of me, and trust that the outcome will be good in the end.
A second thought. Could there be parallels in the discussions over racial inequities and unrest in our nation and cities that we see and hear in the news, and know from personal experience? There are arguments taking place, both internal and external, over whether police responding to “an incident” should emphasize unequivocal adherence to laws and commands – which sometimes results in more violence – or whether different methods of reacting to volatile situations could emphasize greater compassion and attempts at understanding.
Each side of the argument asks, “What is the right thing to do?” And, for Christians, “What would Jesus do?” or “What would Jesus ask me to do?” Our society needs to seek God’s guidance as we answer those questions.
Lord, we pray for our country. Bring your healing into our midst, and help us to listen for your voice before we speak or act.