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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Jesus Puts in the Middle

"And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.”

(Mark 3:3 NKJV)

The evangelist gives us a clear picture of what is happening: "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" (vv. 1-2). Matthew (12:9-14) and Luke (6:6-11) also write that inside the synagogue at Capernaum was a man with a serious physical problem. Those present seeing Jesus enter are certain that he will not remain indifferent despite it being a Sabbath day. And indeed they are not wrong. The Master does not resist, indeed he is outraged by their attitude enough to provoke them publicly. He first addresses the "sick man" and asks him to stand up, to place himself in the center of the people so that everyone can see him. Jesus then tries to shift the focus to the person who needs help by asking his interlocutors, "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" (v. 4). There is no answer, because doing evil was not lawful on any day, while always good should be done and a life saved. That question also has meaning for us, who are always conditioned by thinking about the time in which we live. Mark says those were silent, not knowing what to answer. Their silence even considered his physical elimination because if Jesus' preaching had continued, they would have lost their prestige and power over the people. In the series of "death to him, life to us".

It hurts the heart to see how in the place designated for meeting with God, no consideration is given to those who suffer or need to be welcomed. The synagogue in the story can be likened to our places of worship, while the Pharisees to those who enter it to judge, syndicate and even condemn divine action. Jesus turns everything upside down, once again. And just as well! He demolishes the schemes and points to the sufferer, with the dry hand, i.e., paralyzed. Greek terminology does not allow one to determine the nature of the disease or when it began. Certainly the man is an incurable sufferer, and the disease, perhaps not decisively cured at its inception, had become acute over time, so that it became chronic. We can assume that this incapacitating condition caused him to isolate himself, to place himself on the fringes of society, in the shadows of the synagogue, because he was embarrassed. He felt "different." For his people, illness was synonymous with sin; he will have been cast aside and considered unclean (far from God) and unable to live (paralyzed hand). Then Jesus comes along and invites him to put himself in the center, and thus to come out of his isolation. Consequently, those who were there for God must see him and question him. Without waiting for a response from the "accusers," which would never come, he commands the man to stretch out his hand and heal him. "And the Pharisees, having gone out, immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to put him to death" (v. 6).

Unlike other miracle workers, we are dealing with a man who asks for nothing, indeed not even expresses himself. His condition speaks for him. His hand says he cannot work, cannot manage his life fully and must depend on others like a paralytic, the one at the pool of Bethesda or the one lowered from the roof. In this case it is Jesus who takes the initiative. His words are an exhortation to react, to rise up first, as if to resurrect, to become aware of life. Then, to extend His hand, the one He was hiding, the very one. And the moment "He stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other" (v. 5). If that man says nothing, does not thank Jesus, and returns again to the shadows of history, he does, however, have the merit of having obeyed the Master's words. Instead, Jesus' actions still speak today and claim our courage to live the faith without any fear, without conditioning, to bring "the synagogues" back to being a place of welcome and rescue. Let them echo, causing us to reflect on His words, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me" (Matthew 15:8).


Weekly reading plan Bible

No. 05

January 23, Exodus 7-8; Matthew 15:1-20

January. 24, Exodus 9-11; Matthew 15:21-39

January. 25, Exodus 12-13; Matthew 16

January 26, Exodus 14-15; Matthew 17

January 27, Exodus 16-18; Matthew 18:1-20

January 28, Exodus 19-20; Matthew 18:21-35

January 29, Exodus 21-22; Matthew 19

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