Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
The last line of today’s reading lays the shadow of the cross over Mark’s gospel. Healing on the sabbath was forbidden, and Jesus deliberately flouted this rule by healing the man with the paralysed hand. There are always multiple layers of meaning in the scriptures: he was restoring the man to his full power.
Your arm is your power to do things. Your feet are your power to go places. Later, he himself would be nailed hand and foot to the cross; he would become powerless for the powerless. Such a one will always be in trouble with the controllers. Anyone who sets people free can expect trouble.
The Gospels record a few occasions on which Jesus became angry. Once, it was in the Temple when he chased out the traders. The other occasion is the one we read about in today’s passage. He became angry because people had closed their minds. What can you do with people who have closed their minds? It is useless to argue or explain: they will not listen. You can only become angry! Even Jesus could not think of another way. There are many who think that being a good Catholic is a matter of keeping a closed mind, not listening to speakers or writers who are not approved, rejecting other people’s views in advance. They build their own image of a sweet Jesus, always meek and mild. Would that we could sometimes see his anger!
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