On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6-11
Isn’t that an amazing story? The Sabbath finds Jesus in the synagogue, as was His custom. The Pharisees are, as was apparently their custom, looking for some offense to trap Him in–they are “watching Him closely … that they might find reason to accuse Him.” And a man with a withered hand gets caught in the middle. But what a middle it is!
In her book, Jesus; 90 Days with the One and Only, Beth Moore talks about how this man has been affected by his withered hand. It obviously affected his ability to care for his own physical needs. But perhaps the greater challenge came from its affect on his ability to work. As a man, what must this disfigurement have done to his sense of worth? His love life? His financial status? We don’t know how long the hand was damaged; whether it was a problem he’d had since birth, or one caused later. But surely his pain was more than physical. If he’d had it since childhood, he surely knew the sting of mockery from other children. As an adult he found himself challenged, whether he’d apprenticed to be a carpenter, or weaver, or baker. Perhaps he was used to hiding his hand under his robes. Perhaps it was tucked there that day as he stood in the synagogue, not realizing his life was about to change.
Jesus said to him, “Get up and come forward.” It literally means, “Come stand in the middle.” He wanted to make sure everyone got a good view of what was about to happen. The man stood, and then came the directive …
“Stretch out your hand!” Luke 6:10
Can you imagine what went through the man’s mind when those words rang out from the lips of Jesus?
I’ll tell you right now, the last thing I’d want to do with my deformity is to stretch it out in the middle of a room full of people. The last thing I want to do with *any* of my imperfections is to expose them. The idea makes me want to run and hide. How about you?
I spoke with a sweet lady some time ago, who tearfully shared with me that she’d once bared her soul and the pain she was dealing with over the sins of her past to someone she thought would understand and would comfort her. Shockingly, the response she’d received was, “I told you that’s what happens when you sin.” I sat and cried with her, so sad that the response she’d received was not one full of grace.
Don’t we know, that’s not what Jesus says to a person broken over sin?
And isn’t fear of a response like that the reason we all keep our hands hidden beneath the folds of our robes?
We don’t want anyone to know our marriages are struggling, our children are prodigals, or our finances are a wreck. We think that if we really know Jesus, we are supposed to have it all together.
I’ll tell you a secret. Right now, I have a list of four sweet moms who’ve all asked me if they could come over during the day sometime, just to get a glimpse of how my household runs. (I’m sure it sounds much more interesting than it actually is, LOL, because of all the children.) One of them asked me over a year ago. And I haven’t actually let any of them come observe yet.
Why? Because there are major cobwebs, not to mention dead bugs, in my back porch light fixture. And my bathroom is half-remodeled (read “mostly torn apart.”) And there are Cheerios stuck in the spaces of the floor where transition moldings should be. And we still haven’t put the pictures back on the wall since we moved the girls into their bedroom.
I’ll let you see this …
But I’m not so big on showing you this …
And really, why? Because I’d like to keep my withered hand to myself, thank you.
Of course, we all need balance. If I invite you over and my house is a complete disaster, I obviously haven’t honored you appropriately or concerned myself with your comfort. That’s wrong. But not inviting you because I’m afraid you’ll judge me? Eww. Now my insecurity is showing. I’m more concerned with my own comfort. Not to mention my self-centeredness.
I know. I’m working on it.
Now, this is just surface-y stuff. I can’t really show you a picture of my real withered-ness; my marriage struggles, my financial woes, my parenting issues. But those are there, too. I think the same truth applies, and it applies to all of us. It applied to the sweet woman who cried with me the other day:
We won’t get healed until we stretch out our hands.
The enemy wants us to hide all these things, to believe we have to look perfect to be accepted, to be overwhelmed with the thought that everyone else has it all together and would reject us if they ever knew the truth about what’s really going on in our lives.
Yes, there are those out there who will feed you exactly what you’re afraid of–nice toxic doses of “You got what you deserved. Shame on you.” But some of us have fallen too far into the pit and still found Jesus able to reach us to believe that garbage. Some of us know His mercies are new every morning, and He is still on the throne, and Jesus has already paid any debt we could possibly owe.
My prayer for you is that the Lord will show you His great heart of compassion. That you will dare to reach out to Him–even with your withered hand–and feel His healing. You know what’s kindof funny? Jesus didn’t take this man outside and heal him where it was quiet and no one would see. I think sometimes we need to stretch out our hands to someone who can be Jesus with skin on for us. And watch the miracle that can happen when the enemy is silenced; when we are loved rather than rejected; when He is glorified because He takes brokenness and turns it into beauty.
May we all find such a friend! May we all be such a friend.