Luke 6, 6-11
Something to read
And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.
Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
King James Version
On another Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the Sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come and stand here." He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or destroy it?" After looking around at all of them, he said to him, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
New Revised Standard Version
Something to think about
Hands connect us to other people, in all sorts of ways. We shake hands when we meet, gesture with our hands to stress what we want to say, clap hands to applaud or affirm somebody, and (for those who cycle) signal with our hands to show where we’re going. Hands create friendship, show meaning, offer encouragement, keep us safe.
But this incident in Luke’s Gospel shows a hand in a very different role. It was withered, and around it human relationships had dried up too. Rather than connecting, this hand was dividing and disturbing people. There was not much friendship, encouragement, or even safety on show. This hand – hurt and then healed – got Jesus into trouble and put him in danger. His opponents went away sick and sour. They were ‘filled with fury’: the word means ‘off their head’; Jesus had made them mad, we might say.
But the man at the centre of the story found that he had reached out into a very different way of living. Now that his hand worked well, simple daily tasks would be easier. He would not depend on others as he had done before. He would have a better chance of finding a job. He could work the land more effectively. His hand had labelled and limited him, determined his options in life, and divided him from many of his fellows. But from now on he would connect in fuller and richer ways, to opportunity, to self-sufficiency, to his neighbours and to his community.
Healing never stops at one person. It links people to others, strengthens old relationships and makes new ones possible, and opens doors of survival and service. Like hands, healing connects.
In some lands around the world, Christian projects work for the healing and remaking of hands after landmine damage. In those places too, healing will not stop at one person. It can be a symbol of a whole community in recovery, working to overcome past hurts and hatred.
Something to do
Do you know anyone who faces difficulty and even danger, because they are trying to bring healing and recovery to other people’s lives? Can you pray for that person, or write them a quick note today, or do something tangible to encourage them?
Something to pray
Lord Jesus Christ, with your hands you healed, and with your hands you felt the nails of the world’s anger. Help me to use my hands to do good, to save life, to make whole, to bind people one to another. Amen.
Today’s contributor is the Rev John Proctor, Director of Studies at Westminster College, Cambridge, who teaches New Testament and NT Greek.