Mark 3:5,6 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

     Jesus had come to the Synagogue as it was the Sabbath. There among all the prestigious Pharisees was a man with a withered hand. A withered hand would have hindered this man from making a living and supporting his family. Such a man would have been at a great social disadvantage. Yet here this man was in the Synagogue with the Pharisees who were indifferent to his plight. The Pharisees were looking for some reason to accuse Jesus and if He healed this man’s hand on the Sabbath; He would be breaking the law!

      Jesus asked them; “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” (v. 4) They remained silent, watching, ready to strike – like vicious snakes. Jesus was angry and distressed with their hard attitude. He could have spoken the stubborn hearted Pharisees out of existence with one Word. But He didn’t. He chose to heal instead – to give life rather than take it. His response was to heal the man with the withered hand. First He commanded the man with the withered hand to stretch it out. That must have taken a lot of courage for this cripple to expose and extend his shameful infirmity for healing.

      What was the response of the Pharisees in the face of that miracle? They chose to continue with their stubborn irrational desire to kill Jesus. They slithered away to plot with the Herodians, a political party that supported collaboration with Rome and the status quo. They wanted to kill Jesus and suppress His message of hope by any means. They were friends of Rome’s world and Jesus was a threat to them (John 19:12). A stubborn heart cripples just as much or more so than a withered hand.  The former robs the inner person of their wholeness working its devastation outward towards others.  The latter being external and obvious for all to see works its worst effects inward leaving others out of its direct influence. 

          Earnie Larsen, a workshop leader and author of From Anger to Forgiveness states;“If your heart was broken because you always wanted to be hugged by your mother and father and they were never there, or you experienced actual abuse, you’ve got a valid gripe, . . . But once you understand and acknowledge that, you need to work through the anger and move beyond it to forgiveness and reconciliation. Otherwise, you’re just stuck in a cycle of resentment and bitterness.” It’s a hard thing to stretch out your withered hand and expose your real infirmity. For many years I guarded and hid my withered hand.  Only the desperate work up the courage to do it and only the desperate are delivered.  The stubborn heart calls for ‘justice’ while the withered hand cries out for relief.

       How is it that we are more inclined to anger and bitterness than to stretch out our ‘withered hand’ for healing?   An article on Hazelden’s website called, “Moving from anger to forgiveness” speaks to this question; “The people most likely to hang on to anger are those who come from dysfunctional families–people who didn’t get their feelings validated as children or who were forced to deny their feelings. ‘Anger is the emotional response to perceived injustice,’ Larsen said. ‘It is always a justice issue. It’s thinking or feeling that ‘I don’t count,’ or ‘My thoughts aren’t important.’ ”  Justice may establish fairness and order but it can never lift a person out of their pit or heal a withered hand.

     The first steps out of this pit are acknowledging your infirmities (bitterness, pride, judgement, . . . ) and allowing Jesus’ Holy Spirit to guide you through the healing. “An important part of recovery for alcoholics and adult children of alcoholics involves doing the ‘anger work’ and moving towards forgiveness. The first stage in this process is to understand the incidents that still trigger anger.” (Hazelden)  It is not just alcoholics and adult children of alcoholics who need to do this. Any person who has lived in a situation where for years their feelings were not validated and survival involved denying their feelings need to take that courageous step to stretch out their withered hand, to expose their infirmities so healing can begin

     We can thank God that He doesn’t leave us with only justice.  Justice works on externals leaving the inner landscape just as devastated as it ever was.  The book of Jonah speaks to this.  When God relented from destroying Nineveh because its people listened to His Word, Jonah was angry;  “But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>  He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> that you are a gracious<sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”> and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love,<sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”> a God who relents<sup class="crossreference" value="(E)”> from sending calamity.<sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”> Now, Lord, take away my life,<sup class="crossreference" value="(G)”> for it is better for me to die<sup class="crossreference" value="(H)”> than to live.’ ”<sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”>.  (Jonah 4:1-3) 

      Jonah wanted justice. God wanted redemption;  True healing goes beyond justice to forgiveness and finally peace.  This is the Gospel, the ministry of reconciliation;  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> the new creation<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> has come: The old has gone, the new is here!<sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>  All this is from God,<sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”> who reconciled us to himself through Christ<sup class="crossreference" value="(E)”> and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.<sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”> And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 – 20)<sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”>

     The Gospel message is that Jesus is right here waiting and willing to heal you. That is His mission; “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, . . . ” (Luke 4:18)

     Release your anger and bitterness.

     Call out to Him.

     Praise the Lord