You can’t journey too far through the Gospels without bumping into the theme “Your faith has…healed you…saved you…made you well.” Let your desire be for renewed and heartfelt faith and obedience.
In lieu of giving something up for Lent this year (well, I guess, to be honest, I never actually give anything up for Lent) I decided to read through the Gospels between Ash Wednesday and Easter. My only real objective was to have a daily reminder of the season.
On about day five I started to read Matthew 12.
The first eight verses? Captivating. I walked through the grain fields with the disciples, I stood alongside them, mouth gaping, as Jesus told the Pharisees exactly what was up, and, finally, I smiled to myself when He declared that He alone was Lord of the Sabbath.
Ha! Take that, Pharisees. Who do you think you are, anyway?
Then it was off to the synagogue. There stood the man with the shriveled hand.
The religious leaders hated Jesus. Their words dripped with contempt. They wanted Him dead. Surely the man felt the tension. He was a pawn in a game he didn’t sign up to play.
Was he able to take it all in? When Jesus instructed him to stretch out his hand, how intently were the religious leaders glaring at him? Could he feel their eyes drilling into him? Did he realize there might be social consequences if he obeyed Jesus?
Matthew doesn’t say he hesitated, though. It doesn’t say he thought twice about reaching out. He didn’t take time to weigh the potential cost. He just did it. He obeyed. He stretched out his hand. He received Jesus’ healing. He had faith, and his hand was restored.
Yes, that’s right – an audible sigh escaped my lips.
It was easy to imagine myself standing safely behind Jesus in the grain field, high-fiving the other disciples after my Master once again beat the Pharisees at their own game. It was a tad harder to imagine myself in the place of the man with the shriveled hand. He didn’t have anyone to hide behind; yet, he had courageous faith. He didn’t hesitate. He immediately did what God asked him to do.
Would I? Do I?
It would have been futile to try and stop the ensuing questions. Where’s my shriveled hand? I’ve got lots of them to be sure. How quickly do I stretch them out to my Maker, though, instead of relying on my own self-constructed comforts? Sometimes I do, I thought somewhat defensively. Yikes. As if that were nearly enough.
The idea obviously doesn’t stop with Matthew 12, either. You can’t journey too far through the Gospels without bumping into the theme. “Your faith has…healed you…saved you…made you well.” It seems to be one of Jesus’ favorite phrases.
My heart has a new focus (actually, it has a few): A renewed desire for heartfelt faith and obedience is at the top of the list. But also, listening. Responding. Doing. Acting. Believing.