Withered

withered_2_by_noctifer287-d624weq

The Anglican Church in North America has their own Sunday Lectionary now. I had been using the Revised Common Lectionary for the past several years, but decided I should probably get in line and use the one prescribed by my church. There is a lot of overlap, as there is in most post-Vatican II lectionaries.

There are also some differences. Some I discovered as I compared the two when the ACNA lectionary was first published, such as less diversity in the Psalms read. Others, I am discovering along the way. I don’t mind some passages being moved to other dates, but I can never be pleased about a passage dropping out of the lectionary.

To be fair, the passage I have in mind was hardly even in the RCL. It occurred as part of the Gospel reading for the Ninth Sunday of Epiphany and the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time of Year B.  Due to the movement of Lent-Easter-Pentecost on the calendar, these Sundays don’t occur very often.¹

I read an article this week that made reference to the healing of the man with the withered hand. I thought it was meaningful so, as is my custom, I printed it off and went to file it on its appropriate Sunday. I checked my scripture index for the ACNA lectionary and found nothing even though the story occurs three times in the Synoptic Gospels.

Curious, I checked my index for the RCL and finally found it. Sure enough, the ACNA Sunday Lectionary shortened the Gospel reading for those Sundays and the story of the man with the withered hand was gone. Here’s Mark’s account of the healing, which is the one in the RCL:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, 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 held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Mark 3:1-6 (ESV)

I’m not even sure I know what it means to have a withered hand. Crushed, deformed, broken, and paralyzed are all I have a frame of reference for. When I read withered, I think: dried up, shriveled, like much of the leaves and flowers in early November. The idea is pretty clear, however, that this man’s hand was useless.

We are apt to miss what is going on with this man for all the tension in the room with the Pharisees. Set that aside for a moment, though, and just consider the man standing in front of Jesus and the congregation with a hand that does not work.

“Stretch out your hand.”

Two miracles occur here. The first, that we often miss, is the man doesn’t reply, “I can’t.” We have the idea that this may have been a lifelong deformity. He hadn’t been sitting on his hand in Synagogue and it fell asleep and was temporarily unresponsive. That requires no healing, only time to awake. It was obvious to all that this hand was not mission capable.

“Stretch out your hand.”

He does, and it is restored. Through his faith, he attempted to do what his experience in life up to that very moment had taught him was impossible. Through this faith, he was healed. Faith takes action on the command of our Lord.


¹ In the next 20 years from 2017-2036, there is no Ninth Sunday of Epiphany. Only the four latest possible dates for Easter allow for this many Sundays in Epiphany. The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time fares a little better, occurring 6 times in the next 20 years, but only half of those (2018, 2024, and 2027) fall on Year B.

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Filed under Bible, Faith, Obedience

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