Wednesday Second Week of Ordinary Time
David slew Goliath; Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. Could there be a more jarring juxtaposition of passages?
These are both great texts from Scripture. They are stories most of us know. But what do they have in common? On the surface, not much. But that’s because we focus on the withered hand and not the Pharisees.
Warfare. That is the unifying theme. It’s blatant in the passage from First Samuel. Spears and swords, shields and slings. Taunts, attacks, and death. But it is there in the Gospel as well.
Jesus walked into an ambush in this particular synagogue. The Pharisees are lying in wait to see if Jesus will heal on the Sabbath, if he will act contrary to their interpretation of the Law, so that they might accuse him.
Just as David walked out onto the frontlines before Goliath, Jesus calls the man with the withered hand up to the front of the synagogue. Just as David answered Goliath’s taunts with his steadfast faith in God, so Jesus stands firm and questions the Pharisees.
“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”
David is offended at Goliath’s blasphemy and taunting. Jesus is grieved at the hardness of hearts.
Silence. Movement. The clash is imminent.
A stone flies. Jesus speaks, “Stretch out your hand.”
The giant falls. The man is restored.
The Philistines break in fear and run. The Pharisees break in anger and plot to put Jesus to death. This is only the third chapter of Mark, yet they have already decided Jesus must die. It takes until chapter 14 for their plot to come to fruition.
Because we know Jesus triumphed, it is easy to forget the struggle. But we need to understand his struggle so we can understand our own.
We have an enemy. He seeks our destruction just as surely as Goliath wanted to slaughter David. But the Lord, our rock, trains our hands for battle, our fingers for war.
It seems odd that the Psalmist chose to focus solely on our hands. Certainly in war arms and legs are important as well? Perhaps he was being unintentionally prophetic. We clasp our hands in prayer. We work the beads with our fingers. These are the weapons of our warfare. Prayer, confession, contemplation.
We do not casually arrive at the conviction to stand before a giant with a stick and a sling. Jesus had spent years in silent preparation. We know of his 40 days in the wilds, but of what went before, the Gospels are mostly silent.
David did not come against his enemy in his own strength. He declared, “I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.” Without him we can do nothing. (John 15:5). Our only strength is in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May we abandon ourselves to God for his glory.