Lent Reflections @ CEC (3/3/20)
“You don’t need to use many or high-sounding words. Just repeat often, ‘Lord, show me your mercy as you know best.’ Or, ‘God, come to my assistance.” St. Marcarius of Alexandria
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 3:1-19; focused on Mark 3:1-6
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
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.
Looking for a Reason
When Jesus asked the man with the withered hand to stand up in the synagogue, what was his reason for doing so? On the surface, his request seems to be part of an object lesson designed to clarify God’s intentions with regard to the Sabbath as an affirmative and life-giving day. But there was a deeper intent, one that the Pharisees recognized all too well. Jesus was calling attention to the Pharisees’ belief that strict adherence to their interpretation of religious law was more important than caring for God’s people. Their refusal to answer his question angered Jesus; the Pharisees knew that he was right, yet they were too hard-hearted and stubborn to admit their error. Instead of responding in humility and with repentance, it was then that they began in earnest to plot against him, to look for a reason to have him arrested and put to death.
Even today, people still look for reasons to accuse Jesus. We watch news coverage of incidents of terrorism perpetrated in the name of religion and ask, “If God is so good, why is evil allowed to triumph in the world?” We see thousands of people harmed by natural disasters such as wildfires and earthquakes and tsunamis and ask, “How could a loving God permit such things to happen?” When we experience tragedy and hardship in our own lives, we sometimes wonder why God seems so very far away. Instead of seeking God, many find it easier to look for reasons not to believe in his existence.
It is clear from this passage that Jesus does not expect us to refrain from asking the difficult questions that arise when we examine the scriptures or when the unimaginable happens. But I believe wholeheartedly that he wants us to approach studying the Bible with a genuine desire to engage with him and with our fellow believers. Doing so can help us better understand how to respond to the events in our lives and in our world.
My prayer is that we would keep from distressing him as the Pharisees did with their stubborn silence. May we look for reasons to celebrate the ways God is working, even when those instances cause us to question, and especially when the answer he desires is a repentant, open heart.
Jesus, thank You that You are working even when we can't see it. Thank You that You want us to ask You - to open our hearts to Your work in our lives, to draw us closer to You. You have given us Your very self.