"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. Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”"
Mark 3 begins with the story about Jesus, the man with the withered hand, and the Pharisees. Jesus entered the synagogue, where there was a man with a totally useless, withered hand. The Pharisees waited to see what Jesus would do. Would he heal the man on a Sabbath? Jewish rule stated that a life could be saved on the Sabbath in an emergency situation. But the Pharisees took the law even further by stating that healing was considered work and therefore “illegal.” Jesus tried to reason with the Pharisees. Couldn’t they see that healing this man’s hand was in a way saving him, so he could be able to work and provide for himself? The Pharisees understood his reasons, but were stubborn and refused to change their beliefs.
Now fast forward a little bit, to Jesus among crowds of people. Can you imagine being in the crowd at that moment? Desperation. Brokenness. Sin. Unclean spirits. Disease. Surges of hope as they get closer to the man who could take it all away with just touching his garments. Surrounded by the crowd, Jesus was afraid of being trampled to death. He must have tangibly felt the brokenness, sin and desperation emanating from the crowd. Jesus, filled with compassion, did not just ignore their pleas. He healed person after person, ordered the unclean spirits to leave their hosts.
But Jesus did not stop there. He called twelve men to the top of a mountain. They were not chosen randomly, nor were they chosen for their intellect, status, or talents. No, Jesus, after praying and contemplating this decision chose twelve ordinary, maybe even slightly boring men to join Him. He wanted these men to be with him, to be sent out to preach, and to cast out demons. These ordinary men were given authority and power.
Now let me tell you why I chose this passage, and why it was so hard to write a concise reflection. I work at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital on the spinal cord unit. I help take care of patients with various degrees of paralysis, every single one of them with a story. There have been falls, motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, and disease leaving these people in a new world upside down and backwards from what they know. I have walked into rooms to find my patients sobbing as they grapple with the new reality. Depression, anxiety, and brokenness lurk through the hallways, and there are days when it is so hard to be there.
This perspective, has given me a glimpse into the mindset of the crowd. I finally, truly understood their desperation, why they would travel mile after mile to bring their loved one to Jesus to be healed. I would fill up every vehicle with patients from Mary Free Bed if I had to and do the exact same thing. On the other hand, this perspective has caused me to become stubborn, just like the Pharisees. It can be hard to focus on hope and goodness of God when there is so much suffering. It was like God’s goodness was a whisper, but the brokenness was a megaphone shouting through my mind. There were times I got angry, thinking God had no compassion or control over the patient’s situations. There were also times I felt inadequate to be doing God’s work at Mary Free Bed. I didn’t have the right words to say to the patients crying. I didn’t show enough compassion there, or love here.
At first, this passage was like a painting I was standing too close to, unable to see the bigger picture. But by taking a few steps back I saw its beauty, I heard the whispers of God’s goodness. That was when I felt a change in perspective, and healing. In this chapter I saw the compassion of Jesus as he spent so much of his ministry healing his people. I saw his compassion for the world when he called those whom he loved into his mission. I saw his anger and grief when the Pharisees stubbornly refuse to reason with Him.
Finally I see his grief when I stubbornly stick to my own mindset that God has no control over the brokenness I see every day, or that God is not at work amongst my “crowd” at Mary Free Bed. That though there is darkness and hurt, there is also hope, light, and freedom in the hallways.
I see how ordinary I am, how I am a sinful human, just like the apostles. Yet He gives me purpose by lovingly calling me to join alongside him in doing the work. What is this work? To be with Jesus and to be like Jesus. To tell everyone about who He is, His mission. And I will mess it up, just like the apostles did. The beauty of the gospel is that I can come to Jesus with my stubborn mind, and find a change in perspective. I can come to Jesus with my ordinary, and He will do amazing things. I can bring Him my patients through prayer, and know that He hears it all.
Do you need to take a few steps back this season of Lent to see the bigger picture Jesus is calling you to? Perhaps you need to feel his compassion after facing much suffering. Maybe Jesus is trying to reason with a stubborn mindset. Maybe you feel unanchored, with no purpose, and need know the work he calls you too. Maybe, like me, you need to hear all three.