Withered Hands & Weathered Spirits
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Mark 3:1-6
October 20, 2019

Top ten reasons people attend church:

To become closer to God. (81%)
So their children will have a moral foundation. (69%)
To become a better person. (68%)
For comfort in times of trouble or sorrow. (66%)
They find the sermons valuable. (59%)
To be part of a faith community. (57%)
To continue their family's religious traditions. (37%)
They feel obligated to go. (31%)
To meet new people or socialize. (19%)
To please their family, spouse or partner. (16%)  (CNN August 9, 2018)

People come to church for a lot of different reasons. That is the way it has always been.

In our text for this morning, people have gathered together in the synagogue on the Sabbath day.

While we don’t know their motivation for being there, we do know what happened on this particular Sabbath day when a man with a withered hand met some weathered spirits and a willing servant.

Let’s read the text:

Mark 3:1-6

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 had was restored.

The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

This is the word of God.

Withered Hands

In the synagogue that day was a man with a withered hand.
Why was he in the synagogue on this Sabbath day?

Some suggest that he was a plant.
That some scribe or Pharisee paid him to be there just so they could test Jesus.

But I don’t think so. There is nothing in the text to suggest that.

He is just there because it was the place to be.
In his heart, perhaps prompted by the Holy Spirit, he knew he had to be there that day.

He came as a man in need.
A man whose life was hurting.

Luke tells us that it was the man’s right hand.
And with apologies to you southpaws out there, having a crippled right hand was debilitating.

Tradition says that he was a stone mason - or that he used to be a stone mason.
Now he was most likely without work.

He probably felt Crippled, Stunted, Shriveled, limited, and doomed to insignificance, uselessness and poverty. His whole attitude toward life was probably effected.

Lots of people come to places of worship with such baggage.

They are hurting
They feel like outcasts
It is not always obvious who those people are.

We often hide our pain, our embarrassments and our struggles.

I suggest that each of us has a withered hand and can't get a grip on something in life. It could be a past hurt, moral failure, financial difficulty, fear of the future, physical problem, or feeling of inferiority.

We’re all embarrassed about something about ourselves that we feel "looks funny." It might be our noses, big ears, a mole, lack of hair, etc. We instinctively avoid drawing attention to those defects

And in the synagogue on that Sabbath day this man with a withered hand represented many of us.

And Jesus draws everyone’s attention to him.
He calls him forward and says:

“Stretch out your hand.”

Have you noticed in many of Jesus’ miracles He simply told the person to DO the very thing they couldn’t do?
When the four men brought the paralyzed man to Jesus and lowered him through a hole in the ceiling, Jesus didn’t touch the paralyzed man. He simply said, “Stand up, pick up your bed and walk home.” The man could have said, “Look at me! I can’t do it! That’s my problem!” But instead, He trusted the word of Jesus and tried it. He found He could walk!

Jesus told Peter to walk on water, which was totally impossible.

Sometimes Jesus wants us to come to worship and do what seems impossible.

To give thanks in every circumstance.
To tithe when we are uncertain about our income.
To worship when our heart is full of worry.

Of course there was a second group of people present that day. I call them weathered spirits.

Weathered Spirits

In my minds eye theses are the old guys -
the long time members.

A group of men sitting in the synagogue watching. Taking notes.
Considering themselves the guardians of the truth.
The protectors of the flock.

The scribes and Pharisees.
They didn’t get to be scribes and Pharisees by accident.
They studied for it.
They earned their places near the front of the crowd.

Looking at the weathered spirits present that day I am forced to ask how much different I am from those scribes and Pharisees.

Of course I would like to believe that I would have responded to Jesus in a manner far more becoming of someone who is seeking to be right with God.

But I wonder. A few weeks ago I attended our district fall summit.
It is an annual gathering of pastors and lay people to be challenged and encouraged in ministry.

We have time to fellowship with one another.
We hear some pretty good messages.
And we worship together.
It is pretty cool to get together with 40 or 50 fellow pastors and sing praises to our King.

But something happened at this particular summit.

The guy leading worship was a young guy.
An infamous millenial.
Now, I don’t have any problem with young people leading worship.
Many of them are way better at it than I could ever hope to be.

But this guy - no doubt in keeping with a niche style of the day - this guy was wearing a hat!

And the weathered spirit in me found it difficult to worship because of a hat!

You just don’t wear a hat in church!
You especially don’t wear a hat while leading worship.
All too often we are like those weathered spirits in our text.
We’ve lost our way - shifted our focus.

Instead of coming to worship we come to evaluate.

Or maybe we have sought to enter the church with good intentions but something grabs our attention and suddenly our mind is no longer on worship. And we become like these weathered spirits.

Notice that before anything has happened the text informs us their attitude that day.
Verse 2
“And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.”

Their hearts were not focused on worship that day, but intense scrutiny to accuse Jesus.

In their pursuit of righteousness they had become distracted with evaluating what others were doing.

They put their adherence to the rules over caring for people. They cared more about following the rules (which is good) than they cared about ministering to and loving people (Which is better)

The Sabbath, which was intended to be a blessing the Pharisees made into a burden.
Ironically they took what was supposed to be a restful day and turned it into a stressful day where you had to work the whole day trying not to work and worrying you might screw up.

Jesus asks these weathered spirits if it is okay to do good on the Sabbath - was it okay for him to heal?

But they don’t answer.

Their silence irks Jesus. Jesus looks at them in anger and in grief. They don’t care for this man with the withered hand at all. They are so dead set on being right that they are dead wrong. They are rejecting Jesus and their unbelief is blinding them from the truth.

Theses weathered spirits can’t stand what happens next. And our text tells us that they went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians to destroy Jesus.

The Pharisees and Herodians didn’t get along. The Pharisees were ultraconservatives and the Herodians were the liberal friends of the Romans.

It would be like White Supremicists and Antifa joining forces. That shows how much they wanted to kill Jesus.

You know, sin has a way of creating strange alliances.

I pastored a church once which had its fair share of weathered spirits.

A lot of great things happened during the years I was there.
We sent 75 people from our congregation to plant a church in a neighboring town - and our attendance didn’t drop at all.

We managed to dramatically reduce the church debt.

But some people were threatened. And they kept a list of things which in their minds a pastor just didn’t do.

They were losing power so they came to church to see how they could accuse me.

And you know what - in general each of those involved was a good person.

They loved God and really thought they were doing the right thing.
One of them even going to great lengths to spread a rumor which nearly destroyed my ability to minister at all.

I fear the ease with which any of us can become a weathered spirit so focused upon our truth or way of doing things that we destroy the church.

Jesus represents the third type of person present that day.

Willing Servants

In spite of the opposition of the weathered spirits, Jesus just did the right thing.

Willing servants just do the right thing.

Now I find this passage a little disturbing.
I grew up in a home where to say you were angry was paramount to dropping the F bomb.

So to this day, I don’t get angry. I just get frustrated.
I get irritated. I get annoyed.
But not angry. The Bible says be angry and sin not.
Which doesn’t really seem all that possible, so better to just deny that we have any anger at all.

But here we are told that Jesus looked at them with anger.

How can it be that Jesus was angry?

Somebody joked that Christians are reading the Bible wrong. They seem to forget that it says more about anger than sex. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know there are some very clear and practical words about anger in my Bible.

King Solomon, admired for his insight despite his many sins, talked about anger.

Proverbs 29:8 (NIV) Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger.

Proverbs 29:11 (NIV) A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

Proverbs 22:24 (NIV) Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NIV) Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

And yet here Jesus, the sinless one, is said to be angry.

The reality is that anger can be a healthy emotion as well as a hellish habit. It can be something we use well or badly.

Scripture actually has two words for anger.

One denoting furious rage and the other meaning settled indignation.
The first is used in Ephesians 4:31
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
The second is used in Ephesians 4:26
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

The anger of Jesus was the second type.

A righteous indignation.

A godly anger which rests on justice as the object and love as the expression.

Anger, when coupled with love, makes a person passionate and energized in the pursuit of making things right BUT it is put on a leash by love that resists our natural impulse to destroy those who are doing wrong.

Knowing how easily an anger that is healthy and holy can turn into a self-serving, toxic, destructive rage, Jesus teaches us this.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:21-22, NIV)

Some people think all anger is sinful, and they have a hard time justifying that Jesus got angry.
Some anger is harmful and destructive. But there is a kind of anger that is holy and just. It is this anger that Jesus showed that day.

And it is an anger the all willing servants are likely to encounter as others resist when they are committed to doing the right thing.

Righteous anger
Never attacks a person.
Always addresses a problem.

Compassion ranks high with our Lord and Savior and these leaders who should have had plenty appeared to have had very little if any at all.

Jesus refused to allow men to intimidate or hinder His obedience to the Father. He refused to make the man suffer another day simply to please the attitude of the self-righteous. The man stood in need of healing, and Jesus provided.

Willing servants refuse to place tradition and regulation over human need.

When you came here today which type of person represents you?


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