The God of Love Says: "Stretch Out Your Hand"

by Victoria Boyson

In Mark 3, Jesus entered into a synagogue and found a man there with a withered hand. The Pharisees were watching Him to see if He would heal the man on the Sabbath.

"And He said to them, 'Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?' But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand!' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored"

(Mark 3:1-5, emphasis mine).

The Pharisees had no regard for the man whose hand was withered. They did not care that he suffered; his handicap was of no concern to them. Their hearts were so hardened they felt no pity for what the man had endured. They did not love him. But Jesus did care about the man and they knew that, that is why they were watching Him. They wanted to catch Him breaking the rules.

They cared more for their religious rules than they did for those whom the rules were made for. They were more concerned for the form of godliness than for the power that form was made to hold. Jesus said in the last days there would be those who have a form of godliness, but deny the very power of God (see 2 Timothy 3:5).

The power of God was not necessarily the healing that transformed the man's hand, but the compassion that Christ felt for the man. His love caused Him to "break the rules" and heal on the Sabbath. Truly, the great power of God is that God is love. Everything He does is motivated by His love for His creation.

Jesus loved this man enough to break the rules for him. Yet, He was grieved and angry at the hardness of hearts of the Pharisees at the synagogue. He saw their callousness - how they cared more for their rules than this man - this angered Him. His response was to face their judgmental attitudes head on, and in defiant anger to their hateful hearts He told the man, "Stretch out your hand!"

Defiant Love

Jesus didn't care that He was breaking their rules, He cared only to love this man and restore him. He did what was offensive to the Pharisees because He was moved with compassion for the man. His love was defiant in the face of their hypocrisy.

He was not grieved because rules were broken, for He was the One who broke them. On the contrary, He was grieved because they cared more for their rules and laws than they did for people.

Jesus was a rule breaker for the good of men, while the Pharisees were rule keepers at the cost of men. They sacrificed people for the sake of the law they served. Jesus served the people He loved at the cost of the rules He broke.

A Good Idea!

Jesus told a story of how King David and his companions came into the house of God and ate consecrated bread that was reserved for the priests. He did this because his men were famished. David broke the rules for the sake of his men (see Mark 2:25-26).

Jesus told them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath was made so we would have a day of rest; that sounds like a wonderful idea. But the Pharisees turned this rule that was made for the good of man into a harsh legalistic law that men must obey or face their wrath.

When we take a good rule and use it to wound or manipulate others, we have become no better than the Pharisees. Rules in ministry are good, but when we put our rules and regulations above the people we serve, we are no longer serving people, but the rules we have established. If we put our rules above God, making them more important than Him, we have stopped serving God and are now serving rules. God is a God of order, but He is more so a God of love.

The Greatest Rule

Many times in Scripture Jesus broke the manmade laws in order to show forth the law of love; but Jesus was also a great advocate of the law. He pointed out that the greatest law was the law of love; to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (see Mark 12:30-31). And, indeed, God showed us His love when He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins.

If we stack up all our manmade rules against the law of love, they fall terribly short of the heart of Christ. They are good, yes, but the law of love is greater, and in that love we will find the true power of God. Indeed, we will find God Himself!

Whose House Is It Anyway?

The Church has been inhibited because we have cared more about "having church" than "cherishing" the true Church, which is the people the church structure was made for.

Have you ever seen a child scolded for running in church? I smile at the memory of an usher scolding a child for acting like a child in the house of God. I smile because the Lord says, the Kingdom belongs to such as these (see Matthew 19:14).

If it truly is God's house, He says, "Let them run!"

If it is God's house, He says, "Let them come to Me!"

If it is God's house, He says, "Set the captives free!"

If it is God's house, He says, "Rejoice!"

I guess we've got to decide who the boss in God's house will be. Will it be our rules? Will our rules be strong enough to fight against God Himself? Can they take on the Big Guy? Or will our rules come crumbling to the floor as Christ Himself stands and says, "Stretch out your hand!"

Will the Church today answer the Lord when He asks, "Is it lawful?" Or, will we remain silent like the Pharisees, knowing the answer, but resigning to keep silent because of the hardness in our hearts?

Will we grieve the Lord? Or, will we choose to love and set the world ablaze with the love of Christ? I can't wait to find out what we will do, because I am proud of the Church, and I know what the answer will be!

Please pray this with me:

Dear Father, give me the heart and mind of Your Son. Revive my love for You and Your people. Set me free from religious bondage that I may love like You love. Give me the courage to break a few rules if it means I might set the captives free with the power of Your love.