The Man with the Withered Hand

A Contemporary Paraphrase on Mark 3:1-6

It is the year A.D.32 and life here in Judea has been difficult for many years, what with the Romans on the one hand (forgive the pun here!) and on the other Herod Antipas and his Herodian dynasty and added to that the ruling pious Pharisees. They are Judaism’s’ thought police, always making the Law more difficult to keep, always saying it means something more, more than Moses ever wrote or taught. Sure keeps the Scribes busy!

As for me, I want to tell you about an amazing incident that took place involving Sherebiah my friend and co-worker whom I have known since we were children; he had always had one hand that was small and twisted, useless to him. We had grown up together in the small village not far from the lakeside of Capernaum. We worked together at the lakeside hauling and selling fish. People shunned him because he was different and would not talk to him, saying he was unclean. So much for loving their neighbour!

yeshua_talit

We had heard of a young Rabbi named, Yeshua, who was also from around here, and who people were talking a lot about these past few months. This Rabbi was doing some weird, unexplainable stuff, some of which was attracting the wrong sort of attention from the authorities; that is if he wants to stay alive that is!

Only just recently, last Shabbat there was such a commotion, as Rabbi Yeshua was apprehended and questioned by the Pharisees about what his disciples were doing plucking grains of wheat in the fields. That news went viral I can tell you, everyone was talking about it. Now here we are, another Shabbat and as Sherebiah and I take our positions at the back of the synagogue, we watch as Rabbi Yeshua enters. We are in a shady spot, so he will probably not even notice us; we can’t help but talk in hushed low whispers about him, wondering what might happen today. The Pharisees are arriving, and they move straight to the front, by the Bimah and the Torah Ark. The synagogue is filling up, with lots of men from the Galil attending, and it is busier than usual. An air of anticipation is evident, and there is a hushed buzz in the room as we wait to begin.

The young Rabbi is squatting down, with his disciples near him, and then suddenly he stands up. He is tall, with his tallit over his head and draped around him. The room hushes ready for the teacher to begin expounding on the Shabbat parashah from the scroll. The Pharisees look rather nervous; to be fair no one ever can tell what might happen next when Yeshua is around and he is aware of being watched by them, by all in the room. Suddenly, we freeze and stare back in his direction, Sherebiah grips my arm with his good hand, and we turn to look at each other, our hearts pounding, we’re discovered! because Sherebiah is suddenly called forth, “Come here!” Yeshua tells Sherebiah. We look at Yeshua and I nudge Sherebiah, urging him to move forward. Suddenly all eyes are upon him as she shuffles towards the Rabbi. He glances down away  from Yeshua’s intent gaze, at the floor. Oh! my heart goes out to my friend, yet something is about to happen!

pharisees

Yeshua speaks next to the Pharisees, and asks them this question “Is it lawful on the Shabbat to do good, or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” All eyes turn to watch the Pharisees, who were silent, not a single word did anyone of them have to give in answer to the Rabbi’s question. Sherebiah didn’t dare move, in fact, nobody moved; it seemed as if every person the synagogue that day held their breath, waiting to see what would happen. The look on Yeshua’s face was thunder! His eyes glaringly bore into them from one side to the other of this group of trembling, pale-faced Pharisees; “Oi va voi!!” this Rabbi was furious. It was as if Yeshua could see right into their hardened hearts.  You could cut the air in the synagogue with a knife such was the tension there that Shabbat morning.

“Stretch out your hand.” He spoke commandingly to Sherebiah; I caught a glimpse of the Rabbi’s face  and  his eyes softened towards my friend, whose knees were shaking like a fig leaf in the wind. I saw Sherebiah slowly raise his weak hand forward towards the Rabbi. He hated being the centre of attention, having been taunted for his disability all his life. But, what happened next, well, I can hardly take it in myself, we all saw it happen before our very own eyes. First, Sherebiah’s hand flexed, and then it straightened and finally became whole, just exactly as his other hand. Well, his eyes were popping out of his head at this miracle. His face lit up with joy and he was praising God, over and over again. He shouted for joy, “Thank you Yeshua!” and then he ran outside to proclaim this wonder to any and all who he met; that he had been restored. The Pharisees didn’t look very pleased in witnessing this healing or at Sherebiah’s merry outburst, straight-faced they filed out of the synagogue and I heard they went immediately to the Herodians, to plot Rabbi Yeshua’s downfall.

Jesus heals

I simply cannot understand, what was so bad about this miracle? my friend is overjoyed and can work as any other man, he is suddenly popular as everyone wants to see his hand now, and he is more than happy to show it off, I am so pleased for him. We still work together along by the shore hauling and selling the fish and Sherebiah is as strong a man as any other there, happily able to work, no longer different. Talk of this has not stopped for days and many are leaving all to follow this Rabbi who heals and restores. On many lips is the question, “Who is this Rabbi Yeshua?”

As for Rabbi Yeshua, he left the synagogue and went off to sea, his disciples with him and they travelled all over the region followed by huge crowds all needing healing, or deliverance. I heard that he restored them all; and as for the authorities, they still can’t see any good in him and are pursuing him to bring him down, but as for my friend Sherebiah and me we can’t wait to hear of the next amazing miracle he does. There is something special about this Rabbi who does healing miracles, just like the prophets of old in the Holy Scriptures.

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