As I sat quietly, drinking my coffee one morning, contemplating the passage of scripture I had just read, the story began to come alive in my heart and then on paper. I wanted to share it with you. It is one of only two short stories I've written in this style so I would love to hear from you... to know if it speaks to your heart as you read it... as much as it spoke to mine as I wrote it.
- They're Watching...
"Here He comes!" The hushed whisper announcing Jesus' arrival filled the synagogue, filling the room with a heightened sense of expectation. We had all noticed the man with the withered hand, wondering if he had seen or heard about Jesus' and curious if he had come on purpose with the hope of being healed. Who could have blamed him? This disability not only made people uncomfortable around him, but this disability left him without a means to earn a living.
All eyes turned toward Jesus' as he quietly made His way through the crowd. It was obvious, by their intensity, that the holier -than-thou religious leaders were just waiting to see how Jesus was going to respond to this man with the withered hand, especially because it was the Sabbath and there were laws... not God's laws... but man-made power-tripping laws that kept us from doing just about everything on the Sabbath... including doing good. It was crazy but it was the law and we had no choice but to observe it. But these religious guys were just looking for a reason to accuse Jesus of wrong-doing and they saw their chance this morning.
Sure enough, Jesus spoke to the man with the shriveled hand and told him, with the same authority as we had heard before, to stand up in front of everyone. Now most of us don't like to be the center of attention, but I guess if you want your healing bad enough, you'll take the risk because this man did. With all eyes, focused on him, Jesus asked, "which is the right thing to do on the Sabbath: to do good or bad, to help people or leave them helpless?" No one said a word. Duh. How could you argue with that? It was a no-brainer.
For one long deadly silent minute, time stood still, as Jesus looked around the room. You could tell by the look in His eyes that He was both angry over the hard-heartedness of the people and grieved that these self-righteousness rule keepers had become so blind to the needs of others and void of any and all mercy. It was an intense moment when Jesus turned His attention away from the crowd and the look on His face was transformed into one of compassion and grace, as the man held out his withered hand in response to Jesus' command and it was restored to wholeness.
Everything in me wanted to cheer and shout hallelujah's but the sound of grumbling among the Pharisees set the tone. As they left the synagogue I heard them accusing Jesus and plotting how to destroy Him. I was shocked. Here was someone who had the heart and the ability to do good and to bring hope and healing to the people and they were accusing Him of doing wrong.
Later, as I had time to process all I had seen and heard, a couple of things came to my mind. The first was that, even though I'm not a Pharisee by title, I can sometimes think and act like one. I can be so concerned about following the rules and looking good on the outside that I casually and sometimes intentionally pass by opportunities to be like Jesus to other people... to needy people... people who long for someone to look past their handicap, whether it's physical, emotional, or spiritual, and care enough to do something for them. I may not have the gift of healing in the physical sense but I do... we all do... have so much to offer to people in need. In fact, funny that the timing of this is just before Thanksgiving and there's a box in my kitchen just waiting to be filled with food to give those whose finances are withered during this season of their lives. I can only hope that what I have to offer to them will bring the message of hope in Christ to their doorstep in a tangible way.
And I also realized that, just like that day with Jesus and the Pharisees, people are watching us. They may not have labels or titles, but their hearts are hard against Jesus and against you and I simply because we confess His Name. They are watching us... to see how we live our lives, looking for opportunities to accuse us of wrong-doing or even no-doing. Well, my hope is that we will give them something to talk about by doing good. If they want to accuse us of that, then what can we say? Maybe some of them will come to know the One whose love motivates us to want to love others in such wonderful ways.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1Peter 2:12