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. (Mark 3:5 ESV)
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Hardness of heart means simply failure to soften your heart. It means failure of empathy. A rejection of someone else as a person. It means we see them as an annoyance, or it means certain rules and regulations take precedence over their needs in an unhelpful way. Surely hardness of heart is the opposite of the ‘reasonableness’ or ‘gentleness’ we spoke of a few days ago.
As a medical doctor I was taught ‘professionalism’ as a means of protecting myself from emotional challenges. Whilst I understood that, I always reacted against it a little. If the only way we can get through our work is by toughening ourselves to the extent we no longer feel anything, something is wrong. As Christians we are taught to value every individual, which requires compassion. Of course I am not advocating over-involvement. There is a balance to this.
In the story we have in front of us, Jesus was unconcerned about religious sensitivities. He was prepared to engage with them in a discussion of their legalistic requirements. But what he saw most in front of him was someone with a withered hand. And because it was within his power to heal them, that is precisely what he did.
These words make this concept seem so simple. But in reality it is far from so. I know I have failed often at this. So I am grateful that as we explored yesterday, God is looking for and full of grace towards failures like me. And we see later in this passage an example of how God was willing to take people who were a million miles away from this ideal and patiently mold them. James and John, nicknamed by Jesus as the ‘sons of thunder’ have always resonated with me. Passionate, eager, but at times hot headed these two men were not rejected by Jesus but chosen as his disciples. Indeed, John was the ‘one Jesus loved.’ Remarkably despite their wanting to call down fire from heaven (Luke 9:54), and their wanting to be at Jesus’ right and left hand (Mark 10:35) Jesus never gave up on them. Jesus changed them both. Indeed, by the end of his life, in his later letters, John kept repeating the simple command ‘love one another’ and tradition says he was mumbling this and only this on his deathbed.
Help me Lord to be compassionate towards everyone I see.
Thank you that you are gracious towards me despite my failure.
Please help me to be one who makes a difference whenever I can and I see need in front of me.
In short, Lord, make me like you