Mark 3:1

On another occasion Jesus went in to a synagogue, where there was a man whose hand was withered.

holy places fill with hopeless cases
they hold in carefully constructed niches
reasons to disbelieve hope’s percentages

there are times when no choice
comes to a choice between
some version of holy and suicide

should we decide to continue
all our withered hopes and dreams
contract to the limits of holiness

in the dark we freeze from rebelling
accept our wilderness lot
active waiting settles into memory

withered hand and heart
disrupted dreams and desire
tamed by candle and chant

“Again” Jesus comes to a synagogue. Mark’s writing style wants us to pile more one synagogue and Sabbath experience on top of previous times. This helps prepare us for a next visit.

Even though being in a synagogue on a Sabbath is expected behavior, it appears that Jesus is intentionally participating in religio-political theatre as we run through a familiar pattern of challenge and response. His choice of location to initiate a confrontation with a variety of traditions is telling.

A withered hand is likely to be connected to a withered wrist. By extension the whole arm could be withered or a whole life. Our tendency to take one physical flaw and blow it out of proportion is legendary. Simply listen to a teen have their life destroyed by a pimple.

A further connection is with Israel which has withered under the onslaught of Empire (Rome) or any land under physical or economic occupation by any external or internal Empire down to the present. If we consider the Temple in Jerusalem as a hand that has withered and can no longer be raised in prayer of praise or supplication, these healings do have a political component and not just a personal one.

There are community consequences for only having one hand, only being half there. Culturally there is a private hand and public hand and when both functions have to be done by only one hand, suspicions arise that make everyone uncomfortable.

In two short lines a scene is set and we begin to anticipate its unfolding. At the same time, Mark’s style of jumping and returning does keep us engaged. How will it resolve this time?

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