They say the centre of the storm is a place of great calm and stillness. Now, I have never been in the middle of an actual storm but when things beyond you and bigger than you whirl about it is good to be in the place of calm and peace.
I remember the day I met Jesus as the day I became like everyone else. I also became totally different at the same time. Jesus gave me the thing I wanted more than anything. He healed me. Made me whole. You see, I was the man with the deformed hand. Up till that point my life hadn’t been great. I had trouble getting work. People would look at me and you could see them thinking “why is he deformed? What did he do? Maybe it was his parent’s sin, not his?”
So most of the time I tried to hide my hand. I hated that I was noticed for it. It was the way people described me… ‘you know… the one with the deformed hand.’ This was normally said with an unflattering gesture. I wanted to blend in, not to be noticed. I wanted to be invisible.
That Sabbath was much like any other to start with. But when I got to the temple Jesus was there. Teaching. The other teachers and Pharisees kept looking at me. Their glances returning again and again to the hand hanging uselessly at the end of me sleeve. I tried to hide it but Jesus had seen it too. He looked straight at me and said;
“Come and stand in front of everyone.”
‘In front of everyone’ the one place I did not want to be. Every eye in the place staring at me. I stood frozen for a moment. Then Jesus gave me the slightest of smiles. Like he knew something I didn’t and that something was a good. You know what? I wanted to know what it was, that good something. So I went forward and stood in the middle of those people. And beside me was Jesus. As I stood the eyes of the Pharisees looked at me with contempt. Waves of anger and fear came from them. Even though I was apprehensive standing next to Jesus was like I was in the eye of the storm; a place of perfect peace.
“I have a question for you?” Jesus’ words flew at the men and there scowling faces. “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath or is it a day for evil?”
I didn’t know what I had expected when Jesus called me up but it wasn’t this. I had hoped that he might heal me. I mean, I had heard the stories going around. But I didn’t want to be in the middle of an argument.
“Is this day to save life, or destroy it?”
The room burst into the noise of men talking, discussing. I was getting more anxious now. Whose life might be destroyed? Mine? If I could have run for it I would have. But when the storm is raging around you and next to you in someone that feels solid and safe you stay put. So I did.
Jesus breathed in deeply and looked at each man in turn. One by one the voices were stilled and the scowling faces looked away. That was when he turned to me with that same knowing smile and said:
“Hold out your hand.”
I looked up into his face and knew what the ‘good something’ was. My time had come. I was going to be healed. I put my hand out and felt blood flow through it. I willed the fingers to move and stretch. And they did. They looked so long and perfect. I just stared and stared at them and then my other hand. They finally matched. I clasped Jesus’ hand with mine and thanked him.
My thanks were overshadowed by the teachers and Pharisees walking away, their angry voices floating back towards us. I know the law. Jesus worked on the Sabbath. But I couldn’t be angry or appalled or shocked. I was just pleased about my hand.
I’m supposed to say that Jesus changed my life that day. And in some ways he did but in other ways it is still the same. I still get stared at and talked about.
‘Look, there he is… did you hear? Jesus fixed his hand… it’s as good as any hand now. The priests weren’t happy though… well, it happened on the Sabbath…’
When I hear this I remember Jesus. So calm and still in the midst of the confusion and anger. I walk with my head held high, my whole hand in full view for everyone to see. I am a walking reminder of the power of Jesus and I remember that and try to live up to it.
I used to shrink away and want to vanish. I don’t mind being noticed now. Even if it makes people angry. At the end of the day, I’m just pleased that my hand is better.