Stretch Out Your Hand by Bill Dahl

Stretch our Your HandEvery year during December I seem to run across a passage in my Bible (NIV) that simply ricochets through my soul. Heck, I even published the one I wrote in December 2009 earlier this month (December 2010), as I didn’t seem to “get” the passage that typically guides me for the upcoming year. (Charlie Wear published it as the cover story for Next-Wave in January 2010).

Well, it happened again. Honestly, I wasn’t even looking for it. These passages just seem to jump out at me and have a vibrancy that uniquely resonates with me. Truth be told, God seems to place a seemingly relentless burden on me – until I write about it.

So, here we go again. I pray this blesses you as it continues to bless me and mine. Here’s the passage:

Mark 3:1-6 (New International Version)

1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand “Stand up in front of everyone.

4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

  1. The Shriveled Hand:

Let’s be honest, there’s not a life that doesn’t have a deformity. It need not be a physical handicap. When we enter any assembly of humanity, we are surrounded by comrades who have lives that include a shriveled hand – something we are not particularly proud of, maybe even ashamed of. It might be something we attempt to keep to ourselves – out of the view of others — something in our lives that needs to be healed.

In the passage above, it’s not likely that the man with the shriveled hand was walking about the synagogue displaying his hand for all to see. In fact, Jesus may not have even actually seen his shriveled hand. Yet, The Pharisees and Herodian’s knew of this man’s deformity. We assume the man with the shriveled hand was known by others to live with this malady – even though it is likely he attempted to keep it hidden from the view of others. Once again, what we attempt to keep hidden from those around us, is known by God.

Think about it…what’s your shriveled hand?

  1. Stand Up In Front of Everyone:

Over the years, I have come to understand that Jesus has a tendency to call me out on my stuff. He’s just not content with any attempt on my part to keep my shriveled hand hidden from His view – or my rationalization that “I can handle it or I’ll get to it when I’m ready.” Nope – Jesus calls us out!

Imagine for a moment the reaction of the man with the shriveled hand when Jesus looks at him in the eye and declares: “Stand up in front of everyone.” I sincerely doubt that this man was giddy with glee. My guess, is that he was scared spitless. He was likely trembling. Jesus is bringing this man out of the safety of being submerged in the crowd – to stand alone – in front of everyone – removing the anonymity and obscurity that the crowd provides.

Each of us have wounds that need to be healed, fears and confusion that we allow to persist, deformities of the soul that require that we change our posture – and develop a willingness to “Stand up in front of everyone.

Obviously, when we are called out by Jesus, just as this man was, we have a series of choices – comply, run for the exits, feign that “hey, are you talking to me?” – or look at the person standing next to us. It is a moment when we are called to come out from the masses – to face our God – with witnesses we would not have chosen if it was up to us. It’s uncomfortable.

  1. But They Remained Silent:

Jesus has a tendency to ask questions that leaves many (yours truly included) – speechless, dumbfounded, or simply unwilling to respond. Although healing in the synagogue was lawful on the Sabbath if a person’s life was at risk – healing a shriveled hand did not meet those elements of the law.

Here’s the point: Jesus’ ministry was all about disassembling current customs, laws, norms and mores. Even when the answer to His question is obvious (“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”) – the majority remains silent.

We cannot look to those around us to supply the courage or moral support when Christ calls us out from the crowd to face Him. He may call us out in circumstances we find difficult to comprehend. These circumstances may be such that we are called out in circumstances that breach the mainstream norms and cultural mores of the moment.

Where in your life are you being called out from the crowd by Christ? Come on…don’t just read the sentence, pause for a few minutes and meditate upon that question. Are you being asked to “stand up in front of everyone,” – breach the current normative standards – perhaps even subject yourself to ridicule from the crowd?

Jesus’ relationship with each of us has little (if anything) to do with the crowd we tend to surround ourselves with or find ourselves among – He could care less about what they think of what He is asking of us. His timing is His timing – not ours. It’s typically inconvenient (just my personal experience with Jesus speaking here). As He says in the passage above, He gazed upon the crowd “in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” Jesus never cares much for silence in response to his questions – it’s as true for each of us as it is for the crowd in this passage.

  1. Stretch Out Your Hand!:

Imagine Jesus, just after he has stared at the crowd around you in utter discouragement, He looks directly in your eyes and says, “Stretch out your hand.” Me? I’d probably pass out or start whimpering, or attempt to enter into a dialog to negotiate an action not quite as drastic as the one He is calling me to carry out (I’ve admittedly succumbed to the latter 2 of the 3 options in the previous sentence). The point is, we’re at another “choice moment.” Only you and Jesus know what parts of your life contain your shriveled hand. When asked to “Stretch out your hand ” during 2011 will you stretch out your left when your right hand is shriveled? Will you raise your right foot? What will your response be in 2011?

  1. Summary – Stretch Out Your Hand! – A Meditation for 2011:

Lift both of your hands, palms up, before you. Gaze at your hands for a few minutes. Shrivel them up if you like. Do this regularly. “Stretch out your hands!”Contemplate the following:

Your hands have fingerprints uniquely associated with only you. Nobody before you or after you has had or will have the same designs placed on the end of each finger and thumb. You are uniquely and wonderfully made.

Each of us has dimensions of our being that Jesus yearns to restore – to heal. Our immersion in daily routines – family, school, work, etc. oftentimes provide the rationalization to just keep “going with the flow” – allow us to remain seemingly submerged within the crowd – obscuring the need to stretch out your hand and accept the invitation of Christ to continue to restore whatever challenges you have acquired or that life has thrust upon you. Your life cannot hide under any circumstance from the loving adoration of Christ — and His earnest, relentless desire to restore you, as He deems appropriate.

Is there a crowd, a set of behaviors, routines or priorities that are currently providing you with an illusion of cover from the watchful gaze of the One who adores you? The One who sees all and knows all. The One from whom there simply are no secrets, no shame too great, no fear too mighty, no sadness too deep, no predicament too complex — to be brought to Him with outstretched hands?

Perhaps you might be one who has shriveled hands – hands that have been unwittingly grasping the wounds, grievances, sadness, fears, and disappointments for so many years – that they have become shriveled in the process, unwilling to release the same to the restorative, healing power of the One who can do what you cannot.

Stretch Out Your Hand in 2011. If you can’t find the strength to do so yourself – ask Jesus to take your hand – or provide others who can provide the courage and strength you are currently unable to muster. Move toward Christ in 2011. Offer Him those matters in your life you have been hiding, restrained or ashamed to bring directly to Him.

Stretch Your Life Toward Jesus in 2011.

Keep me posted on the results!

Blessings to you and yours in 2011,

Bill Dahl

Author, Creator, Editor

Bill Dahl is a freelance writer from Redmond, Oregon. He blogs at

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