May 31, 2005


Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

In Mark 3, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. In doing so, as Austin Farrer points out, Jesus is doing the second half of the sign in 1 Kings 13. There, when King Jeroboam of Israel threatens the prophet who has rebuked him for his false worship, Jeroboam’s hand withers. When Jeroboam asks the prophet to pray to Yahweh, his hand is restored.

Given that withered hands aren’t common in Scripture and given that the only other withered hand we hear about in Scripture is Jeroboam’s, it seems that the presence of this man in a synagogue may be a sign that there’s something wrong with the synagogues. The synagogues too need to “repent and believe the good news” Jesus preaches (1:14-15) and until they do they are dangerously similar to Jeroboam’s calf-worship.

But when Jesus comes to the man with the withered hand, He heals him. When the rulers of the synagogue, the scribes and Pharisees, attack him they are like Jeroboam. But when people trust Him, Jesus responds with restoration.

But then, as Farrer points out, near the end of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus comes to a fig tree, finds no fruit on it, and curses it so that it withers — the same word used in Mark 3. Israel has not repented and believed the good news. And now Jesus performs the first half of the sign from 1 Kings 13, though instead of withering the hands of all the “Jeroboams” who oppose Him, Jesus withers the fig tree which represents Israel.

So far Farrar, and I think he’s right.

Last week, I was working on Mark 4, where Jesus tells the parable of the seed and the four sorts of soil. In that parable, Jesus says that the seed sown on the rocky soil springs up immediately but doesn’t put down good roots, so that when the sun rises, the plant withers. It seems to me that there may be a connection here with the theme of withering in the previous chapter, the theme picked up again when the fig tree withers.

Israel appears to receive the word with gladness. Many people are delighted to think that Jesus could be the Messiah, that God’s kingdom was coming in and through Him. But their joy in Jesus will be short-lived. When persecution arises on account of the word — specifically, when Jesus is arrested and crucified — once-enthusiastic Israel withers.

It seems to me that there’s something here, but I probably need to think some more about it.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:11 pm | Discuss (0)

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