Mat 9:2  And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
Mat 9:3  And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.
Mat 9:4  And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
Mat 9:5  For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?
Mat 9:6  But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
Mat 9:7  And he arose, and departed to his house.

Mar 3:1  And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
Mar 3:2  And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
Mar 3:3  And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
Mar 3:4  And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
Mar 3:5  And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
Mar 3:6  And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

WITHERED HANDS

We are told, my friends, that the miracles of our Lord are intended as symbols and pictures of the analogous works by which He transforms the souls of  believers. “But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power,” the power to heal and cleanse the spirit, He restored a paralyzed body to freedom. He drove the palsy out of the body as a token that He could drive the palsy out of the soul. He  imparted the same strength and buoyancy and agility to the one as He had given to the other. And so it is with all the miracles of our Lord; they are types of the “greater things than these” which He  works among, and through His lambs. Here was a man with a withered hand. A legend comes down to us that he was a bricklayer, an ordinary working man, who had been reduced to impotence by the loss of the hand he needed, and used everyday.  But his accident, this calamity had not completely embittered him or turned him away from God: after all, he was found in the synagogue seeking communion with God; and it was there, the Master met him and restored life to his withered limb, and he was whole again.

Just as with this man’s hand;  the limbs of our soul — the hands that grasp; the arms that hold; and the legs that follow —  can become dry, withered, and impotent. For any number of reasons — attacks, injuries, or missteps –spiritual hands  can lose their grip; spiritual arms, their apprehension; and spiritual legs, their power: our sense of newness and wonder begins to wither, and  a diseased faculty will impair the strength of the entire life. It will hinder our daily walk with Him, and  sap all the vigor out of our faith.

The power of love can become like a withered hand. Through abuse, misuse, or lack of use, it can shrivel away until it has no strength, no reach, no hold.  A fiery love burns its way like hot iron through ice; it pierces through every difficulty, and nothing is allowed to obstruct his way. “Love never faileth.” But when the love itself begins to wither, like a limb that shrivels through a lack of vitality, life in our spirit becomes frail and anemic.

The gift of hope can become as a withered leg.  What spring there is in the step of one who feels the days before him! The believer who lays hold of the triumph of to-morrow has a mighty inspiration in the battle of to-day. The lamb who sees the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God is a valliant laborer in the Jerusalem that is.  But if hope shrivels into despondency, or dies away in despair, our helplessness will be on stage, for all to see.  It is hope, my friends, that gathers the bread; it is hope that sustains the life. We are “saved by hope.” But let hope shrivel, and a dullness comes over the spirit; a laxity and a limpness will take possession of  us. When a man can say, “I have lost my hope,” he is as a man with a withered leg.

The conscience can become as a withered arm; if we give over to this world our  discerning apprehension of right and wrong. The conscience will become numbed and unresponsive.  The withering begins in apparently small disloyalties;  and often the unscrupulous will degenerate into the vicious. Moral corruption is like every other disease, it can proceed from the apparent trifle until it infects the very pillars of  life. Poison can begin with a pin-prick and may at length reach the heart. A withering conscience is an unspeakable peril. A withering conscience indicates that a man is near unto death.

These things come upon all of us at some time or other; so the question is: what can we do?  We have only one resource. We bring ourselves; body, soul, and spirit, to the One who made us, and who can remake, retool, and restore us by the power of His grace. But we must come deliberately,  submissively, and obediently, ready and willing to carry out the Lord’s instructions. If He asks us to attempt the seemingly impossible, we must attempt it. “Stretch forth thy hand!” The man might have replied, “Master, thou knowest, that is just what I cannot do!” No; “Stretch forth thy hand,” said our Lord, and as the earnest, and willful attempt was being made, the needful power flowed from the Divine;  he was made whole. So it is with us, my friends, when the cares of this world, and the burdens of life deflect our vision and we begin to atrophe and wither; we must  bring our withered soul to Him, and at His charge, stretch it forth with effort in His presence. And He will make us whole again.

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