there was a man there whose right hand was withered.
Luke 6: 6
This morning during devotions at Caritas I heard today’s Gospel anew.
Jesus enters the synagogue and encounters a man with a withered hand. But it’s not just any hand – it’s his right hand.
The man is not only handicapped. He is impure, excluded from the community.
The man had to use his left hand for everything. Use of that hand would have made him unclean.
Walter Wink, in The Powers that Be, page 101, explained
…the left hand could only be used for unclean tasks; at Qumran, a Jewish religious community of Jesus’ day, to gesture with the left hand meant exclusion from the meeting and penance for ten days.
The left hand was useful for toilet duties and was not to be used for eating or greeting others.
So when Jesus cures the man with the withered right hand, he is not only giving him use of his hand; he is also restoring him to the community.
And so Jesus is undercutting not only the hard-heartedness of religious leaders who would forbid healing on the Sabbath. He is also restoring community.
But the religious leaders reject all this and sought to see what they could do to Jesus, this man who opens community to the impure.
It is so easy to establish rules that keep people out and assure us a privileged position in the world. But Jesus breaks all that – healing when people are in need and inviting people into the beloved community.
Apologies to my left-handed friends and acquaintances: You really aren’t that sinister.