There are at least two miracles of healing in the Gospels that demonstrate both the tender compassion of Christ and the hateful hearts and hypocrisy of the religious leaders. One concerns a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1–6) and the other a woman who suffered physical and spiritual oppression that left her bent over (Luke 13:10–17). When the bowed-down woman who had suffered pain and shame for eighteen years was healed, the synagogue leader reacted not with joy and wonder but with anger. Similarly, when the man had his hand restored, the synagogue leaders were furious. Jesus pointed out to these religious rulers that they had more regard for the needs of their animals than they had for these disabled people. Of course, the full extent of their hypocrisy was revealed when after the service was over, these self-appointed, self-anointed guardians of God and His law went out and plotted how to murder Jesus (Mark 3:6).
The way Jesus was going about building His kingdom was not what one would have expected from an all-powerful King. He wasn’t recruiting an army of commandos or building a coalition of well-connected elites. It was the weak and the sick (physically and spiritually), the marginalized outcasts, the invisible ones who caught His eye. Matthew records that the quiet, compassionate, and ultimately conquering kindness of Christ was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope” (12:20–21).
This is indeed good news for us who are weak, fearful, and doubting. In our public image and our filtered Facebook profiles, we are standing tall; but behind the scenes, we know—and Jesus knows even more so—that we, too, are often bent like a bruised reed and our faith sputters like a smoldering wick. Yet, He does not snuff us out.
It is fitting in John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress that the pilgrims who journey to the Celestial City include not only Mr. Great-heart and Valiant-for-Truth but also Mr. Fearing, Mr. Despondency, Miss Much-Afraid, and Mr. Ready-to-Halt, who makes the treacherous journey on crutches. Much that we see in Bunyan’s characters was autobiographical, and there are days that we, too, can see ourselves in each of these pilgrims. They are unimpressive, but their Savior is not. And so they press on—we press on—to Him.
Paul summarizes the stunning salvation that includes weak people like us, showing that grace is all the wider and glory all the higher than we can imagine:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor. 1:27–29)