Guest Blog: Crippled inside?

By Dr Ken Baker

Our newest VOX magazine columnist, Dr. Ken Baker and his wife Val, direct missional communities across the Midlands of Ireland.  Ken has worked as an Irish church planter with the Methodist Church, a London pastor with the Baptist Union and a lecturer in New Testament Theology with the University of Wales.  His books are available on Amazing and Lulu.com under Dr Ken Baker.  You can read Ken's blog at www.tithebarn.wordpress.com.

Warts and all

"He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts..." (Mark 3:5)

When they came to paint Oliver Cromwell’s portrait, he refused the C17th version of Photoshop and instructed the artist to do it “Warts and all.” There must be very few, however, who are truly comfortable in their own skins. 

In the account of Jesus healing a man with a “shrivelled hand” (in Mark 3) there is a subtle parallel between the crippled man and the religious leaders who sneer and criticise. Perhaps Mark is hinting at something that we all know too well: that disfigurement of character is far more important than disfigurement of body, that real healing must be inside as well as outside. 

And, as John Lennon once sang: “One thing you can’t hide is when you’re crippled inside.” 

Does that mean then, in Mark’s story, that the shrivelled hand is meant to remind us of the “shrivelled people”? That some people could look at an astonishing act of healing and miss the point? 

Yes, that would seem to be the gist of v2: “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.  Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’” 

It’s powerful to see then, how boldly Jesus confronts that attitude of religious lovelessness. He wants to expose something, and to stand it in front of everyone: not the man with the shrivelled hand, of course, but the people with the shrivelled hearts.

Now clearly, as I read the story, I want to align myself with Jesus, to poo-poo religious rules and regulations and pursue compassion at any cost, but when I think of Cromwell’s portrait, I realise that there are aspects of my character that I just do not want you to know about. 

Because it’s really hard to love yourself, when you know yourself so well, when you know the sort of ugly response that you are capable of. When Jesus said “One of you will betray me” they asked “Who is it?!” because they  just knew that they were all capable of it, that they were all crippled inside,  all in need of healing. 

I used to teach English, and once the curriculum bid me compare a couple of poems by John Milton and Sylvia Plath, both of whom were facing a crisis. Milton was facing the onset of blindness, and Plath was considering the knowledge of her husband’s adultery, and a future without him. They both looked into themselves, into the shrivelling pain that they found there. Sylvia’s path led to suicide, and John’s ultimate response was trust in a living God. 

So where do you go when you’re crippled inside? Best find the Healer.

Warts and all

“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” (Mark 3:5)

When they came to paint Oliver Cromwell’s portrait, he refused the C17th version of Photoshop and instructed the artist to do it “Warts and all.” There must be very few, however, who are truly comfortable in their own skins. 

In the account of Jesus healing a man with a “shrivelled hand” (in Mark 3) there is a subtle parallel between the crippled man and the religious leaders who sneer and criticise. Perhaps Mark is hinting at something that we all know too well: that disfigurement of character is far more important than disfigurement of body, that real healing must be inside as well as outside. 

And, as John Lennon once sang: “One thing you can’t hide is when you’re crippled inside.” 

Does that mean then, in Mark’s story, that the shrivelled hand is meant to remind us of the “shrivelled people”? That some people could look at an astonishing act of healing and miss the point? 

Yes, that would seem to be the gist of v2: “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.  Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’” 

It’s powerful to see then, how boldly Jesus confronts that attitude of religious lovelessness. He wants to expose something, and to stand it in front of everyone: not the man with the shrivelled hand, of course, but the people with the shrivelled hearts.

Now clearly, as I read the story, I want to align myself with Jesus, to poo-poo religious rules and regulations and pursue compassion at any cost, but when I think of Cromwell’s portrait, I realise that there are aspects of my character that I just do not want you to know about. 

Because it’s really hard to love yourself, when you know yourself so well, when you know the sort of ugly response that you are capable of. When Jesus said “One of you will betray me” they asked “Who is it?!” because they  just knew that they were all capable of it, that they were all crippled inside,  all in need of healing. 

I used to teach English, and once the curriculum bid me compare a couple of poems by John Milton and Sylvia Plath, both of whom were facing a crisis. Milton was facing the onset of blindness, and Plath was considering the knowledge of her husband’s adultery, and a future without him. They both looked into themselves, into the shrivelling pain that they found there. Sylvia’s path led to suicide, and John’s ultimate response was trust in a living God. 

So where do you go when you’re crippled inside? Best find the Healer.