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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus withstands the opposition of the Pharisees to heal a man with a withered hand. His healings like this one signified the arrival of the kingdom of God.

When Jesus began to preach, his theme was that the kingdom of God is at hand. In his own person an entirely new way of ordering things was on offer. Then—in his love and nonviolence, in his mocking of the Pharisees and religious establishment, in his healing and teaching—Jesus was demonstrating precisely what the reign of the God of Israel looks like.

This way of life inevitably awakened the opposition of the powers that be. At the climax of his ministry, Jesus faced down the resistance of “the world,” to use the typical New Testament term, meaning that whole congeries of cruelty, betrayal, denial, violence, corruption, and hatred by which human affairs are typically ordered.

He permitted all of that darkness to wash over him, to crush him, to snuff him out. But then, on the third day, he rose again from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit, and thereby outflanked, outmaneuvered, and swallowed up the darkness.