MAIN TEXT: MARK 3:1-6
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Throughout the entire second chapter of Mark through today’s text, we have seen a buildup to what looks like an inevitable confrontation between the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus. They are tiring of being humiliated by Jesus and having Him assert His own authority. To make matters worse miracles are acts of undeniable power and His teachings contain inherent authority.
This is the fifth controversy and there is anger on both sides. Jesus’ anger stemmed from the religious leaders placing limits on when it was right to do good and save a life. For the leaders, they were angry because of Jesus, a young rabbi, undermining their traditions, rules and overall status quo. Their anger will lead them to begin plotting how to destroy Jesus (verse 6).
Jesus knew where this would lead, but He does not back off. He is consumed with accomplishing the will of His Father. He moves ahead with His face towards the cross and convinced that it is always right to do good (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Doing good for the glory of God will invite critical scrutiny
The encounter in our text takes place in the synagogue and on the Sabbath. For Jesus, location or day of the week will not restrict Him from doing good for the glory of God. The Jewish leaders have told Jesus
- not to claim to forgive sins (2:5).
- not to hang with sinners (2:16).
- not to neglect fasting as they dictate (2:18).
- not to work in order to eat on the Sabbath (2:24).
Their hardness of heart was stunning and Jesus’ frustration has reached a boiling point. He is overtly inviting their critical judgment by what He is about to do.
Be sensitive to those who need compassion
Jesus sees a man in the synagogue with a withered hand. No doubt the man had felt the embarrassment of raising his hand in prayer, as was the custom. Many would have concluded that his deformity was due to his sin or his parents like the disciples concluded with the blind man (John 9:2-3). Like the blind man, this man needed Jesus’ attention and his healing would put God’s power on display. Jesus took notice of this man with sensitivity and compassion.
Be ready for those who criticize
When you are bound by legalistic attitude, you will always be critical and on the lookout for what is wrong and seldom on what is right. The Pharisees are watching Jesus to see if He messes up (verse 2).
Healing was permitted on the Sabbath only if it was to save a life. This man’s problem was not life threatening, so protocol would have him say, “If you want me to fix your hand you will have to wait until tomorrow”. If Jesus healed a non-life threatening problem on the Sabbath it was an offense punishable by death according to Exodus 31:14-17.
Their thinking was, “Heal another day, but not today! Do good another day, but not today!” This madness had grown out of a life of criticism and faultfinding. They were enslaved with man-made rules and did their best to enslave others as well. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:4 and Matthew 23:15.
Doing good for the glory of God will require personal conviction
The tension was thick. The Jewish leaders were looking at Jesus (verse 2) and He was looking at them with anger (verse 5). Will He back down this time to keep the peace? No, this Servant King did “not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). He does not retreat in His message nor his actions. With the courage of conviction, He will press forward – obedient to the will of God regardless of the consequences. Note the example that He provides for us.
Do what’s right
Jesus told the man, “Come here” (verse 3) and “Stretch out your hand” (verse 5). His hand is immediately restored. The ravages of the curse are reversed and a foretaste of life in the kingdom is seen (Revelation 21:4).
Jesus fulfills the intent and heart of the Mosaic Law. In Mark 12:29-31 He will make this clear as He answers a scribe that asked which command is the most important. In this act of mercy, Jesus loves His Father by expressing God’s character and compassion toward this man, who is God’s precious creation. Jesus loves the man through this kind and healing touch. The Pharisees knew nothing of this kind of love.
Say what’s right
Sometimes in life and ministry we must confront and provoke others. It isn’t fun or easy. It is sometimes necessary especially when the right thing isn’t being said. Jesus raises the right question (verse 4). He uses polar opposites to bring clarity to the situation that they had made unnecessarily complicated. In Matthew 12:11-12 it is told that Jesus silenced His critics on this Sabbath issue – He concluded, “So it is lawful to do god on the Sabbath”. In our text, Jesus was making the point that good things may be done not just six days a week, but seven days a week.
The Pharisees had a flawed theology concerning the nature of God – a God of grace, mercy, love, and compassion. Jesus knew what to say.
Be right in what you feel
The hypocritical religious authorities provoked Jesus to anger. The actual Greek word Mark used uses here is not the word for annoyance or even righteous indignation. It is fury. Jesus was outraged that they cared more about their traditions than the welfare of a suffering human being. Jesus never got angry with tax collectors and sinners, only self-righteous religious leaders. His anger is mixed with pain – Mark tells us that He was “grieved” in His soul at the hardness of their hearts. He had compassion on them as well.
In verse 6, we see some strange alliance between the Jewish Pharisees and the Herodians (wealthy supporters of the Herods and their dynasties). The Jews normally hated these Greco-Roman supporters. Their common hatred of Jesus was strong enough to bring them together.
Jesus set an example for us in both word and deed. Acts 10:38 says it well, “He went about doing good…” He did a good thing by healing this man, and He did a good thing in saving our souls. He teaches us well.
It is always right to do good!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 3:1-6
Have you seen someone resisting something good only because they are defending their “turf” or because they resent the one proposing it? Explain.
What public or private situations might tempt us to withhold compassion from someone who needs it?
How are a legalistic spirit and a critical attitude related?