Mark 3: 1-2 “And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.”
We’re closing chapter 2 of the book of Mark and beginning chapter 3. It is the Sabbath. When Mark wrote this manuscript, it wasn’t in chapter and verse, so I am combining two events that occurred on the Sabbath.
At the end of chapter 2, Jesus and His disciples are walking through grain fields, possibly headed to the synagogue. As they are passing through the areas, they pluck off the heads of grain, causing the Pharisees to be alarmed:
And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”Mark 2:24 NKJV
When Jesus was eating with Levi and his guests, the Pharisees were quick to point out to the disciples that Jesus was out of order; now, they point out to Jesus that the disciples are out of order. It reminds me of those people who are always trying to mess up somebody’s relationship with their criticisms. But that’s for another day.
By the time Jesus was born, the Law had many rituals and artificial rules added to it. Some laws included carrying things in every manner but with your hands; and some laws dealt with how you handled food on the Sabbath. Jesus was aware of these laws but wasn’t bound to them. When He heard what they said, He responded.
But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?”Mark 2:25 NKJV
He asked the Pharisees if they were aware of the time that David ate the showbread in the days of Abiathar, the high priest? Not only that, David gave some to his men! This was considered unlawful, and yet to satisfy his hunger and the hunger of his men, David had no problem asking for the bread. If you look up the reference, Ahimelech was the priest that David encountered. Commentators believe that Abiathar was the high priest or a co-high priest with his father, Ahimelech. I won’t try to prove either, but I wanted to point that out for those of you who might look it up!
Mark shares no response from the Pharisees but Jesus was well aware that the Pharisees knew David had done precisely that; and they had great admiration for David.
And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”Mark 2:27 NKJV
In Genesis, when God established the Sabbath, He did it so that man would have a day of rest from his labors, not to put him in bondage. God created man to have fellowship with Him, not to be bound to rules. When I was growing up, my dad had a whole list of things that we couldn’t do on Sundays, because it was considered to be the Sabbath, and so did the world. You couldn’t purchase alcoholic beverages and you couldn’t go to the mall. Now, everything goes. Even still, bondage wasn’t the idea of the Sabbath; rest was the idea.
Jesus then declared to the Pharisees that He was Lord over the Sabbath! Now the Pharisees are not happy with Jesus. They are offended with Him, His methods, and His lack of respect for their rules, and most importantly, He is influencing others to be the same way.
We now enter chapter three and our key verse:
And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might [accuse Him.Mark 3: 1-2 NKJV
I believe it is still the same Sabbath day. Jesus entered the synagogue, and there is a man there with a withered hand. It doesn’t appear that the man has come for healing from Jesus, more like the Pharisees had the man there to see what Jesus would do. Jesus did not disappoint!
And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent.Mark 3:3-4 NKJV
Jesus invited the man to come forward. He turns to the Pharisees and asks them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they didn’t say a word. Jesus got upset at this point! Mark said that it grieved Him to see the hardness of their heart. Jesus saw that the Pharisees cared more about their laws being followed than they cared about the people. Surely, we are not like that today? Or are we?
Their hearts were so hardened, so fixed on their way of doing things, that they refused to see, the good that Jesus was about to do and be happy for the man. God forbid we become so focused on our cause, what we believe in, that we become blinded to human kindness. Lord have mercy on us if we get to the point that what we believe drives us to wickedness, as it did the Pharisees. Here’s something to consider, if that attitude angered Jesus then, it angers Him now!
He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.Mark 3:5b NKJV
Jesus performed a creative miracle. The withered hand responded to Jesus’ command as the man in need of healing made an effort to stretch it out. Faith without works is dead! He could have argued with Jesus or scoffed at Him, but instead, he obeyed and was made whole!
The Pharisees left angry! Mark implied that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for them! They went out and immediately began to plan how to destroy Him.
Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.Mark 3:6 NKJV
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus did a great thing for someone in need, and the religious people got angry? Have we become the Pharisees and the Sadducees of our day? Are we more concerned with how we view our religion and traditions than we are with how we treat people? I certainly hope not!
It was the Sabbath day. The disciples picked grain and ate it. The Pharisees didn’t like it. Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees were upset. But more importantly, Jesus was upset. As Lord of the Sabbath, He was demonstrating that He cared more about people then He did about programs, politics, days, celebrations, or religious taboos. As His people, we should live in the same manner. No reason is a good reason to mistreat God’s people. And nothing is worth incurring the anger of Jesus! Wonderful Jesus!