Oct 07, 2012
Mark 3:1-6

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As we transition from chapter 2 into the first part of chapter 3, the actions of Jesus (in contrast to the actions of these religious leaders) will further illustrate the stark difference that exists between a “relationship with Jesus” and the “pseudo-moralism of religion.”

Mark 3:1-6 And Jesus entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.... So they (speaking of the Scribes and Pharisees) watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.... 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.... And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” 

And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.... Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Scene of Activity

Jesus entered the synagogue.... on the Sabbath” as was His custom. 

Following His bowl of cheerios and Saturday morning cartoons, Jesus always went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to worship. This was such a routine that it was predictable.... every Saturday Jesus could be found at the synagogue.

Apparently His routine was so predictable that it provide a perfect opportunity for the religious leaders to set a trap for Jesus. They knew when and where He’d be.... Perfect conditions for an ambush.

The trap they laid out was simple.... If given the opportunity, they knew Jesus would “heal” on the Sabbath, which - according to their traditions - was a violation of the Sabbath. If they could simply present a need, Jesus wouldn’t be able to resist Himself.

It’s funny to think the religious debate of the day was on the topic of healthcare. 

On one side you had those who wanted a universal, single-payer system, and on the other side there were those who wanted free-market solutions.... ok maybe that wasn’t the debate of their day, but healthcare was a hot topic nonetheless. 

According to their Sabbath traditions (and don’t forget they had 39 rules with 39 variations to each rule), the big question was how much care could you provide a person in need before it was considered work? 

The traditional consensus was that if you cut your finger, you could stop the bleeding - but you were not allowed to put ointment on the cut. It was ok to take action to stop the wound from getting worse, but you were not allowed to do anything to make it better until the next day. 

“Healing” was therefore considered “work” making it a violation of the Sabbath.

In order to lure Jesus into a clear, public violation of the Sabbath, they had strategically placed in the synagogue that day a “man with a withered hand.”  

It would be better to translate this as a “man whose hand had become withered” because the idea is that the man’s hand had “become withered” as a consequence of some tragic set of circumstances. This wasn't a condition the man had been born with. His hand had become withered as a result of some kind of accident. 

First century church leader Jerome said that according to tradition the man with the withered hand had been a plasterer - he was a construction worker.

Mark tells us Jesus takes the bait.... He saw this man. He recognized a need. I’m sure Jesus was moved with compassion and had concern for this man’s well-being. As is always the case Jesus was determined to do something about his condition.

Though Jesus’ chief concerning was the well-being of this man, don’t think for a moment that Jesus was naive to what was really going on that day. Jesus knew what the Pharisees were up too. He knew their intentions.... but He didn’t care. 

The trap is set and Jesus has taken the bait. The scene is filled with anticipation. What will Jesus do is on the forefront of everyone’s minds? You can hear the murmurs and rumblings as Jesus ignores the obvious trap and asked this man to “step forward.” 

Everyone in the synagogue that day recognized that Jesus was not going to be intimidated from good by these religious leaders. He wasn’t going to back down from this unavoidable collision. 

Not only that, but Jesus doesn’t even feel incline to defuse the situation. Instead, it seems Jesus intentionally decides to go out of his way to pick a fight.... to inflame the situation! 

In asking this man to step out of the crowd in front of everyone, it was as though Jesus was setting aside His robes - climbing into the ring - looking across at His opponent (these religious leaders) - and saying, “Bring it!” 

David Guzik observes “that Jesus could have preformed this miracle the next day. Jesus could have done it privately. But He chose to do it at this time and place.... in this we can see that Jesus deliberately used this occasion to provoke a response.”

The man obeys Jesus by stepping out of the crowd.... however, before Jesus addresses this man’s specific need, Jesus throws the first blow by asking the crowd present a rather brilliant question.... “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” 

What makes Jesus’ question so brilliant is that it emphasized a universal truth that would seem silly to dismiss just because it was Saturday. God wants us to do good.... so is there ever a time (or day) that we shouldn’t be obedient?

His point was that there is never a wrong day to do something truly good. 

I think the majority of the crowd probably thought Jesus’ point seemed logical and reasonable. However, the religious leaders were speechless. In the hardness of their hearts they refused to respond or answer His question. They had been shown up and Jesus had just outsmarted them. The crowd was now on His side and they didn’t have a good move they could use to hit back and shift the momentum. 

Mark is clear Jesus was “grieved by the hardness of their hearts” and becomes “angry” at their silence - their inability to learn - unwillingness to admit fault.... He became angry at their religious traditions.... He was angry by the fact they were more interested in discrediting Him than they were in caring for the man with a withered hand.... I’m sure He was angry over their misrepresentation of God!

Jesus then delivers the knock out punch! Kind of like in Mortal Kombat when the announcer declares, “Finish Him!” "Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.”

Though this was an incredible miracle and I’m sure the onlookers that day were amazed by what they had witnessed, Mark tells us “the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Jesus, how they might destroy Him.

It really is unbelievable that their reaction to the miracle was the desire to kill the miracle worker! It shows how truly hardened they were towards Christ.

Understand, this plot to kill Jesus was hatch from the most unlikely of alliances. 

We’ve already discussed who the Pharisees were (religious conservatives, traditional interpretation of the law, nationalistic when it came to Israel).... but it’s almost unfathomable they would choose to team up with the “Herodians.” 

The Herodians were a non-religious, political party who had intentionally distinguished themselves from the Pharisees by alining with Herod the Great and the Herodian dynasty that followed. 

Because the Herodians were a group of Jews who supported the rule of King Herod, they were despised by the nationalists because Herod was an Edomite. He was a gentile ruling over Hebrew land. This would always set the Herodians and the Pharisees in complete opposition. 

But it always true that Jesus loves bringing people together. 

The Pharisees hated Jesus because He threatened their religious power, position, and prominence over the people of Israel. 

The Herodians hated Jesus because His growing popularity was becoming a threat to their political power.

Herod wasn’t fond of a Jew claiming to be the “King of the Jews” when that was a position he held. And if Jesus had come to lead revolt against the Roman, He would not only be crushed by the Roman’s like the revolutionaries before Him, but the unrest would lead to Herod’s removal. His job was to keep the peace.

At this point both groups felt drastic measures had to be taken to preserve their power and influence. This is a significant development because Jesus’ ministry is now entering a new phase.... for the first time there is an official plot to kill Him.

1. Relevant Question: Was it ok for Jesus to be angry?

Please understand anger is not evil! Anger is a basic human emotion God has wired into all human beings whereby we can express annoyance or communicate a sense of displeasure in response to appropriate events and interactions that necessitate such a reaction. 

Because it is a basic emotion we’ve been created with, “anger” or “being angry” should not be viewed as a negative.... As a matter of fact, God encourages the believer to be angry in Psalm 4:4, “Be angry, and do not sin.” 

When considering anger there are two key principles you should keep in mind.... 

1. We should only allow ourselves to become angry over the right things. 

For example.... in light of the hardness of the Pharisees hearts, Mark is clear Jesus was first “grieved” then “angry.” 

In His love, Jesus was grieved that their hardened hearts would rob them of so much goodness He wanted to afford them. 

And in His great love, Jesus was angry over the self-righteous attitude that had created this hardening in the first place.

If we’re to be like Jesus.... in the face of injustice or abuse, we should be angry and this emotional reaction should spur us to the appropriate actions. 

If we’re to be like Jesus.... in the face of sin destroying the lives of those we love, we should be angry and this emotion should spur us to an appropriate response.

2. We should not allow anger to manifest a response that is sinful.

There are times when we experience anger and react to a situation at the wrong time and in the wrong way. 

I heard one pastor say this week, “We don’t often have an anger problem. What we have is a timing problem.... we have a control problem.” 

There are things you should be angry at - but you should express that anger at  the right time - and in the right way. And how do we do this? We don’t! Self cannot control self! The only way you can control these emotions is to surrender them first to the mastership of Christ and then to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

2. Relevant Question: Was it ok for Jesus to pick a fight?

The answer is yes! As we’ve discussed it was clear the whole situation presented in the synagogue that day was a set up. The religious leaders were looking for something “that they might accuse Him” concerning, and they were willing to use a handicap man as bait. Jesus was not intimidated. Jesus not only didn’t back down, but He decided to take them on. This was an altercation Jesus welcomed.

Before we embrace this Godly attribute we should first consider.... When is it ok, and under what circumstances is it appropriate for a Christian to engage in a spiritual throw-down? We find our answer exemplified by Jesus.

1. Make sure the issue is worth the fight.

So often Christians make the mistake of fighting and dividing over stupid, trivial, insignificant, non-essential things. 

Jesus embraced this confrontation for two reasons.... 

First, there was a hurting man in need of healing. 

Jesus was always willing to fight for the weak - the hurting - the downcast - the disenfranchised and so should we....

The second reason Jesus embraced confrontation was in defense of the truth. 

The Pharisees had twisted and distorted the Sabbath into a monster God had never intended. They claimed to represent God and His Word, but they were burdening the people with a yoke of bondage and burden God had never devised. Jesus fought for truth and so should we....

2. Make sure your motivations are pure.

Mark is clear that Jesus’ desire in confronting these religious leaders was to see their hearts soften. Don’t forget that in light of their hardness, yes, Jesus was angry, but He was also grieved. Jesus didn’t back down, because He wanted to see repentance. I really believe Jesus loved these religious leaders and it broke His heart to see them reject the work He desired for their lives.

3. Make sure you take Jesus into the fight with you.

First Observation: Jesus is an incredible man.

1. Jesus had an awesome reputation.... 

I really am blown away by a subtly you might have overlooked.... The whole ambush was based to two predictable attributes of Jesus.

First, Jesus faithfully attended the synagogue. 

Secondly, even Jesus’ enemies knew that when Jesus entered a room He immediately turned His attention to those with the greatest need. 

Jesus was known for His irresistible love for people. His love for the outcast. His love for those who in need. His critics knew - by this reputation that Jesus would minister to the broken man or women in His midst. It was predicable.

2. Jesus was a fighter....

The idea of Jesus was a man’s man has such a disconnect from our popular conclusions! It’s a inescapable truth the Biblical Jesus will offend a culture that has actively attacked masculinity. It will also discredit a popular brand of Christianity that has presented nothing more than a neutered, asexual Christ.

Jesus was not a weakling. He was a carpenter by trade. I image Jesus sun-worn from His hours outside. I image His forearms rock solid. I image Jesus had calloused hands that produced such a grip it let you know He meant business. 

Jesus wasn’t peace loving, pot-smoking hippie. He wasn’t a flower child who wore bellbottoms and followed the Grateful Dead around the hillside. 

Jesus wasn’t even a consensus builder. He was and has always been a polarizing person. Do you realize in His 3 year ministry Jesus actually divided and alienate more people than He unified? He wasn’t a spineless push over. He wasn’t a pansy, but a fighter. He took on the establishment. He challenged the status quo. He’d bow up when necessary, but possessed the strength and discipline to back down when it served a greater purpose.

Second Observation: The effects of tradition and self-righteousness are tragic.

The religious leaders were so bound to their traditions that they were blind to the new work Jesus had come to accomplish in their lives.

“Oh the powerful bind of religious traditions!” The danger of religion is it blinds me of my need for salvation, thus alienating me from a Savior. 

It’s a simple truth that non-Biblical, religious traditions (as demonstrated by these Pharisees) foster a sense of pride in my works for God. 

When this happens it’s so difficult to cut ties to these works, because it’ll cut at the very core of my self-confidence. To reject these traditions I’ll have to admit failure. I’ll have to embrace humility. I’ll have to die to self.

Not only was it so difficult for these Pharisees to move beyond their own moralism, but it created an impossible impasse between themselves and Jesus. It robbed them of the fresh work He desire to accomplish in their lives.

The other devastating effect is that it’s very rare thing that we can recognize religious traditions in ourselves, when we can easily recognize them in others. 

Sometimes it’s difficult for some of us who come from an un-traditional church tradition like Calvary to recognize the traditions we’ve inadvertently establish.

2. It’s sad to think these men knew what Jesus could do, yet their knowledge didn’t draw them to Jesus, but fostered animosity towards Jesus and His followers.

The religious leaders were so bound to their traditions that they were more interested in obeying their traditions than having compassion for others.

“Oh the powerful bind of religious traditions!” Their hearts had become so warped by their self-righteous system of moral superiority that it was more important to obey man-made traditions than it was to minister to a hurting man. 

I have to ask.... in the face of a human need, why hadn’t they taken care of this man with the withered hand?

Third Observation: Religion has no remedy for man’s condition.

Religion might serve to diagnose the human predicament, but it has never provided a remedy for man’s fallen condition. Religion either leaves a man condemned in failure.... I can never be good enough. Or it leaves a man filled with self-confidence.... look at all these things I’ve done to earn a good standing before God. 

Fourth Observation: Faith in God is essential for a work of God.

Jesus’ first interaction with the man with the withered hand was a simple, but radicle command. Jesus asks him to “step out” from the crowd. 

Every work of God - every miracle of God - requires an initial step of faith.

It’s been said, “The man who risks nothing - does nothing. The man who does nothing  - has nothing. And the man who has nothing - is nothing.” 

The man who is not willing to step out in faith when he experiences the prompting of the Lord, is the man who’ll never see the miraculous work of God demonstrated in and through his life. The man who risks nothing, gets nothing. 

I think it’s sad to think, but the greatest hinderance to God’s work in our lives in often our inability to take a step of faith. Faith in God is essential if we want to experience a work of God.

Fifth Observation: Obedience to God’s commands is essential for a work of God.

1. God often commands the impossible. 

The work of God in this man’s life began with a step of faith, but this was followed with a commanded to do something impossible. Jesus commanded the man to “Stretch out your hand.” How do you stretch out a hand that’s paralyzed? 

I don’t know how this manifested itself, but we’re told by Mark that in obedience to Jesus command the man “stretched it out.” 

The verbiage for the phrase “stretch it out” is active.... the man was being obedient to something impossible to the best of his ability. 

The verbiage for “restored” is passive.... meaning, though he was obedient, his actions had nothing to do with the healing. As the man put forth the effort in simple obedience, God met him in the act and did the rest. 

2. God’s commandments are also God’s enablements. 

God never commands us to do something (even something we think is impossible) without also enabling us. When Jesus gave a command to this man to stretch our a withered hand, He coupled with it the ability to obey the command. The man actually was able to stretch out his hand!

“Faith disregards apparent impossibilities, where there is a command and promise of God. The effort to believe is, often, that faith by which the soul is healed.” 

If I’ll step out in faith - obey the commands of God even if I think obedience is impossible - I’ll experience the improbable.... complete healing. 

Sixth Observation: Jesus’ healing is always complete.

Mark tells us when “he stretched out his hand and it was restored as whole as the other.” This man experienced complete healing....