Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 3:1-6. He spoke of how Jesus is willing to go to uncomfortable places for those who need his help and shows how this story relates to the single greatest act of salvation in the Old Testament.
1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.
- Jesus enters a synagogue, a place where he knew there would be Jews that are unhappy with him. This is important to note because Jesus just had a bad interaction with the Pharisees on the Sabbath, and he knows the Jewish religious leaders are unhappy with him. He knows if he goes into the Synagogue he will be confronted by the Pharisees, and knows that there will be conflict.
- So why does Jesus go? Jesus goes because he knows there are people there who need help. The man with the withered hand, and others like him, need Jesus. Jesus chooses to go into an uncomfortable place because he knows the people there need him. Are you willing to do the same? Are you willing to go to the uncomfortable places because you know there are people there who need your help? Maybe the uncomfortable place for you is a group of people at school. Maybe the group of athletes is uncomfortable, or the group that no one really likes because they think they are weird is uncomfortable. What areas in your life are uncomfortable for you, and are you willing to go there because you know those people need Jesus?
- So Jesus enters the synagogue, the place where he knows there will be discomfort and conflict, and there is a man with a withered hand there.
2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
- Sure enough the Pharisees are there too. They are there, and they are watching Jesus very closely. They are watching to see what he is going to do with this man with the withered hand. They want to see what he is going to do so they can accuse him. We learn at the end that the Pharisees go and start to plan to kill Jesus, but we learn in this verse that this was already their intention. They want to kill Jesus, they just need a reason. They hope today on the Sabbath he gives them a reason. Let’s see what he does.
3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 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.
- He tells the man with the withered hand to come to him, then he addresses the Pharisees. He asks the Pharisees a question that stumps them. He asks if it is lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath. Then to take it a step further and drill it down a little more, he adds to save life or to kill. The Pharisees have no response, so they are silent. What is Jesus saying here?
- He asks them a question that is impossible to answer with the Pharisees view on the law. Remember how they saw the Sabbath. It is a very big deal, and the rules they had added to the Mosaic law were very restrictive. Remember the cow couldn’t even walk 3,000 feet on this day. And for the Pharisees, keeping these ridiculous Sabbath laws meant they were extra holy, they were trying to please God with their extra obedience. So Jesus stumps them when he challenges their additions to the law.
- He asks is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? If the Pharisees answer yes, then they cannot be angry with Jesus for healing this man on the Sabbath. If they say no, then they are saying it is not lawful to do good, which goes against the character of God and his morality. So they either answer yes, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath and abandon their legalistic view of the law, or they answer no, and abandon their morality.
- The same goes for the next part of his question, about doing harm. If they say it is lawful to do harm on the Sabbath, then they are abandoning their morality and the character of God. If they say it is not lawful to do harm on the Sabbath, then they cannot be angry with what Jesus is about to do.
- Jesus drives the nail in further when he elevates the seriousness of the issue to life and death. Is it lawful to save life on the Sabbath, or to kill? The Pharisees are left with the same choices, either admitting their mistake or abandoning their morality.
- Now all the Pharisees had to do was admit they were in the wrong. They just needed to humble themselves, repent, admit that yeah, we have this whole law thing mixed up. We want to obey God and keep his law but we have taken it too far, to the point that we don’t even let good things happen on the Sabbath, in fact we wouldn’t even save someone’s life on the Sabbath because we have made up our own rules. They should have apologized, asked Jesus to heal him and asked him to teach them what it really means to be religious. But they don’t say that. They don’t say anything. They stay silent, because they have no response. They are not willing to humble themselves and admit that they have been wrong all along.
- So what if you were in the position of the Pharisees? We have things in our life, beliefs, views, thoughts, that we hold on to really tightly. There is a certain way we think about something that we will not let go of. It is good to have thoughts and beliefs and views and ideas, but what if we are wrong? What if we come across something in Scripture that challenges our strongly held beliefs, and actually we come to find out that we are wrong? Are you willing to humble yourself and admit that you are wrong, and allow Jesus to correct you and teach you what is right? Or will you hold so strongly to something that you just remain silent and ignore the truth that is presented to you?
- We need to be willing to hold some of our views on things with an open hand. We might be wrong, and that is ok. Don’t be silent like the Pharisees and ignore the issue, humble yourself, repent, admit you’re wrong, and allow Jesus to teach you what is right.
- This is extremely important, because look what happens when Jesus sees that the Pharisees are unwilling to do this.
5 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. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
- Jesus looks at the Pharisees who will not admit they are wrong, and is angry. He looks at them with anger, because he sees how lost they are in their sin. He is grieved, because of their hardness of heart. Their hearts are so hard that they are unwilling to admit their mistake. Unwilling to let Jesus correct their thinking or correct their view. And because of this hardness of heart and unwillingness to admit their mistakes, Jesus looks at them with anger and is grieved.
- So he says to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand.” The man stretches out his hand, and it is restored. And when the Pharisees saw this they left and began to plan out how they were going to kill Jesus.
- This is a pretty intense story. A lot is happening. We have another Sabbath incident, which we know is a big deal to the Jews. We have a confrontation with the Pharisees, a miraculous healing, Jesus gets angry, and this is the first time Jesus’ death is mentioned. This is the first time the Pharisees plans to kill Jesus are talked about. But there is something much bigger going on here. This story is using something from the past to point to something in the future. And we know this by the language Mark uses to tell this story.
- There is a very popular biblical story, not just to us but one that has great significance to Jewish people throughout all of history, that has to do with hardness of heart, and outstretched hand, restoration, and people wanting to destroy God’s chosen agent.
- In Exodus 14 we have the story of Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea, out of Egypt and away from Pharaoh. Remember the story of the Exodus. The Egyptians were oppressing Egypt, so God raised up Moses as a deliverer, to save his people. After God did signs and wonders through Moses, Pharaoh finally decides to let the Israelites go. But after they leave, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he changes his mind, and he chases the Israelites down to destroy them. The Israelites get to the Red Sea, Moses is leading them, and Pharaoh and the Egyptians are on their heals, chasing them down. I’ll read what God tells Moses in Exodus chapter 14, verses 15-18.
“The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel my go through the sea on dry ground. And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
- So in this story God displays his power to someone with a hard heart who intends to destroy his chosen people, and in the process delivers his people and restores them. Now, look back at the story in Mark.
- Jesus shows his power to those whose hearts are hardened and whose intent is to destroy him, God’s chosen deliverer, with an outstretched hand, and through this the man’s hand is restored. Do you see the connection?
- Mark is drawing on the single greatest act of salvation in the Old Testament to describe what Jesus is doing here, and also to point to the new Exodus, the greatest act of salvation ever: Jesus’ death on the cross.
- The man stretching out his hand and it being restored foreshadows the day when Jesus will stretch out his hands to restore all of creation to its creator.
- This sheds light on what Jesus says to the Pharisees as well. The Pharisees have already decided they are going to kill Jesus, they just need to find a way how. Jesus knows this, and so when he takes his statement to the level of life and death, he is piercing right through the Pharisees, because in that moment they are planning on killing him. Is it lawful to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill? While Jesus is saying this the Pharisees are planning, on the Sabbath, to kill Jesus. But what they don’t realize, is that killing Jesus is actually the only way that lives can be truly saved.
- Jesus goes to the cross where his hands are stretched out, and he is destroyed. He is killed. He is killed by men whose hearts are hard. But his death, his destruction, is in fact the only way lives can be saved. The only way true restoration, not just of a man’s hand but of all of creation, can take place.
- This story of Jesus is drawing on the greatest act of salvation in the Old Testament to point to an even greater act of salvation where his hands are outstretched and he is destroyed by those who’s hearts are hardened. He is killed so that lives can be saved and creation can be restored.