Read: Mark 3:1-7
God is serious about the Sabbath, the fourth commandment for those with a checklist. Working from home for nearly 20 years has tainted my personal understanding of Sabbath, something I need to figure out how to fix.
In this passage, Jesus challenges the Pharisees to look beyond the stone tablets, but some are hell bent on missing He who was heaven sent:
Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Mark 3:2
First of all, “some of them” knew that Jesus could heal the man. That alone causes me to pause. It’s not like they were whispering amongst themselves, wondering if He could heal the man, they were wondering if He would.
Secondly, who is “the man with the shriveled hand?” I’m confident that he is not a stranger, someone on a business trip that wandered by the synagogue to catch up on his daily prayer time. No, this man was known by the people, likely an outcast because his “defect” made him just a little less of a man that those standing to accuse Jesus. He came to the synagogue knowing he’d be judged and seen as unworthy–yet he came. I’m not sure I would willingly go to a place where the leaders would look down on me as less than worthy.
Lastly, Jesus knows their thoughts. He could have waited a few minutes and suggested they meet around the corner, at a friend’s house, or anywhere other than right in front of those looking for a reason to fight, but that’s not how our Savior acts:
Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Mark 3:3
The stage is set. Time to learn from the Master. Just before this event, Jesus told the Pharisees:
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28
They didn’t get it. They are so focused on their laws that they lost sight of what The Law was created for. Jesus, knowing their hearts, demonstrates His greater compassion for the man who came to the location where people were supposed to find God, the synagogue, the meeting place to learn and share. As we see time and time again, Jesus goes to these places to speak truth, but find stubborn hearts instead.
Here’s the scary part:
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts… Mark 3:5
Anger and distressed.
The last thing in the world I ever want is to have Jesus look at me in anger or be distressed by my stubborn heart! Just glancing through the Old Testament, things did not go well for those who angered God!
The main lesson we draw from this story is to look at the greater meaning of The Law, the rules by which we live. If we miss this lesson, we risk acting like these leaders in the story, a reality that plays out far too often.
Sadly, I’ve seen this before in modern churches. I remember having lunch with the senior pastor of a church where “some of them” decided he was making poor financial churches. They met amongst themselves to stir up dissention and eventually left the church. In the process, my friend lost his position and relocated. Sad. What’s sadder still is this is not unusual.
Lord, help us to learn from the Pharisees that You show us in scripture. Teach us to avoid being so holy that we can’t even see. Help us to help each other and not become “some of them.” Allow us to see the 500-pound gorilla in the room and have the audacity to call it out! None of us wants to be a Pharisee.