So as I mentioned in Mark 2:23-28, this is the public demonstration of what Jesus has been trying to say to the Pharisees. It happens again, in the synagogue. Again, before all the people – who, remember in chapter 1 had been in awe of Jesus’ authority. But now, because Jesus has been dealing with their hearts and motives, the church leaders and some others are on the defensive, and looking for a flaw in Jesus, a weak point. And in a way, they find it. It’s Jesus complete and compassionate love.
“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 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 it?’ But they kept silent.”
So they (who are they? The Pharisees, the people who have a problem with the places Jesus goes, the type of people He spends time with) are watching Jesus, just looking for something they can use to accuse Him of wrong. And things have not changed much: People continue to watch Christians all the time to find fault. And sadly, instead of finding weakness in our walk in the same way as Jesus here… who loved people too much, put people above customs and doing good above being politically correct…. well, often our accusers find us being the opposite. Saying we love others, and then neglecting them and ignoring people’s needs. Oh Lord, help us walk more like You! Where You stood strong in the face of the crowd and spoke the truth – and You didn’t falter in showing kindness to this needy man! The next verse cuts to the root of the problem, and should cut into our shortcomings:
“And when He 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.”
There is a warning here I don’t want to miss: when we make the ideals, images, customs, policies, or church politics of more importance than people’s needs, you risk 2 things: 1) a hardened heart
2) Jesus’ anger
As soon as we forget the individual each and every person that Jesus gave His life for on the cross, we harden our hearts. I watched a pottery demonstration once where the lady talked about a hardened clay pot. The only way to fix it was to shatter it in pieces and soak it in water. I take this as a serious warning not to harden my heart. And I don’t just mean hardened against God – those pots (people) need re-making in the same way. But hardness can come when we are supposed to reach out and show Jesus’ love to other, and we ignore, and don’t do it. But the good news is, our unmoving, selfish attitudes will not stop Jesus from doing His work. It will just determine if we are a part of it, or standing against it. Remember the point Jesus has been making – it’s not your religious customs and policies! It’s your hearts and minds – and it’s people’s souls. These ‘hardened hearts’ that angered God were not the partying, worldly unbelieving heathens. These were the people who claimed to know God! And this is so important to get because we have the same thing continuing to happen now.
I don’t want to be standing against Jesus like these:
“Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.”
Over what? Over Jesus putting the people first. Because their hearts were hardened. They were not on Jesus’ side, they were completely against Him.
1 John 3:16-18 says:
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
Are you for Jesus?