Mark 3:4-6 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. 5 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. NKJV
The story of the man with the withered hand in Mark 3 has always fascinated me, as it is Mark who tells us how Jesus reacted to the hard hearts and closed minds of the Pharisees. Their traditions about the Sabbath forbade any one doing good on the Sabbath, as this would be work. One could only do that which was absolutely necessary, and in determining what was absolutely necessary, they made all kinds of laws and restrictions that put limits on what a man or woman could do.
Jesus asks a question of them, which they refused to answer. Is it right to show mercy on the Sabbath day? Is it lawful to do good? Is it lawful to help someone, or not? Their traditions said that it was not lawful. Their traditions forbade doing what is good. The man with the withered hand would need to continue to suffer, as far as they were concerned.
We today have a problem understanding that, but the Pharisees felt that rigid adherence to the traditions they set down would guarantee them a place with God. And, they looked at the spiritual side with the emphasis they should have – but their interests were not spiritual things, but with maintaining their traditions.
Jesus looked at all of these with anger. It was not anger born of revenge, or retaliation. It was anger born out of a zeal for God’s honor, for God’s laws. While they emphasized the Sabbath, and believed that man was born or made for the Sabbath, it is our Lord who helps us to see that just the opposite is true. And it is here that we can see a difference between the anger that we often manifest and the anger that Jesus manifested. Jesus was not out to get revenge from these people. He was angry for God! When He cleansed the temple, He was angry that men had made the worship of God a moneymaking enterprise, and were hindering good people from worshipping God. Here, He was angry because their traditions hindered a man from being healed – their traditions hindered anyone from doing good, just because it was the Sabbath day.
How often are we angry for the right reasons? How often are we angry because God’s honor has been attacked? We get angry today for so many different things – yet are we angry for the right reasons? Are we angry that homosexuals have hijacked the Bible and trying to make God say that their lifestyle is right? Are we angry at the false teachers who teach
things contrary to the Bible, while making money hand over fist? Are we angry at false teachers who teach less than the Bible demands for a person to be saved? What about worship? Are we angry at the ways man has distorted and despised God’s way for their own? Are we angry at the killing of multiplied MILLIONS of innocent babies for the sake of reproductive freedom? Are we angry about those who try to change God’s marriage laws regarding one man for one woman? Are we angry because there is still suffering in the world, and oppression? Are we angry for the right reasons?
Jesus loved God above all else – and He was distressed and irritated on account of the wrongs done to God by sins and sinners. Do we love God in that same way?
Notice that Jesus was grieved at the hardness of their hearts. Man’s heart can be hardened by so many things – but in the context here it was by sin and by traditions. Traditions contrary to the Word of God. One of the greatest dangers in the world we face is becoming hard hearted by sin. We can become so hard hearted that our consciences become seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). We can know truth, but still turn against it and allow hard hearts to forever spurn the truth for something that is more palatable, and easier for us to swallow. Pharaoh did and lost it all! Stubborn, wicked pride! I pray that none of us may become so hard. I pray that I never become this hard.
May we learn to be angry at the right things, and grieved at the right things. May we be more like Jesus! Shalom, Tommy