25 February 2010

Jesus Is Angered and Grieved by Hard Hearts

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.  Mark 3:1-6

  • Again note the actions of the religious leaders.  Despite going to a place, the synagogue (local Jewish church), where they are to pray and study the Word of God, this is not what was foremost on their minds.  They gathered together to accuse, to condemn.  And they thought this through ahead of time because they were willing to use a handicapped man to do it.  I don't know this for certain, but I doubt the man with the withered hand is well regarded in the town.  Like most men with a condition, they probably looked down on him as cursed.  My guess is the only time they truly regarded him at all was to use him in this "trap" against this upstart rabbi.
  •  By now it is clear that Jesus and the religious class had bumped heads on the Sabbath before.  What is the Sabbath?  The Sabbath was based on when God created the heavens and the earth.  He created the earth in six days, saw that what he created was very good and rested on the seventh day.  The seventh day is the Sabbath.  One of the ten commandments is to "Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy." (godly separate)  After six days of living work as all of life is done for the Lord as they were to love them with all of their strength, they were to rest on the seventh day just as God did when he created the world.  
  • The religious class had turned a beautiful rhythm of life remembrance of God's providence into a weapon of judgment.  The Sabbath would help determine who is pure and righteous and who is not.  But, Jesus taught them concerning the Sabbath, "Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath."  The Sabbath was given by a loving heavenly Father who knew that godly, hard-working people need rest.  
  • But, the world does not stop on the Sabbath.  Some work is necessary.  As Jesus points out, if livestock falls in a hole, the owner would pull it out even if it was on the Sabbath.  Why?  Because if the owner doesn't, the animal would become more harmed to the point of probable death.  Jesus was among us for a short time and his Father was busy working and so Jesus was too.
  • As he often did, Jesus turns the accusations against the accusers.  After calling the man with the withered hand to him, he asks, "Is it lawful to do good or to harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?"
  • They were silent.  They could not answer.  Their hearts were so set on accusing Jesus, they would not be deterred no matter the clear wisdom and logic from the rabbi.  "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does God require of you but to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?"  I used to see these as three separate categories.  But, through Jesus I understand these as three symbiotic requirements of our Father.  We cannot do justice or love kindness without walking humbly with our God.  For God is the author of justice and kindness and if we do not humbly come before him in our ignorance seeking his grace, we are incapable of justice and kindness.
  • Jesus' reaction?  Anger.  He was angry and grieved at their hardness of heart.  They had hearts of stone.  They had not asked God for hearts of flesh.  Yes, it is okay to be angry, but we must be angry for just reasons.  And, we must have the proper reaction.  Jesus did not lash out at the religious leaders who had regarded the man with the withered hand as a mere tool.  He kindly regarded the man with the withered hand as a fellow human being with a need.  Jesus saw the need and met the need.  The religious leaders again confirmed their hard hearts when instead of praising God for the man's healed hand, they met with the political class of Israel to see how they could silence this rabbi Jesus once and for all.
  • All of us who follow Christ, when we see a need, we must meet the need.  What religious reasons do we come up with for not meeting needs?  For not bringing the good news of Jesus to all who need it?  For not working together as one body of Christ in order that those who want healing can have healing?  Am I quick to accuse or eager to help?  Am I quick to condemn or eager to show mercy?  I don't want Jesus angry or grieved with me because of my hardness of heart.

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