Read Mark 3:1-6
The Pharisees had turned following God into following rules. A person’s attitude towards the rules (the law) reflected their attitude towards God. They believed that if they could only follow every rule then they would be right before God. The fact is they were kind of right – but the problem was they were also wrong. If a person never sinned, never broke the law, either in action or in thought – then before God they would be righteous, but the fact is all (that is everyone who has ever lived) has sinned, has committed an act of rebellion against God and it doesn’t matter how hard we try to make it right on our own, God’s book tells us that because we rejected God we are his enemy.
The law was always intended to point the people towards God, yet the Pharisees had turned the law into God. This just didn’t make sense to Jesus. One Sabbath, as Jesus heads to the Synagogue he notices a man with a shrivelled, withered hand. In a culture where if you didn’t work you were considered worthless, where a disability was considered a curse from God, where your hands were your ability to work – this man was an outcast. At best he would have been considered a burden upon his family, but more than likely he would have been abandoned; left to depend on the generosity of strangers and passer-by’s.
Yet Jesus did not see cripple or burden, he did not see a man cursed by God, but simply a man. Jesus was never naïve; he was deeply aware that if he showed love and compassion to this man that he would be condemned by the religious teachers present. This is what I like about Jesus – when confronted with evil – he never shied away, he could have done it in secret, he could have asked the man to come back the next day and he would heal him on a day that was not the Sabbath, but instead he told the man to stand up in front of everyone.
With anger burning in his eyes, Jesus turns to the ones so desperate to condemn him and asks, ‘what is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to kill?’, and leaving the question to condemn those so desperate to condemn him, with his next sentence he offers the man life. ‘Stretch out your hand’ and the man who lived as an outcast, spurned and rejected by the rest of Jewish society had his life returned to him. In that instant his hand was made well. Yet also in that instant Jesus’ fate was sealed. There’s no mistaking the fact that according to Mark it was at this point that the religious leaders began to make plans to see Jesus dead.
Jesus’ offer of a new life, new hope to a man crippled by a disability lead to plans for his death. The great sadness was this wasn’t the only man with a disability that morning. Surrounding Jesus, the religious leaders so quick to condemn, each had their own disability, a spiritual disability. Their thoughts, actions and teachings prevented them from coming to a full knowledge of who Jesus really was and what he offered. One man left that morning completely healed, yet the Pharisees, crippled by a spiritual blindness left as crippled as they had come.
- What stood out for you in today’s story? Do you have any questions?
- Can you think of a time when you have chosen to do the right thing even though it made you unpopular with other people?
- Can you think of other times that Jesus upset the religious people by not following their rules?
- What do you think Jesus meant by “what is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to kill?”
- Who could you bless this week by living generously through your words or actions?
Pray For Each Other
If you get a chance during the day or later in the week, catch up Mark 3:7-12 because tomorrow we continue to Mark 3:13