Mark 3:4 And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, or to do evil? to save life or to kill? but they held their peace.
These seem like simple enough questions – pretty straightforward. Jesus was in the synagogue talking with the religious leaders. He asked the questions, but they refused to answer. Why?
Sitting there with them was a man who had a withered hand. He wasn’t there by accident or coincidence – he was a plant. On this Sabbath day, the religious leaders had brought him to Jesus and were waiting to see how Jesus would handle the situation. If they could catch Him on a technicality, perhaps they could stop Him from pushing the walls of their comfort zone.
Jesus already had a reputation – a reputation of compassion, of helping, of meeting people’s needs. Here was a man who needed Jesus’ healing. They wanted to see if Jesus would act true to form and heal the man and, in their eyes, break the Sabbath regulations.
The fourth commandment – “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) The Jewish leaders had carefully defined ‘holy’ down to the number of steps a man could take on the Sabbath. They had regulated and outlined the law of God and God Himself into a list of rules, which they could control. Though they claimed to follow the letter of the law to honor God, the regulations had become a god in themselves. They could adhere to them without ever having to confront the innate wickedness of their own hearts.
Then Jesus showed up – working, walking, talking, outside the box of their religious practice. His question went past the letter of the law to its spirit and forced them to look a the true issue – is it lawful to do good or evil, to save life or kill?
They were silent. They couldn’t answer and stay within the confines of their own regulations. The answer would force them to either deny the validity of their belief in a system without God or to acknowledge that God’s love goes beyond religious duty and reaches to the need of individual human beings.
I have to be careful here. Before I condemn the Pharisees for their self righteousness, I must look at my own heart. Do I become so busy with Christian work that I fail to see the needs of individuals who cross my path. Am I busy checking boxes on my list of good deeds when God wants my heart focused on Him?
Self righteousness is a slippery slope. When I think that I have arrived and that I know how to serve God, I am close to becoming dependent on myself rather than on Him. In reality, the only good in me is Christ in me.
We know the end of the story. Jesus healed the man’s hand. But verse 5 tells us that He looked with anger on those around Him because of the hardness of their hearts. The leaders had traded the love of God for the love of their own importance.
When Jesus healed the man, the leaders felt justified and went on their way to continue their pursuit of Jesus’ demise. Jesus went on His way to continue the work of His Father.
Where does my heart align today? Am I looking for ways to share the Father’s love, or am I living with a critical spirit condemning those who are?
Jesus never let the notions or condemnations of the crowd stop Him from fulfilling His Father’s purpose. Neither should I.
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.