Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
1 Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. 2 Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus' enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man's hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
3 Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, "Come and stand in front of everyone." 4 Then he turned to his critics and asked, "Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?" But they wouldn't answer him.
5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, "Hold out your hand." So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 6 At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.
Jesus visits the place where people gather to learn about God. By choosing to heal the man with the deformed hand, Jesus shows the importance of helping someone in need when it is within our power to do so. Well aware that his actions will bring him into direct conflict with those trying to trap him, Jesus nonetheless chooses to help rather than hide.
Deformed hand (Mark 3:1)
The language used (in the original Greek) indicates that the man's "shrunken and paralyzed"184 hand "was not congenital, but the result of injury by accident or disease."185 For their part, the religious leaders "kept watching"186 Jesus "on the side (or sly)"187 - that is, they were spying on him188 - in hopes of catching him in some wrongdoing. Their main concern was with the law; they had little interest in mercy.189
Rabbinic law went to great lengths to keep the Sabbath holy. Steps could be taken to help someone only if that person's life was in danger. But this man's illness was not life-threatening, and Jesus could easily have waited one more day before healing him. Jesus' response amounted to an assertion that since evil is always working, good can never afford to take a day off.190 Moreover, Jesus' actions showed that God intended the Sabbath to be a blessing rather than a burden.
Good ... evil (Mark 3:4)
Jesus' question regarding doing good versus doing evil and saving life versus killing "closely echoes the very choice that the law itself offers, particularly as expressed in Deut. 30:15 LXX."191 Within its original context, Moses's final speech/sermon (Deuteronomy 29-30) amounted to an urgent plea for faithfulness - an irrevocable commitment to God192 - on the part of Israel, as evidenced by her continued obedience to God's commands. As the embodiment of "God's presence and his Torah," and the one "in whom God's will is fully expressed,"193 Jesus offers the good life that faithfulness to God brings. In choosing to reject Jesus, the religious leaders were in fact rejecting God - and inviting the "death and disaster" (Deuteronomy 30:15, NET) that inevitably accompanies such a decision.194
Notice Jesus' response toward the religious leaders: he felt momentary anger mixed with continuing pity.195 Why? Because they had made themselves hard, callous, blind, and insensitive.196 Rather than compromise his mercy or his mission, Jesus performed the miraculous healing, restoring the man's hand instantly and completely. As one source aptly puts it: "Subsequent treatments or check-ups were not required."197
"Jesus does good and saves life; his opponents plot his destruction."198 Rather than accept the fact that God was present and active in/through Jesus, the religious leaders go so far as to form an alliance with "their bitter enemies"199 in order to get rid of him. In an act of supreme irony, the religious leaders used the Sabbath to plot evil and plan destruction.200
The story is told of a particular legal case that came before the courts of Massachusetts.
In 1928 a man was walking on a boat deck when he tripped and fell into the ocean bay. Unable to swim, he thrashed about, desperately yelling for help.
His friends were too far away to help, but very close by was a young man who happened to be an excellent swimmer. Rather than dive in and help bring the drowning man to safety, however, the young man did nothing.
The family of the drowned man sued the young man - and lost.
With reluctance the court ruled that the bystander had no legal responsibility whatsoever to help the man who had drowned.201
We may not be legally obligated to help someone in need but, in keeping with Jesus' example, we certainly have a moral responsibility to do so. Moreover, this illustration speaks volumes regarding the myriad of spiritually drowning people, their need for the life-saving Gospel, and our obligation to share it with them.
??? Jesus was determined to do good even though it meant the disapproval of influential people. What can we learn from his example in this?
Crowds Follow Jesus
7 Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, 8 Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.
9 Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. 10 He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. 11 And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, "You are the Son of God!" 12 But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.
Jesus' fame has spread far and wide, and people come out in droves to see him. In their eagerness to find relief from their suffering, the needy press in upon Jesus. He heals many of them and sternly warns the demons to remain silent.
They came (Mark 3:7)
While Jesus' reputation was floundering among the religious leaders, it was flourishing among the common folk, as evidenced by both the size and origin of the crowds that came to Jesus.
One source provides the following information regarding the regions from which the crowds came:
Galilee - At this time the land of Palestine was divided into three parts: Galilee, on the north; Samaria, in the middle; and Judea, on the south.
Judea - The southern division of the land of Palestine.
Jerusalem - Jerusalem was "in" Judea. It is mentioned particularly to show that not only the people of the surrounding country came, but also many from the capital, the place of wealth, and honor, and power.
Idumea - The country formerly inhabited by the "Edomites." In the time of the Saviour it was embraced in the country belonging to the Jews. It was south of Judea proper. ... [T]he country of Idumea was bounded by Palestine on the north. During the Babylonian captivity the Edomites spread themselves into the country of Judea, and occupied a considerable part of the south of Palestine. They had, however, submitted to the rite of circumcision, and were incorporated with the Jews. From them sprang Herod the Great.
From beyond Jordan - From the region lying east of the river Jordan. The sacred writers lived on the west side of Jordan, and by the country "beyond Jordan" they meant that on the east side.
Tyre and Sidon - These were cities of Phoenicia, formerly very opulent, and distinguished for merchandise. They were situated on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and were in the western part of Judea. They were therefore well known to the Jews. 202
Not to reveal (Mark 3:12)
Why was Jesus unwilling to accept the testimony of the demons? There are several possible reasons:
The person and the work of the Savior are so holy and exalted that it would not be fitting to allow corrupt, filthy demons to proclaim them.
The title "the Son of God" implied at least that Jesus was the long expected Messiah. However, most of the people conceived of the Messiah in a nationalistic sense: one who could deliver them from the yoke of the foreign oppressor. So, before publicly revealing himself as the Messiah, or allowing himself to be thus proclaimed, Jesus must first make clear the nature of his Messianic office: that he has to suffer and die for the sins of his people, etc. The time to proclaim this publicly, or to have it thus proclaimed, has not as yet arrived.
The scribes were telling the people that Jesus and the demons were allies (Mark 3:22). If, then, Jesus permitted himself to be advertised by demons, would he not seem to be confirming the allegation of these scribes?203
There is also a very practical lesson to be learned here. "The evil (unclean) spirits knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but they had no intention of following him. Many people followed Jesus but didn’t understand his true purpose for coming. Some people came for miracles, some came to hear his teaching, but they didn’t understand the way of the cross. Knowing about Jesus, or even believing that he is God’s Son, does not guarantee salvation. You must also follow and obey him (see also James 2:17)."204
A multi-millionaire once told a struggling would-be minister: "You are going about this all wrong. Why, I could take a tent, put it in the middle of town, start preaching, and soon have more people - and more money - coming in than you could shake a stick at!" Which speaks volumes regarding the nature of people - whether as leaders or followers.
The same crowds that came to witness Jesus' miracles would later abandon him after discovering the demands of true discipleship. Eventually they would turn against him entirely as, at the behest of the jealous religious leaders, they clamored for his crucifixion.
??? Why did large crowds follow after Jesus? How did he react?