The Text: Mark 3:1-12 – And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath Day; so that they might accuse Him. And He says to the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.” And He says to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or to do evil? To save a life, or to kill?” But they held their peace.
And having looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for their hardness of hearts, He says to the man, “Stretch forth your hand.” And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
And the Pharisees went forth, and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him. But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan, and a great multitude of those around Tyre and Sidon, when they had heard what great things He did, came to Him.
And He spoke to His disciples, so that a small ship should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him. Because He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed on Him in order to touch Him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying “You are the Son of God.” And He strictly charged them that they should not make Him known.
The King who has been announcing His coming Kingdom has already conquered some of the knights of the Kingdom of Darkness. But lately, as He’s trying to prepare people for His impending rule, a group of religious leaders—spokesmen for the way things are—have been growing bolder and bolder in opposing Him. The King has been relatively patient with them, all things considered, but that ends today.
The Text, part 1 – Getting Jesus Angry (Mark 3:1-5).
When we consider Jesus and His personality, most often we think of His caring, kindness, and compassion. We think of His helping the helpless, lifting the fallen, caring for the heartbroken. We don’t usually think of Him staring down a group of people with anger in His eyes—but that is what Mark paints for us in this passage.
He entered again into the synagogue
We mentioned this several lessons ago, but Jesus made it a point to meet in the synagogue each Sabbath Day. This serves as an example for us: make the time to meet together each week for worship to God.
There was a man there who had a withered hand.
Luke tells us that it was the man’s right hand that was withered (Luke 6:6). The Greek indicates that he was not born this way, but that it was withered as the result of something else, either a disease or an injury (Vincent’s Word Studies, and Robertson’s Word Pictures). The word “withered” means that his hand had shriveled up due to a lack of moisture and nutrients, and became completely unusable.
Think about the horrible situation this man must have been in. In a time when most people did manual labor to support their family, this man couldn’t. He couldn’t hold the plow, couldn’t hoe the ground, couldn’t hammer nails (you need a hand to hold the nail in place)—he couldn’t even sweep the floor. Perhaps he had sons who could help with the work to support the family, but we don’t know that for certain. It’s just as likely that this man was in dire straits, feeling like a failure because he wasn’t able to do what a man is expected to do—provide for his own.
They [the Pharisees] watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath Day, so that they might accuse Him.
The Pharisees, the ones who have been stirring up trouble, trying to call Jesus into question on seemingly everything He does, sat in the synagogue—not to hear the word of God proclaimed, but because they were trying to find something that they could use against the preacher. What a horrible attitude to have!
It seems that as irritated with Jesus as the Pharisees were, they knew that they had been beaten in trying to find things to use against Him earlier. Otherwise, they would have already been satisfied with the evidence they had to accuse Him. But this, they believed, was the prime opportunity—healing a man must be considered working; therefore it cannot be done on the Sabbath!
Now a quick question: why are you here? What is it that you are focused on? Is it on trying to criticize people: the prayer leaders, the song leader, or the preacher? Or is your focus on worshiping God and trying to be right with Him? Because the man leading the prayer is going to occasionally mis-speak or stumble over words. The song leader will sometimes get the song too high or too low or get mixed up on the verses or words. The preacher, too, will sometimes say the wrong book, chapter, or verse, or will get his words mixed up. If being critical is what you’re here for, you will find something, because we aren’t perfect. But by the same token, if you are here to worship God, and have your focus on Him, His will, and on how you can be a better Christian, then you will be blessed by the songs, prayers, and sermons on the Lord’s Day.
He says to the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”
Jesus didn’t do this miracle in a corner, hidden away from everyone else. He wanted the crowd to see what was about to happen. Some people might say that this is a contradiction of Jesus’ command to do your alms in secret (Matthew 6:1-4). But the purpose of Jesus doing this miracle was to cause people to believe in Him and listen to His message. Whereas, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed His disciples to help people for the sake of helping them, not because it made you look more spiritual, drawing praise from men.
So, He commands the man to stand up.
And He says to them
He’s now turned His attention, for a moment, from the man to the Pharisees, whom He knows are trying to be critical of Him and find something to accuse Him of.
“Is it lawful on the Sabbath Day to do good, or to do evil?”
Jesus isn’t asking them if it’s permissible to do anything on the Sabbath, but presenting to them two options. All the Pharisees would agree that not everything is forbidden on the Sabbath Day, so that means some things are allowed. The question to them is: What does the Law allow on the Sabbath—good deeds or evil deeds? There was nothing they could do to get around this question. Obviously, the Law never permitted evil to be done, so that wasn’t the answer.
At the same time, as Jesus asks this question, He’s laying some groundwork for what He’s about to do. He could not perform a miracle, healing this man of his withered hand, except through the power of God. And if Jesus heals the man, it shows that God approves of doing good on the Sabbath—in other words, it would prove Jesus right and undermine the foundation of the Pharisees’ thinking.
“Is it lawful on the Sabbath Day…to save a life or to kill?”
It was obvious to all that were there, especially when Jesus told the man to stand up, that He planned on healing this poor man. Jesus began His question to the Pharisees with just a general “is it lawful to do good or to do evil?” But now He takes His question to the extreme, “Is it lawful to save a life or to kill?” Most rational people (even among the Pharisees) would admit that it was permissible to save a life (regardless of how much work it would take) on the Sabbath. The man with the withered hand was a case that certainly fell between simply “doing good” and “saving a life.” Thus, Jesus proved His point.
But it is also interesting that Jesus proposed to do good on the Sabbath, while the Pharisees were thinking evil, trying to take mental notes so that they could make accusations against Him later. And after this incident, as we will see momentarily, they started making plans to kill Jesus that very Sabbath.
But they held their peace.
The answer to the question was so clear, so obvious, but they refused to answer because it would incriminate them, their motives, and their teachings. Just like when Jesus asked them later about the baptism of John, they refused to give an answer because they would look bad either way.
Matthew records Jesus asking another question: “What man will there be among you, that will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath Day, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much then is a man better than sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath Days” (Matthew 12:11-12). The Pharisees would absolutely save their sheep on the Sabbath, but they wanted to hold Jesus to a different standard than they were willing to hold themselves.
How often do we see this happen in families, in our jobs, and even in the church? Look, let’s make this abundantly clear—we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and held to the STANDARD, and that is the Word of God. If we are faithful to God’s word, then we will be saved, regardless of whether we match up with someone else’s standard or not. It’s like the preacher who was told by a member, “I don’t have to visit, but you’ll be fired if you don’t.” And Jesus has some words for people who are like that: “Do not judge [condemn], so that you will not be judged [condemned], for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2). When you start making demands of others, yet don’t follow them yourself, you are a hypocrite; and at the judgment, you will be judged by God in the same way that you have judged others.
And having looked around at them…
The word here is a form of periblepo, which means not just looking at them, but looking around at them, making sure he looked at every one of them. And this word doesn’t just express the fact that He looked at them all, but that He looked at each one of them for Himself. He looked at their faces, confirming what He already knew. Some probably stubbornly looked at him without a word, while others probably glanced away or looked down so they didn’t have to meet His eyes.
Picture the face of Jesus with the scowl, the angry fire in His eyes as He looks at each of these men who had their own disciples, but weren’t willing to answer a relatively simple and obvious question. Mark tells us exactly what it was that made Jesus angry.
Being grieved because of their hardness of heart
People who were sincere and honestly wrong, Jesus and the apostles had patience with; but the Pharisees weren’t sincere, nor were they honestly wrong (as in simply mistaken). They were intentionally stubborn, recognizing the truth of what Jesus said, but unwilling to admit it or live by it. They were more interested in their position as leaders than they were in doing what was right. They liked the power and weren’t about to give any of it up, even though they were about as ungodly as one can be.
This attitude of stubbornness angered our Lord and Savior then, and brethren, it still angers Him today. There are members who have the attitude of criticism toward others. There are members who stubbornly reject commands of Jesus because they simply don’t feel like following them (mostly attitude ones). And if anyone dares point that out to them, watch out! My friends, that is the hardness of heart that made Jesus angry—and you do not want the Judge of the world to be angry with you!
He says to the man, “Stretch forth your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other.
After making His point to the Pharisees (and the other people in the room certainly caught it as well), Jesus went ahead and healed the man. If, as many believe, this man’s hand was withered to the point that his arm was also affected, then Jesus asked him to do something that he hadn’t been able to do in some time, but the man, in faith, tried, and discovered that his hand had been completely healed! What joy was on that man’s face and in his heart! What amazement there was among the honest people in that synagogue! But not everyone was happy…
The Text, part 2 – Getting Angry at Jesus (Mark 3:6)
Jesus got angry with the Pharisees because they were hard-hearted. The Pharisees, in return, got angry with Jesus. Why? Because they couldn’t control His every move. Because He dared to point out their traditions weren’t Scripture. Because he wouldn’t cater to their self-centered whims. And because people were happy with Jesus’ life and work—the Pharisees were losing some of their power over people.
And the Pharisees went forth and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Just how angry were the Pharisees? They were so angry that they immediately contemplated murder. They were so angry that Luke describes them as “filled with madness” (Luke 6:11), or perhaps more literally, “filled with insanity.” They were so angry that they went to their political enemies, seeking to work together to destroy Jesus. The Herodians were a sect of the Jews who were very enthusiastic supporters of the Roman government, specifically of the Herods who had ruled over them (for Rome) for the previous several decades.
But when you dislike someone and you’re trying to get rid of him, it doesn’t really matter to you how you do it, so long as you can actually get it done.
The Text, part 3 – Continuing to Work (Mark 3:7-12)
Even though Jesus knew what was on the minds of the Pharisees, He didn’t let that stop Him from doing the good that He came to do. Even when we might be persecuted by Satan and his minions (yes, sometimes that even includes members of the church), we can’t let that stop us from doing the work of God—that’s what Satan wants!
But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him
The Pharisees went out, discussing how to get rid of Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus went out, continuing to work for God. His fame had spread throughout all of Galilee (most of the events in Mark up to this point took place there), and so it’s no surprise that huge numbers came out to see Him and hear Him and ask for healing from Him.
And from Judea
This is the southern portion of the Promised Land, where Jesus had spent some time baptizing people (through His disciples) back in John 3-4.
And from Jerusalem
The people following Jesus were not just the smaller towns and villages of Judea, but some were from the capital city of Jerusalem itself!
And from Idumaea
Idumaea is the land of Edom, descendants of Esau. About 150-200 years prior to this event, a Jew named John Hyrcanus took over and reigned as king over the Jews. One of the things he did was force the Edomites to either submit to circumcision and become Jews or die. So, while these weren’t pure-blooded Jews, they were related, and had been proselytized to Judaism.
And from beyond Jordan
The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh took up residence on the eastern side of the Jordan River when they came to the Promised Land. Even hundreds of years later, by the time Jesus arrived on the scene, there were still Israelites that lived there.
And those around Tyre and Sidon
These cities were to the north-west of the Sea of Galilee. Tyre was destroyed in part by Nebuchadnezzar, and then the job was finished by Alexander the Great. But there were still Jews that lived in that general area.
A great multitude
There was a great multitude from Galilee, and a great multitude from these other areas, which covers practically the entire area that God had promised to the Israelites in the Old Testament. This was an enormous group of people coming to Jesus.
When they heard what great things He did, came to Him
They heard about the great works Jesus was doing, and they wanted to come to Him and see for themselves, and to receive some of the same healings. To an extent, we can look to this as an evangelistic outreach—when we do things for other people, word spreads.
And He spoke to His disciples, so that a small ship should wait on Him, because of the multitude, lest they should thong Him.
There were so many people coming and crowding around Jesus that He needed a way of escape to keep from being thronged—Thayer says the word means pressed like a grape. It wasn’t Jesus’ time to die, and being crushed to death by His followers didn’t exactly fit with the prophecies of the Old Testament.
Sometimes, we need to get away for a little while. Sometimes we’ve got so much going on, so many people wanting part of our time, that we need to have a way to get away from it all, our own “small ship,” so to speak. Because it we don’t, we could find ourselves crushed, and lose our ability to bear fruit for the Lord.
Because He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed on Him to touch Him, as many as had plagues.
Literally, they were rushing on Him, crowding Him, shoving at each other in an effort to get to Him and touch Him, in the hopes that by doing so, their sicknesses would be removed. They had seen/heard others that were healed, and they wanted it too!
And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him
Matthew 12:15 says that Jesus healed everyone that came to Him, so Mark is probably talking about the demon-possessed people falling down before Jesus because of the demons inside them recognizing Him. As James tells us, “the demons also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).
And they cried, saying, “You are the Son of God.”
These demons must have known that they were about to be cast out, and so they tried to do what they could to hamper Jesus’ work. If the crowd was close to crushing Jesus to begin with, how much more so do you think it would get if they caught wind that Jesus was not just a man sent by God, but was in fact very the Son of God?
And Jesus strictly charged them that they should not make Him known.
The way it is written in Mark makes it seem like He’s telling the demons not to make Jesus known, but He’s actually talking to the people, the great multitudes that came to Him, whom He healed. We know this because of Matthew’s account—Jesus healed them all, which would include the demon-possessed people. Therefore, those demons would have been cast into the abyss (Luke 8:31), and not had the opportunity to make Him known. Also, in Matthew’s account, the demons aren’t mentioned, and Jesus “charged them [the people who were healed] that they should not make Him known.” (Matthew 12:15-16).
Jesus didn’t want the talk of the miracles to spread even further, because there was already a dangerously-sized crowd mobbing Him. It was already to the point where everyone was primarily interested in the miracles—not in the message that Jesus had to speak. Jesus didn’t want that trend to continue and perhaps grow even worse.
It would be, I would think, incredibly difficult to keep it to yourself if you’d been healed, though. But like some other commands, Jesus still expects us to follow them, even if they are difficult. That’s why He said the words “Be thou faithful unto death—[even if it means dying]—and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Helping Others Get Back to Work
Jesus had compassion on a man whose physical ailment kept him from being able to work. It was in His power to fix the problem, to help the man, and so He did. If we have it within our power to help someone to be able to work, to support themselves and their family, then we ought to also have compassion on them enough to offer that help. It could be something as simple as giving someone a ride to fill out an application, or making a phone call to a friend who might be looking to hire someone. But take compassion on those who can’t work.
It’s Okay to be Angry
Jesus was angry, yet He didn’t sin. His anger stemmed from the sinful attitude of the Pharisees—the religious leaders of the day. They were continually looking for things to throw at Him—even though those things weren’t sinful. It made Him angry when their hard-heartedness kept them from admitting the truth. It made Him angry when they were looking for reasons to criticize Him instead of seeing that God approved of His actions and teachings through the miracles.
As a side note, Jesus also shows that there’s never a wrong time to do good for others.
Jesus did a good deed in healing that man, but the greatest thing He ever did was dying on the cross, taking with Him the sins of all of God’s faithful followers. That sacrifice is meant for me and for you, but only if we come to Jesus in faithful obedience, believing in Him, repenting of our sins, and being baptized. Then we must continue to grow, staying true to Him, even during the difficult times. When we mess up as one of God’s children, we come to Him in prayer, seeking forgiveness. Won’t you come take hold of that precious gift of salvation today?