Religious critics are never satisfied. Satisfy them on one level and they introduce three other standards which ‘just came to their mind.’ The Pharisees in the first century were becoming more and more ‘legally frustrated’ with this One who seemed to have such freedom.
They took the law seriously, especially when it came to others. They knew the standards and lived their lives watching for violators, especially a Messiah figure who was gaining in popularity. And soon they found Jesus crossing the line again!
Into the synagogue Jesus went, on the Sabbath day, and finding a man with a shrivelled hand saw an opportunity to do good, to save life even though many would be offended. Sabbath breaker or sacred healer – who was this new leader in town? Jesus, taking the lead, without waiting for their caustic comments, pressed his critics with a question. “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” You can only imagine the responses they were tempted to give, but they remained silent. Of course, good was better than evil. Of course saving lives would be something God himself would approve of even on this day.
Today’s Messiah was not ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…” Can we stop with the weak, passive, ‘nice’ portrayals of Jesus and accurately reflect this men’s man, fully divine and fully human, someone the world had never encountered before his Incarnation.
“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts,” performed a miracle within their presence. What makes God the Son angry? What nitpicking religious activity should we eradicate from our hearts lest we too be described as ‘stubborn?’ Where have we refused to allow God to be God, and instead have boxed him within our religious systems and dogmas, if that were even possible?
May the Son set us free and may we be free indeed, not bound with some self-imposed religious rules which have entrapped us into 21st century legalism. Let’s not back into our positions in fear or reaction to other groups who have misunderstood or misapplied the core doctrines and practices of the genuine Christian faith. Instead, let’s welcome Jesus Christ into our lives, our homes, our places of worship and yield to him as the Miracle-working God-in-Human-form that He is.
At the end of the account in Mark 3:1-6, the author makes no mention of the man who was healed, the man whose life, at least physically, was altered on that day. You can only imagine his testimony as he headed home from worship. ‘I met the Master. I encountered Jesus. He touched me!’ Instead, Mark, guided by the Spirit of God as he pens this gospel account notes the plotting of Pharisees who join with the Herodians that they might together kill Jesus.