Lessons 41 & 43—November 16 & 30, 2014
Sabbath Healing and War Breaks Out
Scripture: Mark 3:1-6; Matthew 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11
To understand that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and He will not be bound by Pharisaical legalism and traditions.
As we begin today’s lesson, I believe it will be helpful to hear from The Believer’s Bible Commentary concerning our Lord’s word on the subject of the Sabbath in the final two verses of Mark chapter two:
Our Lord closed His discourse by reminding the Pharisees that the Sabbath was instituted by God for man’s benefit, not for his bondage. Jesus added, “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Certainly the Sabbath was never intended to prohibit works of necessity or deeds of mercy. Christians are not obligated to keep the Sabbath. That day was given to the nation of Israel. The distinctive day of Christianity is the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Sunday).
• Why do we worship and find spiritual refreshment on Sunday as opposed to the Jewish Sabbath or Saturday?
As we pick up with today’s Scripture, Jesus’ final words in Mark chapter two must have further enraged the Pharisees. Jesus had used the word “Lord,” which is the Old Testament equivalent of “Jehovah.” Jesus pronounced Himself “Lord of the Sabbath.” In this one statement, Jesus blew away any and all arguments over all the “countless petty rules and restrictions that they [Pharisees] had erected allegedly to protect it. As the Lord of the Sabbath, He could do what He liked with it” (Phillips).
In Mark 3:1, Jesus is back in the synagogue. Luke states, “Now it happened on another Sabbath…” (Luke 6:1). Present on this Sabbath day in the synagogue is a man with a “withered” hand. The original word used literally means “a withered, dried out state, which may mean it was the result of injury by accident or disease” (Rienecker). This man’s hand was probably paralyzed and useless.
The synagogue is most likely the one of Capernaum in Galilee. This synagogue had already been a battleground for the Pharisees, because Jesus had healed here on other occasions; but He enters the synagogue now on the “Sabbath.”
(V2) “So they (Pharisees) watched Him closely.”
“Watched” is a very interesting word. The Greek “paratareo” means “to observe from the side, to observe minutely, watching movements.” The Pharisees were watching Jesus. They were carefully watching everything about this scene.
“The Pharisees did not see a man in need; they only saw an opportunity to accuse Jesus as a Sabbath breaker. In the Pharisees’ minds, it was more important for them to protect their laws than to free a person from suffering” (Barton).
For the Pharisees, it was not so much an issue of healing, but it was a tremendous issue of when the healing occurred (on the Sabbath). In the Pharisees’ minds, the rules and regulations of the Sabbath took priority over the need of the man with the withered hand. Their zeal for the oral traditions and legalisms of the law was more important to them than this man’s needs; they felt he could be healed the next day just as easily as on the Sabbath day.
So the Pharisees watched! They were waiting for Jesus, and this time they were ready. In their minds they had “The Law” on their side. They were watching and waiting, for under the Mosaic Law profaning the Sabbath was a capital offense (see Numbers 15:32-36). What would Jesus do?
• In your own words, please explain why the Pharisees were “missing it.”
• Has there ever been a time in your life when you “missed it”? Please prayerfully explain.
(V3) “And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Luke tells us that Jesus knew the thoughts of the Pharisees before they spoke a word or asked a question. Not only did Jesus know their thoughts, He understood their motives. It seems that as the man steps up to Jesus, the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12:10).
With this question, they have placed the bait carefully before Jesus. They are about to spring their legalistic trap. For the Pharisees knew that the tradition and laws made plain that only in life-threatening situations can healing be done on the Sabbath. “God’s law prohibited work on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 31: 14-17). Thus, the religious leaders allowed no healing to be done on the Sabbath, unless the person’s life was in danger. Healing, they argued, was practicing medicine, and a person could not practice his or her profession on the Sabbath” (Barton).
It is very helpful to look at the dialogue and the situation through the writings of all three of the gospel writers, Mark, Matthew and Luke. Jesus’ response begins with a question directed to the Pharisees: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
This is a very profound question with a very commonsense application. The answer to Jesus’ question was very obvious. The point was that it is not lawful to do evil, or commit murder, on the Sabbath or any other day. Just as evil should not be done on the Sabbath or any other day. Thus Jesus’ point is that when it comes to doing good, or to saving a life, the day matters not, even the Sabbath.
Jesus continues with a very practical application. Matthew gives Jesus’ response in Matthew 12:11-12. He further answers their question by referring to their own practices concerning if one of their animals were in need or jeopardy on the Sabbath. How would they respond?
They would be willing to help an animal in need, but their legalistic
traditions would not allow for a man to be healed on the Sabbath (V10).
Matthew 12:12 is a very important and interesting verse. In it we find one of those rich and wonderful nuggets of Scripture: “Of how much more value then is man than a sheep?” Jesus knew that if they had a sheep fall into a pit, they would pull it out (rescue), even on the Sabbath. They might even describe their own actions as a work of mercy. Jesus uses another word with great meaning. This word is “value.” The Pharisees could value the worth of a sheep that needed help, even on the Sabbath, but they could not see the “value” of a man in need. Jesus tells them that the mercy they are willing to show to a sheep they are not willing to show a man who is of greater value than a sheep, for the man is made in the very image of God.
In chapter 3, verse 4, Mark tells us the response of these Pharisees: “But they kept silent.”
In An Exposition of the Four Gospels, Herschel Hobbs expounds: “So the Pharisees were caught on the horns of a Sabbath dilemma. To answer either way would be to incriminate themselves. So they kept silent” (imperfect tense meaning “and continued” to keep silent).
(V5) “And when He had looked around them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts…” The word “looked” is actually an aorist participle in the Greek, which means it was one long, continuous, unbroken stare. “The word for ‘anger’ is a word used for God’s abiding opposition to evil. At the very same moment, Jesus’ anger was tempered with grief ‘for the hardness of their hearts. The present tense of ‘being grieved’ means that this was an abiding state of Jesus’ heart” (Hobbs).
The hardness “porosis” means a state of moral ossification (the hardening of a soft tissue (muscle) into a hard state or substance (bone)). The word porosis was also used for a kind of marble.
We should recognize a very important point from this verse. In spite of all the trouble the Pharisees were causing Jesus, with much more to come, and although Jesus was angry because of their legalistic blindness, He was grieved for them. These Pharisees (Jews) were the very ones which Jesus wrote about in John 1:11. They would not receive Him—The Messiah. They simply wanted to put the new wine in old wineskins. They wanted to place Jesus under their self-made rules, regulations and legalism. New wine could not be placed in old wineskins (see Mark 2:22).
(V5) “He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.” Notice that Doctor Luke tells us it was his right hand that was withered (Luke 6:1).
While this dialogue has been going on, notice what the man with the withered hand has been doing—Obeying Jesus!
“Step forward” (Mark 3:3).
“Arise and stand here” (Luke 6:8).
“Stretch out your hand” (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).
“AND HE DID SO.”
• What need do you have in your life? What need do you bring to Jesus today?
These man with the withered hand demonstrated a sincere, simple, no-questions-asked obedience to Jesus. This man was seen by the Pharisees as their means to trap Jesus concerning rules and regulations of the Sabbath. He was seen by the Pharisees as exhibit A to be used as bait to trap Jesus. But Jesus saw him as a man in need. Jesus healed him. “And his hand was restored as whole as the other.”
Jesus was not about to be intimidated by the Pharisees who were bound by their own rules, regulations and traditions. For Jesus, not to do good on the Sabbath was to do evil. Jesus healed the man.
• How can a person become a slave to legalism of their own making?
From this point on, in the life and ministry of Jesus, the Pharisees have one agenda—“destroy Him.”
(V6) “The Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him.” This is Mark’s first mention of the Heriodians. There were several influential Judaic religious parties operating in the first century. Either religious or political in their primary emphasis, the more influential of these were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Herodians and Zealots. The Herodians, along with the Zealots, were principally political in nature. Herodians were Jews who profited by the rule of the Herods, through political and economic interests. Because of their loyalties to Herod, who himself was a puppet ruler under the Romans, the Herodians were enemies of the Pharisees. But now the battle lines are drawn against Jesus. The Pharisees are willing to go to any lengths and take any measures to destroy Him.
“The opposition of the Pharisees was no longer veiled but open. They were determined to put Jesus to death and were soliciting help from other parties in the nation to accomplish their goals” (Pentecost).
Questions for Thought, Prayer and Mediation
• Why did Jesus healing a man with a withered hand strike such a nerve with the Pharisees?
Having learned the history in the lessons of the past weeks, please answer this question.
• What’s the big deal about putting new wine into old wineskins?