The Set Up

“And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.”—Mark 3:1 (NKJV)

Mark’s record of Christ’s earthly ministry continues on, and we’re starting to see a definite theme emerge. Jesus introduced something refreshing, wonderful, and powerful that people were responding to. Here was somebody who represented God in a real way. He spoke with a wisdom and authority that none of their spiritual leaders did. He actually answered some of the deepest and dogged questions of the soul. And He also touched lives in a miraculous manner that made Him impossible to ignore. Seeing and hearing Him had become a must!

But not everyone was happy. Namely, the religious rulers who had suddenly become somewhat irrelevant. With Jesus commanding everyone’s attention, their influence diminished. Not only that, but He actually contradicted many ideas and practices the religious establishment taught as essentials! The emerging theme was conflict. Jesus wouldn’t fit into the box the religious rulers had hoped He would. It became clear their differences were irreconcilable, and Jesus posed a threat to their ability to lead and control the people.

That brings us to today’s verse above. Jesus is about to teach in the synagogue, which was their version of “church,” and a man shows up whose hand needs to be healed. Sounds like a perfect Sunday School moment, doesn’t it? But that’s not what’s happening here! This all happened on the Sabbath Day, which meant people were prohibited from “working.” It also seems clear that in an attempt to incriminate Christ, they essentially used this man’s disability as bait to see if Jesus would heal him or “work,” thereby breaking the Sabbath Day law.

The next verse eliminates all doubt about their motives in this: “So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him” (Mark 3:2 NKJV). What a travesty! The religious elites had become so focused on preserving their self-interests that they turned a blind eye to this man’s need to be healed. He only mattered to them insofar as he could be used as “evidence” against Jesus as a “Sabbath breaker!” You don’t have to look long or hard to see the spiritual injustice in this.

We’ll focus on Christ’s response to all of this tomorrow, but for today we need to stop and consider something profound here. These religious rulers were well versed in the Scriptures. It’s most likely that any one of them could out quote anyone reading this right now. But in this immense knowledge there was a false security. Knowing what the Bible says does not guarantee an understanding of what it means. They knew what God’s Word said, but totally missed its meaning and His heart.

Let’s be on guard against going anywhere near that! Let’s study the Scriptures, but with a humble heart that understands we need the assistance of God’s Spirit to reveal its true meaning and bearing on our lives.

PAUSE: What chilling reality do the religious rulers reveal to us?

PRACTICE: Avoid the example of the religious elitists of Jesus’ day by asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in your reading and study of the Bible.

PRAY: Father, may Your Word be used to bring us closer to You and Your heart. Protect us from praise and false security in simply knowing what it says. Amen.

About the Author

Dan Hickling