The Challenge

“And He said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Step forward.’”—Mark 3:3 (NKJV)

To recap what we covered yesterday, Jesus and the religious rulers of His day were at a crossroads. He wouldn’t conform to their interpretations of God’s Word and was increasingly threatening their spiritual stature and power. So, they laid a trap in order to incriminate Him. They placed a man with a withered hand before Him in hopes that He would heal him. And by doing so, He would publicly and undeniably break their Sabbath law.

To their delight, Jesus called the man to come forward. They calculated He would care more about this man than their Sabbath rules. They were right about this, but Jesus uses this opportunity to reveal the deeper wrong within them: “Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they kept silent” (Mark 3:4 NKJV).

Before dealing with this man, Jesus challenges the ruler’s hearts by asking them a question. At this point, we need to understand the Sabbath Day had been hijacked by human nature. God originally gave this command to Israel in order to bless them with a rhythm of rest that would also reveal His faithfulness towards them. By ceasing from their regular work for one day in seven, they would witness God’s power to make up the difference of what wasn’t done on that day and prove His provision over them.

But over time, man had added to this original intent. The Sabbath Day became a burden rather than a blessing as the meaning of “work” was stretched to nonsensical extremes. Even to the point where an obvious act of doing something good became forbidden. That’s what Jesus reveals to the religious hearts here. He points out they drifted from God’s heart, which was the most pressing problem that day, not His willingness to do what He did next: “Being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted . . . how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:5-6 NKJV).

In healing this man, Jesus affirms His challenge. He’s declaring that they, not He, are the ones with the real issue. His actions were consistent with God’s heart and Word, while theirs couldn’t have been further from either. And this is tragically emphasized by the fact they didn’t repent, but plotted to kill Jesus.

There’s an inherent danger in adding to God’s Word. Infusing our opinions or preferences on what we want it to say and mean is the slipperiest of all slopes. The only sure path for life is what God has clearly said to us by His Word. May we never add to or deviate from it!

PAUSE: What was Jesus’ challenge to the religious rulers?

PRACTICE: Guard against adding to God’s Word by cross checking your understanding of it with some trusted commentaries or wise counsel.

PRAY: Lord, keep us from adding to or editing Your Word to fit our preferences. Let Your will stand instead of ours! Amen.

About the Author

Dan Hickling