Jesus, mad? Yes, Jesus got mad and He had a very good reason to get mad. In His ongoing dispute with the Pharisees, this was another skirmish about what was “permissible” to do on the Sabbath. God had given some rules about the Sabbath, but the Pharisees didn’t think that He had gone far-enough in His prohibitions, so they “filled in the blanks“. I can relate, because I grew up in a very legalistic church and family environment. There was a short list of things that I was allowed to do, but a much-longer list of things I wasn’t allowed to do. Even after I was grown and had a family of my own, I struggled with this issue. I came to a conclusion I could live with, but I wish I had known then what I know now. By the way, this is not to imply that I am a Sabbatarian, rather I am a Christian Protestant who worships the Lord on the Lord’s Day, Sunday. I will tell you more about my struggle later on in this post after we look at a passage from Mark 3.
He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” 4 And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (Mark 3:1-6)
There was only one Temple, which was in Jerusalem, but there were many synagogues, local worship-centers, which we might compare to our local churches. Was the man with the withered hand in that synagogue that day because he knew Jesus was in the area, or did he normally worship there and Jesus just “happened” to drop by? This passage follows several other miraculous healings, so Jesus had already gotten quite a reputation for taking care of people. He had also demonstrated His total-disregard for the Pharisee’s nit-picky rules.
The “they” in verse two is the ever-present Pharisees, who were getting more and more disgusted with this Jesus-character because He was always raining on their parade. They were NOT amused by His “antics“. Jesus made Himself and the man with the withered hand the center of attention when He called the man forward. He wanted all eyes on Him because He was going to teach them an important lesson. The question He asked, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?”, got straight to the core of what the Pharisees believed about the Sabbath. This question presented a no-win predicament, because if they had answered “Yes, it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath“, they would have been admitting that Jesus was Lord over the Sabbath, but if they had answered “No, it is not lawful to heal on the Sabbath.“, they would have shown that their interpretation was wrong and just how cold-hearted they were.
They were too stubborn and self-centered to say anything, and that is when Jesus got mad, hopping-mad. By healing the man, He demonstrated the validity of what He had said shortly before this scene. 27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)
Do you see the irony in this scene? The Pharisees were mad because Jesus had healed a man, so they went out and conspired how the could destroy Him. They were plotting MURDER, on the Sabbath, no less. It doesn’t get much more warped than that. No wonder Jesus called them “a brood of vipers” in other encounters.
Jesus, Who was God-incarnate, was the ultimate “Law-giver“, and He asserted His right to have the final-say in how the Law was interpreted. He knew both the letter of the Law and the spirit of how the Law was meant. The Pharisees had it WRONG.
Next, we will turn our attention to Mark 2:27, Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”. When God instituted a day of rest in Genesis 2:1-3, and then codified that day as the Sabbath in Exodus 20:8-11, it was to be a day of rest, a time of refreshing, a break from ordinary-labor, but it was, first and foremost, for our benefit. Let’s see what those two passages say:
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3)
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
Did God need to “rest” after He created all that there is? Of course not, but He rested as an example to us that we also need regular breaks for our usual labors. The Sabbath commandment wasn’t meant to be burdensome to us, rather it was given to us so that we can refresh and recharge before resuming our labors.
Now, we will turn our attention to what the Sabbath means for us today. Priests in the Old Testament and Pastors today were/are exempt from some of the provisions of the Sabbath commandment, because their busiest day is the day of worship. Many pastors take a day off during the week as their “rest-day“. How about, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters and EMT/Paramedics? Those functions are essential to our wellbeing. Nurses are the heart and soul of any hospital, and if you don’t believe it, spend some time in a hopital, as I did recently. I rarely saw a doctor for more than five minutes at a time, and only once or twice a day, but my nurses checked on me very regularly. My hospital-stay is chronicled in “Invincible“.
The Pharisees would demand that hospitals all but shut-down on the Sabbath, but I believe that Jesus would attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony when a new hospital opens its doors. The Pharisees would demand that the Emergency Room only care for critical-care patients, but I believe that Jesus would want ALL patients get the care that they need. I have a couple of friends who are nurses, and even though we miss them when they aren’t at church, I am thankful that they are giving their patients the care they need.
Where do I fit in?
I had been in and out of volunteer public-service for several years when I joined two search-and-rescue teams in 1981. My involvement got more intensive and time-consuming because both teams responded state-wide, not just locally. One of the problems was that people got injured or lost mostly on weekends, and some missions extended into or were started on Sunday. My question quickly became “Could I, in good conscience, be away from my family and my church for a mission on Sunday?“, and “Would I be breaking the Sabbath-commandment by being on a mission on Sunday?“. Closely-related was “Could I, in good conscience, be away on a practice-exercise on Sunday?“. My upbringing screamed “DON’T DO IT!“, but was the Bible THAT strict? Following Jesus’s example of doing “good” on Sunday put me in direct-conflict with how I was raised, but I believed then, as I do now, that doing “good” is not only “okay“, it is the right thing to do.
Jesus taught us that caring for the needs of people IS consistent with the spirit of the Sabbath, and yes, He got mad, VERY mad when the Pharisees wanted to get in the way of Him performing His mission. May WE care as much as Jesus did!
Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”