I ripped off the title from the old joke about a preacher’s job being to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When you read about Jesus’ Ministry, though, He did just that. The Pharisees and other religious elite always left Jesus feeling afflicted. those they afflicted with their religious superiority, left comforted. We see one of the rare instances of Jesus getting angry in this passage. He never got angry at someone caught in their sin or afflicted by illness or evil spirits; His anger was reserved for the religious elite who showed no love or compassion for those they were to care for. Enjoy this study!
1. And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
On the Sabbath, you would find Jesus in the synagogue. There was no question about whether or nor Jesus would go to the synagogue. Even though He is God the Son and deserved the worship of everyone in that synagogue, He honored the Sabbath by going to the synagogue and taught, and got into trouble with the religious elite.This Sabbath’s reason for trouble was a man with a withered hand. Scholars would tell us that it had withered because of an accident or illness, not as a result of a birth defect. I can’t help but wonder if this guy had some friends who encouraged this man to show up at the synagogue so they could test Jesus, while he was their unwitting pawn. They were hoping Jesus would give them reason to attack, accuse, or even arrest Him. They knew that the nature of Jesus was to show compassion for people, even if it meant breaking their man-made interpretations of Sabbath obligations to show that compassion. Jesus saw through their treachery, though, and after asking the man to stand forth, He turned the tables on the men by asking them a question that put them on the spot. “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil?” The good that Jesus was alluding to was healing this man; the evil would have been inaction. These religious leaders knew they’d been trapped, and so they shut their mouths. They didn’t answer Jesus. They held their peace.
We learn two very important lessons from this story. The first is that we should be gathering with God’s people to study, learn, and worship on our day of worship. The second is that if we are able to do good, we should do good. If we’re able to do good and we don’t do it, then we’re complicit with evil.
5. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
Jesus was angry. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the only people Jesus got angry at were the religious leaders who should have known better.They showed no compassion for this injured man, they saw him not as a person, but as a means to an end to attack Jesus. These religious leaders who should have know the love and grace of God and shown it to this man, instead, focused on protecting their religious fiefdoms against this uneducated carpenter turned teacher. Their hearts were hardened, calloused, against the needs of one of God’s children. They used a person to maintain their power instead of using their power to restore a person in need. As angry as Jesus was, His anger came from the love He had even for the religious leaders. He grieved that they were this way. He grieved that they had missed this opportunity to show God’s love. Then, He showed God’s love and compassion by healing the man with the withered hand. I think it’s important to realize that while many of the miracles of healing that Mark wrote about happened on the Sabbath, there were most likely many more healings that happened during the rest of the week. Those didn’t cause controversy, though, since they didn’t fly in the face of religious orthodoxy. The more we’re concerned about growing in our relationship with Jesus than we are about following some man-made religious orthodoxy, the more trouble we’ll get into and the more joy we’ll have from that relationship.
6. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
This simple little verse shows the amazing power of Jesus as opposition to His teaching united two warring political factions in their opposition. While we could try to make application to some of the controversy we have in our world today, let me see if I can explain the magnitude of this by drawing from fiction. Harry Turtledove writes in a genre called Alternative History. He writes from a historical perspective, only, somehow, history was changed. He has a series based on World War II. In this series, in the midst of the fighting in World War II, earth is invaded by aliens from outer space. With all of humanity threatened, all of humanity worked together to fight against these creatures. US and Japanese forces worked together. British, German, and Russian forces combined to eliminate the threat to humanity. While the tensions between these countries still existed, and it’s easy to see that the alliances were temporary, they allied to fight the threat to their existence. Jesus was a threat to the existence of the Pharisees and the Herodians and they got together for the express purpose of destroying Him. I have no doubt that the common people who must have felt oppressed by the Herodians and their alliance with the earthly powers, and belittled by the Pharisees must have thought that Jesus must have had something going for Him to cause the political and religious leadership of their time to unite against Him.
7. But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, 8. And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.
As Jesus left the area to avoid any possible confrontation before His time on earth was fulfilled, the common people followed Him. They came from all around: Galilee, Jerusalem, Judea, Idumea, the other side of the Jordan and from the northwest pagan areas of Tyre and Sidon. They heard what He did. They heard about His teaching. They followed Him. I believe that people have a natural hunger for God. They want to know Him. They want to be in fellowship with Him. After a lifetime of experiencing the condescension of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, they found a religious leader who cared about them and showed them God’s love. They didn’t realize that Jesus was God the Son at this time, they experienced God’s love and wanted to be around Jesus.
9. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. 10. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. 11. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. 12. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.
As the people pressed in on Jesus, He healed them. Everyone wanted to touch Jesus: people who were sick, people who had unclean spirits. The press of the crowds was so great that Jesus made sure that His disciples had a boat ready so that, if necessary, He could be removed from the pressure of the crowds, but still be near enough to teach. The prime ministry of Jesus was to teach about the Kingdom of God, but those in the greatest need of healing – the sick and the demon-possessed – discovered His healing power and desperately sought relief from their afflictions. And Jesus, while preparing a place to escape the press of the crowds, kept healing and casting out the demons. As people with demons, or unclean spirits, were freed from that oppression, the unclean spirits revealed who Jesus really was. Jesus made it a point to silence them, which revealed His power over them. Scholars call this response by Jesus the “Messianic Secret.” Just as Jesus didn’t want to be seen as a threat to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, at least at this time, He didn’t want the people He served to seek to turn the message of the Kingdom of God into a popular movement to rebel against the Roman authorities because He knew that His kingdom was not of this world. When Jesus said those words to Pilate at His trial, He wasn’t teaching a new doctrine, He described the ministry that He had practiced for three years.
13. And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. 14. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15. And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: 16. And Simon he surnamed Peter; 17. And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: 18. And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 19. And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.
Jesus left the sea of Galilee and headed up to the mountains. As He went up, He called twelve men to follow Him and commissioned them not only to learn from Him by being with Him, but also to go forth to proclaim the Kingdom of God. At the same time He gave them power to heal those who were sick and to cast out demons. Among these were the five we had already seen, with the understanding that Levi was also called Matthew, along with other people whose names we’ve come to know. Mark made a point of describing Judas as the one who would betray Jesus. If he were writing this story today, people would criticize him for not giving a spoiler alert. I think Mark made this point here because he believed that Jesus knew what Judas would do even as He called him, yet He still called Him so that His mission would be fulfilled.