One brief incident in the day of Jesus’ early ministry reveals so much about Him to our jaded eyes. Everything we see, we like.
The story is found in Mark 3:1-6.
And He entered again into a synagogue (in Capernaum); and a man was there with a withered hand. And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they have accuse Him.
And He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Rise and come forward!’ And He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm? to save a life or to kill?’ But they kept silent.
And 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. And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians (their enemies) against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
I love that story. It’s a brief encounter that tells us a world of things about our Savior….
1) Jesus loved to worship and was always happy to meet those who came to worship. Worshiping was a huge part of His life, both as the giver of worship and from time to time as the Object. He encouraged His people to get serious about worship.
2) Jesus could be counted on to react toward the needy with compassion.
Even the enemies knew Jesus could never pass up a needy individual. If He came upon a blind man, He healed him. If He crossed a diseased woman in His path, He made her whole. When He happened upon a funeral procession, He raised the dead. Therefore, the Pharisees in setting a trap for Jesus, put a man with a deformity in HIs midst on the Sabbath day.
He walked right into the trap–with His eyes wide open.
3) Jesus made Himself vulnerable in order to bless people.
As the saying goes, the Lord did not come in on a load of turnips yesterday. He knew full well what was going on and yet, in order to help the man and rebuke the self-righteous and declare His own identity, He played their game. He had work to do and He did it.
4) Jesus loved to challenge people’s shallow thinking.
Before healing the man, Jesus asked the Pharisees to apply reason to their opposition: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm? They knew if they answered, He had them. So they kept silent.
Then, He asked, “Is it lawful to save a life on the Sabbath or to kill?” Once again, they kept silent, because to be consistent, they would have had to declare themselves on the side of doing harm and even killing on the Sabbath.
I love that Jesus is logical. Over and over, He asked people to apply logic to what they were doing. To one group, He said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). To some who were accusing Him of working through the power of the devil, Jesus said, “Then Satan is self-destructing and you surely will not want to oppose that!” (Matthew 12:25-29).
5) Jesus’s anger was sharpest toward religious people with hard hearts.
The carnal mind wants to think that if our Lord preached to the maximum security ward at the local prison He would have lowered the boom. Instead, with the “sinners and tax-collectors,” He was unusually gentle. The group caught in the crosshairs of His righteous indignation were the religious leaders who were using their powers to cripple people and increase the burdens of the oppressed.
The harshest sermon we have from Jesus is the 23rd chapter of Matthew. This scathing message was delivered to the Pharisees, the most conservative in the nation, righteous laymen dedicated to returning the nation to obedience to God’s laws. But forgetting their original purpose and forsaking the very people they intended to help, they had become bigots, self-righteous, and tyrannical.
6) The Lord Jesus did not mind asking people to do what they could not do in order to grow them.
That’s why He asked the man to stretch forth the withered arm.
Jesus is always asking you and me to stretch that part of our lives–our faith, our hope, our love, our vision–that needs to grow most.
7) If the best measure of a man is the behavior of his enemies toward Him, then Jesus was incredibly righteous and thus a threat to the hypocritcal bigshots.
I suspect–but no not know enough of the subject to state categorically–that the best way to size up a candidate for a position is to find out what his enemies and detractors say about him. (Sometimes when I’m counseling search committees, I tell them to keep running references until they find someone who doesn’t like the individual. They’re out there, and you’re not through until you find them. Then, analyze what they say. Often that tells you more than any of the friends will say.)
I’m so happy to be a follower of this wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a privilege to be His disciple. He loves the lowly, goes out of His way to help the needy, and takes no guff from the bullies. I want to be that way also.