“Then Jesus went back to the synagogue, where there was a man who had a paralyzed hand.
Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong;
so they watched him closely to see whether he would cure the man on the Sabbath”
(Mark 3:1-2, GNB)
From the Law that says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) the religious authority had written many details of what is or is not permitted on the Sabbath. Thirty-nine classes of forbidden work had been identified. But that is just only the beginning, for there are endless subdivisions and qualifications. For example, (as in my notebook) a broken limb may not be set, you may not cut your finger-nails or search your clothes for fleas, writing more than one letter is forbidden, a bucket may be tied to a belt but not to a rope, looking at the mirror is forbidden because you may see and try to pull a grey hair out and thus, break the Law! All of these and more are considered as working on the Sabbath!
So you see Jesus was not against the Old Testament command to keep one day holy, He was against the religious authority for making the Law so complex and burdensome for people to obey. Jesus was not against the Sabbath observation but the how they observe it. They have turned God’s blessing to cursing. Jesus sets priority when He asked: “’What does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save someone’s life or to destroy it?’ But they did not say a thing.” (Mark 3:4) Jesus asked these questions because there was a religious rule that only allows medical care on the Sabbath if, and only if, there is actual danger to life. He was “angry” because of their insensitivity “but at the same time he felt sorry for them, because they were so stubborn and wrong” (Mark 3:5).
Jesus, like always, went beyond that. He wanted to demonstrate that to heal is more important than observing the rules. To refuse to do good (‘to help’ and ‘to save someone’s life’) on the Sabbath was surely to choose to do evil (‘to harm’ and ‘to destroy someone’s life’). So, “Jesus said to the man, ‘Come up here to the front’… Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and it became well again” (Mark 3:3, 5). Sadly, the people don’t praise the Lord for the healing that Jesus had performed. Rather, they were offended. The Pharisees especially were being humiliated in public. Jesus was adding insult to the injury and so “they made plans to kill Jesus” (Mark 3:6).
There are two significant lessons (and reminders) that I’ve learned from Mark 3:1-6; 1) People are the subject of God’s concern, so people come before rules. It was for people that the Law of God had been given, and it must be with regard to people that it is interpreted; and 2) throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was to be hated, hounded, and eventually tortured to death, and we as His followers need not hope for any better treatment. Remember: “They made plans to kill Jesus.”
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.