The Pharisees’ Hardened Hearts
We see them next watching Jesus in a synagogue (3:1-6). They are confident that Jesus will see a man who is there with a withered hand and Mark tells us that, “they watched Him, to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him” (3:2). These men were determined to find a way to destroy Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ challenge of traditional Sabbath observances would surely give them opportunity to discredit Him, and so they were there, looking for an opportunity to catch Him violating the Law.
But was Jesus afraid of them? Watch Him! Jesus’ first act is to call the man with the withered hand forward (v. 3). In bold defiance of His enemies, He has the man step into the middle of the room where all can see. In this way, He forces the Pharisees to confront Him publicly.
The Pharisees knew that the Lord’s heart was full of compassion; they had taken it for granted that He would be interested in this man. But instead of rejoicing at this evidence of divine love and mercy, they watched with the eyes of envy and jealousy. Indeed, they hoped He would cure the man so they could charge Him with a violation of their tradition.
It is to that kind of twisted heart that Jesus directs His question: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” (v.4). This was a terrible thrust, for they were there to do evil and they had murder in their hearts. Jesus knew full well that man may break God’s Law in the very way he observes it. There was nothing of the Sabbath rest of God in their hearts, no love, peace, or humility. That is why, “He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (v. 5).
What a deep hardening it was! For when Jesus did as they had hoped by healing the man’s withered hand, they did not attempt anything in the midst of an amazed and joyful crowd. Instead, they sought out the Herodians to see if they could work together to destroy Jesus.
Now be mindful of what such an alliance entailed. The Herodians were collaborators with the Roman rulers, just as Matthew and his despised fellow tax collectors were. They were utterly pragmatic, selling out their personal honor and their national heritage for immediate personal gain. How was it possible for the Pharisees, 100 percent supernaturalists and dedicated to the preservation of their Jewish identity, to join forces with people who personified all that they opposed? Unthinkable! Yet this they were willing to do to destroy Christ.
- How did the Pharisees perceive Jesus view of the Sabbath?
- How should Christians approach the Sabbath?
- Does Jesus believe that Christians ought to rest on the Sabbath?
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