Sabbath Attack (Mark 3:1-6)

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Sabbath Attack

Christ uncompromisingly stands for truth and love

against tradition and legalism  Mark 3:1-6


A long time ago, I was teaching junior high students on a Wednesday night, when two young married men popped in the room before everything began.  They seemed very upset and said to me, we want to talk to you after.  I said, “Okay.”  I suspected they were upset over a difficult decision the elders of my church had made concerning their ministry and my ministry, and wanted to talk to me about it afterward.  I thought to myself, even though I was not an elder at the time and only 23, surely I can help explain this issue to these two men.

Well, I was directed to head toward a room afterwards to talk, and when I walked in, it wasn’t two men, but 120 men and women–120 angry men and angry women.  And being 23, instead of passing off this great opportunity–instead of saying, “You should all talk to your elders,” I launched right in.  And to my shock, for the next hour I wasn’t allowed to complete a sentence without being interrupted, attacked, verbally abused, yelled at–and all of it by so-called believers.

I was awakened to the harsh reality of just how abusive, sinful, ungodly, hateful, and wrong churchgoers can be.  Some of you have seen it.  Some of you have been on the receiving end of some very harsh words and unjust actions, and a few of you were those who spoke those harsh words and supported those unjust actions.

Events like that make you wonder–where would I have been, and what would I have said when they crucified Jesus Christ?  Would I have shouted, “Crucify Him”?  Or would I have been the silent minority, or been in hiding with some of the disciples, or even denying the Lord like Peter?  Where would you have been?  What would you have said?

Today, as we continue in our verse-by-verse study of the gospel of Mark, now in chapter 3, verses 1 to 6, Jesus will be “set up” and attacked/challenged for His beliefs.  Jesus will experience the Sabbath attack.  Open your Bibles to Mark 3, and follow along in your outline.  This same event is also found in Luke 6 and Matthew 12, and combining all three gospel accounts, this is what happens.

Another Sabbath has arrived, and Jesus has entered the synagogue to teach (Luke 6:6).  Attending the service is a man with a shriveled right hand (Luke 6:6; Colossians 4:14).  Opponents of Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes (Luke 6:7) are closely watching Him (Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7) for the sole purpose of preparing a charge against Him.  Jesus knows their thoughts (Luke 6:8), and makes them voice what they have on their minds.  So they ask, “Is it right to heal on the Sabbath?” (Matt. 12:10).

Jesus turns to the man, telling him to rise and step forward (Mark 3:3; Luke 6:8).  Then Jesus asks his adversaries, “Is it right on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4a; Luke 6:9).  When they remain silent, Jesus looks around at them in anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:4b, 5a).  Then He continues, “What man of you, if he has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not grab hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a man, than a sheep!  Therefore it is right to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:11, 12).

Jesus then says to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  So complete was the restoration, that the (right) hand was now as “sound as the left” (Matt. 12:13).  As a result, the opponents were furious (Luke 6:11).  Leaving the synagogue (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6), they not only discuss what they should do to Jesus (Luke 6:11b), but they also made contact with the political Herodians (Mark 6:6a), to help them plot against Christ, a plot for the purpose of killing Christ (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6b).

Have you experienced some heat for your beliefs?  Have you offended some who don’t believe Christ is the only way?  Have you battled with others from another church whose weak view of the Word sounds so gracious, but leads people to error, self-deception, a shallow faith, or a false faith?  Have you been belittled because you trust in the sovereignty of God in salvation, or trust in God’s Word over experiences, visions or dreams?  Then you can identify with Christ, as He compassionately stands for truth over tradition in these six verses.  And you can also learn from Christ about what should anger and grieve you as a believer.

Plus, in this passage you have to ask yourself–would I be more like Christ, or more like the Pharisees?  When people who know you are asked, would they say you are more critical or compassionate?  More legalistic, or loving?  More harsh, or heart humble?  More traditional, or truth-driven?  Ask those questions of yourself, as we all read aloud, verses 1 to 6.

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.”

This whole situation is a little crazy.  What’s the issue here?  The Old Testament commands believers not to work on the Sabbath.  The Lord loves obedience to His Word, but the religious leaders have added so many applications and traditions to what “not working on the Sabbath” means that they lost God’s purpose for commanding no work on the Sabbath.  God’s desire for the Sabbath rest, given as one of the Ten Commandments, was to refresh His people, to give them a day off from work, to allow them to recharge their hearts, and enjoy the goodness of the Lord.

The Pharisees over time, had turned the Sabbath into a harsh day of rule keeping, to the extreme point that helping a person in need, even healing someone was considered work, and therefore a violation of the Sabbath.  Not God’s Word, but Jewish tradition was very detailed about healing and helping on the Sabbath.

For example, medical attention could be given, but only if a life was in danger.  A woman in childbirth could be helped on the Sabbath, and infection of the throat could be treated.  But if a wall or building fell on anyone, enough might be cleared away to see whether he was dead or alive–if he was alive, he might be helped on the Sabbath.  But if he was dead, the body must be left until the next day.  But a broken bone fracture could not be attended to.  Cold water may not be poured on a sprained hand or foot to help.  A cut finger might be bandaged with a plain bandage, but not with ointment.  The thinking behind this was, an injury could be kept from getting worse, but it must not be made better–that’s work.

It is difficult for us to understand their zeal for Sabbath laws until you read a little history, prior to the birth of Christ.  When fighting their enemies, conservative Jews would not even defend themselves on the Sabbath.  Entire groups of Jewish soldiers allowed themselves to be burned alive, others slaughtered, because their struggle extended into the Sabbath, and at that point, they stopped fighting, even if it meant their death.  The orthodox Jewish attitude about the Sabbath was completely rigid and unbending.

The three external national distinctives of the Jewish people were 1) circumcision, 2) strict dietary laws, and 3) keeping the Sabbath (all three of which have been abolished in Christ).  But the Jews held on to these unique expressions with a death-defying passion.  This will help you understand the courage of Christ in verse 1, “He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered.”  This was Jesus’s point.

#1  Sabbath Appointment

Near the time of The Sermon on the Mount, and the choosing of the twelve apostles, Jesus goes to Synagogue–see the word “again” in verse 1, “He entered again into a synagogue.”  This indicates it was probably the Synagogue in Capernaum (again = back).  And Luke tells us He goes there to teach the Word of God again.  Last time Jesus was in this Synagogue, He healed a demonic man on the Sabbath, and the response was awesome.  But now things are somewhat different–the Lord has been increasingly criticized for violating the traditions, and a new spirit of criticism has taken root.

So don’t miss the obvious–that very first phrase.  “He entered again into a synagogue” is a statement of great courage.  Just in this gospel, Jesus has already experienced four great conflicts with the traditions of the religious leaders.  Things are hot, the leaders are angry, they think Jesus has already violated the Sabbath by picking grain on the Sabbath, He’s claimed to forgive sin, He’s partying with super sinful tax gatherers–in their minds Jesus has got to be stopped.  So the religious leaders are now gunning for Christ.

So for Jesus to go into the Synagogue where the religious leaders are waiting for Him is the action of a brave man.  Here’s a man who was determined to look at a dangerous situation in the face and tackle it head on.  For the sake of the Word of God, and the good news of God providing salvation as a free gift, Jesus refused to seek safety when it would have been easy for Him to avoid trouble and walk away.  Spirit-filled people are courageous people (2 Timothy 1:7).  “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

The Lord knew those men were waiting for Him in the Synagogue.  In any community, it would have been impossible for Christ not to know–they were hard to miss.  They were dressed to the nines, in rich clothing and not the common clothes of the everyday man.  They were often accompanied by disciples or assistants, so they traveled in hard-to-miss groups.  And in Jesus’s day they were the honored celebrities, always in the public eye.  But Jesus keeps this #1 Sabbath Appointment anyway.

So He goes to teach–and as He does, He discovers a needy man (verse 1), “and a man was there whose hand was withered.”  Unconfirmed history tells us this man was a stonemason who was forced to a life of begging because of his hand.  This man was in the crowd at the Synagogue.  There’s some indication in the text that this man was actually there as a set-up–the man with the withered hand might have been encouraged to be there by the religious leaders on the Sabbath in order to force Jesus’s hand.  It could have been a trap.

The public and the religious leaders were convinced of Christ’s ability to heal, and they already knew Christ to have a compassionate heart for hurting people.  So using those awesome character qualities against Him, they might have set this up to trap Jesus into violating their Sabbath traditions.  It’s kinda like the political leaders trapping Daniel, knowing He would pray, when prayer to anyone other than Nebuchadnezzar was illegal.

Mark tells us this man’s hand was withered.  The Greek text is very specific–his hand was currently and continually withered (present tense).  It had been diseased or damaged at some time in the past perfect, letting us know his hand was not always a handicap.  And the damage to his hand had happened to him (passive), not through his own doing.  But now that it had occurred, his right hand was literally all dried up—useless.  Think of all the things this man can’t do with a useless hand.  Think about how difficult it would be for him to work as a laborer.

So this synagogue situation forces a showdown.  Look at verse 2, “They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.”  Jesus boldly puts Himself back in the teeth of His opposition, and in the midst of teaching the Word of God while a man in great need is made known in the Synagogue, Jesus goes toe-to-toe with His . . .

#2  Spying Accusers

Jesus is not violating the Old Testament law of God’s Word on Sabbath rest by doing good to someone, but He is violating the traditions around God’s command that religious men have written.  And the general principle they were following was this–you could only help or heal on the Sabbath if a life was in danger.  And the life of the man with the withered hand was not in danger.  He would not die if Jesus didn’t heal him of his dried-up hand.  Therefore, in their mind Jesus would be violating the law–He’d be working on the Sabbath if Jesus healed this man’s hand.  This is why the entire episode smells like a trap.

The legalists are present at the Synagogue, verse 2, watching.  You can almost hear their sinister laugh, “Oh, Oh, Ooooh!”  The verb “watching” is continually guarding–its root means “to keep alongside’.  We’d say, “to stick close like glue—spying.”  We’re not letting this Jesus out of our sight.

Their job as the religious leaders was to protect the people from error.  And they increasingly believe Jesus is errant because He doesn’t follow their traditions, even though He’s obeying the truth.  They want to see if Jesus is going to heal a man who is not in danger of dying on the Sabbath—“to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath” (verse 2).  They knew Jesus could do what only God could do–heal with a spoken word.  They knew Jesus had a huge heart of compassion for the suffering of hurting people, so they suspected Jesus would heal Him on the Sabbath–again, not a violation of God’s Word, but definitely a violation of their Jewish tradition.

Sadly, even though this man was not in danger of dying, these leaders had no compassion for his need.  They didn’t care–they only cared for their harsh rules to be obeyed.  So they are not watching Christ in order to learn, grow, or be impacted by His teaching.  They have not come to their form of church to obey God’s Word, or to respond to the Spirit of God as He seeks to impact their hearts through Jesus’s teaching–no!  They are watching Jesus with evil in their hearts.  They are only there to accuse Christ.

Look at verse 2 again, “so that they might accuse Him.”  The “so that” is purpose–their goal, aim, desire, hope is to legally condemn Christ.  They want Christ to mess up so they can take Him down and remove Him as a respected rabbi.  To accuse is what the devil does–it is to speak against, to find fault, to discover some legal violation of the law and press charges.  That is their goal—spying accusation.  Like a tiger–hiding, ready to pounce upon its prey and bring death, these religious leaders are waiting for a window to destroy Christ.  They’re like a pack of hyenas, waiting for a kill.

With stone faces, they veil their heart of hate.  Fueled by jealousy from Christ’s popularity with the people, compounded with the pride that we have to be right, mixed with religious zeal for keeping the law they themselves have distorted, they’re in the stands being critical of the main player on the field.  Healing is okay, but in their minds, not on the Sabbath.  And the man with the withered hand is not in a life or death situation–therefore, no healing today.  In Luke 13:14, a similar situation occurred when it says, “But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, ‘There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’”  It sounds so pious, but it’s not what God designed the Sabbath for.

Friends, jealousy, pride and religious zeal is a deadly combination.  Saying, “He gets all the attention cause he’s so-and-so’s friend, I deserve to be recognized.”  Or, “Why does she spend all her time with her?”  When you find yourself only looking at others to discover their faults in order to condemn, criticize, or one-up them, you no longer have the heart of Christ, and are no longer filled with the Spirit.

So what does Jesus do?  He quietly slips out and avoids the confrontation–after all that would be the loving thing to do. No, Jesus actually tells Mr. Withered to come back tomorrow when it’s not the Sabbath.  No, Jesus actually demonstrates His . . .

#3  Sovereign Authority

Instead of being cautious, watching His step, or trying to find an angle around the conflict–Luke tells us Jesus knew their thoughts.  Yet look at what Jesus does in verse 3, “He said to the man with the withered hand, Get up and come forward!’”  Ye haw!  Sovereign showdown–Jesus takes the offensive.  Rather than avoid conflict, the Lord leads the charge.  The command “get up here” means arise in our midst–used as rising from sleep or raising the dead.  Jesus is commanding withered hand man to come up and stand center stage.

Come forward literally means to stand in the middle.  Apparently when Jesus is done teaching, he does not ask the withered hand man to come up front, He commands him.  These men need not spy on Christ, He’ll do all He does in the open.  Friends, Jesus is opposed to all secret scheming, conniving and undercover planning, so be honest, upfront and genuine in your walk.

Luke 6:8 also tells us Jesus “knew what they were thinking.”  Jesus knew He was being used as a pawn so they might accuse Him.  He knew their hearts and their secret thinking.  So Jesus says to withered hand, verse 3, “Rise and come forward.”  The suspense of this command must have been incredible.  Jesus could have healed after Sabbath on any day of the week.  That must mean Jesus missed the conflict management class offered at the Galilee Sports Center.  No, Jesus is purposely provoking the situation.

The Synagogue in Capernaum is a long stone building with about three rows of stone benches on either side, and a large flat open floor between the two sides.  The leaders would all be in the best seats.  But to make certain everyone sees what is about to happen, the Lord calls the injured hand man to stand in the center of the room.  Now all can see.  So why is Jesus making this such a big idea, and willing to cause a showdown between Himself and these religious hypocrites?  Why not take the safe path?

Because His people are going to hell, people are being taught if they’re a Jew and they follow all the traditions, then by living righteously they’ll be saved.  But Jesus teaches only God can make you righteous–you can’t earn it, you can’t live good enough.  The Old Testament law was written to show you your need to cry out to God to be saved.  This battle is between the false religion of human achievement and the true faith of divine accomplishment.  This struggle is between tradition versus truth–religion versus relationship, ritual versus regeneration.  Yet amazingly, out of great love for His critics the Lord tries to point them to the truth with His . . .

#4  Steering Analysis

With pointed conviction and a heart of love, the Lord seeks to expose their error.  He wants them to see the truth.  He wants them to understand God’s Word, even about the Sabbath.  To help them see how they have moved from God’s design in His Old Testament command of Sabbath rest, Jesus asks them two very pointed questions about the Sabbath in verse 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?’”

The Lord tries to steer them toward the truth.  With supernatural wisdom, totally un-intimidated, Jesus directs their thinking to God’s purpose for the Sabbath, to show them how they missed His design by their abundant rules.

Notice verse 4, “He speaks to them”–the religious leaders.  I would’ve given up on them a long time ago, but not Christ.  I’ve seen God change hard hearts, so I’m a little more patient with those filled with pride.  But Christ is amazing in His love for those who want to kill Him.  Maybe you need to be more caring and patient with that unsaved husband or wayward child.  Jesus seeks to expose their hearts, so truth wins over tradition.  He analyzes their Sabbath thinking first with this question.  Verse 4, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath?”  The answer is so simple a 6-year-old can answer it–this is obvious.

Must a man stand by and watch his neighbor’s house burn down without lifting a finger to help, just because it is the Sabbath?  Must a doctor refuse to administer aid to a child who broke his leg, just because it is the Sabbath?  Must a man stand on the river bank and watch someone drown, when he could rescue him, just because it’s the Sabbath?  Christ is putting them in a dilemma–they were bound to admit that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and that it was a good thing Jesus was proposing to do for the withered hand man.

These Pharisees were the very people who were always claiming they knew what was permitted and lawful, and yet who of them would admit that doing good was actually wrong.  They couldn’t.  They’d sought to trap Jesus, but Jesus ended up trapping them.

Then the Lord asked this next question, which exposes their hearts.  “Is it lawful . . . on the Sabbath . . . to save a life or to kill?”  Again, Jesus repeats the question in the extreme.  Is it lawful on the Sabbath to save, literally used to describe delivering someone from destruction, rescuing them from death, or curing their illness/disease.  Or is it lawful on the Sabbath to kill–meaning to murder them, to put them to death in any manner . . . destroy someone?

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 12:10 to 12, “And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’–so that they might accuse Him.  And He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep!  So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’”  It is right to rescue this man.

In Mark Jesus asks, what is the right heart on the Sabbath?  My heart, which is the desire to heal this man’s disease, to save?  Or your heart, which is a desire to murder/kill the God/man?  Certainly if it was improper to do harm and to kill on the other six days of the week, then is it not improper to engage in this sinister business on the Sabbath day, the day specifically set aside for honoring God and showing sympathy to people?  Nevertheless, this doing harm and killing was exactly what these self-righteous enemies were right now engaged in.  They were seeking to do Christ harm, and planning to kill Christ on the Sabbath.  Jesus is saying to these men, you are watching me to see if I’d heal on the Sabbath in order to accuse me, do me harm–when at this very moment you are devising a plan to kill me.

Jesus, who knows their hearts, exposes their evil motives and asks the pointed question–so how do they answer?  In the end of verse 4, only the gospel of Mark tells us this–but they kept silent.  They sullenly refused to be drawn into a discussion with Christ, which viewed the matter from a moral-ethical view rather than merely a legal, traditional standpoint.  The obvious answer could only stamp their pious Sabbath practices as false and dumb.  They could not refute the Lord’s argument, nor would they admit their error, so they continually remained in a chilling silence.

Have you ever been in a situation where the silence seemed to continue for an eternity?  That was this moment.  Had they approved doing good and saving a life, they would have contradicted tradition.  And on the other hand, they obviously would not have advocated doing evil or killing.  They were trapped in the illogic of their heartless, unscriptural traditions.  Their only outward recourse was to keep silent.  But inwardly, Luke 6:11 says, they “were filled with rage.”  If they tried to answer, they’d be admitting they were wrong.  So instead of repenting, instead of seeing Christ’s purpose for the Sabbath they had totally missed, instead of breaking their hearts over their lack of compassion for a crippled man, they remain silent.

And this response causes Christ to react dramatically.  I know you’ve been brokenhearted over someone who didn’t repent.  Then you will understand Christ’s emotions expressed in verse 5–look at it.  “After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart,” Christ is looking around and making His point.

#5  Searching Answer

Christ is searching the faces of the crowd at the Synagogue–gazing down the seats on both sides with a lingering intensity, each in turn.  Slowly one after another, He bores into the eyes of each religious leader present.  The Greek word for “looking around” in verse 5 is a commanding survey–it also is used to describe a hunt.  Jesus is hunting the faces of the religious leaders.  He is hunting for a teachable, broken, humble heart of repentance, but He could not find one.  He’s looking for any one of them to respond to His questions.  But none of them were willing.

And Mark describes the Lord’s reaction to these stiff men with incredibly strong words that appear nowhere else in this gospel.  Jesus was angry.  As the fully God, fully human stood staring at each man, He was internally moved for a moment to indignation, horror, and disapproval.  Think about it–their silence spoke clearly.  Their silence said it was better for a man to lose his house, for a child to lose his limb, and for a drowning man to lose his life than for someone to break a rabbinical rule.  No wonder Jesus was angry.  He knew where that hardness would take them–to a lost eternity.

And this led Jesus to ongoing, continual grief.  After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus’s momentary anger was tempered by ongoing deep grief.  Christ totally sympathized with this crippled man.  His compassion was moved for this man’s need, but was grieved at the religious leaders’ insensitivity, indifference, and obstinacy.  Again, genuine love and compassion for people had been replaced by legalistic, rigid tradition-keeping.

The Greek tells us clearly His anger was momentary, but His deep-seated grief was continual.  Jesus was literally moved to feel sympathy toward these men, in spite of their hard hearts.  Jesus was grieved at their hardness of heart, meaning Jesus felt emotional pain and was in anguish over these men’s hearts.  Whoever you are today, avoid this disease.  It is worse than cancer, and more terrible than a heart attack or stroke.

Hardness of heart is a process that takes place in your inner man, where you become more and more unresponsive to the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  And notice the word “heart” is singular, not plural, telling us of the unity of their reaction.  They were of one heart, and it was hard.  Together they were unresponsive, unmoved, and unchanged.  One theologian said, “The greatest enemy of the Divine love is not opposition, nor malice, but hardness of heart and indifference to divine grace.”

So picture the scene–a chilling silence prevails in the ranks of the best seat religious leaders.  The atmosphere in the synagogue is charged with uneasiness and excited with expectancy since the man with the withered hand is still standing center stage.  And now Jesus must act.  For Him to delay would have been an admission that acts of compassion were wrong on the Sabbath.  So Jesus heals–in verse 5 He said to the man, “’Stretch your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”

Turning His focus from the religious leaders, Jesus turns to the man with the withered hand, and speaks a command—“Stretch out your hand!”  He did it, like this, and his hand was restored, literally brought to health and returned to normal.  Jesus Christ healed Him with a word.  Jesus didn’t even touch him.

Jesus often healed people with a touch.  He touched the leper in Mark 1:41.  He touched the deaf man in Mark 7:33.  He touched the blind man in Mark 8:23.  But here there was no touch–our Lord healed him with a word.  What supernatural power.  No recovery period, no gradual return, but instantly that which was dried up and non-functional is completely healthy and ready to do what any normal hand can do.

And are you getting it?  This is such a supernatural burn.  This is as in your face as the Lord can be.  This is so cool.  I don’t think I am stretching the truth here.  Jesus Christ did not work on the Sabbath.  He didn’t lift a finger, he just spoke, which was not considered work even to the super externalists.  Our Lord ruined their malicious plan.  And Luke tells us, they left furious.  And Mark shows us just how furious they were in verse 6, “The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”  They left the synagogue with

#6  Scheming Animosity

It was immediate–as they leave the synagogue in a huff, they began an ongoing process of conspiring, a term that has a lot to do with plotting revenge.  Luke describes their anger as filled with madness–they are going to get this Jesus who continually makes them look like fools.

Here they are in silence because no one could refute or debate the Lord’s arguments.  Then Jesus actually supernaturally heals the withered hand without any action of work at all–not even a touch.  In their stubborn commitment to obey their oral traditions, they make themselves look stupid.  And they are so vengeful, they actually link up with a group that their own tradition tells them will defile them.  The Herodians were those in the service of Herod–those who are loyal to Rome, those who work for the enemy, those who serve their oppressors.  Herodians are Nazi collaborators.

Herod Antipas is the ruler of this northern region under Rome.  Herodians were political power players, and not religious men at all.  Pharisees and Herodians had nothing in common, but they were willing to submerge their own differences in their battle with a common enemy.  Jesus was a threat to the political world because of his popularity and power.  Jesus was a threat to the religious world of the Pharisees, because He didn’t esteem them, nor abide by their traditions.  So they start plotting revenge–verse 6 says, “How they might destroy Christ”–to kill Christ . . . get rid of Jesus permanently.

This is the first explicit mention in Mark of the intention of the enemies to kill Jesus, which cast a dark cloud over the further ministry of Christ.  The decision is made–kill Him.  Now it is only a question of how and by what method.  Amazingly, they considered it a terrible crime for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath, but they had no qualms about plotting His murder on the Sabbath.  Keeping the Sabbath was never deigned to be a substitute for acts of mercy.  Jesus not only approved of doing good on the Sabbath, He actually did good.  Do you?  Which leads me to challenge you . . .

#1  Never allow yourself to be the hardhearted attacker

These verses tell us the religious leaders were watching only in order to accuse, they were silent, hardhearted, left in anger, linked up with an enemy in order to destroy Jesus.  Hardhearted people do incredibly harsh things because they are no longer responding to the Word of God or the Spirit of God.  Are you responding to the Word of God?  When is the last time you actually changed, repented, or actively applied the Word?

#2  Always pursue the humble heart of the helper

Jesus seeks to help a needy man, even though it costs Him.  Jesus was briefly angered, then continually grieved over the hard hearts of those who refused to be compassionate.  Friends, when is the last time, outside your family, you were compassionate to anyone?  Have you ever been compassionate when it cost you?  That’s the heart of Christ–is it yours?

#3  Remember who is in control

Each verse of 1 to 6 starts in the Greek with “and”, a kai–it was all interconnected, all belonging to each other, all planned.  The man’s hand, the Pharisees’ plot, Jesus grief and anger—all seem disjointed, but they are all under the sovereign hand of God.  And Mark wants you to know they are all interconnected.  And so are the various disjointed parts of your life.  Whatever you are going through right now is a part of God’s plan.  Though your life seems compartmentalized, God is active in each aspect, and weaving all of it together for His purposes.

Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  And even though men are plotting to kill Christ, remember it was God Himself who sent Jesus to the cross to die for sinners.  Read Acts 2:23, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”  God is sovereign.  Either bow now or bow later–turn to Christ.


About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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  1. […] his sermon on Sunday on Mark 3:1-6, Chris made this statement: “Having jealousy, pride and religious zeal is a deadly […]