Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 49. Sad Cynics
Mk 3:1,2 Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.
We have a continuation in “Mark’s studies of the Pharisees”! When he says, “Another time” he is simply giving another example of the sort of opposition Jesus had been receiving from the religious people of the day. How tragic that sometimes Jesus’ activity is opposed by the very people who ought to be the most open to it!
Again it is a Sabbath incident. As was his habit he went to the synagogue. This time there is a man there who has a shrivelled hand. Already the opposition to Jesus has hardened so that they are actively looking for reasons to criticise him. No what is interesting about this is that there was no question about Jesus’ ability to heal people and so even the opposition expect it to happen now, and that fact puts them on the alert to see what he is going to do today. Today is a Sabbath and work is forbidden on the Sabbath. Yes, I know we’ve been through that but they haven’t got the message yet!
So here they are watching, knowing there is a man in their synagogue with a shrivelled hand and knowing Jesus has the power to heal people. Will the two things come together? Now there are obviously two sad things about this. First there is the matter of Jesus’ power. Surely he wouldn’t be able to do what he is doing in this whole healing realm if it wasn’t God at work in and through him. These religious people are cynically watching for him to step out of line, but can healing a person ever be stepping out of line? So, secondly, here is the man with an obvious infirmity and these religious people appear to have not a jot of compassion for him and so when the possibility of him being healed walks through the door, all they are concerned with is that it is the Sabbath.
Now this only goes to show us how easy it is for people who live by rules to lose perspective. I always remember a story from the early days of House Churches of a group meeting in a sitting room when an elderly person upstairs was taken ill and had to be stretchered out through the meeting in the sitting room, which steadfastly continued as if nothing unusual was happening! The order of Sunday morning was not to be disturbed. That is the same spirit as appeared here in this synagogue and it appears in churches today! How crazy!