Tuesday 12 January 2016

Bible Book:

“Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” (v. 4)

Mark 3:1-6 Tuesday 12 January 2016

Psalm: Psalm 8


The theme of Sabbath observance in the previous episode in Mark's Gospel (Mark2:23-28) is continued today's passage but it is alsolinked to a further example of healing that brings Jesus in toconflict with the religious and political authorities. In theearlier healing of a paralysed man who was brought to Jesus by hisfour friends (Mark 2:2-12), it was the way he healed him andthe words that he used that led Jesus in to difficult discussionswith his critics. This time it was the day he healed him on thatcaused the problems.

It would be hard to find even the strictest Pharisee who wouldobject to medical intervention to save someone's life, but thisstory focuses on a man with a longstanding disability to his hand,not a life-threatening condition. There was no urgency to heal thisman on a Sabbath; indeed there is no indication that the man askedto be healed that day or at all. It was Jesus who took theinitiative when he entered the synagogue and found him amongst thecongregation. Jesus deliberately provoked the situation and thesubsequent conflict, and by doing so led his critics to see thepotential problems that lay ahead if he continued in this way. Itbrought together both religious and political leaders to worktogether "to destroy him" (v. 6).

Whilst the focus of the passage is on the interpretation of thelaw, and whether it is lawful to do certain things on the Sabbath,Jesus' desire to do good, in whatever situation he finds himself,shines through. It's also clear that the blindness of others to theobvious need around them leaves him upset and angry.

The contrast between Jesus restoring the fullness of life withthe Pharisees and the Herodians who plan to destroy life is stark.However it is also ironic that after making such an issue of Jesusworking on the Sabbath, they themselves started to work on theirplans to kill Jesus immediately, therefore also on the Sabbath, thevery day they were trying to protect as holy.

To Ponder

  • Was Jesus right to deliberately provoke conflict? Why?
  • To what need is our society blind? And how should the Churchrespond today?
  • Is it right to get angry and show our anger? And if so, how andwhen?

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