3:1 Jesus went into a synagogue again. A man who had a paralyzed hand was there.
During the previous account of the confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus’ answers did not satisfy the Pharisees when they questioned Him about giving His disciples approval to pluck grain on the Sabbath. Jesus’ answers did not fit their traditionally accepted interpretations.
After their discussion on the moral rightness of plucking grain on the Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue. An entourage followed Him—His disciples, the Pharisees, and the curious onlookers. There, Jesus saw a man with a paralyzed hand.
It is important to note that the synagogue was the place where Jesus did much of His teaching. We often think of Him by the Sea of Galilee or on a mountainside. However, up to this point in Mark, Jesus spent much of His time in the synagogue, the center of Jewish community life. His authority to teach in this special place had been established by His miraculous works, but His acceptance was apparently limited to the general congregation. Jesus still had His critics who sought opportunity to discredit this popular new rabbi.
3:2 The people were watching Jesus closely. They wanted to see whether he would heal the man on the day of worship so that they could accuse him of doing something wrong.
From the previous passage and the description in the following verses, we know that the phrase “the people” clearly refers to the Pharisees. In the previous dialogue, the Pharisees were dissatisfied with Jesus’ responses. He had repeatedly challenged their religious thinking, so tempers were frayed by this point.
They watched Jesus closely to see if He would continue pushing beyond their accepted limits. If Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath, He was definitely breaking the Law of Moses as interpreted in the Jewish rabbinical tradition. It was permissible to intervene in another’s circumstance or even in an animal’s circumstance if there was an immediate threat to life, but a crippled hand did not qualify as a life-threatening circumstance. The healing of this man’s hand could wait until after the Sabbath. After all, this man had suffered from this condition for a long time.
Apparently, the Pharisees were no longer content with simply observing this new rabbi. He had pushed them too far. They now watched His every move with the intention of gaining evidence that could be used to destroy Him. Jesus had drawn the line in the sand. He stood on one side with the Pharisees on the other. They would never cross that line to accept Jesus. They were now His accusers, and they sought to destroy Him.
3:3 So he told the man with the paralyzed hand, “Stand in the center of the synagogue.”
Jesus addressed the man by instructing him to step into the center of the synagogue. This man may not have appealed to Jesus to heal him as we have seen in other passages. Perhaps, he was simply attending the synagogue along with the rest of the people, but Jesus asked him to take center stage. Just as Jesus perceived what was in the Pharisees’ hearts in the earlier passage, He was very much aware of the current climate. He knew that the stakes in this drama had been raised and that their animosity had been kindled. They certainly did not wish Him well. In fact, they wished Him harm.
In the Greek text, the command to “stand in the center” or “step forward” can literally be translated “rise into the middle.” This depicts a man sitting on the sidelines. He had a paralyzed hand but did not appear to want any part in this controversy. Nevertheless, Jesus summoned him into the middle of the debate.
3:4 Then he asked them, “Is it right to do good or to do evil on the day of worship, to give a person back his health or to let him die?” But they were silent.
Jesus stood in the synagogue, surrounded by friend and foe. There, next to the man with the paralyzed hand, He addressed the Pharisees by posing a layered question. Which was better—to do good or evil, to save life or to kill? Of course, this particular viewpoint could be applied to any day of the week. Jesus asked the question, but the Pharisees remained silent. The manner in which Jesus asked the question made it difficult for them to respond. If they said, “Yes! Of course, it is better to do good,” they were endorsing Jesus’ action. If they said, “No,” they were saying that it is permissible to do evil and to kill. Obviously, they were caught in a trap. They certainly did not intend to endorse the ministry of this new rabbi, but they also could not oppose His action either. Their silence must have been deafening as it exposed their hypocrisy.
3:5 Jesus was angry as he looked around at them. He was deeply hurt because their minds were closed. Then he told the man, “Hold out your hand.” The man held it out, and his hand became normal again.
Jesus knew very well that the Pharisees could not answer His question without making fools of themselves. He knew the intent of their hearts and that they sought evidence to accuse Him of failing to obey the Law of Moses. As Jesus looked at the Pharisees, He was angry. Was He angry because He knew their motives or because He hated them? His anger was triggered by His distress over the Pharisees’ willful blindness of the evidence that they had witnessed with their very eyes. Their hearts were calloused with pride and hypocrisy.
Throughout this gospel, Jesus ministered publicly. He did not cultivate a secret message for a chosen few. His message was openly delivered to everyone able to hear His voice and observe the authority with which He resolved mankind’s maladies. The disciples saw exactly the same events as the Pharisees did, yet they came to totally opposite conclusions. The disciples accepted Him as an unusual rabbi Whose actions confirmed His words, whereas the Pharisees labeled Him as an imposter and blasphemer.
Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand. When the man obeyed, his hand was restored to the strength of his other hand. Jesus did not say to a demon, “Come out of him.” He did not say, “Be cleansed,” or even, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” In fact, Jesus never addressed the problem. He simply instructed the man to stretch out his hand, and the restoration was already complete.
3:6 The Pharisees left, and with Herod’s followers they immediately plotted to kill Jesus.
The Pharisees were furious. Rather than rejoice in someone made whole, they left the scene and immediately conspired with Herod’s people. This rabbi had defied the religious system that had rewarded the scribes and Pharisees with lofty positions of status and respect. They were esteemed for the power they held and were considered holy men of God. Jesus had exposed their prideful intentions, and the Pharisees were afraid of losing their standing. Better to align themselves with their hated enemies, the Herodians, than to acknowledge the ministry of this rabbi.
From this point on, they plotted for a way to kill Jesus. Some translations use the word destroy instead of kill. We can be sure that the Pharisees wanted to destroy His reputation and to break His hold on the people. They wanted to expose Him as a fraud—just another false prophet appearing on the scene of Jewish life.
The die was cast. There was no turning back. The religious leaders of the day were prepared to plot against one of their own people to destroy Him and cut off His ministry. They would not stop until they saw their mission completed.
Sadly, we often see this very scenario played out in the church today. Jesus told His followers to expect persecution by the world, but when criticism or harsh actions originate in the house of God, we feel the sting of rejection, shock, anger, and sadness. Jesus, in His humanity, must have felt these emotions, too, but He knew His ultimate mission and determined to carry it out. Jesus came to bring hope and salvation to the “lost sheep” of Israel and, ultimately, to the entire world.
How do we respond when religious leaders or those we respect act in a hurtful manner? What do we do when we see Christians “shoot their wounded” rather than help them back to their feet? Are we the ones “pulling the trigger” against our Christian family? The apostle Paul instructed the new believers at Ephesus to be devoted to Christ and to one another: “20You are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone. 21In him all the parts of the building fit together and grow into a holy temple in the Lord. 22Through him you, also, are being built in the Spirit together with others into a place where God lives” (Ephesians 2:20–22).
As believers, we have been built on the foundation of Christ, so Paul’s admonition holds true for us as well. Being “rooted and grounded in love,” we are encouraged to “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:17,19, NKJV) and to extend that patient love to our Christian family members when they experience spiritual challenges and become disillusioned.
4Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. 5It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. 6It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. 7Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.
8Love never comes to an end. There is the gift of speaking what God has revealed, but it will no longer be used. There is the gift of speaking in other languages, but it will stop by itself. There is the gift of knowledge, but it will no longer be used. (1 Corinthians 13:4–8)
When we are rejected by those who claim to serve God, we must remind ourselves of this passage in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus, the Son of God, demonstrated to the world that He was the very essence of God Himself. Some followed Him without reservation, while others could not see past their own agenda. Our encouragement today lies in the sure knowledge that God knows those who are His. Jesus Himself intercedes on our behalf, and not everyone belongs to Him. In the midst of this assurance, we realize that we very well could suffer the same consequences Jesus endured, but that is a small price for being a child of His, redeemed with the precious blood of Christ.
3:7–8 7Jesus left with his disciples for the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd from Galilee, Judea, 8Jerusalem, Idumea, and from across the Jordan River, and from around Tyre and Sidon followed him. They came to him because they had heard about everything he was doing.
Jesus and His disciples left the synagogue confrontation with the Pharisees and returned to the Sea of Galilee. A new scene opens before us as a “large crowd” from beyond the region of Galilee and Capernaum gathered around Jesus. The multitude probably numbered in the thousands.
These people came from all over the region, even from as far as Judea and Idumea. Why did this huge number of people seek this rabbi? Because they were hearing of the miracles He was doing, such as healing the sick, curing lepers, making the lame to walk, and casting out demons. Not only that, but when Jesus cast out a demon and restored a man who had an evil spirit, the crowds experienced the excitement generated by the teaching of this young rabbi—teaching that was confirmed by action.
3:9 Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready so that the crowd would not crush him.
The Son of God made logistical preparations to protect Himself by instructing the disciples to have a small boat ready. The press of the crowd was so great that He literally prepared an escape route. If it became too dangerous, He could board the boat and push off from shore to separate Himself from the crowd.
The crowds traveled from great distances, some from as far as seventy-five miles or more. Whatever lives they left behind, however long and arduous their journey, and whatever the demands of the unknown conditions once they arrived, they were willing to forsake everything and endure anything to catch a glimpse of this renowned teacher. The Jewish people, subdued and ruled by foreign nations since Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jerusalem in 586 b.c., were desperate. This special person had captured their imagination and hopes. Could this be the Messiah? Could this be God’s Anointed, the fulfillment of all the prophetic visions? The general populace swarmed like bees around Jesus.
3:10 He had cured so many that everyone with a disease rushed up to him in order to touch him.
These people attempted an amazing thing. If they could just touch Him, they might be restored to health. They were not disappointed. Just to touch the teacher was health and wholeness. He set them free from their sicknesses. What could the Pharisees be thinking when faced with such an abundance of evidence?
3:11 Whenever people with evil spirits saw him, they would fall down in front of him and shout, “You are the Son of God!”
Jesus continued His ministry, casting out demons from those so afflicted by setting them free from their spiritual slavery. In response, the demons’ only reaction was to recognize the source of this healing power and readily acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God.
At this time in Jesus’ ministry, three primary groups were confronted with the reality of the Son of God. First, there were those who were captivated by His words and His deeds. These were by far the largest group. They saw a unique individual walking among them with grace and humility and Who was not seeking the company of the rich or powerful. He taught them with authority, confirmed by extraordinary deeds. Second, there were those such as the scribes and the Pharisees who looked for the opportunity to destroy His ministry. They could not possibly accept this blasphemer. They observed the same authoritative teachings and the same spectacular events, but their conclusions were exactly the opposite. Jesus had trespassed the bounds of all Jewish propriety, so He had to be silenced. Last, there were the demons that Jesus called forth from their victims. These were the only beings that clearly saw Jesus as the Son of the Most High God. Strangely, the two human sides of this triangle were either clouded in their perceptions or totally opposed to Jesus. The demons, servants of Jesus’ archenemy Satan, understood perfectly the opposition they faced, and they acknowledged His lordship. Only the demons were without the cloud of mankind’s sinful nature. They knew their days were numbered.