Today Jesus gives us another important lesson about the Sabbath. The main point of yesterday’s passage was that the Sabbath was a gift to God’s people intended to give us physical and spiritual rest. Today’s passage adds the concept of serving on the Sabbath, which Jesus encouraged by asking the rhetorical question, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
The Text (Mark 3:1-6)
1 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” 4 Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
The opposition by the religious leaders to Jesus’ message and ministry is growing. At a Sabbath service, they watch Jesus carefully, hoping to catch Him doing something “wrong.” Of course, Jesus had never broken any of the actual commands of the Old Testament, but He was breaking their man-made traditions. Here we see that the Pharisees had become so legalistic that their teachings did not allow for someone to heal or help another human being on the Sabbath. This was a total contradiction of common sense and the spirit of mercy and love that God intended for His people to demonstrate. Jesus grew justly angry at the complete lack of compassion that these supposedly godly men had for a poor man suffering from a diseased or seriously injured hand. He rebuked their hardheartedness by healing the man in front of the whole congregation. Afterwards, the Pharisees’ hatred for Jesus becomes so intense that they are willing to ally with their sworn enemies, a group called the Herodians, to begin planning Jesus’ murder. The Herodians were wealthy compromisers, friends of the hated Romans and followers of the hated ruling family of the Herods. Yet because of their religious pride, the Pharisees would rather work with them than repent and trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Today’s passage again challenges us not to make the Sabbath a dead day full of legalistic rituals. Worship is about loving Jesus and loving others. Any time we find ourselves loving our own traditions and schedules more than we love people, something is wrong with our hearts. A great way to breathe life into our walks with Christ is to begin serving others. If you are a born again Christian, then God has given you certain spiritual gifts that He wants you to learn the joy of using. One way to find your gifts is to simply try different ways of serving in or through your church. When you notice areas of service that you enjoy and show some ability to do, you have probably discovered a spiritual gift. Christian mentors like your parents, youth pastors, small group leaders, and teachers can also help you to discover your gifts and give you ideas about how you can use them.
Balance is very important, though. It is very important by middle school age to regularly attend a corporate worship service (big church) most or every week that you aren’t sick. Gathering with other believers to hear God’s Word taught and sing praises to Him as the body of Christ is really important for your spiritual growth. By age 12, the Bible sees you as a young man or young woman; the concept of “teenagers” is not found in Scripture. Rather than simply “having fun” and looking to be entertained from age 12 to age 18, these are critical years for you to begin learning to believe and live the Christian faith as adults in training. Once you are attending weekly worship regularly with a humble desire to grow, you should be growing and then you should feel desires to serve, both at church and school. That’s how God designed us to work. I pray that God will help you this next school year to discover and learn to love using your spiritual gifts to help others.