The Man with the withered hand, Mark 3. 1-6
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
A Question of Tradition and Contact with Disease. 'And he entered again into the synagogue and there was a man there who had a withered hand, and they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day, that they might accuse him', 3. 1, 2.
The focus of the disturbance was a man with a withered hand. Previously in conflict with demons, Christ is now in contact with disease, and both respond to His authority and power. Tradition records that the man was a plasterer or mason so his 'right hand', Luke 6. 6, would have been an essential loss. The Scribes and Pharisees had come not to worship but to watch in order to accuse the Lord of breaking the sabbath. They failed to recognise the need for love and mercy above that of ritual and tradition.
'They asked . . . is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?', Matt. 12. 10. As was so often His custom, the Lord posed a counter question by asking whether it was lawful to do good on the sabbath, or evil, to save life or to kill. At this they were silent, 3. 4. It is clear that not to do good is counted as doing evil, so that it is not only lawful to perform an act of mercy on the sabbath but it is unlawful not to do it. The priest and Levite in Luke 10 were condemned for the sin of omission as 'they passed by on the other side'. James writes, 'to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin', James 4. 17. The unprofitable servant was cast out because he hid his talent in the earth, not because he had used it wrongly. In the great judgment the condemnation of those on the left-hand of the king is, 'inasmuch as ye did it not', Matt. 25. 45.
'He saith to the man . . . stand forth . . . stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out and his hand was restored whole as the other', 3. 3, 5, A public confession of faith was to accompany the miracle of healing and in the performance of the act the miracle took place. Angry at their wickedness and grieved at their callousness the Lord looked round about on the onlookers. Careful of detail, Mark frequently records our Lord's looks. Here is an unusual verb found six times in this gospel and only once elsewhere in the New Testament. See 3. 5; 3. 34; 5. 32; 9. 8; 10. 23; 11. 11; and Luke 6. 10. Whether in love, grief or reproof His look so touched the hearts of the subjects that it could not be forgotten.
Against sin this is a righteous emotion implanted by God in the heart, but like all emotions it has its proper place and purpose. In righteous anger the Lord cleansed the temple, John 2. 15, and Paul wrote, 'Be angry and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath', Eph. 4. 26. This is no excuse for uncontrolled emotion, the latter part of the exhortation being of equal importance to the former.
A Strange Alliance
'The Pharisees went forth and straighway took counsel with the Herodians against him how they might destroy him,' 3. 6. The Herodians were a political rather than a religious party, anti-national, relying upon Rome's protection out of expediency as they awaited national independence. The Lord warned of the leaven of Herod, 8. 15. Politically opposed to the Pharisees they were prepared to join them in their hatred for the Lord, see also 12. 13, 14.
Driven from the synagogue, the Lord withdrew to the sea and preached to the crowd gathered on the shore. Repudiated by official Jewry He is vindicated by the ordinary people. In spiritual matters what is hidden from the wise is revealed to babes. Matt. 11. 25, 26.