“They Watched Him”
“And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.”
When the Lord God told Eli that he was going to kill his sons, take the priesthood from his family, and destroy his family because he indulged his sons in their wickedness, he said, “And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him” (1 Samuel 2:35-36). God has fulfilled his Word in sending his Son to be a merciful, faithful, obedient High Priest over the house of God, before whom everyone and everything in heaven, earth, and hell must bow.
The third chapter of Mark opens with our Lord Jesus in his Father’s house doing his Father’s business, according to his Father’s will. Here, while the Pharisees watched him so that they might accuse him, our Lord Jesus healed in the synagogue on the sabbath day “a man there which had a withered hand.” Let’s read verses one through twelve together.
While he walked upon this earth, our Lord Jesus was always about his Father’s business, always doing good. In the sight of his enemies and in the sight of his friends he did that which he knew to be his Father’s will, whether men approved or disapproved mattered little to him. He was concerned about the will of God and the welfare of men, the glory of God and doing good to men. That was the daily tenor of our Lord’s earthly life and ministry. Thus, he left us an example that we should follow his steps (1 Peter 2:21). Blessed are those men and women who, believing on Christ as Lord and Savior, seek to imitate their Master, striving to walk in his steps and follow his example.
A Place of Hope
First, I want to remind you that the house of God is a place of hope. — “And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand” (v. 1). We have no way of knowing whether this man came to the synagogue as one who regularly attended the worship of God, or because he knew that Christ was going to be there that day and came hoping to be healed by him. What his reasons were we are not told; but our Savior’s reason for being there is obvious. He came on an errand of mercy to heal this man by the power of his omnipotent grace.
This man no more knew what the purpose of God was than we do. He did not know whether the Lord would be gracious to him or not; but he knew he had a withered arm. I suspect that he knew that Christ had power to heal his withered arm. Perhaps he knew that on the appointed day of worship Christ would be in the place of worship. Therefore, he came to the synagogue. It was to him the place of hope.
I do not know for sure that that was the case; but I do know for sure that the church of God, the gathering of God’s saints in public worship, is the place of hope for needy sinners. This is the place where God meets with men (Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16). And this is the place where God sends forth his Word and his power for the healing of men’s souls.
Many who profess to believe God make public worship an insignificant matter. If you are determined to do so, you have no difficulty in finding a way to justify absenting yourself from the house of God and the ministry of the Word. But God has promised to meet sinners nowhere else. And those who need mercy will be found in the place of hope. Those who need no mercy may be found anywhere. But sick people are found in the hospital. Hungry people are found in the soup kitchen. And needy sinners are found in the house of God, the place of hope.
God Hating Religionists
Second, the Pharisees in the synagogue, watching our Savior that they might accuse him, are held before us as a representation of God hating, self-righteous religionists. — “And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him” (v. 2). If you read Matthew’s account (Matthew 12:10), you will notice that they first ask the Lord Jesus in a pretense of piety, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?” But their only motive was to lay a trap for him. What a shameful display these men are of the depravity and deceitfulness of the human heart. Carnal men still watch Christ’s disciples, hoping to catch them doing or saying something that can be used against them.
These things happened on the sabbath day. They did not take place in a bar room, or a back alley, but in the house of God! Men who were assembled in the name of God, supposedly to hear the Word of God and worship God, plotted to destroy the Son of God! These men who pretended to be so strict, so sanctimonious, so very precise about the things of God sat in the house Of God with malicious hearts, plotting murder! It is no surprise that the Lord Jesus looked round about upon them with anger.
As these Pharisees watched our Savior that they might accuse him, so men and women today, especially self-righteous religionists, watch God’s saints, that they might accuse them. The servant is not above his Master, nor the disciple above his Lord. We must never expect to fare better among men than our Savior did if we walk in his steps. God’s saints are all marked people in a godless world. They are watched by everyone. They can do nothing without the world noticing it.
The Pharisees watched the Lord Jesus, not to adore him for his grace and mercy, but “that they might accuse him.” And as soon as our Savior manifested his tender mercy toward this poor man, they took counsel to kill him. Robert Hawker’s comments on the conduct of these wretched creatures are instructive. He wrote…
“Do not overlook these things: for very awful as they are, they become precious testimonies to the truth as it is in Jesus. The Lord himself hath explained the same. For while he saith, ‘My sheep hear my voice; and I know them and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life’ (John 10:27-28), he saith to those that are not his sheep: ‘Why do ye not understand my speech? even, because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do’ (John 8:43-47).
No wonder Jesus ‘looked round about upon them with anger.’ The seed of the woman, and the children of the wicked one, can never agree. And let it be remembered, that the destruction of the enemies of Christ, forms a part of Christ’s mission as much as the salvation of his chosen. The hour of decision will come, when Jesus will ‘gather out of his kingdom all things that offend;’ and while the redeemed shall ‘shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,’ the Lord will cast them that do iniquity into ‘the furnace of fire, where is wailing and gnashing of teeth’ (Isaiah 63:4; Matthew 13:36-43 and 15: 31 to the end).”
That which is true concerning believers in general is doubly true concerning gospel preachers. Their dress, their use of their time, their recreations, the cars they drive, the restaurants they eat in, every relationship of their lives, every word they speak, and everything they do is rigidly observed, closely scrutinized, and noted by men and women, especially religious men and women, who are hoping to catch them in some error that can be magnified and used against them.
That being the case, what should we do? Should we live like hermits, wear simple, unadorned attire like the Amish, and take great care never to do anything with which anyone can find fault? That is impossible. If you live like a hermit, someone will say, “He is so unfriendly. He thinks he is better than anyone else.” If you are warm and friendly, and you happen to be a lady, your gossiping sisters will say, “Look at her. She is such a flirt. Doesn’t she care what people think?” If you wear plain, simple clothes, people will say you do not pay enough attention to your appearance. If you wear stylish clothes, they will say you are a show-off. And if you should happen to say, or do something that really is bad, something that is totally out of character for you, they will jump on that like fleas on a dog, and say, “Well, I always was suspicious. Sooner or later, the truth will come out.”
What are we to do? How are we to live before such people? Do exactly what your Lord did here. He knew what the Pharisees thought and what they would say and do in response to his actions; but he paid absolutely no attention to them. He simply did what he knew was his Father’s will, for the glory of his Father’s name and the benefit of other men. He looked upon the Pharisees and their opinions about what he did with absolute, utter contempt.
Let me give you a few, simple guidelines for day by day behavior, as you attempt to follow Christ in this world.
In a word, live as God the Holy Spirit has told us to live in this world.
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 4:17-5:5)
Third, in verses 3-6 we see a display of our Savior’s omnipotent mercy. Our Lord Jesus had come to the synagogue on an errand of mercy. He was not about to let these Pharisees turn him aside from his mission. There is much in these verses deserving serious contemplation.
A command was given to the helpless soul. — “And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth” (v. 3). In light of the fact that the Pharisees had already challenged the lawfulness of a man being healed on the sabbath day (Matthew 12:10), it required considerable courage for this man to stand forth, considerable courage or great need and great faith. Those two things, great need and great faith, always produce great courage.
“And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace” (v. 4). — Not to do good when there is opportunity is to do evil. Passive wickedness is just as evil as the performance of evil (Revelation 2:4, 14, 20; 3:4,15,16).
With this poor soul standing before them and before the entire congregation, these Pharisees, who would not hesitate to pull an ox out of ditch on the Sabbath, could hardly say it is wrong to heal on the sabbath. They held their silence; but they were not happy. The Lord had embarrassed them; and embarrassed men are angry men.
“And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (v. 5). — Our Lord was filled with anger, but it was not an anger of personal revenge. We see that by the fact that his anger toward these men was the anger of one who was grieved, not the anger of one who was enraged. He looked upon their behavior with contempt. He looked upon their hypocrisy with anger. He looked upon their hearts with grief.
“He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” — Here is a display of the saving power of our Savior’s irresistible grace. When our Lord called the man to stretch forth his hand, he gave him the power to do what he otherwise could not do. When he called Lazarus to come forth from the dead, with his call came the power for the dead to come forth. So it is with the call of God the Holy Spirit. He does not merely nudge dead sinners toward life by his call. With his call comes the power that gives life to the dead. He does not merely call us to grace, but “into the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:6). He does not merely call dead sinners to live, but calls the dead unto life in Christ (2 Timothy 6:12).
As soon as the Savior showed his tender mercy in healing this needy soul, the Pharisees and Herodians conspired to murder the Lord Jesus. — “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (v. 6). The Pharisees had what they wanted, a pretense of grounds upon which to justify the murder of the Lord of glory. They hated the Herodians. They had nothing in common with the Herodians. Yet, they did not hesitate to unite with the Herodians, when it served their ends. It cannot be ignored that these “good” men did this on the sabbath day!
Fourth, we see in verses 7-10 thronging crowds of needy souls rushing to the Savior, inspired with hope.
“But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues.”
The Lord withdrew himself from the Pharisees. Multitudes heard about his power and grace. These needy souls came to the Lord Jesus with the prospect of being healed. They were inspired with the hope of mercy by the fact that “he had healed many.” They seem to have thought within themselves, “If he healed Leper Larry, he can surely heal me, if he will!” And those who needed healing spared no effort in coming to him who was their only hope of being healed. They came not with the promise that they would be healed, only with the hope that the Son of God might do for them what he had done for the man with the withered arm, and with the faith that he could, if he would, heal them too. That is the way for sinners to come to Christ.
Fifth, in verses 11 and 12 we see hell defeated and prostrate before the Lord Jesus Christ. — “And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.” Here is a picture of what will happen in the last day. These unclean spirits were compelled by God our Savior to give open testimony to his eternal Godhead and sovereignty over them as God the Son. So it shall be with every creature. Hell itself shall bow to Christ (Philippians 2:8-11). Satan, the fallen angels, and all the damned shall see Christ in his glory, confess him as God and Lord, and shrink away from his presence into everlasting torment.
The destruction of Christ’s enemies and ours is as much a part of his mission as our Mediator and Jehovah’s Servant as the salvation of God’s elect. The hour will soon come when he will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend. In that day the redeemed of the Lord shall “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” and “death and hell…the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” The Lord Jesus shall cast all his foes and ours into “the furnace of fire, where is wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Isaiah 63:4; Matthew 13:36-43; 15: 31; Revelation 20:14; 21:18).
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