Churches had rules when I was growing up! Women wore dresses. Men wore slacks, a white shirt and a tie. Bibles were black. Any variation from King James’ Shakespearian language was frowned upon. The songs we sang were three hundred years old. Hats? If a man wore a hat into the building, he wouldn’t go to heaven.
The Pharisees had lots of rules. Their man-made laws expanded upon God’s laws becoming a plethora of requirements forced upon the Jewish population... “do this” and “don’t do that.” A Jew could only walk three thousand feet on the Sabbath day and wasn’t permitted to carry anything heavier than a dried fig. A Jewish tailor wasn’t permitted to carry a needle on the Sabbath. Throwing an object into the air with one hand and catching it with the other was prohibited. Baths could not be taken for fear some of the water might spill out onto the floor and “wash” it, and a woman was not to look in a mirror lest she see a gray hair and be tempted to pull it out. Rules. Rules. Rules.
On a certain Sabbath day, Jesus and His disciples were walking through a wheat field, “and his disciples began to make their way, picking some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’ ” (Mark 2:23–24). The Pharisees condemned Peter and his partners for harvesting on a holy day! On many occasions, Jesus clashed with the hyper-religious scribes and Pharisees concerning the Sabbath (i.e., Luke 13:10–17).
“Jesus entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a shriveled hand. In order to accuse him (Jesus), they (the Pharisees) were watching him closely to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath. He told the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand before us’ ” (Mark 3:1-3). Luke adds, “a man was there whose right hand was shriveled” (Luke 6:6).
With the handicapped man standing beside Him, Jesus asked the pompous, pious, pride-filled, Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”(Mark 3:4). Matthew’s Gospel adds more of Jesus’ logical argument. “Who among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? A person is worth far more than a sheep; so it is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath”(Matthew 12:11-12). I suspect that the Pharisees glared indignantly at Jesus, daring Him to break their laws!
“After looking around at them with anger, he was grieved at the hardness of their hearts and told the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out, and his hand was restored”(Mark 3:5). The poor man had no muscles in his right hand or forearm, no strength, no ability to make a fist, to hold an object, or to “stretch it out!” But Jesus said, “stretch it out,” so he tried. For the first time in years, his hand obeyed. Marvelously, miraculously, the man exercised all five fingers. Holding his hand high enough for everyone to see, with a smile spreading across his face and tears trickling down his cheeks, he turned to gaze at the miracle-worker, Jesus, his Savior.
But the judgmental, hyper-religious rule-makers “went out and started plotting with the Herodians against him, how they might kill him” (Mark 3:1–6).
Jesus isn’t concerned with religion and its requirement... He invites us into a life-transforming relationship with a real and living Savior!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.