Mark 3:1-6 – An Illustration of the Blinding Effects of a Wicked Heart (pt. 3)

Part 1
Part 2

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

-Mark 3:1-6

III. The Reactions (vv. 5-6)

a. The righteous anger of Jesus

Jesus knew that He wasn’t going to get an answer from these guys, and so he didn’t with long.  Mark tells us in verse 5 that “he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.”  Jesus looked at these men who had refused to admit their sin, and were actively rebelling against him, and He had two reactions.

First, He was angry.  This we can understand.  We get angry all the time, and my guess is that we too would have been angry at these guys.  But the anger that Jesus had wasn’t just any anger.  Jesus wasn’t upset because the Pharisees inconvenienced Him, or because they did things differently than He would have done it.  No, Jesus was angry because of their sin.  This is the kind of anger that Jesus had when he cleansed the Temple (11:15-19).  It is the kind of anger that God always has toward sin.  These Pharisees were trying to rob God of His glory, and they were actively rebelling against His plan.  This is what angered Jesus, and this is the sort of thing that should anger us as well.  Ephesians 4:26 puts it this way, “Be angry and do not sin.”

There was also something else that Jesus felt as He looked at these Pharisees.  He was grieved because these men had hard hearts.  To understand why this grieved Jesus we really need to understand the phrase “hardness of heart.” In the bible the heart is like the “mission control center” of our lives.  It is where we think, feel, and make decisions.  The word used here for hardness (πωρώσει) refers to a complete lack of understanding, dullness, blindness, or even obstinacy to the truth.  “This phrase is almost a stock expression in the NT for those who cannot or will not perceive the truth….”[1] This means that “Jesus’ critics are ‘set in their ways’, and their insensitivity (or ‘obdurate stupidity’, Mann) both hurts (συλλυπούμενος) and angers him.”[2] Yet, despite this hardness and obstinacy, Jesus is still grieved over their position.  He knows that as long as they are in this position of hardness they will be alienated from God with no hope of forgiveness.

After looking around at these guys for a minute Jesus turned his attention back to the man with the paralyzed hand “and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” Notice that “in this miracle Jesus does not touch the sufferer or use material means, but commands the man to do something with the affected limb.”[3] No one could have legitimately accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, even in light of the standards of the Pharisees.  Jesus not only outsmarted the Pharisees, but He also revealed His pure and holy character by compassionately healing this man.

b. The sinful rage of the Pharisees

In comparison with Jesus the Pharisees did not react so well to this conflict.  Mark tells us that after Jesus healed this man “the Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”  Luke adds, in Luke 6:11, that they were “filled with fury.”  You might say that they left the synagogue that day in a blind rage over Jesus’ actions.  They were so angry that they went out and met with the Herodians.   Most likely these Herodians were Jews who, for political reasons, supported Herod Antipas.  They would have been political enemies of the Pharisees.  However, they were united by a common enemy in this case.  This partnership is somewhat surprising, “but their cooperation in order to silence a radical religious reformer is no more surprising than that of the various factions of the Sanhedrin in the arrest and trial of Jesus (see on 8:31). It must be remembered, too, that it will be their leader Antipas who executes Jesus’ predecessor John (6:17-28)….”[4] In other words, the Pharisees were willing to work with anyone in order to catch Jesus in their net.  They had no moral character whatsoever.  They were willing to do anything to “destroy” Jesus.

What a contrast to the way that Jesus reacted toward them.  Hendricksen desribes it this way:

Not only did the Pharisees leave the synagogue; the left in a huff.  They were furious (Luke 6:11).  The fact that a handicapped man had been delivered of his serious impediment, did not affect them in the least.  It did not make them feel happy for this man.  And it did not make them kindly disposed toward the Healer.  What riled them was that here, before the eyes of everybody, they and their traditionalism had suffered a humiliating defeat.  What a vast difference between Christ’s totally unselfish anger (Mark 3:5) and their thoroughly selfish resentment![5]

Conclusion:

Looking back at this passage it is clear that Jesus is the one to be valued, and the Pharisees are really the villains of the story.  We can see that relatively easily from our vantage point, but obviously the Pharisees didn’t see things this way.  They rejected the value of Jesus, and they were blind to their own sin.  They were totally biased against Jesus, and in favor of themselves.  As we think who these men were it is easy to be angry with them, and to be repulsed by their sin.  But the fact of the matter is that we are more like the Pharisees than we would like to admit.  We are certainly more like the Pharisees than we are like Jesus.

Scripture teaches that all men, apart from Christ, are in the shape position that these Pharisees were in.  Ephesians 4:18 says that “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” This means that apart from divine healing no one can be saved.  But thankfully that is exactly why Jesus came.  Romans 5:8 says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Christ died for us so that we wouldn’t have to be like the Pharisees anymore.  He dies for us so that by placing our faith in Him we might be saved despite our hard hearts.

For those who have put your faith in Jesus you understand that it is still a struggle not be like the Pharisees.  Even though Jesus has done so much for us we sometimes have a hard time valuing Him above all other things.  We fail to see His value, and we fail to see our sin.  We must fight this temptation and value Jesus even more than we value ourselves.


[1] R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 151.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Cranfield, The Gospel According to Saint Mark, 121.

[4] France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 151.

[5] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1975), 117.

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