Mark 3:1-7 (ESV)
1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 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. 5 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. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. 7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea
Mark has put together the Sabbath controversies in his narrative. We are to presume that the the people watching Jesus in verse 2 are not simply neutral observers but as hostile observers who are seekeign to accuse him of breaking the Sabbath law.
Jesus, no doubt aware of this tense situation, does not walk away but calls out to a man with a withered hand. A reading of Rabbinic literature, although not specifically mentioning healing as prohibited on the Sabbath, states that work should only include helping someone whose life is in danger.
M. Yom 8:6 ‘If a man has a pain in his throat they may drop medicine into his mouth on the sabbath, since there is doubt whether life is in danger, and whenever there is doubt whether life is in danger this overrides the Sabbath ‘
A withered hand, however, does not run the risk of being life threatening. Jesus then in offering to heal the man, is breaking the societal norms of the religious community. There is no doubt that at a pupular level the laws of the Pharisees would have not been strictly kept, but it is another thing for a public figure (Jesus) to go into a public place (synagogue) and break the rules of the religious elite. France comments that Jesus is making ‘a deliberate violation of the accepted code’.
Jesus commands the man to ἔγειρε εἰς τὸ μέσον. The ESV translates this as ‘Come here’ but this does not accurately reflect the Greek which is better rendered ‘Stand in the middle’ as synagogues either had stone benched around the 4 walls, or people sat on mats on the floor. Jesus is thus telling this man to come into the centre. Jesus is prepared for a public healing on the Sabbath. He knows the potential conflict of this situation.
Before the healing Jesus poses the question about whether it is lawful to do good and save a life on the Sabbath. See also Matthew 12:11-12, Luke 13:15, 14:15). France suggests that Jesus may have in mind Dt 30:15
See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
This makes sense of the the Isaiah theme we have mentioned elsewhere. Jesus is proclaiming the arrival of the eshaton, the restoration of Israel in its land. Jesus does this not by overturning the place of the law, but by a return to it. Israel were called to be a blessing to broken, a light to the nation, a comfort to the widows and the downtrodden. Instead of this Israel, at least amongst the reliiogus elite, had ceased to be what God had called them to be. Interpretation of the law seems to have become greater than allegiance to YHWH and acceptance of the call to be a light.
Jesus asks a question and the people are silent. Jesus responds in anger. Jesus, involved in kingdom work displays an emotion which is not characteristic of the present day church. Jesus displays anger at people who do not see the misisonal implications of their covenantal status, he is angry at those who give allegiance to their cultural and religious codes above that of mission. Jesus is angry because their hearts are hard (see also mark 6:52, 8:17).
Jesus heals the man but this does not cause the Pharisees to change there mninds, in fact they left this scene to plot, with the Herodians, Jesus’ destruction.
Jesus could have been classed with toll collectors and sinners and left for the day of judgment. But as one who called into question the very premises of their understanding of God’s action in history by his own claims and ministry, he represented an ultimate threat. He could neither be tolerated nor easily dismissed. They sought to remove him from the scene.
Guelich, Robert A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 34A), S. 140