Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 29 December 2014

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3, verses 5-6

It’s still early in the book of Mark, meaning it’s still fairly early in Jesus’ ministry, possibly around AD 28 (according to http://biblehub.com/timeline/mark/1.htm). I say that because it means that, early on in the time when Jesus declared His public ministry, there were high-ranking people opposed to Him; opposed to Him so strongly that they wanted Him dead.   Those people were willing to plot with the official governing body installed by Rome (the Herodians). It wasn’t something that started during Passion Week; it happened all along. Do you grasp the significance of that?   It would be as if someone got the goods on the United States Government today and publicly, vocally, strongly, and with overwhelming public support worked to oppose it.   Tell me:   do you think the power structure in ancient Judea was any less intimidating or malevolent?

And how did Jesus look to oppose the public power structure?   By gently but firmly confronting it through doing His Father’s good.   If you recall, in verses 1-4 He confronted the Pharisees by questioning them on the Sabbath.   Already they were looking for a way to trap Him. So, instead of falling into their trap, Jesus rhetorically and practically counter-traps them by exposing the stubbornness of their hearts. Yet He gives them an out. In today’s verses, Jesus proves that it is right to do the Father’s will any time, Sabbath or otherwise. Instead of condemnation, Jesus spreads a little love by helping a stranger, then letting the action speak for itself.

Yet don’t overlook the massive thing He also does in doing so. He gets angry; righteously angry.   He wasn’t angry at the Pharisees, but He did get angry and look at them in anger.   See the difference; it matters. It’s no small thing to tick off the Creator of the Universe but these Pharisees managed to do it.   How?   By hardening their hearts.   It should have been a no-brainer:   let the Father’s love show in any way at any time whether it violated Jewish tradition or not. Yet they stubbornly refused to choose what was right, choosing, instead, the tradition over the love.   That choice is what angered Jesus, namely that they would choose humanity over God, that they would choose human practice over God’s glory.

Tell me:   do you think Jesus gets similarly angry over our bad choices today?   I don’t know where heaven is, or where in it Jesus lives; I sometimes wonder if, at my dying, I won’t be ridiculously surprised to learn that heaven was here all along but I, in my mortal humanity, could not see it. Jesus is there and here at the same time, absent from a physical presence that I could grasp yet very real and very present in ways only my heart can.   When I choose what I can grasp over choosing who He is, do you think that distresses Him the way He became distressed over the Pharisees?   After all, Jesus loved the Pharisees too.   Early on, they showed how they could rebel against Him. Yet just as early, instead of hating them, He rebuked and loved them, too.

Lord, forgive me of my sins, of my poor choices, of how I chose the world over You.

Read ahead in Mark 3, verses 7-12.

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