Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?

Mark 3:1-6

Jesus entered the synagogue.

There was a man there who had a withered hand.

The Pharisees watched Jesus closely

to see if he would cure him on the sabbath

so that they might accuse him.

He said to the man with the withered hand,

“Come up here before us.”

Then he said to the Pharisees,

“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil,

to save life rather than to destroy it?”

But they remained silent.

Looking around at them with anger

and grieved at their hardness of heart,

Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”

He stretched it out and his hand was restored.

The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel

with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

         Sometimes we see pictures of Jesus and he looks weak. He doesn’t look like a man whom we would want to follow. In theses verses from the Gospel of Mark today, we are reminded that Jesus is not some willowy, weak man.  In fact, when Jesus begins his public ministry he is about 30 years old, and he is a carpenter. Jesus was a strong man. In this Gospel, we encounter  a man with strong feelings. Mark writes that he looks at the Pharisees “with anger,” and that “he is grieved at their hardness of heart.”

       It is important to note that anger is not always sinful. Although we list anger among the seven deadly sins, feelings, or passions such as anger, are not sins. Our passions, or feelings, should help move us to do what is right and good. The sin is allowing our emotions, not our reason to rule us.Indeed there is a form of just anger. Anger over the Pharisees shallow adherence to the law is understandable and justified.

       Jesus is angry because while these Pharisees outwardly follow the prescriptions of the law, inwardly they have hardened their hearts. Jesus knows that they watch him closely, not to share in his goodness, but to “catch” him in a violation of the law. Despite their judgments, Jesus is moved to “do good on the Sabbath,” and to cure the suffering man. In the new testament we learn that the purpose of the law and the true fulfillment of the law is love. 

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