The Sabbath and Love | Mark 3:1–6
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.
Jesus faithfully returns to the synagogue on the Sabbath, and a man with perhaps a physical handicap from birth sits there. It’s possible that the Pharisees brought this man to the synagogue, setting up a trap for the Lord—as the text states that they sought opportunity to accuse the Lord. Even so, we gain a much better understanding of the way in which the Lord intended His Law to be applied.
First, why could they accuse Him here? Since the disciples only violated the tradition of the Pharisees in 2:23–24, theirs wasn’t a large enough infraction to derail Christ’s ministry. Here, though, in the synagogue on the Sabbath, they believe that Jesus will violate the very Word of God. Those who violated the Sabbath command of the Lord would be put to death in the Old Covenant (Ex 31:14–15; 35:2; Nm 15:32–36). Since the Old Covenant is still in effect (Jesus was born under the Law, Gal 4:4), He would be subject to this penalty.
However, Jesus knows the Law. He thwarts the Pharisees by giving the incontrovertible interpretation of the Law. Jesus uses this man, plant or not, as a teaching opportunity, asking him to step in front of everyone (v. 3). He actually spoke the Law in question to Moses before long before this day (cf. Jn 8:58). So, the Lord of the Sabbath (2:28) shames them with His better explanation of the Law. The teaching and deeds of Christ will give us the perfect explanation and demonstration of the Law.
The Lord filters the Sabbath through love. He’d later teach that love of God and of one’s neighbor is the proper lens through which to interpret the Law (12:29–34). When a man with a need that can be met stands before the people on the Sabbath, it’d be unloving for not to help him. In healing him, Jesus teaches us the true application of the Law is with the rubric of love.