Text: Mark 3.1-6 (Read it here)
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
(Mark 3.4, NIV)
Heal or Kill on the Sabbath?
Author: Ralph Beistle
Isn’t that an odd question? Shouldn’t anyone be able to answer that without difficulty?
Why did Jesus raise that question in Mark 3? No doubt, the man with the disability wanted to be healed, regardless of the day on which the healing would occur.
The reason Jesus asked about the legitimacy of His intentions, was to show those who came to the synagogue meeting with evil intents, that their motives were impure, and their perception of the nature of a merciful God was sadly lacking.
Jesus fully expected reasonable people to have the right conclusion – but this time, Jesus was not dealing only with reasonable people. In the next chapter, He quotes Isaiah and tells His followers “that to those on the outside, everything is said in parables, so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.’”
For those who choose to follow Jesus, He teaches, not always by telling them what to think, but to help them think well. The others in Mark 3 were listening to what he said with a desire to prove His way was wrong. Their legalistic view of religious practice missed the point of the question.
Jesus also said that the Sabbath was made for man – not to minimize the significance of the Sabbath, but to show how much God was doing what was best for His creatures. The man who needed mercy was blessed. The unsympathetic people who came to find grounds to denounce Jesus couldn’t be impressed with the fact that a man who had suffered was now healed. Instead of gratitude for the gift of healing, they indignantly went out to plot about how to kill Jesus.
In our study of Scriptures, may we be those who know to obey what He says, but also to study with a mind trained to think well, ever grateful for the Lord’s mercy. Let’s not forget that those “on the outside” also need to become aware of His word and His way.
Why do you think the Pharisees were so intent on making sure the Sabbath was kept pure and holy? Do their actions seem appropriate to the circumstances or do they seem over-the-top? Why do you think this?
In what ways do you find yourself or do we find ourselves at times acting in ways similar to the Pharisees? How can we ensure we are following God rather than putting up barriers to those seeking him?
How would you answer Jesus’ question: Which is lawful to do on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? How should we react when it seems that doing good (or perhaps what might be defined as the “right” thing) runs in the face of acting in faithful ways toward God and his instructions for us?