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 3:5-6).
Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened (Mark 6:51-52).
These two stories are tied together by two words translated as “stubborn” (or hardened) “hearts.”
In the first, Jesus did what his opponents thought he shouldn’t do, and for that transgression of orthodoxy, they were willing to kill him.
In the second, Jesus refused to do what his disciples thought he ought to do. They were equally “put out” with Jesus – though perhaps not enough to kill him.
In both, hardheartedness — a determination to have one’s own way — separates from Christ. Of all the gospel writers, Mark is hardest on the disciples. Were I one of the twelve, reading Mark would have been embarrassing. I surely would think: “If only I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have behaved that way!” And I think that was Mark’s goal: to tell us now what we will come to learn later so that we won’t be embarrassed when we finally see it on our own. God’s way is best. Better I should seek His will now rather than my own and content myself with His leading. Wherever He is taking me, it will be better than anywhere I can go without Him.
He was about to pass by them . . . (Mark 6:48).
The story of Jesus feeding the 5000 had to be the best known story of the early church. The only miracle story told in all four gospels it goes like this:
The disciples, sent out to preach the Kingdom of God returned from their mission with a following fiercely determined to get to Jesus – so determined that Jesus could not escape them. So determined that they came without provisions. Though hungry and tired himself, Jesus taught them, and fed them – and they responded by attempting to make Jesus a king by force.
Utterly chagrined, Jesus dismissed the disciples (first) and the crowds and, perhaps in frustration, sought time alone with his Father in prayer.
The extent of Jesus’ frustration is seen in our verse. The disciples were working hard rowing to their destination and Jesus, unhindered by wind and waves, was determined to get there without them. Jesus wasn’t “about” to pass them by. He had decided to pass them by. Intent is the meaning of the word. They were as upset with Jesus as he was with them and the Lord decided to let them stew in their difficulties for a while.
But he didn’t. He couldn’t – any more than he could let the crowd go hungry. They too were frustrated, and they were afraid. And Jesus made a detour to help them.
When you are frustrated with others, remember they may well be frustrated with you. Perhaps their frustration is a result of their own feelings, actions or prejudices. What they might need is not alienation, but a reassuring fellowship that while things might not yet be alright, they will be.
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-2).
When I read the story of the woman “caught in the act” of adultery (John 8:1ff) I get the impression the whole thing was staged. In other words, I don’t think they just “happened” to catch her. I think it was a setup (more on that another time).
But I don’t get the impression a “setup” is what is happening in Mark 3. It is simply a confluence of events. Certain things were going to happen at a certain time. The Pharisees and Herodians simply determined they would use them for their own purpose.
They knew it was the Sabbath. They knew where the crippled man would be on the Sabbath. They knew Jesus was in town. They knew where he would be on the Sabbath – gathering with God’s people (Luke says it was Jesus’ “custom” – Luke 4:16). They knew what Jesus would do upon meeting the crippled man.
Which leads me to this: Our lives, like that of Jesus, should have a bit of predictability about them. In particular, when God’s people gather, everyone should be able to count on us gathering too. And folks who know us should be able to tell how we will react to situations we encounter – always like Jesus.