The Jewish leaders were looking for ways to trap Jesus in the act of breaking one of their countless laws and did not have to wait long as another opportunity presented itself when Jesus came to their synagogue. Within the confines of the synagogue, the Pharisees had the home-court advantage and would have been able to prevent a riot, should they have arrested Jesus. They could have even orchestrated the meeting between Jesus and the man with the shrivelled hand as they knew Jesus couldn’t help but take pity on the poor man and heal him on Sabbath. Just like the Pharisees were willing to take advantage of Jesus’s compassion, similarly, we also take advantage of the Grace of God and use it to achieve our heart’s desires, taking His will for granted. Jesus knew their hearts and their plot to trap Him and asked
“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.Mark 3:4
When watching a nature documentary, we realised that even though big cats like lions and tigers are ferocious killing machines, their hunts are usually covert operations. A tiger uses its skin pigmentation to hide among the tall grasses and patiently waits for its hunt. Watching a pack of deers enter its field of vision, would be a mouth-watering prospect for sure, but it still waits for the deer to be separated from its group. Only when the deer is alone perhaps drinking water with its back turned, does the tiger pounces on its prey. For an animal who is starving for the flesh, it still knows how to pick the opportune moment.
Similarly, satan who is desperate for our soul knows when to stay silent and when to attack. When we feel disconnected from God, satan takes advantage of our situation and tries to separate us from God. He does not have to do much but uses the compassion of our father to sow seeds of doubt in our minds. The same compassion that has sustained us for all our lives, he seeks to use against us. The Pharisees had Jesus cornered and had home-field advantage. All they had to do was just remain silent till Jesus showed His compassionate heart. Then they would pounce on Him with a flurry of accusations that will sow seeds of doubts in the hearts of His followers, leaving Jesus vulnerable and be caught by them.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn heartsMark 3:5
Jesus was not only angry at the Pharisees for concocting such a plan and preventing Jesus from healing the sick man but more than that He was distressed with the stubbornness. The Israelites were quick to harden their hearts to hear the voice of God and had a history of killing the prophets who would speak out against them. Their stubbornness prevented them to know the heart of God and they kept drifting away from their Maker. Our stubbornness to the transformations that God is bringing in our lives prevents us from having a relationship with Him as we end up hating God.
Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.Mark 3:6
The plot to kill Jesus was bringing together two groups that despised each other’s very existence. The followers of Herod Antipas, the Herodians, had no common ground between them and the religious leaders of Israel. But both groups found the threat posed by Jesus and His followers grounds for a treaty between them. Jesus’s influence on the masses threatened both the religious and political stability of the land.
When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.Mark 3:8
Regardless of the attempts of the Jewish leaders to discredit Jesus, His followers and seekers kept growing in number. On one side the crowds were rushing toward Him, not His gospel but for receiving quick relief from their burdens and on the other, the evil spirits sort to derail the plan for redemption by revealing Jesus’s identity. No one was interested in letting Christ finish the purpose of His mission but were busy deriving their own needs, a temporary reprieve for the crowds and a more permanent resting place for the spirits.
He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.Mark 3:14-15
From His followers, Jesus appointed twelve to send them, on behalf of Him to preach, heal and drive out demons. We see later that nine of the twelve were not able to drive the demon from a boy, so it is safe to assume that they still had a lot to learn from Jesus. It was not till they received the Spirit that their lives were truly transformed. The seeds of doubts disappeared from their lives when they were filled with the Spirit. If Christianity is merely a religion to us and we have never had a connection with God, we will never truly be able to comprehend what He has to offer and will only chase after the things of the world. Our prayers will be driven by selfish motives rather than the will of God.
One day when Jesus had entered a house of perhaps one of His followers, the place was stormed by crowds. But these crowds were not like His usual listeners but full of accusers coming to confront Jesus and His power over the evil spirits. They tried explaining Jesus’s power by substituting the glory that should have been reserved for the Holy Spirit and gave it to Beelzebub.
“How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.Mark 3:23-24
Their argument was fraught with frivolity as they were trying to convince people that satan would want the downfall of his own army. Jesus told them the fact that no kingdom can stand if there is division against them. Might be a possible knock on the religious leaders of Israel who had placed themselves in different corners based on their beliefs and because of them their country was collapsing.
While this intense interrogation was taking place, Jesus’ family had come to take charge of Him and were calling Him a madman. The siblings we can understand would have found it hard to support their brother when the entire community was against Him, but even Mary threw Jesus under the bus. The one person who should be 100% sure of Jesus’s claims was also ready to abandon her son. The fear of the society around us will always stop us from truly accepting God and His will for our lives. Jesus’s siblings and mother all would have been tormented by the Pharisees that the claims that Jesus was making starting sounding like the ramblings of a madman to them. They feared their place in the society and did not want to be ostracised on account of the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders, and they chose to be on the side of the latter. Family problems, financial trouble and past mistakes are all used to discourage others around us from accepting what Christ is doing in our lives. These are tools in satan’s hands as he tries to shoot the messengers lest people listen to them and be saved. Jesus ignored the call of His family and turned to His disples and said,
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”Mark 3:35
Jesus calls His disciples as His true family, not people who were waiting outside to drag Him back home. The disciples would have faced the same backlash when they left their jobs and families to go follow an unknown preacher. But they obeyed Jesus and were willing to be led by Him. Anyone who does God’s will is added to Jesus’s family as we become Children of God.
V4: Why did the pharisee remain silent and not confront Jesus as they would normally do?
V5: Why was Jesus distressed? What distresses God about us?
V6: What was so odd about the union of the Herodians and the Pharisees?
V21: Why did Jesus’s own family call Him a madman?