Missing the Point

PRAY: Humbly ask God to give you wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and the faith to live out what He reveals to you.


READ: Mark 3:1-12

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” – Pascal 

Is it possible to love God’s Law, yet miss the whole point of it altogether? That is where we find ourselves here — observing a conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day.

This passage concludes a section of four controversies (Mark 2:15-17, 18-22, 23-28, 3:1-6) that Jesus encountered with the Pharisees and is the second controversy surrounding the Sabbath (2:23-28). All four controversies contrast around Jesus’ treatment of sinners and the needy versus the attitude portrayed by the Pharissees.

Can you imagine being in the shoes of the man who was healed by Jesus? What a different perspective of Jesus he must have had from the religious leaders who interrogated Jesus!    

While the Pharisees were zealous for God’s law, their zeal was strongly rooted in a preventative, behavior-based, legalistic following of the Law. They loved God’s Law, but they did not love . Jesus was standing in direct conflict of both their interpretation of the Law and their attitudes. He did so by reaching out to those who were abused or neglected by the Pharisees while still perfectly keeping the Law. It should be noted that Jesus was not shirking the Mosaic Law in any way during these conflicts, but rather he was revealing the heart-condition behind the Pharisees misinterpretation as it pertained to each conflict.

The conflict comes to a head in this final confrontation and reveals the heart attitudes behind each. Note that in Mark 3:2, the Pharisees are closely watching Jesus to see if he will heal anyone on the Sabbath. As stated earlier, working on the Sabbath was a crime punishable by death (Exodus 31:14).  Once they had witnessed the healing, they began to plot his death (Mark 3:6). Compare this with Jesus’ rhetorical question in Mark 3:4,

Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to kill?

The answer is obvious, but the Pharisees double down on their sin and quite literally carried out the results. While Jesus was doing good on the Sabbath, fulfilling the intent and spirit of the Law (as well as the letter of the Law itself, since he healed the man with a spoken word without performing any “work”), the Pharisees used the Sabbath to do evil and plot Jesus’ death. Jesus Christ’s outrage and grief in Mark 3:5 toward their hard heartedness and hypocrisy is fully understandable.


Reflection Questions:

  1. How does the attitude of Jesus toward sinners contrast with the Pharisees in these four conflicts? (Mark 2:15-17, 18-22, 23-28, 3:1-6)
  2. Did Jesus break the Mosaic Law in any of these four conflicts? (Mark 2:15-17, 18-22, 23-28, 3:1-6) Was Jesus just seeking to be controversial or stick it to the Pharisees in these four conflicts? Why is that important?
  3. Think on a time in your life where you perhaps looked down on someone or treated someone poorly because of their sin. What was their response? How might you have handled that differently?

Memory Verse: Mark 3:4, “Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to kill?’  But they were silent.”  

This week's devotional is written by John Wells. John is a City Church Owner who serves as a Redemption Group Leader and works for the IT Department of UF.