Mondays with Mark (3:1–6)


In my previous post I gave a brief summary of Mark 1-2 along with the first 4 of the 5 conflicts found in Mark 2.1-3.6. Today I’ll go through the final conflict [ending the chiasm, Mk. 3.1-6] where we see the sort of heart that the Pharisees have compared to the kind of heart Jesus has.

2.1-3.6 is divided up into 5 sections:

Healing [2.1-12]
        B Eating [2.13-17]
               C Fasting and Piety [2.18-22]
        B’ Eating [2.23-28]

A’  Healing [3.1-6]

Again He entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.
And they watched Jesus, to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
And He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”
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.
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.
The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.

While there’s a lot here, I simply can’t cover everything. In fact, even what I am putting into this post risks overkill. So I will try to focus on Jesus’ use of Deuteronomy 30.15 here in Mark 3.4, why He uses it, and what it means to us today.


The imagery of withering rarely (or never) owns a positive image in the Old Testament. It is sometimes used when speaking of God’s judgment (of Jeroboam [1 Kings 13.4], of Wicked Shepherds [Zech. 11.17], and of Israel in Exile [Jer. 12.4]). It is the opposite image of the prosperous tree in Ps 1.3.

By being withered, the Jewish leaders may have thought this man to be judged by God. And being judged by God, they wouldn’t want to help him.

Why Use Deuteronomy 30.15 Here?

In verse 4, in asking “Is it lawful” Jesus is dealing with the law. “To do good or to do harm…” echoes the very choice the Law itself offers in Deuteronomy 30.15 (See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil).

In Deut. 29 Israel has just witnessed Yahweh’s mighty deeds: delivering them from Egypt. They had yet to receive a heart to understand, but through the long provision (Passover protection, Red Sea crossing, provision of manna and water, battles won, etc.) in the desert, God brought Israel to a point where they could understand. In having this understanding, Israel was warned of the severe consequences of turning away from God to walk in “hardness of heart” against Him.

Then Deut. 30 assumes they will turn away! God will “drive them to nations” and “later restore them if they repent” [Deut. 30.1-3]. Moses then reminds the Israel that the covenant can be fulfilled because it is on the heart and is so close it can be spoken from the lips.

God sets two options before the people: Life/Good/Blessing or Death/Evil/Cursing. Israel is to obey the commands of God, walking in His ways, and they will have life. Whereas apostasy from Yahweh leads to death. Israel’s fate lays in their own hands.

Decisions, Decisions

Mark 3.6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.

Jesus’ question, like that of Moses, calls for a decision. Does Jesus have authority as the Son of Man, the Lord of the Sabbath, to do good and heal on the Sabbath? Like the terms of the covenant, His terms are clear: Israel must choose.

Yet, as Mark 3.5 show us, Jesus is grieved at the Pharisees’ hard hearts for they have rejected walking in God’s ways of “life and good” for their own ways of “death and evil.” The Pharisees offer no mercy to this man, while Jesus offers healing and gives him a new hand in the house of the Lord.

The high point of the exodus was Yahweh’s self-revelation through His Word. It was near enough for Israel to hear and speak. Now the people can hear, see, touch, and even smell Jesus! Jesus upholds the heart of Torah, fulfills it, and surpasses it. He does only what the Torah could point to by doing only what God can do [1.44]. But having rejected the heart of the Torah, Israel’s leaders reject the Son of Man. The sin here is rejecting, not God’s will in Torah, but His will in Jesus Christ [3.34-35].

Just as rebellious Israel in Deuteronomy had hard hearts despite God’s mighty deeds, so do the leaders of Israel in Jesus’ day possess hard hearts despite Jesus’ mighty deeds. Moses warned Israel that God opposes hard-hearts, and it would be the reason why Yahweh would become their enemy and send a rebellious Israel into exile. It would be the reason for the cleansing of [11.15-17] and destruction of the Temple [13.2].

Defiled Hearts

In Mark 2.12, the people praise God for Jesus’ healing the paralyzed man. Here, there is no praising God. Instead, the Pharisees show their defiled hearts [Mk 7.20-21] by their desire to kill the Son of God [Mk 12.7-8]. 

They hold counsel with the Herodians (rich families who favored the rule of Herod the Great, another person who doesn’t understand the works of Jesus [Mk. 6.14; 8.15]) on how to destroy Jesus.

Jesus was accused of blasphemy in Mk. 2.7 [A  Mark 2.1-12], but now [A’  Mark 3.1-6] the religious leaders are blaspheming Jesus by plotting to kill God’s anointed Messenger. We will see more on blasphemy in chapter 3. The plots to kill look forward to an ominous time when the Bridegroom will be taken away.

I leave you with this: Do we have the heart of the Pharisees or that of Jesus? Do we honor God with our lips but have hearts that are far from Him [Mark 7.6]? Do we speak evil of one another, judging one another, also speaking evil of the one true Lawgiver? The one who is able to save and destroy [James 4.11-12]? Are we angry at our own hard hearts [Mark 3.5]? So much so that we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God [1 Pet.5.5-7]?

Other Mondays with Mark


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