Raisins are shriveled grapes
Raisins can be easily made by putting red grapes on a tray, covering them with an old sheet and putting them in the sun. The heat drives out the water and caramelizes the sugars inside those grapes. They become shriveled and they get sweet.
What about going the other way? Can raisins be turned back into grapes? Hydrating raisins does not produce the firm, plump grape. The change from grape to raisin involves alterations at the molecular level. It is not just like a sponge drying out. When a dry sponge dries out no chemical changes happen, they water just evaporates from the material the sponge is made of. It becomes dry, but can easily become wet and pliable again. When a grape is dehydrated chemical reactions occur where water is lost and molecules change. That process is not reversible.
So, once a raisin always a raisin.
Hands and hearts can be shriveled like raisins
In Mark 3 there is man with a crippled hand. Shriveled is the way the NIV version describes it; withered is how the ESV puts it. I don’t think that there is an official “Doctor-diagnosis” for shriveled hand, but suffice it to say it was not a good hand. It was at “raisin” status but to be useful needed to be at “grape” status.
As an ophthalmologist I run up against diseases which have run their course. I cannot fix them, nor can any other doctor. A phrase that I will use to help craft the patient’s understanding is, “God can fix it, but people can’t”. That can give a bit of hope, but also helps to paint a realistic picture what of what is going on with their eye.
Shriveled hands and shriveled hearts are at that same place. They are at a place where God can fix them, but people can’t. The hearts of the Pharisees had shriveled; the tradition of the Pharisees had degenerated. God gave the law to the people of Israel at the time of Moses. That law was good, but the good structure of the law had been dehydrated into something different. Both the Pharisees and the man needed healing that day near Capernaum.
Verse 2 says that there were a group of men in the synagogue that day watching Jesus so as to trap and accuse him. They had no mercy for the man with the shriveled hand viewing him only as a tool to catch Christ. Sabbath rest was the basis for their trap. The law coupled with shriveled hearts made a terrible thing. They knew the character of Christ was such that this man probably would get healed. Look at what they do with that knowledge. The twist the good with an effort to kill it.
Jesus springs their trap
Jesus was not in the least bit naïve, and was not one to be trapped. He was adept at springing traps and turning tables. That was his approach to the schemes of the merciless.
This man with the shriveled hand was the elephant in the synagogue. Healing him was not something Jesus would do later. Jesus would not say to this man, “Come to my house at sundown 1 and I will heal you then. Delaying like that would have legitimized the position of the Pharisees. Good deeds were to be done when the opportunity arose.
“Come here,” or “Stand up in front of everyone,” Jesus said to the man with the broken hand. Some of the religious had decided to leverage his disability against Christ. Jesus would leverage this man’s disability against their shriveled approach to the law of Moses.
The Pharisees were there with an intent to harm. Jesus was there with an intent to do good. To think about doing away with Jesus did not violate Sabbath ordinances. Somehow to speak a word that restored a hand was construed differently. Sabbath police had long ago concluded that such activity was strictly forbidden. Jesus, knowing their intent, called them out on it. Jesus was saying, “Here I am doing good on the Sabbath and yet you are here with an intent to harm. How does that fit with your viewpoint on the law of the Sabbath.”
The plotters were breaking a different law. They were plotting the destruction of the Jesus movement. There were black beats in their hearts pumping impure blood of murderous intent. That was the message to the Pharisees.
The message to the masses was that good was not to be subjugated to the law of the Sabbath. Doing good was a higher law than the Ten Commandments. That is what Jesus taught with the question posed in verse 4. With this question he gave an open explanation to the people regarding the law of Moses. The people were like lost sheep and Jesus was one there teaching with authority. Jesus was re-wiring what the false leaders had short circuited in the hearts of the people. His credentials had been evident and his teaching gave “Aha!” after “Aha!”
When is it good to be angry?
Jesus gave a lesson on goodness and badness and did so in the context of the law of the Sabbath. He did not want to harm the Pharisees. He wanted all to come to a knowledge of the truth and repent from their evil deeds. Jesus was seriously distressed over the stubbornness of the religious leaders. The situation was obvious, but hatred was the guiding principle. Do not forget the lack of compassion for the disabled man. His disability was being used as a tool for evil intentions. That plus stubbornness in the face of Christ’s framing it is what distressed and angered Jesus.
It is good to be angry when the focus of the anger is unrighteousness. Jesus was angry at these stubborn men, but the anger was tempered by love for them. He was not fearing for his life, but sincerely desiring that the Pharisees would turn toward excellence. Self-preservation was not his motive. Avoidance of execution, cross-dodging, was not the point. Jesus wanted them to change because it was good to change. It was right to see the Law of Moses rightly held.
The religious leaders would not submit and so Jesus was angry at them.
What a style Jesus had!
Using questions was very good for everyone there would have an opinion on it. None would reply by speaking up, but all would be able to reply in their hearts. Even those who were not of the religious class would have been able to answer Jesus in their minds or over their meals. That was especially so as Jesus did heal the man after framing the religious vantage point of it as good.
The oppressive and harmful style of the Pharisees was in play. Stronger was the kindness and mercy of Jesus that day. Good triumphed over the toxic tendencies, but the stubborn stayed stubborn.
Key points from this passage:
- Jesus looks for opportunities
- The religious are prone to shriveled hearts
- Jesus makes way for people to believe
- Do good even when it will be used against you
- Only Jesus can cure us of our toxic tendencies. Let him.