“And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.” Mark 3:1-2 (NKJV)
From what I can gather, the way this is all worded in the Greek means that his hand had become crippled, deformed, or diseased beyond use. The idea is that he wasn’t born this way but something had happened to do this to his hand. Now personally, I don’t believe this was a chance encounter. I believe one of two things was going on here.
It’s possible that this guy with the withered hand heard that Jesus was in town, and tended to go to synagogue on the Sabbath. Hearing this, and the stories about Jesus healing people he made a point to be where He thought Jesus would be to see if Jesus would heal him.
It’s also possible that this guy is a plant by the Pharisees. I can imagine a scenario that goes something like this. The Pharisees also know that Jesus is in town and goes to the synagogue. They see this guy with the withered hand and know the stories of Jesus healing people. So they go to the guy and say, “So, we hear you have injured your hand. Boy that sure looks painful! Well, come with us to the synagogue. That fellow Jesus will be there today. He can heal you know! If you go with us, there is a good chance that He will heal your hand. Wouldn’t you like that? Come on, go with us!”
Really, I don’t guess it matters which way it happened. What matters is that they are watching Jesus so they might accuse Him.
“ And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.” Mark 3:3-5 (NKJV)
Jesus has the guy stand right in the front where everyone can see him. Jesus then asks a question. In other words, shouldn’t we help when we have the power to help? Jesus obviously thinks that this guys needs are more important than their manmade rules. He expects that they can lay aside their manmade traditions and preferences to help a guy in need. But they kept silent. I don’t think their silence is shame. I don’t think they are lowering their eyes feeling guilty. I think they are staring at Jesus in defiance. I say that because of Jesus’ reaction to them.
Jesus is angry at them. He was also grieved. The NLT says Jesus was angry and deeply saddened. That is Jesus’ reaction to their attitude. The word for hardness pictures something that has calloused over. They have elevated their traditions so high that it has caused their hearts to harden toward this guy and his need. They are so committed to their traditions that they would rather this guy suffer than for Jesus to violate their traditions and heal him.
It’s really important for us to see Jesus’ attitude toward their attitude. Their attitude makes Jesus angry. Then He heals the guy anyway. To me this is huge. Jesus knows how deeply they hold to their traditions. Jesus knows that if He violates their traditions by healing this guy it’s going to hack them off big time. He knows all this but He doesn’t care. As far as Jesus is concerned, people are more important than their traditions. That’s what He’s trying to get them to see with His question. Since people are more important than traditions, He heals the guy right in front of them. He does this knowing it will offend them and anger them.
So what makes Jesus angry? A Pharisee like legalism that cares more about traditions than people, that makes Jesus angry.