Jeremiah 17 & Mark 3

Jeremiah 17

    “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars, while their children remember their altars and their Asherim, beside every green tree and on the high hills, on the mountains in the open country. Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your high places for sin throughout all your territory. You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

    Thus says the LORD:
    “Cursed is the man who trusts in man
        and makes flesh his strength,
        whose heart turns away from the LORD.
    He is like a shrub in the desert,
        and shall not see any good come.
    He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
        in an uninhabited salt land.
    “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
        whose trust is the LORD.
    He is like a tree planted by water,
        that sends out its roots by the stream,
    and does not fear when heat comes,
        for its leaves remain green,
    and is not anxious in the year of drought,
        for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
    The heart is deceitful above all things,
        and desperately sick;
        who can understand it?
    “I the LORD search the heart
        and test the mind,
    to give every man according to his ways,
        according to the fruit of his deeds.”
    Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch,
        so is he who gets riches but not by justice;
    in the midst of his days they will leave him,
        and at his end he will be a fool.
    A glorious throne set on high from the beginning
        is the place of our sanctuary.
    O LORD, the hope of Israel,
        all who forsake you shall be put to shame;
    those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth,
        for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.
        Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;
        save me, and I shall be saved,
        for you are my praise.
    Behold, they say to me,
        “Where is the word of the LORD?
        Let it come!”
    I have not run away from being your shepherd,
        nor have I desired the day of sickness.
    You know what came out of my lips;
        it was before your face.
    Be not a terror to me;
        you are my refuge in the day of disaster.
    Let those be put to shame who persecute me,
        but let me not be put to shame;
    let them be dismayed,
        but let me not be dismayed;
    bring upon them the day of disaster;
        destroy them with double destruction!
        Thus said the LORD to me: “Go and stand in the People's Gate, by which the kings of Judah enter and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, and say: ‘Hear the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. Thus says the LORD: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers. Yet they did not listen or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck, that they might not hear and receive instruction.

    “‘But if you listen to me, declares the LORD, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever. And people shall come from the cities of Judah and the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the Shephelah, from the hill country, and from the Negeb, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and frankincense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the LORD. But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’”

(Jeremiah 17 ESV)

Mark 3

    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.

    Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

    And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

    Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

    And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

    “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

    And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

(Mark 3 ESV)

Mark 3: Jesus calls the disabled man over to Himself, and the scene in the synagogue is a familiar one. The religious ‘insiders’ are standing and observing, and it’s the humble ‘outsider’ that has taken a step of faith in approaching Jesus. The question presented to the religious leaders is plain, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?." The answer seems so simple, but the religious leaders remain silent. 

Admitting that good should be done and a life should be restored would not violate the true intent of the fourth commandment, but it would contradict the traditions and man-made additions that had come to define what Sabbath observance looked like. The question proved to be a dilemma for the religious leaders - Do we denounce our moralistic traditions or do we denounce Jesus? Their silence proves their decision.        

How many of us in the church today are so caught up in our efforts to ‘be good’ that we overlook the opportunities around us to ‘do good’? 

This particular work of Christ brings two opposing sides of the cultural spectrum together in an effort to destroy Jesus. The Herodians were the supporters of Herod and promoted the immoral values of progressive Greek culture and the definitions of Greek philosophical truth. 

The Pharisees were the conservative traditionalists who held to the absolute truth found in the Hebrew Scriptures and looked to protect themselves from being contaminated by the culture around them. These two groups were in constant opposition to one another, but now they’ve found a common threat - Jesus.

The truth of the matter is that the true gospel of Christ is unsettling and offensive to both the conservative moralists and to the progressive ‘free-thinkers’. The conservatives are likely to say to themselves, “We’re good but they’re bad so we’re right.” The progressives are likely to say to themselves, “We’re tolerant but they’re judgmental so we’re right.” And the Bible would say that both are paths leading to self-righteousness. It is the uniqueness of the gospel of Christ that says, “We’re no better than anyone else, and we all need Christ to be made right.”