As I began Mark, I asked God, as I always do before I write, to reveal what He wanted me to focus on this month. It’s always difficult to try to figure out if the Holy Spirit is leading me somewhere or if I’m taking myself where I want to go, but as I read, a particular scene in Mark caught me.
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill him. -Mark 3: 1-6
I thought, If Jesus is deeply distressed about something, we should pay attention.
God’s chosen people had forgotten the mercy they’d received. They’d stopped believing they were chosen and instead convinced themselves they were superior. They held their truth with an arrogant hardness, unwilling to acknowledge a mercy outside of what they expected. They witnessed a supernatural healing, but instead of being awestruck and at least stopping to consider that God might be at work through this man, they distorted the law. When Jesus questioned them about the Sabbath, they remained silent. He was blurring some of their black and white lines and they were afraid, but they couldn’t say definitively that He was wrong.
They didn’t want to consider this radical, beautiful, confusing mercy. They didn’t want to believe that God would send a Messiah that healed on the Sabbath and ate with “sinners and tax collectors.” Jesus used words that would be very familiar to them- “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” – But they didn’t want to listen.
We have received indescribable mercy. We should rejoice in this for ourselves and offer it to others. Much of the outside world does not think of Christians as compassionate or merciful. We need to loudly oppose this. This matters most in the communities where God has placed us. We should constantly ask ourselves – What does it mean to be merciful and am I living it out? Here are some examples from Mark as we strive towards mercy and against hardened hearts:
“Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” (Mark 1:41, healing a man with leprosy)
“So Jesus went with him.” (Mark 5:24, responding to a synagogue ruler with a dying child)
“Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark: 5:34, speaking to a suffering woman)
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34, feeding of the 5,000)
“And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16, after the disciples rebuked the people for bringing them)
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (Mark 10:21, before telling the rich, young man to give away everything he had)
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.” (Mark 11:25, instructing the disciples)