It Is Always Right to Do Good
It Is Always Right to Do Good
It Is Always Right to Do Good
Main Idea: It is always right to bless others and do good, no matter what the enemies of God’s kingdom might say or do.
- Doing Good for the Glory of God Will Invite Critical Scrutiny (3:1-2).
- Be sensitive to those who need compassion (3:1).
- Be ready for those who always criticize (3:2).
- 64Doing Good for the Glory of God Will Require Personal Conviction (3:3-5).
- Be right in what you do (3:3-5).
- Be right in what you say (3:4).
- Be right in what you feel (3:5).
- Doing Good for the Glory of God Will Encourage Hostile Opposition (3:6).
- The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
- The enemy we fear most we will seek to destroy.
In 2:1-3:6 we have seen the buildup to what seems like an inevitable confrontation. The religious leaders of Israel are certainly tiring of Jesus humiliating them and asserting His own authority. The worst part is He continually backs up His claims with acts of undeniable power and teaching with inherent authority.
The hostility now reaches a climax in this fifth controversy, resulting in anger on both sides. For Jesus the anger stemmed from the religious leaders placing limits on when it was right to do good and to save a life. For the Pharisees and the Herodians, it was over the young Rabbi’s continuous undermining of their traditions, their religious rules, and the overall status quo. So great is their outrage that they will begin, at this early stage of Jesus’ ministry, to plot how they might destroy Him (3:6).
Jesus will not back off, though He understands where this will lead. Consumed with the will of His Father and emboldened by an uncompromising conviction, He will move ahead with His face set toward the cross, unalterably convinced that it is always right to do good!
Doing Good for the Glory of God Will Invite Critical Scrutiny
For Jesus, doing good for the glory of God would not be restricted by date or location. This encounter occurs in the synagogue, the local meeting house for Jewish worship. Further, it is the Sabbath. Jesus has just violated their religious sensibilities by allowing His disciples to pluck some grain on the Sabbath (2:23). The Pharisees considered this work, a heinous offense on the Sabbath (2:24).
Jesus seems to be deliberately provoking a confrontation with the religious leaders. Don’t claim to forgive sins (2:5), they effectively tell Him. Don’t consort with sinners (2:16). Don’t neglect fasting as we dictate (2:18). Don’t work in order to eat on the Sabbath (2:24). Their hardness of heart65 is almost overwhelming, and Jesus’ frustration has reached a boiling point. Undoubtedly He is overtly inviting their critical judgment by what He is about to do!
Be Sensitive to Those Who Need Compassion (Mark 3:1)
In the synagogue Jesus sees a man with a withered hand. This man was disabled and in need of love and compassion. One can imagine the repeated embarrassment he endured every time he lifted up his hands in prayer, as was the custom. Some may have drawn the conclusion that his deformed hand was a curse from God for a sin by him or his parents, as the disciples assumed concerning the man born blind (John 9:2-3). And just like the blind man, this man needed Jesus’ attention, and his healing would be the occasion for God’s power to be put on display. Jesus, with sensitivity and compassion, took notice of this man.
Be Ready for Those Who Always Criticize (Mark 3:2)
When you have a legalistic spirit, you become critical, always on the lookout for what is wrong and seldom on the lookout for what is right. The Pharisees are now eyeballing Jesus, “watching Him carefully” to see if He messes up. The verb for “watching” is in the imperfect tense, indicating that this had become a continuing practice of theirs.
They had one goal in mind: they sought “to accuse Him,” presumably with a legal charge. The Pharisees permitted healing on the Sabbath only for the sake of saving a life. This man’s problem was not life threatening, so he and Jesus should wait. If Jesus healed him today, they could accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath, an offense punishable by death according to Exodus 31:14-17.
So concerned were the Pharisees about not violating the Sabbath that one rabbi, Rabbi Shammai, opposed praying for or visiting the sick on the Sabbath, since it was to be a day marked by joy (Arnold, Mark, 23). “Heal another day, but not today! Do good another day, but not today!” Such was their thinking. “What manner of madness is this?!” we cry. It is the type that grows out of a life of criticism and faultfinding, one that enslaves itself to man-made rules. Remember what Jesus said about them: “They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matt 23:4). Jesus also said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are” (Matt 23:15). The Pharisees were66 enslaved to their own critical hearts, and they did their best to enslave others as well.
Doing Good for the Glory of God Will Require Personal Conviction
You could probably cut the tension with a knife. They are glaring at Jesus (3:2), and He is glaring at them (3:5). Will He blink, back down, or give in? Will He walk away just this once to keep the peace?
No, this Servant King “did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34). There will be no retreat in His message and no backing down in His actions. With the courage of His convictions, He will press forward, obedient to the will of God regardless of the consequences. Note the example He provides for us.
Be Right in What You Do (Mark 3:3-5)
Jesus commands the man, “Stand before us” (3:3). He intends to make a public scene to provoke the Jews. Next Jesus commands the man, “Stretch out your hand” (3:5). Immediately his hand is restored. The ravages of the curse are reversed as a foretaste of life in the kingdom when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).
Jesus actually fulfills the intent and heart of the Mosaic law. He will make this clear when He answers a scribe who asked, “Which command is the most important of all?”
“This is the most important,” Jesus answered: “Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
In this act of mercy, Jesus loves His Father by expressing God’s character and compassion toward this man, who is undoubtedly one of God’s precious creatures. Likewise, He loves this man through His kind, healing touch. The Pharisees knew nothing of this love and thus were far from fulfilling the law of Moses.
Be Right in What You Say (Mark 3:4)67
Sometimes in life and ministry we must confront and provoke others. It is neither easy nor fun. However, sometimes it is necessary, especially when the right thing is not being said or done. Here Jesus raises the right question given the situation of the man and the foolish regulations of the Pharisees: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to kill?” Notice how Jesus frames the questions in terms of polar opposites. He’s clarifying a situation that the Pharisees have made unnecessarily complicated. This should be an easy call. Another time Jesus silenced His critics by asking, “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? A man is worth far more than a sheep, so it is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath” (Matt 12:11-12).
It is both shocking and sad to think that the Pharisees could not correctly respond. Their silence condemns them, and it reveals a tragic flaw in their theology concerning the nature of our God—a God of grace and mercy, love and compassion. Thankfully, Jesus knew just what to say to expose their fault.
Be Right in What You Feel (Mark 3:5)
After questioning the Pharisees, Jesus surveys the room carefully, looking into the eyes of each Pharisee. He is both angered and grieved at their hardness of heart. Jesus never became angry at tax collectors and sinners, only self-righteous religious leaders! The religious outcasts at least acknowledged their depravity, whereas the religious elite imagined themselves pure and holy. Pride is dangerously deceitful, and it, unlike any other sin, provoked our Lord to righteous anger. It was right for Him to feel that way with the Pharisees, and it is right for Him to feel that way today, for pride still deceives us all.
Doing Good for the Glory of God Will Encourage Hostile Opposition
Doing a good thing made others mad simply because Jesus did not do it the right way from their perspective. Today one does not need to look far before he finds a similar mind-set in many Christian circles. It is not enough to do the right thing. If you do not arrive at the “correct” destination by the “correct” route, then you get criticized and misrepresented. Indeed, you may even find former enemies aligning themselves against you.
The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend68
The Pharisees and Herodians hated each other. However, their common disdain for Jesus made them strange bedfellows as they made a pact to get rid of this Galilean troublemaker. They “immediately” conspired together. They wasted no time in forming a pact to bring Jesus to His knees.
The Herodians show up here for the first time. They do not appear to be a distinct group or political party like the Pharisees and Sadducees. Instead they appear to be wealthy and influential supporters of the Herods and their dynastic rule. There are only three passing references to this group in the New Testament (see Mark 12:13; Matt 22:16), and they appear each time in a surprising alliance with the Pharisees. This is unexpected because the Herodians were supportive of Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) influences, and they gladly supported Roman rule, both of which the Pharisees strongly opposed. Despite their hatred for one another, though, their common hatred of Jesus was enough to bring them together to plot against Him.
The Enemy We Fear Most We Will Seek to Destroy
The Pharisees and Herodians did not want to slow down or stop Jesus; they wanted to destroy Him. They wanted to assassinate Him and get Him out of the way. This would be their full-time occupation for at least the next year or so. Their hatred was coupled with fear, and both were held with great fervency. As a combination it would lead them, as it can lead us, to do unspeakable evil.
Perhaps this was also the day of this man’s salvation. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came to heal our diseases and bear away our sins that we might have a more abundant life. Most likely that is what happened to this man. I am so glad Jesus, as Acts 10:38 says, “went about doing good.” He did a good thing in healing this man, and He did a good thing in saving our souls. And, through word and deed, He teaches us well: It is always right to do good!
Reflect and Discuss
- Have you ever seen someone resisting something good only because they are defending their “turf” or because they resent the one proposing it? Explain.
- What reasons would the Pharisees have given that Jesus had to be destroyed?
- When is it a good idea to do something that you know will result in public criticism?
- 69What public or private situations might tempt us to withhold compassion from someone who needs it?
- How are a legalistic spirit and a critical attitude related?
- How can a long-term habit of criticism and faultfinding result in ridiculous restrictions and foolish regulations?
- How did Jesus’ question in 3:4 clarify the situation? How can a well-formed question sometimes function better in a debate than simply stating a proposition?
- What kinds of people make you angry? Is it people who are caught up in a cycle of self-destructive sin? Is it people who claim to be righteous but who flout the ways of God?
- What “strange bedfellows” have you seen united in their opposition to Christianity?
- Why are hatred and fear such powerful motivators of evil actions?