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.
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?”
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.
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.
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 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 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 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!