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Stubbornness Grieves God

Mark 3:5-6
He looked around at 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 Jesus. (NIVUK)

God does not watch benignly when people resist His truth.  He certainly loves them, but He is angry at their sin and distressed by their stubbornness.  The Bible says that such people are storing up God's wrath against themselves (Romans 2:5).  The background to today's verses is found in Mark 2:23-3:4.  The religious leaders wrongly believed that Jesus was not keeping the Sabbath in the way they liked; even though the Son of God had been the Chief Executive of creation (Colossians 1:15-17).  So, the next time He came into the synagogue they watched, wondering what He would do.  A man was there with an obvious deformity of his hand.  Perhaps he has been 'planted' to test Jesus' reaction.  Would He heal the man on the Sabbath?

Jesus knew what His critics were thinking (Mark 2:8) and had challenged them to say if it was better to do good or evil on the Sabbath.  Their stony, silent faces revealed their hard hearts (Ephesians 4:18).  They were stubbornly resisting the Son of God.  It was more important to them that their petty regulations were obeyed, rather than that God should heal a man whose deformity would have meant he could not work.  Jesus looked at each one in the meeting room with a penetrating eye contact that boiled with anger.  Those callous men claimed to know God, but hated the idea of Him acting powerfully without their permission.  They had to be in control and would not submit to anybody, even God.  That grieved Jesus' heart to its core (Genesis 6:6); and their resistance to the man being healed made Him incensed.

Then Jesus turned away from the rebellious religionists, as He always does, to the disabled man - now standing in front of everybody.  Jesus commanded him to do the impossible, to stretch out his hand, and he did!  As his limb moved, everybody could see that it was completely normal.  Mark shows us two different reactions at the same time.  Stubbornness leading to murderous intentions in the unbeliever; and faith in the man who was healed.  At the same time, Jesus revealed that God has two responses: wrath as well as mercy, judgement as well as salvation.  Which response applies ... well, that depends on people's obedience or resistance to God's Word.  

Alas, disobedient hearts (even though religious) always get harder unless they repent (Joshua 11:20).  Those who should have known better, plotted His death - and unwittingly, their own eternal punishment.  So, when friends or family, colleagues or clients get angry at your desire to please the Lord - do not be surprised (John 15:18-20).  It is nothing personal against you: but very personal against God.  Pray for them, share the gospel in love and urge them to repent.  But do make sure that you don't become like them (Galatians 6:1) ... it is so easy to blend in with the crowd and become resistant to God’s Word and grieve the Lord (Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 3:13).

Dear Father God. Thank You that You love people whose hearts are hard, as You wait for them to repent. Please help me to understand the opposition that Jesus faced so that I will not be shocked when it happens to me. Help me to hate wrong-doing, but to love those who are trapped and disabled by it. May Your merciful command to repent be heard by those I know and care for. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams