“They watched him closely to see if he would heal on the sabbath.” This poor man with a withered hand would be seen as a sever disability, as most men made their living by manual labour. The Pharisees’ interpretation of the law regarding the sabbath day is better highlighted in Luke’s Gospel. “There are six days when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.” For the Jews the sabbath is holy and is a day of rest. No work is allowed. In their opinion unless there is a life-threatening condition no work is to be done, healing counts as a medical treatment and is prohibited on the sabbath day.
Jesus says to the man “Stand up in the middle” The verb ‘stand up’ is better translated as ‘rise up’ it is the same Greek word used for Jesus’ resurrection. Mark often uses this word in healing stories to indicate that Jesus is bring about not only physical healing but a restoration to fullness of life. The man stretches out his crippled hand and he is restored.
The Pharisees’ refusal to answer Jesus’ question “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath?” makes Jesus angry. Mark’s Gospel makes Jesus look around at his audience with a searching gaze. A gaze that penetrates the heart. The inner place that only God can see. Mark gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ interior reaction; He is angry and deeply grieved at their hardness of heart. A hardness of heart is a stubbornness and a refusal to be open to God. Anger is often used in the OT to describe God’s resentment towards human evil acts.
But why did Jesus rock the boat with the Pharisees, why did he heal on the sabbath? In all four Gospels every healing initiated by Jesus takes place on the sabbath. On the other days, the sick themselves or their relations and friends approach Jesus seeking healing. But only on the sabbath does Jesus takes the initiative. Jesus prefers to heal on the sabbath because He is the Son of Man, He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is exercising His Lordship by undoing the effects of sin and restoring the fullness of life that God intended from the beginning of creation. Jesus fulfils the original purpose of the sabbath, to bring humanity into a communion with God.
So, let us ask Jesus for any physical and spiritual healing that we may need. He knows the inner depths and desires of our hearts. Let us be open to God and remove any stubbornness of heart. Jesus is Lord of the sabbath, He is our brother, we are His family. Let us remain close to Him always.