A husband and wife were on the way home from worship one Sunday morning. As they rode along, the wife asked her husband, “Did you see that woman in the front row showing off her Liz Claiborne suit?”
“No, I didn’t,” her husband replied.
“Well, did you see that man on our left–the one wearing that gaudy sport jacket that clashed with his slacks?”
Then she asked, “Well, surely you noticed that young man to our right with the tattoo, wearing an ear ring?”
Her husband looked up and in a quiet tone, with an embarrassed expression of what he was about to confess said, “Honey, to be honest with you, I dozed off during worship this morning.
In a huffy tone, she then rebuked him saying, “Well!! A lot of good worship does you!”
Our text today records one of Jesus’ miracles, but also speaks to us regarding worship. Our attitude. And our motives for attending.
“And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him” (Mk 3:1-2).
Note the three characters in this account.
(1) The man with the withered hand.
He came to worship. Apparently, he was a regular attendee. It seems the Pharisees expected him to be present. He didn’t allow his crippling deformity to keep him from missing an opportunity to worship God.
Furthermore, when Jesus ask him to do the impossible, “Stretch out your hand” he didn’t argue with Jesus. Or say “I can’t.” He made the effort. He believed Jesus. He succeeded. And was healed.
Through the years, I’ve known of brothers and sisters who came to worship although they suffered from some serious illness or handicap. They come with walkers, canes or crutches. They come even though they’re hurting. They come because they love the Lord. They want to worship. They’re eager to be with God’s people on His day.
Is your desire to worship strong enough to overcome any obstacle, hindrance, or infirmity? Will you come to listen to Jesus? And attempt to do what he asks of you regardless of your limitations?
(2) The Scribes and Pharisees.
Mark says “they watched him closely.” Why? Were they wanting to learn? To follow His example of worship? To hear what He might say?
No, they were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus of wrong doing. Interestingly, they not only believed Jesus could heal the man, they anticipated that His compassion would cause Him to do it. Yet, their belief in these facts, did not lead them to accept Jesus. Serve Him. Or follow Him. Instead, they wanted to find fault with Him. And destroy Him.
Barclay commented that these “were men who took the quite extraordinary course of hating a man who had just cured a sufferer. They are the outstanding example of men who loved their rules and regulations more than they loved God.”
It is possible that we could attend worship, sing songs, hear prayers, take communion, and hear God’s Word proclaimed and never really see Jesus? Could we have greater loyalty to our traditions than to the Truth? Could we be watching what others do instead of focusing our attention on Him whom we claim to worship? Is it possible that our religion has been reduced to rules, rituals and regulations instead of a heart-felt devotion to God?
(3) Now, consider Jesus.
Though he was Deity he came to the synagogue. They knew he would be there. It was His practice. He came to worship His Father. Yet, he did not allow human traditions to negate an opportunity to help a suffering man.
Our worship should motivate us to minister to others. To do good. To see others’ needs. To cast off the restraint of human ordinances and truly serve God.
Finally, note Jesus’ emotional response to the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. “And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts.”
Anger is not a sin. Jesus was angry. But He controlled it. His anger was directed toward their insolence, stubbornness, and hard-heartedness.
Jesus was angry at sin. At the callousness of cold hearts. At the rigidness of their religiosity. Are we?
Jesus’ dedication to His Father, His ministry to the hurting, and His attitude toward sin ought to inspire us to deeper devotion, greater service, and loftier motives.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman