GOSPEL: Mk 3:1-6
Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.
The cure of a man with a withered hand provides the second controversy over the Sabbath. First, the Pharisees criticize Jesus’ disciples for unlawfully picking heads of grain on the Sabbath. Here, they watch closely if Jesus will heal a man who has a withered hand and on the Sabbath, and when he does, they take counsel with the Herodians to put Jesus to death. Jesus, in turn, accuses them of “hardness of heart” (Greek porosis tes kardias).
The Pharisees really harden their hearts and close their minds against Jesus. They see Jesus as totally undermining their interpretation of the Law, their piety, and their actions. For them, Jesus breaks the tradition and confronts the authority. They do not rejoice that a man is delivered from a state of distress because it is done on a Sabbath. Ironically, they, the guardians of the Sabbath, determine to do harm and to kill – to let the man with a withered hand continue to suffer and to put Jesus to death. They reject life and redemption. This is the bitter fruit of that hardness of heart which provokes in Jesus both anger and godly sorrow.