[Continuing the year-long series Journeying in the Gospel of Mark]
There is a significant introspective controversy presented in this week’s reading. The healing of the man with the withered hand is somewhat anticlimactic, because Jesus responds to the legality of such healing with a combination of wrath and sorrow.
I do not believe the religious leaders, here listed as the Pharisees, are superficially evil or unfairly obstinate to Jesus’ liberal attitude toward the Sabbath. Rather, they are fulfilling their religious responsibilities. What after all would have been the harm to postpone the healing a few hours until after the Sabbath?
But Jesus takes the concrete question of healing this man on the Sabbath and abstracts the purpose of the whole law—it is to bring liberation. With the probable reference to the classic example of Pharaoh’s hardened heart (Exodus 4:21, 8:15), Jesus views the religious leadership as if they are guilty of same evil, refusing liberation.
Therefore, I am left to ponder the controversy of the text and its implied critique of the so-called religious today: Jesus can unilaterally heal a withered hand, but not a hard heart.