Mark 3:6 “The Pharisees left the synagogue and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Jesus, as to how they might destroy Him.”
The ancient historian Josephus claims that in the days of Jesus the Pharisees numbered about 6000 in Israel. It would have been impossible to go anywhere in that small land and not bump into some of them. And Jesus certainly had His share of encounters.
One particular Saturday, Jesus entered a synagogue and His heart went out to a man with a withered hand. Everyone watched Jesus to see what He would do. Heal the fellow? Ignore him? It meant trouble one way or the other for Jesus. It’s even possible that the whole incident was arranged to trap Him. To heal the man would violate the expectations of the Sabbath. To ignore him might distance Jesus from some of the common people. A no-win situation.
Jesus healed the man, angry at the indifference of the crowd; grieved by their hardness of heart. And the Pharisees stormed out, immediately looking to forge a political alliance (with the Herodians) that would help them destroy Christ.
The controversy of Christ has not subsided.
Most of us would prefer a domesticated Christ; a Jesus who is predictable, who conforms to our social norms, who fits our expectations, who respects our established power structures.
Some people like the rebel Christ. Some like the revolutionary Jesus who calls for repentance and challenges cultural institutions. But eventually, and increasingly, vast numbers of people find the confrontational Christ offensive.
We’d prefer a Christ who conforms, who affirms our worth without challenging our behavior, who saves us but doesn’t make demands of us, who attends the church but doesn’t offend the church.
That Saturday in the synagogue exposed the gulf between the heart of God and the hardness of man. Do we feel aggrieved by grace extended to those who are messy, undeserving, inconvenient, disruptive … and desperate? Are we willing to consider the injustices built deeply into some of our own cultural institutions?
The Gospel indeed afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.