A window into what made Jesus tick

Want a window into Jesus' psyche? Want to know what made him tick -- his thought processes and how he made decisions? Check out two stories early on in the Gospel of Mark, both having to do with the Sabbath.

The first story is Mark 2:23-28. Jesus and his disciples are walking through the grain fields on the Sabbath day, and Jesus allows his disciples to pick the heads of wheat and eat. The problem is that "processing" the kernels, which amounted to picking them and separating the edible kernel from the rest of the head, constituted working on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were watching, and they caught him and his disciples red-handed, so to speak. The Pharisees questioned him on it, and Jesus' reply opens a window into how he thought and why he was so different from the Pharisees. The issue to the Pharisees was that Jesus was breaking the law. The code and the system were the paramount concerns of the Pharisees. They believed that God would most want to see the Israelites obeying the Law. For Jesus, the issue was whether people were being cared for. Are you a wanderer who is hungry? Then get something to eat, even on the Sabbath. After all, "People were not made for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for people." In other words, what God cares about most is not codes and conformity. It's whether people are being cared for and loved.

The difference between Jesus and the Pharisees is wide and deep. It is the difference between being hard-hearted or soft-hearted toward people.

The second story is Mark 3:1-6. Jesus is in the synagogue on the Sabbath. There is a man present with a paralyzed hand. Now remember, most people in Jesus' day worked with their hands. What was at stake was more than the man's hand. It was his livelihood. What would Jesus do? He calls the man into the middle of everyone. "What should we do about this," Jesus asks. "Should we do good or do evil? Should we save a life or let a life expire? What is lawful? What would God want?" In other words, "What is most important here, this man and his livelihood or obedience to the code?" Jesus heals the man on the spot.

The key to this story is Jesus' emotions. He looked around, especially the Pharisees and Herodians, who were people of power sitting front and center. They were not about to support healing the man on the Sabbath. Jesus "looked at them in anger, and was deeply grieved at the hardness of their hearts." Here Jesus is showing us the heart of God. He is bent toward your welfare and mine. He is passionate about it! And he deeply grieves whenever we are hardened toward one another.

Again, the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees is the chasm between being soft-hearted and hard-hearted toward people.


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