In which Jesus heals a man, on the sabbath, in the synagogue.
One of the things we have been noticing is that in the Bible, when it talks about ‘saving’ it usually refers to a physical deliverance or liberation. In the New Testament, the Greek word for save is sozo, (translated by a range of different words in English). Here in Mark 3, it is clear that Jesus is saving the man from disease by healing him. This is first a physical thing.
As in the UK, there is still something of a tension here between those who see salvation as ‘getting right with God’ or ‘having your sins forgiven’ (i.e. essentially something personal and private between me and God) … and those who see salvation as primarily God’s rescue plan for the world. This vision is a holistic one. It is something that is for the whole of creation first, and for us as individuals as part of that salvation. Salvation in the Bible has its roots in the Exodus, which was about a physical liberation from oppression. Salvation has primarily a physical meaning … that means that it is observable in changed lives, in changed situations, in changed structures in society.
Christians who have tried to teach and live this way of seeing salvation have sometimes been seen as heretics in the Evangelical world.
Going back to Mark 3 – We revisit here the conflict between the law as taught by the religious leaders, and Jesus’ own interpetation of the law, which is always based in God’s justice and righteousness, and in God’s actions to save. In doing so, Jesus puts himself (for the third time) in the firing line.
He asks the Pharisees “Is it lawful to do good or to harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill ?” They do not have an answer. Maybe because deep down they have no answer. Their lack of an answer says very loudly that they have not thought deeply enough about salvation.
The end of the passage shows a deep division between Jesus and his own religious leaders. He is angry, and grieves at their hardness of heart.
Here in EMU I have met people from all over the world. David is a pastor here in the USA and was telling me about one of his experiences as an assistant pastor years ago. One weekend, he took some of the older teenagers in the church to the city to visit a homeless shelter. David and the young people spent a Friday evening at the shelter, serving food and spending time with the clients, and slept on the floor in the church basement. It was a good learning experience, and an opportunity to serve those less fortunate. On his return to the church on Sunday morning, one of the lay leaders in the church asked David how it had gone, and how many had been saved. When David explained what they had done (an act of service) the man said ‘Well that was a total waste of time.’ For David, that weekend would prove to be one of the turning points in his own journey of faith.
This third Sabbath encounter was also something of a turning point, but for the Pharisees. It is at this point that they start to make plans to get rid of Jesus. His willingness to engage with them by being faithful to God’s mission of salvation takes him into danger.