Friday, July 21, 2017

Controversies - An Autobiography of William F. Luck

I met Bill sometime about 1998 or 99 at a Bible study of the Gospel of John held at a downtown Chicago law firm.  I was a recent graduate of Moody Bible Institute ('96) and had heard he was a former teacher.  I never had him as a teacher at Moody but did take numerous classes with friends of his (Paul Haik, Paul Nevin, John Walton, Tom Cornman).

Recently I have been discovering his books, and this one in particular was of interest - as all biographies are to me.  Having read Controversies - let me say at the outset, THIS is the book to read to get a handle on this rather interesting and complex man!  He has written more than 20 other books, and this book puts them all in context with history and helps you to see how it is that Bill, for example, took on the very challenging topic of Divorce and Remarriage in the late 70's. 

If you like to get a historical feel on the theological debates and discussions of the 70's through the 90's you will get that here!  Many of his contemporaries are given a new light as we read how they interacted with Bill, and others.  Oftentimes we only see men in light of the conclusive books they have written, but we do not get an inside look as to how they came to writing and why they ended up believing as they do.  Controversies will put such men as G. Coleman Luck (Bill's father), Coleman Luck, Jr (Writer of numerous TV series in the 90’s and Bill’s older brother), Paul Feinberg, Greg Bahnsen, Lou Goldberg of MBI, Robert Van Kampen, Irwin Lutzer, Norm Geisler, Paul Little, Clark Pinnock, Walter Kaiser, Thomas Parker, Bruce Rigdon, Mark Cosgrove, Jim Williams, John Buell, J. P. Moreland, Lou Barbiari, Gary Freisen, Bill Bright, Bill Gothard, Robert Gundry, Stan Gundry, Alan Johnson, in a new light (not necessarily a bad light!).

Remember "Hampden DuBose" ( ) boarding school?  Read Bill's account of his time there! Ever wonder what it might be like to be a conservative in a liberal seminary?  Wonder no more as Bill takes you in depth through his years at McCormick Seminary ('73-4).  Want to wade into some deep Ethical debates, but not so deep that you'll drown?  Bill takes you there and makes the trip worthwhile.  You may not agree with him, but you will certainly appreciate his authenticity in the discussion. 

I do wholeheartedly commend to you Bill's autobiography, Controversies.  And after that, you will know which of his many books to consider next!

'Uncle' Dave Cox

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Our Great Physician!

(This message was preached at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 6-7-17: )

THESIS: The work of Christ in healing many in such a vast crowd ought to point us to the greatest of the works of Christ – Salvation to our souls!

This evening we’ll again be considering Mark 3:7-12

But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.[1]

This passage could become rather ordinary.  What do we see here?  A crowd of people.  Jesus healing them. Mark is speaking in generalities – let’s not get lost in them.  Sometimes we get to thinking like this.  But there is far more here, when you look closely at the text, and consider the time, the crowd, and the places mentioned.  When we consider the work of Jesus, in light of the crowd, and in light of our own selves – 2000 years removed from the occasion – we will see once again, that we have a faithful compassionate and considerate heavenly Father.

Let’s set the stage – what do we really have here?  Jesus withdrew to the sea.  This is probably the Sea of Galilee.  The sea provides a natural barrier against which large crowds could not cross, literally ‘crowd control’.  I avoid crowded places.  I especially avoid large crowds.  Crowds can be dangerous.  I don’t have to tell you that – we hear the news.  Terrorists look for crowded places to make their mark, because people are constricted.  Jesus had the disciples get a boat ready – because of the crowd.

And who were the people of this great crowd?  Scripture records a much more diverse group here than we have observed so far in Mark.  Remember the crowd that gathered in Peters’ home that Sabbath when Peters’ Mother-in-law was healed?  Right after sundown they converged on Peters’ home because of the incident in the synagogue.  And of course the time when the paralytic and his friends tore the roof open at Peters home to get to Him. Or especially the crowd we read about in Mark 1:29 – 39 where we considered the land of Galilee and how dark a place it was. But the crowd in today’s passage was much larger and far more diverse.  Consider the places mentioned:

v Galilee

v Judea (Jerusalem) - 80 miles south of Capernaum

v Idumea – This is the area south of Judea, extending as far south as Gaza

§  This is up to 145 miles from Capernaum (aka Edom – Esau)

v Beyond the Jordan - This would be east of the Jordan – Perea (the area vacated by Edom) & Decapolis.

v Tyre & Sidon – North of Capernaum as far as 50 miles


The area this crowd was coming from was a range as far as 175 miles round!  What this tells us is not that people traveled that far to see him but the word traveled out so far!  The furthest people may have traveled was from Idumea and those traveled as much as 145 miles.  But remember this travel was not in the comfort and speed of a car, but on a horse, camel, or for many, on foot.  Are you ready to travel 100 miles on foot to see a faith healer?

And what about those people?  They weren’t necessarily the young and healthy now, were they?  These were the blind, the lame, the sick, the demon possessed – and their families who traveled because they had heard of a man who could help them.  How fast do you think such people traveled?  Do you think it was an easy trip?!

About 30 years ago my Mom heard about this faith healer who was apparently in town.  My Mom was a Nurse. Since she was working on the evening of this event she enlisted me, and my 2 sisters to bring my brother Scott – who was diabetic – to the healer.  I don’t remember all the particulars, but we kids weren’t all that convinced.  In any event, who were we to stand in Scott’s way?  He needed help – maybe this guy could help?

So we sat down in the far back of this large room.  At some point the invitation was made and we pushed Scott down the aisle.  After a bit of yelling and other hocus pocus, they pushed him backwards into someone who caught him and sent him back to us.  His face was literally bright red.  So on the car ride home, I asked him, “So, are you gonna take your insulin tonight?”  We knew this was a farce.  But we went – just in case it wasn’t.  When people are hurting they often do the ridiculous.  Americans spend money on meds and health pills by the millions annually.  The woman who had an issue of blood (Mark 5) spent all that she had for 12 years and was no better. 

This crowd had heard that there was a gentle healer in the area and they came in droves!  So many that Christ had to have a small boat nearby so that he could still minister to them.  I’m not sure I’d be so patient.  The crowds pressed in to touch him.  The woman with the issue of blood thought just that!  If I but touch the hem of his clothing I will be healed.  This was the crowd who traveled on foot, though sick for many miles to be healed.  And Christ healed many the Scripture says. The Greek word is πολύς and it isn’t a mystery.  It means numerous, populous, much, abundantly, freely.

Do you see the compassion of our God?   How willing he was to spend himself and be spent upon the people!  How long would you put up with such a large imperious crowd?  I doubt for very long.  Yet this was Christ’s reason for coming!  And He desired to do it!  Think about how long the crowds hung around.  To the point of not bringing enough food and fainting in the way.  The disciples, patient perhaps for a while could not put up with them for so long.  Remember the request they made to Christ that he send the crowds away to get food for the day was spent?  Yet the ministry was not done for the day…  And remember the circumstance of the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus sat on the well, and sent the disciples to get food – he was tired and hungry.  But when they returned, they saw him back at it – ministering to her.  When they pressed him to eat we read, “But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest![2]

If it was Jesus plan to do the will of the Father, what is that will?  When I was researching the passage I of course thought of Isa. 61:1-2, a passage which I have cited numerous times – the same passage which Christ cited in the synagogue in Nazareth as having been fulfilled in their very hearing! In the parallel passage, Matthew cites Isa. 42:1-4 as being fulfilled in this account.  It is a familiar passage, but I’d like to read it.

Isaiah prophesies of the Lord Jesus that he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.  Recall the list of places all the people came from – Beginning with Galilee – Galilee of the gentiles.  Idumea – AKA Edom or Esau. In my Bible, one map shows that Edom originally settled east of the Jordan, and another map referencing the time of Christ show Edom south of Judea.  Beyond the Jordan – Perea & Decapolis. Perea represented places almost entirely composed of Jewish people, while Decapolis was primarily of Gentile people.  Tyre & Sidon were Phoenician historically and therefore primarily Gentile.   Matthew tells us that Isaiah’s prophecy here is being fulfilled. 

Consider the prophecy if you will for a moment.  Matthew 12:18a seems to foreshadow his baptism.  18b speaks to the fact that Christ is not the Christ of the Jews only – a point I made repeatedly in an earlier message.  Verse 19 references the manner that Christ will be in his 1st coming – gentle – not railing.  Verse 20a expands on this considerably.  Verse 20b and 21 speak to the aspect of justice and to the Gentiles. 

This is the 1st time Isaiah uses the phrase ‘My Servant’ in reference to the Lord Jesus.  You may recall that in Isaiah 52:13 Isaiah also uses the phrase in the same way as he introduces the key essential ministry of Messiah.  Keep that in your thoughts as I begin to catalog for you a few of the Lord’s healing activities. 


·      The woman with the issue of blood.  (Mark 5:25-34) 32And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”[3]

·      The Syro-Phoenecian woman - (Matthew 15:21-28) 21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” 23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” 27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.[4]


·      The Paralytic let down through the roof (Mark 2) 5When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”…10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all.[5]


·      The Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10) 9When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”[6]

Contrast those 4 accounts with this verse, “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58)

Why did Jesus heal people? Recall the passage in Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord[7]  Recall for a moment the response Christ gave to the disciples of John as he languished in jail - Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22)


What do we see in each of the various healings cited?  We see faith exercised.  Faith is defined in Hebrew 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. [8] And in Nazareth he did not do many mighty works because of their unbelief.  Their lack of faith is what kept them from experiencing the blessing of the Messiah. 

But these healings? Are they really the point?  Why did Christ pour himself out on such an unruly crowd?  And think about it – when the blind was given sight how did that help him?  Or the lame walk? Even the dead raised?  Wasn’t it the fact that all these eventually died again?  Yet the Messiah did come with healing in his wings as it were.  Remember the phrase ‘My Servant’ in Isaiah?  Chapter 52:13 through 53 depicts our Saviors work on the cross to cure our true malady – Sin. 

Physical healing was truly only a pointer that something is wrong.  But to heal a man’s blinded eyes and do no more will not help that man.  Remember that Isa 61 and 42 both reference something greater that the miraculous healings – the poor have the gospel preached to them.  What is that gospel? – the suffering death of the Saviour in our place on the tree! 

The fact that we have illness and troubles really only help to point us to the greater problem of our Spiritual deadness because of Adam’s sin.  One could actually say that these physical troubles are the symptoms of a far more pervasive dilemma which is our standing before a holy & righteous God after we die.

Yet Jesus willingly spent himself on helping men and women with many symptoms so that they might hear him and trust in Him and His work on the cross for our sake!

Blessed are the poor in spirit – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)

Are you poor in spirit? What does that mean? In all the cases where Christ healed – it was said of them, that their faith has made them whole.  Faith is defined as the substance of things hoped for.  Substance references something weighty.  The Greek word is ὑπόστασις – which is translated confidence most of the time.  It can also mean to stand.  When we trust in Christ we stand upon the finished work on the Cross.  Our confidence is in his perfect sinless life, and his satisfactory death to pay for our sin debt and atone us to God.

Before I complete this message there is one more portion we have not really addressed.  That is verses 11 – 12, “And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.[9]

Again we have the demonic set before us.  How does their presence fit and what are we to make of their statements and Christs rebuke?

I would direct you once again to Isaiah 61:1 and the phrase ‘liberty to the captives’ As Luke quotes it, “to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Demon possession – or oppression is nothing good.  And it is a real problem these days as it was in those days.  But Christ set us free of the bondage of sin – giving Satan no foothold in our lives.  As for the declaration, ‘You are the Son of God’ This is nothing more than a kind of political speech.  Our Lord Jesus will indeed come again with recompense for his agenda – but his first coming was not to take vengeance – but to heal the sin-sick soul.  Christ did not need the declaration of demons to further his work.  They furthered it only insofar as they came out of men and women shrieking in agony.  Indeed he is the very Son of God.  But his actions speak very much louder than their words!

 When I began to study for this message I read two of Spurgeons’ messages on the passage.  And though they were preached about 15 years apart both seemed to be evangelistically oriented.  At the time, I really did not see the need to focus the message evangelistically.  But we have the children among us today, and for the summer.  We have the poor among us.  Indeed we are the very poor in spirit. Jeremiah says,

Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?[10]

The old spiritual replies:

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Brothers & Sisters, are you truly trusting in Jesus and him alone for your confidence before the Father?  Do you think you can stand apart from Him?  People of faith are not those who build up a faith all their own.  It is a gift of God – lest anyone boast.  People of faith are those who trusting in the very goodness of the Lord say – If I but touch the hem of his clothing I shall be healed.  Our Lord Jesus is now in heaven.  We cannot even see the hem of his clothing let alone touch it. 

Yet I tell you in all confidence that He hears you and heals today just as he did on that seaside beach with all the clambering crowd.  And you do not have to fight the crowd - you call upon the Lord – and be saved!


[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 3:7–12.
[2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 4:32–35.
[3] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 5:32–34.
[4] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 15:21–28.
[5] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 2:5–12.
[6] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 7:9.
[7] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Is 61:1–2.
[8] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Heb 11:1.
[9] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 3:11–12.
[10] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Je 8:22.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sabbath Day Musings

(This message was preached at Heritage Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 4-5-17: )
THESIS: The longsuffering of our Saviour presents to us a challenge – Are we as patient with our enemies? Even our friends?

This evening we’ll again be considering Mark 2:23-3:6

23And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.[1]

The last time we met together we considered the Sabbath day itself.  If we are going to understand the texts before us, we need to rightly know the Sabbath.  You may recall the thesis of that message, To know the Lord is the intent of the Sabbath.  We considered many passages but we did not closely handle the text of Mark.  Today we will consider Mark 3:1-6, but before we do so, I want to briefly consider the matter of David and the showbread, and Christ’s handling of the Pharisees in that portion. 

The account of which Christ refers is found in 1 Samuel 21:1-6.  The show bread is better known to be the bread of the presence.  Leviticus 24 tells us that each Sabbath 12 hot loaves of this bread was to be placed before the Lord.  Every week the previous week’s bread was given to the priest and his family, while 12 new loaves were set before the Lord.  It was 5 of the 12 loaves which was to be given David.  And it was the fact that David and his men had a real need.  They were not just wanting a snack – they were hungry.

Christ uses this account to justify his disciples actions in the grainfield.  And I want you to note, he not only uses this account, he challenges them in the matter when he states, “Have you not read what David did…”  As we will see later, Christ uses probing questions as he teaches.  Questions can be excellent tools to teach with, they cause the hearer to evaluate and think.  In this case Christ is not only asking them to evaluate the history of David and the showbread, but also to evaluate their motives.  The implication is that of course they had read this account.  And here is the kicker – they knew David had not done evil and neither had Christ’s disciples.

One of the resources I used for this message was a rather simple Bible study book on Luke by William Barclay and he had a couple of fascinating insights.  The Rabbis themselves said, ‘the Sabbath is made for you and not you for the Sabbath’.  That is to say at their highest and their best the Rabbis admitted that human need abrogated ritual law.[2]  In our account we read that Christ finalizes his defense using their own proverb against them!  The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.  These men not only were without defense, they were dead wrong! And this using an account from as far back as David – nearly 1000 years before!  They did not have a leg to stand on. 

The declaration, Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath speaks to us also of the unique relationship of Jesus to us.  Christ did not claim Lordship over the Sabbath based on his deity – but on his humanity.  I want you to grasp this clearly.  Christ being the God-man has a unique place in history.  David could break the Sabbath justly, because of the human need of real hunger.  Christ claims – for his disciples sakes to be Lord of the Sabbath.  And it is this same Lord, who due to his humanity, knows our every weakness and need. Psalm 103:14 states, For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Hebrews 4:15 says, For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. The beauty of our God is his ability to really know us!  And the beauty of the Sabbath is for us to know our God! 

As we consider Mark 3:1-6 the overall subject of debate is the same – Christ and his handling of the Sabbath.  In a way there are many parallels between the two accounts.  Christ is the accused one.  His accusation is on the heels of helping someone in human need.  The accusers are again the Pharisees.  Only the site is different – in the synagogue.  We aren’t told what city, but it was most likely one of the northern Galilean cities, possibly Capernaum, which was frequented by him.  If that is the case it’s even more interesting, since the cities of Galilee were the backwaters of the nation.  To see that Jesus’ ministry was attracting their attention, even way up north demonstrates his popularity to some extent. 

Exegetically there is really only one comment I need to make – when the Scripture states the Pharisees were watching him – the word used there is not of a casual glance or passive viewing – the men were looking for him to slip up and perhaps even making mental notes of the event – so that they might charge him with a crime. 

One of the difficulties in studying the gospel accounts is the amount of eyewitness data which we have to evaluate.  I am a firm believer that there is a harmony in the Scripture.  If we do not believe there is a harmony in the Scripture – that is to say, if we believe that there are contradictions in the book – then we cannot trust any of it, in my estimation.  Either it is true, or it is not.  Any apparent contradiction is due to one of the following factors: We have not studied the passage enough, or we have lost a piece of the cultural history or it is a matter of the manifold mysteries of God.  At times it can be a whole multitude of things. 

But as students of the Bible, we should never be satisfied to settle with an indeterminate understanding.  It may be that we have to set the text aside for a time and come back to it later.  I have done this before. I once had a very inadequate view of my assurance.  There were just too many difficult passages, and sometimes we have to wrestle through them.  At the time, I was a very young believer, and did not have either the tools or the personal history with my God, to settle the matter.  So I did what we all need to do at times.  I found a good proof text and rested on that for a time (John 10:27-29).  It was nearly 12 years later before I began to get a better foundation of the believer’s assurance, and now I have a multitude of arguments and proof texts to settle on. 

So all that to say, there is a harmony in the Gospel accounts but the 3 accounts do have some apparent contradictions.  I hope to show you how I harmonized them and then we can see the real debate Christ had with the Pharisees and draw some conclusions.

To begin with we have to make several observations.  I know this is an exposition of Mark, however, since we have other Biblical accounts of the same event, we must consider them also.  Marks gospel does not stand alone. In Luke’s account (Luke 6:6-11) we learn that it was the man’s right hand which was withered.  Why do we need to know this bit of information?  Does it add to the account in any way theologically?  What reason might Luke have had to include this rather inane bit of evidence?  Neither of the other 2 accounts reference which hand it was that was withered.  We need to first realize that details like this aren’t inane. Details like this give significant weight to the verity of each account.  We have 3 very clear accounts of the event before us.  Yet none is a cookie-cutter of the others.  What we are doing as we seek to harmonize these accounts is very much like a cold-case investigator.    The difference we have between the modern detective working cold-cases, is that he also has to determine if the testimony given is true – we do not have that burden. 

We already know that we hold the Scripture to be true – and this is not simply because we have confessions that state it.  The confessions are restatements of the historical theological realities which preceded them.  Remember that it is Peter who tells us we have the ‘more sure word’!  We have eyewitness testimony, historical witness to the event – and just like modern day witnesses, the accounts can vary somewhat, yet still be the truth.  The fact that the witness of Scripture is true does however place us in a unique position.  We are required to seek, as best as we can, to reconcile those apparent contradictions.  To ignore them, is to actually cast doubt upon the truth of the whole witness of Scripture. 

So Luke tells us it was the man’s right hand. One other observation Luke makes is that Jesus knew their thoughts.  This bit of information will help us quite a bit when we are looking at the motives of the Pharisees. 

Matthew tells us that there was a great deal more dialogue than we see in either Mark or Luke.  In particular, we see one of our apparent contradictions – Matthew states specifically that it was the Pharisee’s who first asked, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?  But while that seems to be a rather apparent contradiction – please note the question the Pharisee’s asked was NOT the same question the Jesus later reiterates in Mark 3:4.  The questions are quite similar – but the Pharisee’s questions is direct and pointed.  Jesus is asking a far more general question, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’

Let’s consider the Pharisee’s question – do you see how they are trying to pin Jesus down?  Such a question is not asked out of honest inquiry.  Consider some other questions posed to Christ – Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?  or Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?  None of these questions was asked out of genuine interest to learn – but only to indict Him.

Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?  Actually it was indeed lawful to heal, if the afflicted party was likely to die.  This wasn’t such a case.  The answer to the question is a qualified no. But they did not want to know the answer.  The fact of the matter was that this was a well-established principle.  The rabbis would occasionally debate the fine points of treatment – but truly the case of this man’s withered hand did not fall into those categories.

We read in Matthew that Jesus responded to their question with 2 other questions.  He actually treated their inquiry as though it were genuine - What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? We should strive to never answer a question according as it was asked.  There is a proverb which speaks to this very question, Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.”  This is one reason Christ could have used to answer such questions.  However, there is another motivation – love.[3]

We may perceive a dishonest question – but it may be the case that we are wrong – or there may be an honest party in the group listening.  Don’t forget, Luke tells us Christ knew their thoughts.  Nevertheless, he also accommodated their impetuous question.  And note the logic Christ employs in his questioning.  The first question, asked about a sheep in a pit is without answer.  Interestingly, there is a very similar account to Luke 6 in Luke 14, where Christ asks nearly the same question, in nearly the same circumstances – healing on the Sabbath.  This time it was in one of the Pharisee’s homes and the man to be healed had dropsy.  Christ first healed the man, and then asked, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” And they could not answer Him regarding these things.” 

But notice the logic – if you pull a sheep out of a pit…Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Again we hear no answer.   Jesus now, I believe, asks them the question we read in our account in Mark - Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” This question is in line with the two questions found in Matthew, and sums it up nicely.  In every instance the question is not answered – because to answer it is to betray their motives. We are explicitly told that they kept silent, in more than one account.  Hearing no answer, Christ our Rabbi finalizes his teaching, ‘Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Barclay again comments, “Jesus lays down the great principle that, whatever the rules and regulations may say, it is always right to do a good thing on the Sabbath day.[4] 

In our account in Mark 3:5 we now read of Jesus anger.  Luke tells us he knew their thoughts, and here in Mark the reason given is that he was grieved by their hard hearts.  But I’d like to ask you, what does the fact that Jesus knew their hardheartedness tell us about how he strove with them?  In other words, when you see in your child a rebellious heart – do you strive with him, though you are grieved?  Or is it the case that, knowing their ways, you rake them over the coals out of spite?  What did Christ do?

Over and over throughout the Scripture we read that our God is a condescending God.  He associates with men of low-estate.  The incarnation itself speaks to that fact!  In our both the accounts laid out before us today, we see Jesus, teaching stubborn men.  Probing their thoughts, asking them to consider their ways.  We read in Isaiah, God appealing to us a number of times.  Isa. 1:18, Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.  In Isa. 55 nearly the whole of the chapter is God pleading with us.  And who can forget the bargaining that Abraham made with God over his nephew Lot? 

Brothers and sisters - it’s time to view our God aright.  Seeing the Son strive with stubborn undeserving men, shouldn’t we do the same, both toward those in the Church, and those without? They will know we are Christians by our love one to another. 

So Christ – looking around at them in anger then heals the man.  Even in this act, he teaches us.  How many of us have, due to an angry flash, neglected to do the right thing – possibly punishing the innocent party at the same time?  Christ does not forget this man or feel slighted by their hard heartedness.  But often we, under pressure from those around us cave in to the pressure and make a weak apology to the party in need, ‘Buddy can you just come back tomorrow’?  But our Lord doesn’t do this.  Remember the Proverb, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you.” (Proverbs 3:27–28)

First, let us remember that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.  Yet these men were making the gift of God to us to be a burden to men.  Do we do that?  Of course the answer is that we do at times the very same thing.  I realize it isn’t our intention, but do we strive with those around us so that they know we love them – or do we demand strict adherence to the law?  The Sabbath was never meant to be a burden to men.  But men, not knowing their God misapplied Sabbath law to be a burden from an overbearing God.  Remember my comments on the man picking up sticks the last time we met?  It was this man’s deliberate tempting of God for which he was guilty.  Sure, picking up sticks was not permitted, but the reason was that we men might see the faithfulness of our God.  He’d already showed them in the collection of manna that he could be trusted and knew their need.  What kind of sticks are we picking up – are we tempting our God?!

Second, do we strive and condescend with others in a spirit of genuine concern for their souls – even if they despitefully use us? Do we love our enemies?  Christ did!  Luke 6:27-30 says, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.”  And he taught us this both by example in our passage, as well as directly in this passage.  This tells me it’s a serious matter.  How we treat one another is of paramount concern in today’s world folks.

The enemy has made many of us to be angry because of the injustice in the world.  But do we let that anger justify ourselves to disobey the Lord plain directive to love our enemies and one another?  If we do – we give satan the foothold in our lives. 

And how do we think unbelievers will respond to people who angrily tell them to keep their politics to themselves, and yet do not actually care about their souls? Have we forgotten that the Lord has placed us providentially in this time and place – and He send us to go out into the highways and byways to compel them to come in?  How can we be salt & light when we let our anger direct our hearts?  The Scripture says be angry and sin not!  Our Lords anger didn’t prevent him from healing the man – and nor did he lash out at them for the hardness of heart.  The anger of Christ wasn’t malicious – it was because of love – we are told he was grieved at them.  You cannot be grieved with someone you do not know or care about. 

May the Lord help us to follow the example of Christ and trust in the providence of our God.



[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mk 2:23–3:6.
[2] The Gospel of Luke, The Daily Study Bible Series. -- Rev. Ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 70.
[3] The following Proverb 26:5 speaks to NOT answering the fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own eyes.  Christ occasionally followed this proverb also.
[4]The Gospel of Luke, The Daily Study Bible Series. -- Rev. Ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 72.

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