Mark 3:1-6 is the fifth of five stories which Mark strings together in Mk 2:1-3:6. Each story demonstrates Jesus' authority over the Law and Jewish tradition. The religious leaders steadily increase their resistance and hardness of heart towards Jesus. In the first story they grumble because Jesus heals the paralytic and forgives his sins. But in the last story where Jesus heals the man with the shrivelled hand we see that they are not interested in a dialogue with Jesus rather they want to trap Him in order to silence Him and to discredit His ministry. When this fails they resort to their final solution, they plot Jesus' death. They have moved from grumbling to murder. The human heart is exposed.
I. People passionate for God will suffer for it.
When Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum it became evident that Jesus would teach and live with such a passion for God that He would be a threat to certain people and the culture of His day. Jesus would overturn the religious system of the Pharisees and the Scribes. He would be a thorn in the flesh for the Herodians, who through their wealth lobbied politicians for still more economic advantage. The lines would soon be drawn. Jesus will be the source of life to some, primarily the poor, the sick, un-accepted, the humble. But to others, the selfish, the arrogant, the loveless, He will be the cause of death, anger and hatred. Jesus' actions and teaching will cause people to decide to accept or to reject Him who gives life. Similarly people who are passionate for God will create divisions. Paul discovered this truth. He noted that believers will be the aroma of Christ to some people but the smell of death to others.
We are ministers set apart for Christ, whether we are a business person, a housewife, a student, doctor, lawyer, waiter or unemployed. In these contexts we will either bring the aroma of life or death. This does not mean we are to look for confrontation nor does it mean confrontation is unavoidable. What it does mean is that we should not shrink back from standing up for Christ when we have the opportunity to do good. Painfully this means that not everyone will like us. We will create both enemies and friends.
II. People with a passion for Christ will be scrutinized
The Pharisees' trap was to get Jesus to break the Law by healing someone on the Sabbath. They watched Him closely. They expected if someone was in need of healing that merciful Jesus would heal him. They were not disappointed. A man with a withered hand was in the synagogue. They had Jesus where they wanted. As soon as Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath, He would be condemned as a lawbreaker since according to Rabbinic tradition "unless a person's life is in danger he should not be healed on the Sabbath" because it constitutes work. Clearly this man's life was not in danger. It was a perfect plan. Jesus would be discredited and fall into disfavour with the people. They felt justified.