My grandmother worked in a cake bakery for many years during my childhood. She always wanted to make our birthday cakes, and this was a most beloved tradition. One year she made me a Dr. Seuss cake. Another year, a three dimensional Basketball. She could design anything you wanted, and they always tasted delicious. When my older sister was turning eight years old, we threw her a big party at my Granny and Poppa’s house. This year, Granny had baked a cake around a barbie doll, and she decorated the cake to look like Barbie’s dress. It was a beautiful cake, but unfortunately Lauren’s birthday party came during a dreadful season of our lives..
My grandfather was dying of advanced stage lung cancer.
He was unable to be with us while we sang to my sister or while we cut the cake. Instead he was in a hospital bed isolated in another room. My poppa was always the highlight of an event, and he wasn’t the kind of man who just faded into the background of a party. But this particular party, he was too weak to walk or stand so he was confined to that awful hospital bed. (Cancer just really sucks, am I right?)
I remember sitting with my Poppa in his hospital bed when I heard my granny preparing to cut Lauren’s cake in the kitchen. I murmured something to my poppa, and go running into the kitchen.
“Graaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnyy, can I have the first piece of birthday cake?”
She looks down at me in all of my five-year old glory. “Shelby, it is not your birthday. Lauren gets the first piece of birthday cake. It’s her birthday. You are just going to have to wait.”
I was persistent. “No Granny, I have to have the first piece of birthday cake. I have to have it. I have to. Can I please, please have the first piece?” Granny and I went back and forth until she was red in the face.
“Shelby I just can’t even believe that you are going to be like this on your sister’s birthday. She deserves the first piece of cake. It is her birthday!“
But I was relentless so she gave in. My granny cut into that decadent Barbie dress cake, and takes out the first piece. With an angry shove, she pushes the first plate of birthday cake into my hands.
Without hesitation I go running into my Poppa’s room while my fuming, steaming Granny followed close behind. I jump up onto my poppa’s hospital bed and hand him the plate.
“I told you I would get you the first piece of birthday cake.” He laughs looking up at my granny tenderly. My poppa and I share a sweet moment together taking little bites of birthday cake together.
All the while, Granny is behind us nearly in tears.
“I didn’t know she wanted it for Pop…” she whispers.
My granny has recounted this story to me several times over the years. I remember parts of it like sitting with my poppa, hands on my hips arguing with my granny, and jumping up onto his hospital bed with that first piece of cake.
She remembers it very differently. How she thought I was being a selfish brat who wanted attention because it was my sister’s day. She assumed the worst of me- that I was being mean-spirited, selfish, and unkind.
It wasn’t until that birthday cake was in my Poppa’s hand that she realized I had not wanted that cake for myself. I wanted it for her husband. For the man who could light up a room and had lit up her life with love.
It was witnessing that moment that caused her to change her mind about me.
I wonder if someone has ever mistaken your motives before? When you meant to do something out of love and kindness, but someone took it the wrong way? It can be disarming. Disheartening. Grievous.
Jesus himself encounters many such betraying moments during his life and ministry, but they are far more serious than mistaken motives about birthday cake.
In Mark chapter three, Jesus continues his pattern of teaching first in the temple then by the sea of Galilee.
It is a Sabbath. The Pharisees and scribes believing that no work can be done on the Sabbath are watching Jesus closely. Jesus, knowing this, sees a man with a withered hand and calls him to stand in front of the Pharisees.
I imagine there has been a time in your life when you have witnessed someone in a pitiful condition that has grieved you. You know that feeling you get when you are sitting at a red light and make contact with a homeless man. You read his sign. Hungry. Homeless. Anything will help. Your heart sinks. You feel helpless.
Jesus asks them a question.
“Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”
I imagine Jesus making eye contact with the man of the withered hand, no doubt poor and unable to take care of himself due to his disability, and then peering over at this group of Pharisees. Then looking back at the man, and looking at the Pharisees to see what they think of the disabled man.
Crickets. No one says anything.
Jesus is outraged. Grieved in his heart over their hard posture. They literally feel no compassion. No doubt they knew Jesus would heal the man, but Jesus wanted more for these teachers. He wanted them to really see into the man and feel compassion for him. He wanted them to believe that doing good was the perfect thing to do on the Sabbath. After all, healing people and making things right has always been God’s thing. It was supposed to be his people’s thing. But they just sat there. Jesus heals the man, and they go away plotting. Plotting to destroy him.
The Pharisee’s and teachers of the law reject him at the temple, so Jesus retreats to the sea of Galilee. Crowds of people follow him there, so, he begins his teaching process all over. Teaching. Healing.
Only this time, his ministry is met with belief.
So Jesus turns to the crowds. Elects a few men to be with him. To follow him around, and learn to do all the works that he does. He teaches them about his authority, and then empowers them with his authority to do the same works he has been doing. Remember, when it comes to Jesus, it’s not good enough to know what he knows. Jesus wants his people to know what he knows, to do what he does, and to live like he lives. So he appoints those people who believe in him to walk with him. To witness and participate in his work. I wonder if you’ve ever been invited to intentionally live and walk with one person and learn their ways? Probably the closest a person can get to that type of one-on-one intimacy is marriage. But this following behind Jesus… It was revolutionary, and the leaders of the day couldn’t stand for it.
Later in this chapter, observing more of all the good things Jesus is doing, the Pharisees exclaim, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons!” (or to paraphrase– He is not a good man doing good things. He is evil! only capable of these great wonders because of the darkness inside of him. He is no better than a demon!)
This is a pivotal moment for Jesus. From this moment on, he only speaks to these people in parables. He chooses to veil his truths. Afterall, these men have witnessed him heal people and cast out demons, and they still don’t believe he is the son of God. This leaves us with a question to answer-
What do we think about Jesus? That he is demonic? The leaders of the Jewish faith of his day certainly thought so. Or perhaps they were just mad because of all the influence he had with the people. They say power can corrupt.
Or perhaps he is crazy. It was his family who came for him saying, “He is out of his mind!”
Or do we think he is a healer? Capable of meeting our needs, of healing our withered hands, and driving out the forces of darkness in our hearts?
While you read Chapter Three….
Continue Looking for “Bible-y” words.
Some on my list are Synagogue. Herodians. Idumea. Tyre. Sidon. Apostles. Beelzebul.
Further define who follows Jesus and who plots against him.
Obviously the pharisees and scribes are against him. In this chapter, we have a new group against Jesus. The Herodians. We also see his family members thinking that he is crazy. And then you have those who believe Jesus is the son of God. His followers, those that he healed, and even demons. (That’s right… the demons may not follow him, but they do believe he is the Son of God.)
Begin taking note of the inner emotions of Jesus.
Anger. Grief. There are many facets and layers to the man Jesus.
How does Jesus feel in this chapter?
What is his outlook/perspective on the people he is encountering? Why does he continue doing his work even when people are plotting to destroy him?
So Let’s Begin!
A Man with a Withered Hand
3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus,[a] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
A Great Crowd Follows Jesus
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
The Twelve Apostles
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot,[b] 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers[c] are outside, seeking you.”33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”