Am I scrutinizing Jesus? Am I watching Him carefully to see if He will mess things up? Am I ready to pounce if He does?
Religious elites sound like they know what they are talking about but don’t have the Messiah’s best interest at heart. We are in it for power, prestige and greed. Whether subtle or not, religious elites want to undermine Jesus and the power He brings into our lives.
Religious elites are watching Jesus. Hey Jesus, we think … don’t mess up! This is a big deal because they were looking for Jesus to commit a capital offense punishable by death.
What would Jesus do? How would He respond? Would He be a rule follower? Would He show compassion and love?
He would heal the man. This is stunning on many levels. The first thing is the miracle itself. The man’s hand was mangled, not from birth but probably in an accident. The main thing though is that Jesus knowingly flouted Jewish law in a way that would lead to his death. It was purposeful.
Jesus entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a shriveled hand. In order to accuse him, they were watching him closely to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath. | Mark 3:1-2 (CSB)
A man who had a withered hand” not only recalls “a man with an unclean spirit” encounter in Mark 1:23, it also points to the sort of being (a member of “humanity”) for whose sake Jesus said the Sabbath came into existence and therefore whose benefit would trump the prohibition of working on the Sabbath.
The religious elites (Pharisees) had issued Jesus a warning about violating the Sabbath. A second violation would subject him to the possibility of capital punishment. Performing a cure on the Sabbath was considered a violation unless the patient’s life was in immediate danger. If it wasn’t, the cure could wait a day. A withered hand didn’t pose an immediate danger of death.
So, the elites (Pharisees) scrutinize Jesus for the purpose of taking legal action leading, they hoped, to his judicial death should he violate the Sabbath a second time. His past violation leads them to look for another one, and his past healings lead them to look for another healing (hence the future tense in “whether he will heal”).
Here is the literal translation:
And he entered again into the synagogue [at Capernaum; see 1:21 for Jesus’ first entry]. And a man [= “a human being”] who had a withered hand was there. 2 And they [the Pharisees who accused the disciples of Sabbath-breaking in 2:23–28] were scrutinizing him [Jesus] [to see] whether he will heal him on the Sabbath. [They did so] in order that they might accuse him. “
Here is the context:
1 Jesus entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a shriveled hand. 2 In order to accuse him, they were watching him closely to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 He told the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand before us.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, he was grieved at the hardness of their hearts and told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 Immediately the Pharisees went out and started plotting with the Herodians against him, how they might kill him.
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Mk 3:1–6). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 147–151). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.