The more Jesus revealed who He was, the more they revealed who they were.
Jesus asked His disciples “Who do the people out there say that I am?” Jesus was not asking to confirm or boost his self-esteem. His concern was people’s salvation, and, their salvation hinged on whether they believed in Him – believed He is truly who He said He was.
The Provocation of Jesus (1-6)
Jesus is angry at the Pharisees, and, the Pharisees are angry at Jesus. Jesus is angry because they have hardened, callous hearts and don’t care about the welfare of the people they lead. The way we treat each other affects God. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit Ephesians 4 says. How? By your meanness, anger, fits, harsh talk, selfishness, callousness, unforgiveness, etc.
The anger Jesus feels here is an expression of His holiness. One commentator says, “Anger against wrong as wrong is a sign of moral health.” There is a wrath righteous men feel, and must feel, in the sight of sin. Jesus was pure righteousness and holiness. To love what is holy is simultaneously to detest what is evil. “You love righteousness” Psalm 45:7 says, “and hate wickedness”. And Jesus was angry in this moment. At wickedness
What are the Pharisees angry about? A technicality: Jesus healed on the Sabbath.
In one sense Jesus was righteously instigating the Pharisees. He knew what they were looking for – He knew they would hate Him for healing the guy. He certainly had the option of waiting a day to heal the guy if that’s all Jesus wanted to accomplish. But healing the guy was only one motivation that Sabbath day. So what else did Jesus want to do?
First, besides healing the guy Jesus wanted to expose the stubborn hardness of the Pharisees hearts. He was providing an opportunity for them to act out what they really were. The more He showed them who He was the more they showed who they were.
Second, and related, I believe Jesus was provoking them to bring out their unbelief in Him and their hatred of Him. For what purpose? Because the evil hearts they had would lead them to the ultimate evil: crucifying Him.
God was using the evilness of the Jewish leaders to accomplish His plan of sacrificing Jesus on the cross. No Jew who believed in Jesus would have crucified Jesus. Those who rejected Him, hated Him, were threatened by Him, wanted to get rid of Him, were the ones whose hearts were conditioned to kill Him. That’s why Jesus said things like “Why are you trying to kill me?” to people who had not yet plotted against Him. He was speaking to the anger and hatred in their hearts ….remember “If you are angry at your neighbor you have already committed murder in your heart”?
We Christians talk about being used by God for His purposes. And to be useful we have to be holy, “If a man cleanses himself” 2 Timothy 2:21 says, “of the [ignoble things in his life] he will be an instrument for noble purpose, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”
But God also uses the wicked for His purposes as well, “The LORD works out everything for His own ends” declares Proverbs 16:4. The difference is that we want to be used by God, for the glory and renown of God. We want our lives to reflect His greatness, to be channels for His power and to be agents positively advancing His purposes in the world. The wicked however contend with God, opposing Him, and want to stifle what He is doing. And when God uses them it is despite them, and a fantastic display of His sovereignty and power and wisdom to use their own words and actions against them. “You meant it for evil” Joseph told his brothers, “but God meant it for good.” (Gen. 50:20).
So Jesus heals this guy’s shrivelled hand, and in doing so, knowing the Pharisees would be enraged, He did it precisely to excite their anger. They were, in their evil unbelief and wickedness, being used by God to murder Jesus. They would do it for their own purposes, but, God would allow, enable, and use them for His own purposes in the death of Jesus
This scene is not about the healing of this guy; nor is it any suggestion that healing is guaranteed for Christians. This scene is about God working up the evil hatred of the leaders that would ultimately lead to them acting out that hatred in crucifying Him. The more Jesus revealed who He was, the more the Jewish leaders revealed who they were.
Before you cry “Foul!” and “Unfair!” I would caution you. We’ve learned this before: anyone who persists in evil has no right to be treated well by God. Any nation that is evil can expect no protection from God from other evil nations. Any individual who persists in evil has zero right to think that God will watch over him. As a matter of fact, a man bent on evil can expect God to use him in a way that would lead to that man committing more evil, and thus accumulating greater judgment. This is frightening to think about, and, any sober minded, humble and God-fearing person is wise to consider this point. I say again, when you oppose God, you forfeit any right to not be used by God in a way that ends badly for you. Let me simplify it this way: The Pharisees already were filled with evil, pride, greed, arrogance, and murder in their hearts (Mt. 23:25-28). They rejected God. Therefore, they were free game for God to use in His plans. God could use their evil inclinations in His plans by putting them in circumstances where their evil hearts could be exposed, and, given the opportunity to manifest in evil actions. And those evil actions would result in greater judgment. God used these evil religious leaders who hated and rejected Jesus, and Jesus intentionally aggravated their hatred and arrogance, knowing they would ultimately crucify Him in their hatred. See how that works?
Had they ever repented and humbled themselves, they would not have been used in such a way by God. But, since they persisted in their arrogance, unbelief and hatred, they were used as pawns by God to accomplish what He had in mind since before the creation of the world.
Be sure you keep a humble heart.
The Popularity of Jesus (7-10)
So the scene changes from intense hatred of Jesus to intense adoration. The crowds love Him. His power to attract people from even farther distances was growing. Masses of people from all sorts of different regions, cultures, languages and ethnic groups were going to where Jesus was.
Where were these people when Jesus was crucified? One way to tell if you follow Jesus or just His crowd is if you still follow Jesus when the crowd doesn’t. When its not popular.
The Person Jesus Was (11-12)
From the lips of devils the glory of God. I love these two verses. Devils are always declaring the truth of Who Jesus really is! What makes them do that? What makes them even go near Jesus in the first place? Wouldn’t the demons force their human possessions away from Jesus as far as possible? Why the demoniac in chapter 5 sprints to Jesus? Why are they appearing before Him when He comes to town? Because of who He is: their Creator. The Holy One of God. Their Judge. The gravitational pull of the Creator on His creatures.
We have to take note of what Mark says they say to Jesus: You are the Son of God! Mark began his gospel saying, “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ the Son of God.” At the end the centurion gasps at the dead Jesus on the cross, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” – ironic since as a Roman he was to acknowledge the Emperor as the Son of God. In this Gospel we are learning that the Servant of the Lord is one and the same Son of God.
This is an important theological point we need to nail down. What does “Son of God” mean? What does it mean in reference to Jesus specifically? Angels are referred to as the sons of God in the OT. Christians are referred to as the children of God, the sons of God in the NT.
But when it comes to Jesus He is the Son of God uniquely in a way that no one else experiences. The word “Begotten” or in the NIV “One and Only” conveys the special unique one of a kind-ness of something. He is not a creature. He is God along with God. He has always been, never having had a beginning, He pre-exists all created things along with God because He is God. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God.” Then verse 14 says, “And the word became flesh”. The One identified by John as the Word existed in eternal glorious equality with God prior to becoming human (“flesh”).
This one and the same eternal, divine Word is also the Son of God. In what sense is he the Son of God? In that he is eternally begotten of the Father. MacLeod quoting Pannenberg 73, “The Son is distinguished from the Spirit in that he is the Son; and he is distinguished from other sons (angels and men) in that he alone is eternal and uncreated. Christ is Son by nature, human beings only by adoption…he is Son in a unique way. All the Father’s nature is in him. Consequently, he is equal with God; which is why, in turn he is the unique revelation of God. Precisely because he has the likeness of his Father, to see him is to see the Father.”
What does this mean for us? Well, God’s Son is unique and equating anyone else on a level with Him is blasphemous. So we need to maintain that Jesus is exceptional and has no equal. This perhaps is most important in regards to salvation. If you see Jesus as one of many ways to God, one of many equal ways, then you don’t know Jesus. You don’t “see” Him. And, you will find that in the end, all those other ways you thought led to God actually do exist. But they don’t lead to eternal life. They all lead to eternal death. “There is a way that seems right to a man,” Proverbs 14:12 says, “But in the end it leads to death.” “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
He was so hated by men they crucified Him. He was so loved by God the Father He raised Him up. He had His Father’s love; He was never deterred or despairing in the face of His enemies’ hatred; nor did He need anyone’s affirmation.
Take-Aways (Silent Reflection)
- Know God uses everything to work out His purposes
- Keep a humble heart
- Behold Christ in all His glory as the eternal Son of God
- God loves His Son, and, He loves all who love His Son