Mark 3:1–6 reports Jesus healing a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath and provoking the anger of the Pharisees. Words in this passage bring to mind two passages from the Hebrew Bible.
Isaiah 56:1-8. This passage from Isaiah has several resonances with this story in Mark, including references to the sabbath, the hand, and being dried up. If Mark wrote with that story in mind, it suggests the following:
In the Isaiah passage, the main concern is the exclusion of a physically imperfect man (a eunuch) from being counted among the people of the Lord. In Mark’s passage, the man with the withered hand would have been excluded from temple worship. So the topic at hand is not so much working on the sabbath but the inclusion or exclusion of people from the house of God. Mark’s story makes the point that restoring this man to the blessings of full participation in the house of Israel was a most appropriate act for the sabbath. Isaiah 56:3 emphasizes that the Lord’s ministry will not and must not exclude anyone, so by analogy, Mark’s story implies that Jesus will not allow this man to be excluded from the blessings of full participation.
The Isaiah text is focused on the will and actions of the Lord, who is the one who restores the eunuch. Thus, Mark’s text focuses attention on Jesus as the Lord who reveals righteousness (see Isaiah 56:1).
Immediately after issuing the command to promote justice (Isaiah 56:1), the Lord commands the people to keep the Sabbath. This parallel ensures that Mark’s story is not interpreted as encouraging lawlessness, but rather as promoting honoring the Sabbath by saving a life.
The Isaiah passage ends with a reference to the Lord gathering all people who will follow him. In the Markan context, the withered man is one of those people (at least literarily if not literally). The position of the Pharisees is that it is acceptable to exclude this man; Jesus’ position is that including this man supersedes the need to follow the Sabbath rules. Because the prevailing interpretation of Sabbath rules permitted violations when life was at stake, Jesus’ point here is that exclusion from the temple rituals constitutes a sort of living death.
Exodus 14. The following points of contact between this story and Exodus 14 have been identified:
“Stretch out your hand” (Mark 3:5) is the same phrase as in LXX Exodus 14:16. This parallel puts the man with the withered hand in the role of Moses and Jesus in the role of the God of the Hebrew Bible. In Exodus, the stretched hand introduces plagues, but in Mark’s story, it ends one; this inversion speaks to Jesus’ power to right wrongs and perhaps even subtly alludes to the Atonement. Much as the plagues were a witness to Pharaoh, the ending of the man’s plague should be a witness to the Pharisees of Jesus’ power. (One of the most remarkable—and yet rarely remarked upon—aspects of Mark’s story is that the scribes seem completely unaffected by witnessing a miracle.) Just as Moses and Aaron stretch forth their hands to enact plagues that condemn Pharaoh, the man’s stretching out of his hand seems like it will condemn Jesus (to the death plot) but, ironically, ends up condemning the Pharisees.
The word for “restored” (Greek: apokathistemi) is the same word used in LXX Exodus 14:27, where the waters are “restored.” There are two possible ways to understand this parallel: First, much as the restoring of the water resulted in the death of the Egyptian army, the restoring of the man’s hand results in Jesus death (as a result of the Pharisees’ plot). Unlike Pharaoh’s army, however, Jesus is innocent of wrongdoing, a fact which encourages the reader to draw some conclusions here about the atonement, mainly that Jesus’ suffering is unjustified. Second, the restoring of the waters is what made it possible for the children of Israel to be free. Similarly, the restoring of the man’s hand frees him to fully participate in life and worship. (And in a typical example of Mark’s irony, it has precisely the opposite effect on Jesus since it will ultimately lead to his death.)
“In the midst of the sea” (LXX Exodus 14:16, 22, and 23) might explain the odd phrasing in Mark 3:3 inviting the man to appear in the middle (Greek: meson, midst). Much as the focus in Exodus 14 is on the miraculous action that affects the sea, the focus in Mark’s story should not be on the watching Pharisees or the death plot but on the miracle that happens to the man.
The reference to hardness of heart parallels Pharaoh’s hardness of heart (despite the fact that the LXX uses different language to describe it).
The “withered” (=dried out) hand might allude to the Red Sea, which also becomes “dried out,” although the same word is not used. In both cases, the “restoration” points to miraculous powers and divine care.
Just as Pharaoh’s plot to enslave the Hebrews failed because of divine intervention, the Pharisees’ plot to kill Jesus will ultimately fail because of the Resurrection.
 See Kurt Queller, “‘Stretch Out Your Hand!’ Echo and Metalepsis in Mark’s Sabbath Healing Controversy,” Journal Of Biblical Literature 129, no. 4 (December 1, 2010): 737-758.
Only Luke tells the story of the widow of Nain, whose son Jesus revived even as his body was being taken to its burial (Luke 7:11–17). Placed after the healing of the centurion’s son and before the calming of the storm, this story may have been the first instance of Jesus’ raising someone from the dead (see “List of the Miracles of Jesus” in the Appendix). According to the Lucan account, Jesus approached the city of Nain in Galilee, accompanied by a large following of disciples and others. The site of ancient Nain, is now occupied by the Arab village of Na`in some four miles southeast of Nazareth. The town has a beautiful view of the Jezreel Valley, which might have given it its name, meaning “lovely” or “charming.” At the gate of this town Jesus met the funeral procession of the young man, described as “the only son (Greek, monogenēs huios) of his mother, and she was a widow” (Luke 7:12, emphasis added). Moved with compassion, Jesus told the bereft mother not to weep, reached out and touched the funeral bier, and called upon the young man, saying, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise (Greek, egerthēti)” (Luke 7:14, emphasis added). Immediately the young man sat up alive and began to speak. Continue reading →
In a culture and time period that were so male-centric, the attention that Jesus paid to women was noteworthy. All four of the gospels, and especially Luke, contain stories of Jesus healing women, teaching them, including them in his parables, and even allowing them to become part of his ministry. In addition to three individual stories about Jesus healing women, Luke also includes a summary that notes how Jesus was accompanied in his Galilean ministry by a group of women “which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities,” including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, “and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance” (Luke 8:2–3). All this is particularly striking in the cultural context of the gospels, in which Jewish men would be wary of interaction and especially any kind of physical contact with women to whom they were not related. The fact that none of these women are directly named allows them to serve as types of all women whom Jesus invites to come to him and be healed. Continue reading →
The divinity of Jesus that the miracle at Cana symbolized was even more clearly demonstrated in those nature miracles that are the clearest examples of epiphanies, or direct revelations of a divine identity. The twin examples of Jesus’ calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee and his later walking on that same body of water are striking illustrations of this because they employ common Near Eastern symbols of creation, which often involved a deity defeating the unruly powers of chaos, which were often represented with images of stormy seas. But more importantly, because the Hebrew Bible credited YHWH, or Jehovah, with the ability to subdue the sea and tread upon the face of the waters, these New Testament miracles directly connect Jesus with the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
Mark 4:35–41 gives the earliest account of Jesus stilling a storm and thereby saving his disciples. Continue reading →
Gospel Doctrine Lesson 7 focuses on the miracles of Jesus, a topic that has been of great interest to me the last several years, and the results of my research and thinking on this topic have recently been published by Deseret Book as The Miracles of Jesus. Continue reading →
Another early miracle, the healing of the paralyzed man at Capernaum (KJV, “one sick of the palsy”), who was lowered through the roof by his friends, appears in all three Synoptic gospels (Mark 2:1–12; Matthew 9:1–8; Luke 5:17–26). The scene is set with Jesus teaching inside a private home, which overflowed with people who came to hear him. The only way that the paralyzed man’s friends could bring him close to Jesus was to tear up the roof of the house and lower him down through the hole. Jesus acknowledged their efforts as a sign of their faith, but before healing the man, he makes a pronouncement that causes contention with some of the Jewish scribes present: “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Mark 2:5). Continue reading →
One of the earliest miracles recorded in the Synoptics is the cleansing of a leper (Mark 1:40–45; Matthew 8:1–4; Luke 5:12–15). Leprosy in the biblical world was not necessarily the better known Hansen’s Disease. Instead, it was a catch-all condition for a spectrum of conditions that affected the skin or even clothing and dwellings (see Leviticus 13:1–59). While some cases may have indeed involved considerable deformity and sickness, every instance of biblical leprosy had significant ritual, and hence social, implications as the sufferer was excluded from religious life and often even the company of others. Hence, the leper who first approached Jesus needed help and attention beyond simply being healed of his disease. Continue reading →
By Eric D. Huntsman. From Miracles of Jesus, 25–29, and cross-posted at http://huntsmannewtestament.blogspot.com/
The nature miracles in the gospels not only emphasize that Jesus was in fact the Creator, they also underscore that he was the one who sustained and nurtured his creation. In the Hebrew Bible, God is described as providing for both man and beast, giving them plants and fruit for food (Genesis 1:29–30). Similarly, in his own Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reaffirmed that Heavenly Father fed fowls of the air (Matthew 6:25–26). Psalm 104 taught that YHWH provides for the needs of all creation, poetically proclaiming that “He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. . . . He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. . . .These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good” (Psalm 104:10–11, 14–15, 27–28, emphases added). These references to Jehovah’s being the source of wine and bread thus serve as models for Jesus’ miracles of providing wine and bread during his ministry. Such miracles of provision are often called “gift miracles,” and two factors distinguish them from most of Jesus’ other miracles. First, while there is an apparent need in each instance, there is no direct request for aid or help, reflecting that the Lord knows that our “heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:32). Second, the way in which the miracle is actually accomplished is not clearly described, perhaps symbolizing that God’s efforts in providing for us often go unrecognized.Continue reading →
Maybe I have missed it, but as I have scanned the Gospel Doctrine New Testament Study Guide and lesson manual, it seems that John 2 did not “make the cut” when the somewhat chronological, somewhat harmonizing approach to Jesus’ ministry was being put together. So in connection with this week’s lesson, which treats John 3-4, I want to share one common schema for the first half of the Gospel of John. I will then provide a simple outline of John 2. Continue reading →