Written by Rachel Denison
“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.” –Mark 3:5
Craig and I have been reading through Mark together lately. When we got to chapter three, I was struck by this statement about Jesus: “And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5).
More than being surprised at his anger, I was touched by his grief. Mark says that Jesus was grieved by the Pharisee’s hardness of heart. Grief cares. You do not simply grieve over someone’s heart because they made you angry. You grieve and feel empathy for ones you deeply love. Many would not be surprised at the anger of God over sin or a hard heart. But if we think for a moment about the reality of God feeling sadness, distress, or sorrow over our hearts being hard toward him, that will change our perspective of him.
Why would it make God sad if our hearts are hard toward him and other people? The context of this passage is on the Sabbath in the synagogue and the Pharisees want to see if Jesus will heal a man in desperate need. Verse one says the men “watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.” I see a couple elements of hardness of heart at play here. The Pharisees were operating from a place of accusing the Son of God. I can think of a certain someone known as the “accuser of the brethren” in Revelation 12:10 who was probably influencing these men. Not only were their hearts hard toward Jesus, they were hard toward the man with the withered hand who was in physical, emotional, financial and spiritual need.
How can our own lives mirror this same situation? How many times I have been on the accusing end of my circumstances in life? How many times have I watched God to see if he’d fail me with resentment in my heart? It is unfortunately too easy at times of weakness to believe the lies muttered in my ear by the father of lies (John 8:44). In my religion, how easy has it become to look past the needy in my city because it’s my time to rest and relax? Have I even asked God how I could help or offer a word of encouragement to those in need? Or am I simply worried about myself and my own needs?
More than I want us to see or feel the anger of God today over our hardness of heart, I want us to see his sadness–the sadness of a friend when we stiff-arm him and keep him out of our hearts and lives, the sorrow of God when we return to a heart of stone even though he’s given us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Let’s be ones who are good friends to God, who care about the things he cares about, who are grieved by the things that grieve him. I am asking God to make us all more sensitive to his Spirit in this way. His friendship is the sweetest thing we’ll ever know. Let’s embrace this journey, walking closely with him.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” –Ezekiel 36:26