Mark 3–4: Hard Hearts & Unbelief

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 12: Saturday

And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
Mark 3:4–5

Saturday’s Bible reading is Mark 3–4, and in these chapters as people interact with Jesus their hardness of heart and unbelief is recorded in scene after scene and highlighted in a parable.

The first event in Mark 3 occurs on the Sabbath. Jesus goes to the synagogue, and a man is there who has a withered hand. Mark writes:

“They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.”
Mark 3:2

The utter lack of compassion of the Pharisees (cf. 3:6) is appalling. Their only concern is to be able to trap Jesus, and they have no thought for the man and what the healing of his hand could mean to him. Their heart is laid bare when Jesus questions them, and it’s little wonder He is both angered and grieved at their silence. When Jesus does heal the man, the Pharisees react, not with joy for him and with sorrow over their own hearts, but by conspiring with the Herodians to find a way to destroy Jesus.

Mark also has a brief vignette with Jesus’ family (3:21, 31–35). As people hear of everything Jesus is doing, huge crowds follow Him, and:

“When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.””
Mark 3:21

And then:

“The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by  Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”
Mark 3:22

In Mark 4, Jesus is teaching by the sea and tells the parable of the sower. The seed lands in four places, but only one place is good soil—everywhere else the seed of the Word does not grow.

At the end of chapter 4, Jesus and His disciples set out by boat to the other side of the sea. Jesus falls asleep, and a fierce gale comes up, threatening to swamp their boat.

“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you  so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another,  “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?””
Mark 4:38–41 (ESV)

Without the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to bring us to repentance and faith in Jesus, we would all have hard hearts and live in unbelief. God uses His Word to increase our faith (cf. John 17:17, Romans 10:17), and as Christians we also have ministry of encouragement in the lives of one another:

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Hebrews 3:12–13

Our relationships with each other are to be beneficial to our relationship with God. As I have written many times in my posts on Job, we can help each other to trust in God. Remember that and encourage one another so that none of us will develop a hard heart of unbelief.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
The Man with the Withered Hand (L’homme à la main desséchée), James Tissot:
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ESV: English Standard Version

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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