In Mark chapter 3, verses 1-6, we read the story of the man with the withered hand.
The Pharisees were there to see whether Jesus would break their interpretation of God’s laws. Their eyes were blind to the healing; their whole perspective was focussed on right and wrongness.
The real issue in their heart wasn’t a concern for the sick man, but a self-protected concern for their position. Jesus’ popularity and miraculous power was threatening their position with the people. If it carried on for much longer their church system would collapse and their valued position would be shattered. They had to come up with a plan to destroy Jesus.
Jesus’ righteousness was challenging their self-promoted authority. They hated Him because He was more respected and more capable, and they lived in the fear of losing favour and position. Don’t kid yourself … any time you challenge authority because you are self-elevated and are afraid of looking bad in the eyes of others, you’re under the influence of the same demonic spirit that the Pharisees were under.
They came face-to-face with the Christ but their goodness blocked their salvation.
The Pharisees genuinely thought they were good. They really believed it. They were blind to their pompousness. Their good was exposed as fake at the intersection of someone else looking better than them. It’s that intersection where you can truly evaluate your relationship with Christ. It’s that intersection that can save you by opening your eyes to your pompousness long enough to recognise that your goodness is just fake and plain selfishness.
The rich young ruler
The rich young ruler thought he was good because he did the right things and kept the commandments. He expected Jesus to reinforce that perspective to those who were watching. Jesus started with the comment that there is ‘none good except God’. He was hitting the heart of the matter. Jesus was saying that if you think you are good then you think you are god whether you can see that or not, and you are simply being good like the Pharisees to impress those around you and promote your self-worth.
In fact, if you think you are good, then you are evil and of Satan. A genuine Christian doesn’t think he’s good; he’s dead.
The Pharisees measured themselves by themselves.
Selfishness sets its own measuring standards. It thinks it’s comparing itself to the standards of God but it’s out of sync with the Word of God and simply manoeuvres God’s standards to fit with its own selfishness.
How do you measure ‘good’?
Most Christians measure it exactly the same as the world … being nice, friendly, not cheating, being polite, helping, doing good deeds. But, as pointed out by the 2nd great commandment, God measures good by your attitude to your neighbour, such as … envy, bitterness, superiority, judgemental, narcissism. If these attitudes dwell within your heart, then your niceness is just fake selfishness so you look good in the eyes of others, and you’re not good, you’re evil.
Don’t ever call yourself ‘good’ if you have a grievance or judgement against your neighbour, or think you’re better than your neighbour.
A genuine Christian’s heart is not based on right and wrong, it’s based on what’s best for my neighbour.
If you stand for Jesus, your enemies will be the authorities in the church + your own family
Evil, was the secret heart of the Pharisees. Their goodness was a sham; their real heart was filled with pre-meditated murder. Like Christ, if you’re a genuine Christian you’ll be able to tell from the hatred towards you from the church, John 16:1-3. If you’re a genuine Christian you will not allow envy against your brother to be harboured in your heart, 1 John 3:15, and you can measure that envy by your attitude when your brother is blessed and you are not; when your brother prospers and you do not.
This whole healing scenario happened in the church, not in the street.
The Pharisees measured their goodness by how much they kept the rules. In Mark 7 they found fault with Jesus because He didn’t wash before He ate. Washing hands is right, but if your heart is hard, you’re wrong even if you’re right. If you judge someone for not doing it right and you can’t face it that you are wrong, then your heart is hard.
Whereas, like Jesus, if you don’t wash your hands, you are wrong according to the law, but if your heart is soft, you are right, even if what you’ve done is wrong. Pharisaical rightness can’t understand love!
It’s a constant fight between old nature and new nature
I’ve met many people who believe they’re good and because they believe they’re good they believe they’re a Christian. If a genuine Christian senses his old nature trying to rise up he commits it to God and fights it until he has the victory over it. A fake Christian justifies his old nature by ignoring it because he believes he’s good.
Evil measures your goodness by your anger
Evil looks for ways to find fault with the righteous. Evil deduces that if you get angry, you’re the one that’s wrong. It can’t see why you’re angry. It’s measuring you by how it reacts. Jesus got angry because He was grieved by their hard-heartedness. It’s right to be angry against evil, if your heart is soft. Righteousness gets grieved at people’s hard-heartedness.
I’ve met many people who are very capable at not being angry. I have come to recognise that the demonic in people is capable of enabling a person to fake goodness and control their temper so that the demon is not recognised and exposed. Often times the only way you can recognise demonic activity in a person is by God exposing to you their hidden reaction of envy and bitterness towards their neighbour, even though it is still camouflaged by their smile and niceness.
Hard vs Soft
Jesus didn’t classify the attitude of the Pharisees as ‘bad’; He classified their attitude as ‘evil’ and ‘murderous’ (v.4). Any time you put yourself above your neighbour, your heart is inadvertently practising the same hardness; yet, in your self-deception, you still believe you’re good.
The Pharisees had the opportunity to have their eyes opened. It was right in front of their faces. Why couldn’t they see their arrogance and pride? I suggest they were more worried what the other Pharisees would think of them if one of them was to suggest that perhaps Jesus was real. Who’s going to suggest that Jesus might be right? You’d be knocked down in flames, but your heart would be changed.
Jesus came to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, but the majority were too stiff-necked to see and too hard-hearted to bend. What the Pharisees couldn’t see was that it was their own heart that had the problem, not Jesus.
Hard-heartedness actually can’t see right and wrong. It can’t see the truth even when it’s in your face, and it can’t be told it’s hard.
Be careful what you judge
If I’m doing ‘good’ by the hand of God and it doesn’t fit your box of ‘right’, and you judge it as evil, then you’re on the side of evil, even though you think you are good.
Thankfully, God can soften hard hearts (Mark 6:52), if you’ll own your hardness.
Pastor Jim Desmond