Markby Robert M. Solomon
As His popularity rose, Jesus began to encounter opposition. This passage opens with questions meant to discredit Jesus and ends with a plot to kill Him.
The Pharisees claimed to uphold the Law of Moses, but were in fact defending the heavy scaffolding-the additional rules and regulations-they had built up around the Law. In so doing they had distorted the Law and led people away from its real requirements. Two examples are given here: fasting (Mark 2:18-22) and the Sabbath (2:23-3:6).
The Law required fasting on the annual Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). Later, people fasted in times of national crisis, and on regular days for personal devotion. The Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12) and made it into a strict rule and ritual and a way of impressing others (Matthew 6:16-18). When they noticed that Jesus' disciples did not fast like they did, they questioned Him (Mark 2:18). He reminded them that during weeklong wedding celebrations, fasting requirements were suspended because it was a time of joy. Jesus then declared himself to be the heavenly Bridegroom. As long as He was around, it is a time of joy. Later, His disciples would fast when He was taken away (2:19-20). The relentless fault-finding continued. The hungry disciples were now faulted for helping themselves to the crops in the fields (Mark 2:23-24). This itself was allowed by the Law (Deuteronomy 23:25) but the Pharisees complained that they had broken the Sabbath. Presumably it had to do with reaping, threshing, or winnowing, all prohibited actions on Sabbath, but Mark doesn't specify. Nevertheless, Jesus replied that human need is more important than religious rituals (by using an incident in the life of David from 1 Samuel 21:1-6) and that He was the Lord of the Sabbath and had no problem with the actions of His disciples (Mark 2:25-27).
These points are further reiterated when Jesus healed a man with a shrivelled hand (Mark 3:1-6). What began as indirect attacks (complaints about Jesus' disciples) now became a direct attack. Jesus felt deep emotion (anger and distress) over the ″stubborn hearts″ of His opponents. It was easier to heal shrivelled hands than stubborn hearts. The Pharisees failed to realise that Jesus came to fulfil the true intent of the Law and thus usher in a new reality. His new wine could not be put into the old wineskins of Pharisaic tradition. Stale rituals must be replaced with a new relationship with the living God.
The Pharisees tried to follow their own rules rather than the divine Lawmaker. Think of times when you tend to do the same. How can you avoid it?
Religious legalists that practiced a strict form of Judaism, the Pharisees hated the Herodians for their political support of pagan Rome. But against Jesus, even such bitter enemies became allies (Mark 3:6). Do you see such collusions in society today? How should you then pray?