In chapter 3 of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand. The Pharisees, literal interpreters of Jewish law, criticize him for healing on the Sabbath, a day of rest. Of course, Jesus defies the Pharisees and heals the man’s hand anyway. But that’s not the part that struck me.
Mark 3:5 reads that he was “deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” Not just frustrated or annoyed or disappointed. Deeply distressed.
Jesus doesn’t just write them off, Jesus knew that Pharisees gonna Pharisee. He knew they would reject him, but still it deeply distressed him. He wanted nothing more in that moment than for them to follow him.
In those moments when you feel like giving up, it’s so easy to think God won’t bat an eye because he’s busy caring about those good people over there and working in their lives to deal with your mess. You’re just little old you. He has bigger things to worry about, right?
But Jesus is at work in each and every one of us. What’s more, he was also human and very much like us — he felt angry, sad, afraid, distressed. And he wants more than anything for us to have a relationship with him. Even when he knows we won’t measure up to his perfection, it pains him when we fear and doubt and refuse his love.
On the other hand, nothing makes the Lord happier than our commitment to following his will. As Luke tells us, the angels rejoice when just one turns and repents.
On the hard days when you feel far from God, remember Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees’ rejection — he was deeply distressed — and decide to be that one who causes the angels in heaven to rejoice instead.
This is the first piece I wrote when I began reading the Bible in July 2016. It originally appeared on Riverbend Church’s blog.