It is the Divine Lord who is here described as being angry. Where else do we meet with such a statement while He was here among men? A poor man was present in the synagogue who had a withered hand: it was his right hand, and he who has to earn his daily bread can guess what it must be to have that useful member dried up or paralyzed. In the same synagogue was the Saviour, ready to restore to that hand all its wonted force and cunning. The company that had gathered in the synagogue, professedly to worship God, would they not have special cause to do so when they saw a miracle of divine goodness? I can imagine them whispering one to another, “We shall see our poor neighbour restored to-day; for the Son of God has come among us with power to heal, and He will make this a very glorious Sabbath by His work of gracious power.”But I must not let imagination mislead me: they did nothing of the kind. Instead of this, they sat watching the Lord Jesus, not to be delighted by an act of His power, but to find somewhat of which they might accuse Him.
They laid the emphasis upon its being done on the Sabbath; and held up their hands with horror that such a secular action should be performed on such a sacred day. Now, the Saviour puts very plainly before them the question, “Is it right to do good on the Sabbath-day?” He put it in a form which only allowed of one reply. The question could, no doubt, have been easily answered by these Scribes and Pharisees, but then it would have condemned themselves, and therefore they were all as mute as mice. Scribes most skilled in splitting hairs, and Pharisees who could measure the border of a garment to the eighth of an inch, declined to answer one of the simplest questions in morals. Mark describes the Saviour as looking round upon them all with anger and grief, as well He might.
You know how minute Mark is in his record: his observation is microscopic, and his description is graphic to the last degree. By the help of Mark’s clear words you can easily picture the Saviour looking round upon them. He stands up boldly, as one Who had nothing to conceal; as one who was about to do that which would need no defence. He challenged observation, though He knew that His opposition to ecclesiastical authority would involve His own death, and hasten the hour of the cross. He did not defy them, but He did make them feel their insignificance as He stood looking round upon them all. Can you conceive the power of that look?
The Lord’s Look
Our Lord’s look upon that assembly of opponents deserves our earnest regard. He paused long enough in that survey to gaze upon each person, and to let him know what was intended by the glance. Nobody escaped the searching light which that expressive eye flashed upon each malicious watcher. They saw that to Him their base conduct was loathsome; He understood them, and was deeply moved by their obstinacy.
Note well that Jesus did not speak a word, and yet He said more without words than another man could have said with them. They were not worthy of a word; neither would more words have had the slightest effect upon them. He saved His words for the poor man with the withered hand; but for these people a look was the best reply: they looked on Him, and now He looked on them. I wish I had skill to describe our Lord’s look; but I must ask the aid of your understandings and your imaginations to make it vivid to your minds.
When Mark has told us of that look, he proceeds to mention the mingled feelings which were revealed by it. In that look there were two things — there were anger and grief — indignation and inward sorrow. “He looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” He was heartbroken because their hearts were so hard. He felt that the hardness of their hearts would one day bring upon them an awful misery; and foreseeing that coming grief, He grieved with them by anticipation. He was grieved at their hardness because it would injure themselves; their blind enmity vexed Him because it was securing their own destruction. He was angry because they were wilfully rejecting the light which would have illuminated them with heavenly brightness, the life which could have quickened them into fullness of joy. They were thus determinedly and resolutely destroying their own souls out of hatred to Him, and He was angry more for their sakes than His own.
Their hearts had lost their proper softness. God save us from a hard heart: it leads to something worse than death! A heart of flesh may be gone out of a man, and instead thereof he may have a heart of stone. Scripture even calls it “an adamant stone” — unfeeling, unyielding, impenetrable, obstinate. Those enemies of our Lord who sat in the synagogue that Sabbath-day were incorrigible: they were desperately set on hating Him, and they strengthened themselves in the resolve that they would not be convinced, and would not cease to oppose Him, let Him say or do whatever He might. Our Lord Jesus became angry, grieved, and sorrowful with them.
There are none so blind as those that will not see, and these were of that blindest order; they were blind people that had eyes and boasted that they could see, and therefore their sin was utterly without excuse. Ah, me! I fear that we have many around us still, who know, but do not act on their knowledge; who do not wish to be convinced and converted, but harden themselves against known duty and plain right.
Any man may take a horse to the water, but ten thousand cannot make him drink; and this is proved in many a hearer of the word. There sat these Scribes and Pharisees: it is a wonder that the stones did not cry out against them, they were so doggedly determined not to admit that which they could not deny. Are there none of that breed among us still? Brethren, I pray that none of us may be hypocrites, for the Lord Jesus cannot endure such. He cares not for whitewashed sepulchres, but proclaims woe unto all false professors.
Remember, we may grieve the Saviour because of the hardness of our hearts, and yet be very respectable people. We may go to the synagogue, as these did; we may be Bible-readers, as the Scribes were; we may practise all the outward forms of religion, as the Pharisees did; and yet the Lord Jesus may be grieved with us because of the hardness of our heart. You are either wheat or tares, and there is nothing between the two.
You may be very tender towards other people; in fact, you may have, like the old Jewish king, great tenderness towards everybody but the Lord. I know many who are so fond of pleasing others that they cannot be Christians. They have not the moral courage to oppose any one for the truth’s sake.
This hardness of heart may not overcome you to the full at present, and yet you may have grave cause to dread it. Hardness of heart creeps over men by insensible degrees. The hardest hearted man in the world was not so once; the flesh of his heart was petrified little by little. What can be said of sin that is more terrible than that it hardens and deadens? Well did the apostle say, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
This is also true of those who have been indulged by Providence. God has dealt with them with wonderful favour; they have continued long in good health; they have been prosperous in business; their children have grown up around them; they have all that heart can wish; and yet they hardly give a thought to Him. Alas, the ungrateful are numerous everywhere! Some who are well known to me should have remembered the Lord, for He has granted them a smooth path, a full wallet, and sunshine to travel in. If there were an honest heart in you, your hearts would cleave to the Lord in deep and hearty love.
WHAT SHOULD BE OUR FEELING IN REFERENCE TO THIS SUBJECT?
First, let us renounce forever the habit of cavilling. These Scribes and Pharisees were great word-spinners, critics, fault-finders. They found fault with the Saviour for healing on the Sabbath-day. If the Sabbath had not furnished an opportunity for objection, they would soon have found another; for they meant to object: one way or another, they resolved to contradict. Multitudes of persons in this present day are most effectually hardening their hearts by the habit of cavilling. The Scriptures themselves are subjected to their alteration and correction. Reverence is gone, and self-sufficience reigns supreme. They criticize God’s word. Any fool can do that, but only a fool will do it.
Let us never imitate that evil spirit, who in the garden of Eden proved himself to be the patron and exemplar of all sceptics. Remember how he raised the question, “Yea, hath God said?” Forget not how he went further, and, like a sage philosopher, hinted that there was a larger hope: “Ye shall not surely die,” said he. Then he advanced to lay down a daring radical philosophy, and whispered, “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods.” This old serpent has left his trail on many minds at the present day, and you can see it in the slimy questions and poisonous suggestions of the age. Get away from cavilling.
Let us be careful to keep away from all hardening influences, whether of books, or men, or habits, or pleasures. If there be any company which deadens us as to spiritual things, which hinders our prayers, shakes our faith, or damps our zeal, let us get out of it, and keep out of it. If any amusement lessens our hatred of sin, let us never go near it; if any book clouds our view of Jesus, let us never read it. We grow hard soon enough through the needful contact with the world which arises out of work-day life and business pursuits; let us not increase these evils. Shun the idler’s talk, the scorner’s seat, and the way of the ungodly. Shun false doctrine, worldliness, and strife. Keep clear of frivolity and trifling. Be in earnest, and be pure; live near to God, and remove far off from the throne of iniquity.
Lastly, use all softening influences. Ask to have your heart daily rendered sensitive by the indwelling of the quickening Spirit. Go often to hear the word: it is like a fire, and like a hammer breaking the rock in pieces. Dwell at the foot of the cross; it is there that tenderness is born into human hearts. Jesus makes all hearts soft, and then stamps His image on them. Entreat the Holy Ghost to give you a very vivid sense of sin, and a very intense dread of it.If such be the condition of our heart our Lord will not be angry with us. He will look round upon us with joy, and take a delight in us.
Job said, “God maketh my heart soft.” It is the peculiar office of the Holy Spirit to renew our nature; indeed, He makes us to be born again, working on the behalf of our Lord Jesus, whose royal word is, “Behold I make all things new.” The Holy Ghost can work in us conviction of sin, the new birth, faith in the Lord Jesus, deep contrition, and holy tenderness. Do you desire that it should be so? Will you join me in a silent prayer that His melting operations may at this moment be felt in your soul?
Excerpted from the sermon titled “Jesus angry with hard hearts” (Mark 3:5) by CH Spurgeon dated 28 March 1886. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from The Spurgeon Library | Jesus Angry with Hard Hearts