What Soaks In, Wrings Out

Mark 3:5-6 (read verses 1-6)
He looked them in the eye, one after another, angry now, furious at their hard-nosed religion. He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out—it was as good as new! The Pharisees got out as fast as they could, sputtering about how they would join forces with Herod’s followers and ruin him. 
A sponge does soak it all in, but a sponge also is to be squeezed out; that’s what we heard from the skit that Marlene Weir, Bill Burton and Gene Guertin shared on Sunday. Without being squeezed out, a sponge just sits, soaks and sours and drips filth. It must be squeezed and wrung out before it can be useful again. The Mark 3 scripture is a continuation of the Pharisees’ growing agitation with Jesus’ responses to “Religious Rules.”  In Mark 2, Jesus let His disciples pick the wheat in the field closest to the road. The rules let them do it.  The problem is He lets them do it on the Sabbath.

Soon enough, we will see how the Pharisees’ saturation, like a sponge, in the law without compassion, turns deadly. In verse 6, Jesus healed this man with the withered hand on the Sabbath and: Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Jesus. The Pharisees sit and soak and never make an effort to wring out any good in them by helping to clean and heal another or share their faith. They just sat, soaked and soured. Many Pharisees in Jesus’ time were like that.  They spent the first half of their lives studying. Collectively, they knew every one of Moses’ 613 laws. Good from evil; black from white; and, the right way and the wrong way. Always judging. Somehow they failed to absorb the good that humanity and the divine can do…

We’re told that the Pharisees plotted with the Herodians. Who were the Herodians? They were a Jewish political party who supported the reign of the Herod family and in favor of Roman rule. King Herod the Great who was not a Jew (he’s the king that the Magi met on their way to bring toddler Jesus gifts) was of Arab descent and not even legitimate in his role as the king of the Jewish people. The Romans placed him over the Jews and he, in turn, served the Roman government’s interest. Imagine as a sponge what he absorbed and wrung out!  His sons later reigned in his place and in the time of Jesus’ ministry were in support of Roman rule … puppets really.

Think about it. In Jesus’ time, you couldn’t find two more opposing groups than the Pharisees and the Herodians! And yet, they joined together in their opposition to our Lord. They plotted together how to destroy Him. And together, they watched and waited and soaked in more anger for the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry. Imagine absorbing hatred for 3 years. Imagine what would squeeze out of them! 

Now He is ready to heal the man with the withered hand. In verse 2 Mark tells us that “they” watched Jesus closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath so they may accuse Him. Even knowing what the Pharisees were up to in plain sight: He said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Step forward.’ You could have heard a pin drop!

Though the Pharisees wanted to shame Jesus, Jesus instead challenged them. He put a question of the law to them. Everyone would have been looking at the Pharisees to see what answer they would give. Jesus asked: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? Mark tells us that Jesus was angry! We don’t see that often. Only when frail humanity or God’s Worship is threatened! Our Lord was angry because He knew those Pharisees were saturated with the law and power but chose not to be squeezed with compassion! The difference between people of law and with God is that when we allow God to absorb in, what is wrung out is God’s Love. And, since we know God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, we know God is saturated in love. In Luke 6:45, Jesus says: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. If you want to know what a person is soaking in, you simply watch his/her actions, listen to what comes out of his/her mouth; this is what he/she wrings out.

If a person is angry, rude, lewd, or immoral on a regular basis, you can be assured that this is what he/she soaks in. If a person is consistently kind, encouraging, and polite, then you can be sure that is what he/she soaks in.

What do you soak in?  And what squeezes out in a crisis? 

Be a spiritual sponge. Make it your purpose to “Soak Up” Jesus’ teachings, His Love, His companionship and compassion!  Make a commitment to become more like Christ. Spend time with him in Bible study and prayer. Take every opportunity to be saturated with him. You might be surprised to discover how much of Him you will absorb and how much of Him can be squeezed out of you to others.


Loving, Serving, Growing…Joy, joy, Pastor Alexis

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