"And when He (Jesus) had looked around at them (Pharisees) with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts...” (Mark 3:5).
Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He was one of the few who went to church that day to worship. The pews were packed with people whose intentions were filled with evil motives. Those hard-nosed, hard-hearted, hard-headed religious types were there hoping to catch Jesus in a trap. They wanted Jesus to violate a Sabbath rule by healing a man with a withered hand. Apparently, in their eyes, the act of healing would be considered "work," and you weren't supposed to work on the Sabbath.
I'm thinking "trap-setting" requires just as much work as "hand-healing," but we are always better at interpreting the law for others, aren't we?
The worst deformity in the synagogue was not a withered hand, but a room full of hardened hearts. The withered hand stirred Jesus' compassion. The hardened hearts stirred His anger and grief.
Hard soil makes withered flowers. Hard hearts produce withered souls. Both need to be broken before they can be productive.
How often do we gather to worship thinking that the worst sinners are those who failed in some miserably sinful and immoral way during the week, yet perhaps the worst among us are those whose hearts are impenetrable by the Word and worship of God?
We should guard ourselves against a withered heart. The soil of our hearts should be fertile and pliable, nourished by the love of God.
Taking a daily soil-soul sample...