A. Jesus: hated, adored, and followed.
1. (1-6) The Lord of the Sabbath heals on the Sabbath.
And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, "Step forward." Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
a. A man was there who had a withered hand: "The man's hand was withered, but God's mercy had still preserved to him the use of his feet: he uses them to bring him to the public worship of God, and Jesus meets and heals him there. How true is the proverb - It is never so all with us, but it might be much worse!" (Clarke)
b. They watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath: The critics of Jesus expected Him to heal this man with the withered hand. By their expectation, they admitted that Jesus had the power of God to work miracles. Knowing this, they watched Him closely . . . so that they might accuse Him. They knew what Jesus could do yet their knowledge didn't draw them to Jesus. It was as if a man could fly, but the authorities wanted to know if he had a pilot's license.
i. "No one could miss them, for, in the synagogue, the front seats were the seats of honour and they were sitting there." (Barclay) The religious leaders watched Jesus closely, but with no heart of love for Him. They knew about Jesus, but they did not know Him.
ii. They also knew Jesus would do something when He saw this man in need. In this sense, these critics had more faith than many of us, because we sometimes doubt that Jesus wants to meet the needs of others.
c. Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? In His question to the religious leaders, Jesus emphasizes the truth about the Sabbath: there is never a wrong day to do something truly good.
i. According to their Sabbath traditions, if you cut your finger, you could stop the bleeding - but you could not put ointment on the cut. You could stop it from getting worse, but you weren't allowed to make it better.
ii. "There are many who call themselves Christians, who do more for a beast of burden or pleasure than they do for a man for whom Christ died!" (Clarke)
d. He had looked around them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts: This is one of the few places where Jesus is described as having anger, and He is angry at the hardness of men's hearts.
i. We know what anger is, but we are rarely angry for the same reason Jesus was angry. Our anger usually comes from feeling injured, not from the outrage that a good man feels in the face of evil.
ii. Jesus was angry because this was a perfect opportunity for these critics of His to change their mind about Him and their traditions. But they refused to change their minds, and rejected Jesus instead. In this we can see that Jesus deliberately used this occasion to provoke a response. Jesus could have done this the next day. Jesus could have done it privately. But He chose to do it at this time and place.
e. Stretch out your hand: In this, Jesus commanded the man with the withered hand to do something impossible. How can you stretch out a paralyzed hand? But as the man put forth effort, God did the rest. God never commands us without enabling us.
i. "This man might have reasoned thus: 'Lord, my hand is withered; how then can I stretch it out? Make it whole first, and afterwards I will do as thou commandest.' This may appear reasonable, but in his case it would have been foolishness. At the command of the Lord he made the effort, and in making it the cure was effected!" (Clarke)
ii. "Faith disregards apparent impossibilities, where there is a command and promise of God. The effort to believe is, often, that faith by which the soul is healed." (Clarke)
f. The Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him: Jesus did nothing but a wonderful miracle. In response, two parties of former enemies (the Pharisees and the Herodians) can agree together in one cause: to destroy Jesus.
i. Luke 6:11 says that the critics of Jesus were filled with rage when Jesus healed this man. Which was more a violation of the Sabbath: When Jesus healed a man, or when these hate-filled men plotted the murder of a godly man who never sinned against anybody?
ii. A stanza from My Song Is Love Unknown by Samuel Crossman catches this irony:
Why, what has my Lord done,
To cause this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run
And gave the blind their sight.
What injuries! Yet these are why,
What injuries, yet these are why
The Lord Most High so cruelly dies.
iii. "The Herodians were not a religious party; they were a group of Jews who were sympathetic to King Herod and supported his rule." (Wiersbe)
2. (7-12) Multitudes come to Jesus.
But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, "You are the Son of God." But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.
a. Jerusalem . . . Idumea . . . beyond the Jordan . . . Tyre and Sidon: The crowds came to Jesus near the Sea of Galilee from distant places. Yet it seems that this crowd was attracted to Jesus more because of His miraculous works than because of His message (when they heard how many things He was doing).
i. It is wonderful for people to be attracted to Jesus. But if their focus is on what He can do for them instead of Who He is, they will not follow Him for long.
b. Fell down before Him and cried out, saying, "You are the Son of God": "The demons addressed Jesus as the divine Son of God in a futile attempt to render him harmless. These cries of recognition were designed to control him and strip him of his power, in accordance with the conception that knowledge of the precise name or quality of a person confers mastery over him." (Lane)
3. (13-15) Jesus chooses the twelve.
And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:
a. And He went up on the mountain: Jesus was at a critical point in His ministry:
· He offended the traditions of the religious leadership, and they plot His destruction.
· The political leadership plots His destruction.
· Great crowds follow Him, but they are not interested in spiritual things, and could be quickly turned against Jesus.
So what did Jesus do? He spent a whole night in prayer (Luke 6:12) and then chose twelve disciples.
b. Then He appointed twelve: In one sense, there was nothing in Jesus' three years of ministry before the cross more important than this. These were the men who would carry on what He started; without them the work of Jesus would never extend through the whole world. Therefore, He makes the choice with God's wisdom: He called to Him those He Himself wanted.
i. "The evangelist telling us that he called to him which of his disciples he would, lets us know, that he chose them, and not they him; that the choice of them was of his free grace and mercy." (Poole)
c. He called to Him: A disciple was a student, but not in a classroom and lecture sense. A disciple learned by being with a hearing from his master. A disciple was an apprentice, and learned from the master first hand.
i. The disciples belonged to Jesus. Disciples never belong to any man; they only belong to Jesus. They are His disciples.
d. Then, from among this circle of followers, Jesus appointed twelve. Why? That they might be with Him. The first job of the disciples was simple to be with Jesus, to learn from being around Him. Then, in a secondary sense He chose them that He might send them out to preach.
i. A preacher will only be as useful to Jesus to the extent that He has "been with" Jesus. There is little done for eternal good by those who preach without having a real, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
ii. "A disciple was a learner, a student, but in the first century a student did not simply study a subject; he followed a teacher. There is an element of personal attachment in 'disciple' that is lacking in 'student.'" (Morris)
e. Why did Jesus choose twelve disciples? Because this is the foundation of the new chosen people, and as Israel had twelve tribes, Jesus would have twelve apostles.
f. When someone has been with Jesus, and is sent out to serve Him, they can expect that Jesus will give them to power to serve Him, including the power to see miraculous works (heal sicknesses and to cast our demons) done in their midst.
i. "The business of a ministers of Christ is, 1st. To preach the Gospel. 2nd. To be the physician of souls. And 3rd. To wage war with the devil, and destroy his kingdom." (Clarke)
4. (16-19) The twelve disciples listed.
Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, "Sons of Thunder"; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house.
a. How many of these men do we really know anything about? Of Peter, James, John, and Judas we know something about. But of the other eight, we pretty much only know their names. Their fame is reserved for heaven, where their names are on the twelve foundations of God's heavenly city (Revelation 21:14).
i. The Bible values fame, but fame in heaven. For the most part, this group was not "famous" in the sense we think of fame in the Twentieth Century. We must learn to value and respect heaven's fame, not modern fame.
b. There are many interesting connections with this group. There are brothers (James and John, Peter and Andrew); business associates (Peter, James, and John, were all fishermen); opposing political viewpoints (Matthew the Roman-collaborating tax collector, and Simon, the Roman-hating zealot); and one who would betray Jesus (Judas Iscariot).
i. Mark gives a "note for the Gentiles" by translating Boanerges - which means Sons of Thunder, perhaps a reference to the fiery disposition of James and John (as they display in Luke 9:54).
ii. Canaanite has nothing to do with geography. It is the Hebrew word for "zealous," identifying Simon as a member of the radical Zealot party.
iii. "Judas's surname of Iscariot probably indicates that he was a man from Kerioth: he thus seems to have been the only Judean among the twelve." (Geldenhuys)
iv. It seems that the names of the twelve disciples are usually arranged in pairs. "Since Jesus sent His Apostles out two by two, this was a logical way to list them." (Wiersbe)
· Peter and Andrew.
· James and John.
· Philip and Bartholomew (also called Nathanael in John 1:45).
· Thomas (his name means "twin") and Matthew (Levi).
· James, son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus (also called Judas, son of James in John 14:22).
· Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot.
c. Why did Jesus choose Judas?
· It wasn't because Jesus didn't know how he would turn out. Jesus told His disciples that He chose them, and knew one of them was a devil.
· It wasn't because He no others to choose. He could raise up followers from stones, so He could easily have found someone else.
· It wasn't because He wanted a scandalous person, or a "bad boy" - we read of no scandal surrounding Judas during Jesus' ministry. The other disciples did far more stupid things during their three years with Jesus.
i. "We ought to believe that God had wise ends in the permission of this, and that Christ did out of infinite wisdom do this, though we possibly are not able to give a satisfactory account in the case." (Poole)
ii. A man once asked a theologian, "Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple?" The teacher replied, "I don't know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose me?"
B. Jesus answers accusations.
1. (20-21) An accusation from His own family.
Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, "He is out of His mind."
a. So that they could not so much as eat bread: The idea is that the huge crowds so pressed upon Jesus and the disciples that they did not have the time or the space to eat.
b. His own people: This refers to Jesus' family and close friends. Since Jesus grew up in Galilee and practiced His ministry there, there were many that knew Him before this time of wide popularity.
c. He is out of His mind: Why would some from His own people think that Jesus was out of His mind?
· He left a prosperous business to become an itinerant preacher.
· The religious and political leaders plotted to murder Him, but He did not back down (Mark 3:6). They were afraid for Jesus' sake.
· Huge crowds began to follow Jesus, and they knew how such fame and attention and celebrity can go to someone's head (Mark 3:7-8).
· He showed spiritual power and ministry He had never really shown earlier in His life (Mark 3:9-11). Was something very wrong?
· He picked such an unlikely group of disciples that His judgment could fairly be questioned (Mark 3:13-19).
· But there was one last straw: the pressures of this incredible ministry made Him miss regular mealtimes (they could not so much as eat bread).
i. Jesus constantly faced the rejection of the religious and political leaders of the day, and in a way their hatred of Jesus made sense - He actually threatened their status quo. Undoubtedly, it was far more painful and challenging for Jesus to deal with the way His own people rejected Him. It isn't easy to be profoundly misunderstood as you try to walk with God. "When the Lord said 'a man's enemies will be those in his own home' (see Matthew 10:36), He may well have been speaking from bitter experience." (Cole)
ii. The brothers of Jesus didn't believe in Him until after His resurrection, and during His earthly ministry they prodded Him to "prove Himself." (John 7:3-5)
iii. Mark records no answer, no reaction of Jesus to their comment, "He is out of His mind." If someone thinks you are crazy, there probably isn't much you can do about it without compromising.
2. (22) An accusation from the religious leaders.
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebub," and, "By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons."
a. The scribes who came down from Jerusalem: This is an official delegation of experts from Jerusalem, coming to Galilee, to observe and assess the ministry of Jesus. The opinion of these scribes carried a lot of weight with many people.
i. "It is possible that they were official emissaries from the Great Sanhedrin who came to examine Jesus' miracles and to determine whether Capernaum should be declared a 'seduced city,' the prey of an apostate preacher." (Lane)
b. He has Beelzebub: Actually, they accuse Jesus of being possessed by Satan. "He hath Beelzebub, implying that Beelzebub hath Him, using Him as his agent. The expression points to something more than an alliance [but] to possession, and than on a grand scale." (Expositor's)
i. They wouldn't say that Jesus was possessed by just any demon, but by Satan himself. This was "an involuntary compliment to the exceptional power and greatness of Jesus." (Expositor's)
ii. This wasn't the only time Jesus was insulted like this.
· "He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?" (John 10:20)
· "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?" (John 8:48)
· "We were not born of fornication." (John 8:41)
· "A glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' (Luke 7:34)
· "You have a demon." (John 7:20)
c. By the ruler of demons He casts out demons: The Gospel of Luke (Luke 11:14) tells us this accusation came in response to a dramatic demonic deliverance. The religious leaders attributed this working of Jesus to Satan (Beelzebub).
i. Jesus was misunderstood by His own people, but He was viciously - and cynically - attacked by the scribes who came down from Jerusalem. Because of their official position, this is the first step in the plot destroy Jesus referred to in Mark 3:6. Before they can destroy Him, they first must discredit Jesus in the eyes of the multitude.
ii. It takes a very hard heart to look at the work of Jesus and to say, "This is the work of Satan." We might excuse Jesus' own for misunderstanding Him, but this shows a much worse spiritual condition.
d. Beelzebub clearly refers to Satan, but it is a difficult name to analyze. It may have been coined because it sounds similar to the Hebrew phrase for "Lord of the Flies."
i. "It is supposed that this idol was the same with Baalzebub, the god fly, worshipped at Ekron . . . who had his name changed afterwards by the Jews to Baal zebul, the dung god, a title of utmost contempt." (Clarke)
3. (23-27) Jesus answers those who attributed His work to Satan.
So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house."
a. How can Satan cast out Satan? Jesus shows that if He is an agent of Satan, and works against Satan, then surely Satan's kingdom is in civil war and will not stand - Satan won't work against himself.
b. No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods: With this, Jesus answers the charge that He is in league with the Devil. He says, "I'm not under Satan. Instead, I'm proving that I am stronger than he is."
c. Unless he first binds the strong man: In this parable Satan is the strong man, who guards what belongs to him. Jesus' ministry, both in the case of casting the demon out of the man who was mute, and in the broader sense, is defeating this strong man.
d. Then he will plunder his house: Jesus looks at every life delivered from Satan's domination and says, "I'm plundering the kingdom of Satan one life at a time." There is nothing in our life that must stay under Satan's domination. The one who binds the strong man and will plunder his house is our risen Lord.
i. It's a reasonable question: what are you doing in Satan's house anyway? The truth is that because of the sin of Adam, we were born in Satan's house. Then we also stayed on by our own choice. But when Jesus comes into our life, there is never a reason for someone to be in Satan's house.
4. (28-30) Jesus warns the religious leaders about the unforgivable sin.
"Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation"; because they said, "He has an unclean spirit."
a. He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness: This blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is serious indeed. The person guilty of this sin is subject to eternal condemnation. In other Gospels (such as in Luke 12:10) this sin as described as "unforgivable."
b. Because they said, He has an unclean spirit: These religious leaders were in danger of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit because they looked at the perfectly good and wonderful work of God in Jesus, and officially pronounced it the evil of Satan. This points to a settled rejection of heart against Jesus - possible evidence of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
i. "Notice that these men had not yet committed the unpardonable sin . . . Otherwise Jesus would never have warned them. By his own words, there is no use warning a man who has committed the unpardonable sin; he is beyond help." (Steadman)
ii. It also reminds us of the danger of being a negative Christian. Though we must show discernment, we should never be too quick to say something is of the devil. We shouldn't let our Christian lives be defined by what we are against.
c. What is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
i. This idea of one sin that ends in eternal condemnation has troubling many. Some feel totally defeated and hopeless before God, convinced that they have committed this unpardonable sin.
ii. We recognize the terrible danger of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and our need to avoid this sin at all cost. At the same time, we guard our hearts against the unwarranted accusation of this sin.
iii. We understand what the blasphemy of Holy Spirit is by first understanding what the ministry of the Holy Spirit is all about. Regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit Jesus said, when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8), and that He will testify of Me (John 15:26).
iv. Therefore, when we persistently reject the work the Holy Spirit wants to do in us, when we have a continued, settled rejection of what He wants to tell us about Jesus, then we blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
v. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven - not because it is a sin "too big" for God to forgive, but because it is an attitude of heart that cares nothing for God's forgiveness. It never has forgiveness because it never wants forgiveness God's way.
vi. The way to not blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to receive Jesus Christ today! Simply stop resisting His work of drawing you to Jesus, and surrender your life to Jesus today.
vii. "These words were never intended to torment anxious souls honestly desiring to know Christ, but they stand out as a blazing beacon warning of the danger of persisting in the rejection of the Spirit's testimony of Christ, until the seared conscience no longer responds to the gospel message." (Ironside)
5. (31-35) Jesus describes His true family relationships.
Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You." But He answered them, saying, "Who is My mother, or My brothers?" And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother."
a. His brothers and His mother: Why had they sent to Him? Perhaps to carry out the plan described in Mark 3:21, to lay hold of Him, thinking that Jesus was out of His mind.
b. Who is My mother, or My brothers? We might have expected that Jesus' family would have special privileges before Him. It almost surprises us that they do not.
i. Brothers: Jesus plainly had brothers. The Roman Catholic idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary is in contradiction to the plain meaning of the Bible.
ii. Many reliable manuscripts add and Your sisters to Your mothers and Your brothers. "According to a reading in several MSS., these included sisters among those present." (Expositor's)
iii. The brothers of Jesus never seemed to be supportive of His ministry before His death and resurrection (John 7:5).
c. Whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother: Mark 3 ends with a huge contrast. There are religious leaders in danger of damnation, and an invitation to be part of Jesus' family.
i. "The right way to be ennobled indeed, and inrighted to Christ and his kingdom, is, to believe in his name, and obey his will. This, this is to become Christ's brother, and sister, and mother. Sister is named, to show that no sex is excluded. And mother last mentioned, that the prerogative of the flesh may be set aside and disacknowledged." (Trapp)