MARK CHAPTER 3.
Healing the Withered Hand. Mark 3, 1-6.
V. 1. And He entered again into the synagog; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. V. 2. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath-day, that they might accuse Him. V. 3. And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. Again He entered, or, as Luke relates, more exactly, on another Sabbath, Luke 6, 6, on the Sabbath following this one on which He had shown the real meaning of Sabbath and Sabbath-rest. Into a synagog He went, whether into that of Capernaum or elsewhere, is of no consequence here. But He had a purpose, an object, in mind. For there, in the synagog, as one of the worshiping congregation, was a man that had the hand, the right hand, withered, as the result of injury by accident or disease. He was deprived entirely of its use. It seems that the man was not here by chance, but had been induced to come by the enemies of Christ, for they were watching very closely whether Jesus would on the Sabbath heal him. Note: Jesus does not permit the apparent hatred of the Pharisees and scribes to keep Him from attending the services of the synagog after His custom; He went for His own edification. Also, the Pharisees felt that the difference between the teaching of Christ and their own dead traditions was an essential difference, that they would have to change their entire mode of speaking and living if there were to be harmony between them and this new Teacher; and this they refused to do. They had even now determined to find some way of silencing or removing this objectionable speaker of truth. The purpose of their watchfulness in this case was to find some accusation against Him before the government, if possible, before the Church at any rate. Jesus knew their thoughts, even before they spoke them, Matt. 12, 10. His course of action He had determined on at once. The lesson He wanted to teach at this time was to be an impressive one. For that reason He said to the man with the withered hand: Arise toward the center. He wanted him to be standing in the middle, before the entire congregation, as a fitting object of demonstration.
The healing: V. 4. And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath-days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. V. 5. And when He had looked round about them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out; and his hand was restored whole as the other. V. 6. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him how they might destroy Him. Jesus acted with the greatest patience and kindness. He tried to win His enemies by actual persuasion, by causing them to see the correctness of His position. His question to them is: Is it the right and proper thing, ought people to feel this as their obligation, to do good, to save life, to be of assistance to one's neighbor on the Sabbath? Or can it be possible that anyone should want to advocate the doing of evil, the destroying of life, on that day? The omission of a good deed, the neglect of some act of kindness, is, in fact, equal to actual murder in a case where the personal well-being of the neighbor is concerned. The conscience of every man will tell him that on the Sabbath, as well as on any other day, deeds of mercy are not only permitted, but very distinctly commanded. We should help and befriend our neighbor in every bodily need. But the Pharisees here deliberately hardened their hearts. Just because their conscience condemned them before this Teacher, they determined not to give Him the satisfaction of yielding. And so they stubbornly refused to answer. Jesus waited. But when their purpose became increasingly evident, He let His stern gaze wander around in the circle, from one to the other. He was filled with righteous indignation over such unreasonable stubbornness. And, incidentally, He was deeply grieved over the obduracy, the callousness, the blindness of their hearts. Note: The anger of Jesus is always directed against the transgression, against the sin; for the sinners the Lord has only the feeling of deepest sorrow and sympathy. "By a long resistance to the grace and Spirit of God, their hearts had become callous; they were past feeling. By a long opposition to the light of God, they became dark in their understanding, were blinded by the deceitfulness of sin, and thus were past seeing. By a long continuance in the practice of every evil work, they were cut off from all union with God, the Fountain of spiritual life; and, becoming dead in trespasses and sins, they were incapable of any resurrection but through a miraculous power of God." 8) Christ's decision therefore was swiftly carried out. He bade the man stretch forth his hand. And the man obeyed, and his hand was restored to perfect health, so that he could now use it as before. This result of their little scheme angered the Pharisees beyond all semblance of reasonableness. They had enough. Without waiting for further teaching, they left the synagog. Their minds as to their course were made up. It remained only to find ways and means to carry out their design. It was not so much the fact that their orthodox Sabbath-keeping had received a severe jolt and that, in their opinion, the Sabbath had been broken by the performance of the miracle of healing, but that the miracle brought fame to Jesus, and that they had been unable to answer His simple question without making their own position untenable. It was, then, in brief, nothing but vengeful spite that moved them. And they sought allies and chose the Herodians. This society, with its peculiar ideas regarding the Messianic calling of the family of Herod (cp. Matt. 22,16), might easily be influenced against Christ, if the Pharisees would but point out the growing influence of Jesus over the common people, who might soon be ready to hail Him as the promised Messiah. So these two parties, otherwise not the best of friends, readily agreed in counsel against Jesus, how they might destroy Him. So far hypocrisy and the semblance of piety may drive people that they try to cover the most obvious lack of love and mercy, yea, even mortal hatred and enmity, with pious usages and practices.
Miracles by the Seaside. Mark 3, 7-21.
The withdrawal of Jesus: V. 7. But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea; and a great multitude from Galilee followed" Him, and from Judea, V. 8. and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard what great things He did, came unto Him. Jesus made use of discretion and prudence. He knew the plans of the Pharisees, and therefore He withdrew from their wiles and persecutions and attacks. With His disciples He went down to the sea; these men are now mentioned as important adherents of Christ, which they were destined to become more and more as time passed. The shore of the lake was Christ's place of retreat; from there He could any time easily remove still farther. And the opposition of the Pharisees had resulted in increasing the prestige of Christ in a manner which they had not anticipated, for now a great multitude, an immense crowd, as the evangelist notes twice, gathered from all sides. There were people from Galilee, the northern part of Palestine, where Jesus was then carrying on the work of His ministry. There were people from exclusive Judea that followed Him. Even haughty Jerusalem was represented, as well as Idumea, the country of the Edomites south and west of the Dead Sea, and Perea, the country on the east side of the Jordan, and the country about Tyre and Sidon, in Phenicia. It was a revival movement which affected the entire country. There was hardly a person of average intelligence in all Palestine and in the surrounding countries that had not heard about the great Prophet and His preaching and healing in Galilee. The fame of His great deeds was still spreading, and the people, in consequence, were flocking to Him.
Miracles of healing: V. 9. And He spake to His disciples that a small ship should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him. V. 10. For He had healed many, insomuch that they pressed upon Him for to touch Him, as many as had plagues. V. 11. And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. V. 12. And He straitly charged them that they should not make Him known. So great were the crowds that came to the seaside to see Jesus that He was obliged to take precautions. He gave His disciples instructions that they should have a small boat ready at all times, with the oars, sails, and the necessary provisions in place, that He might use it at once, should necessity so demand. This was rendered unavoidable by the mass of people, for they rushed upon Him in their impetuousness and might have borne Him down. At the same time, His Savior's love urged Him to perform many miracles of healing, as they pressed upon Him, if only to touch Him. And the Lord permitted it in many cases that the mere touching of His garment or of His person brought healing, for they must realize that the power lay not in the clothing, but in the man. The word here used for sicknesses is very expressive, "scourge." Diseases are therefore scourges of God, either in the form of a punishment, or in the form of a merciful chastening, inflicted by God or permitted by Him for the purpose of drawing men nearer to Him. And one of the worst scourges was the possession by demons, for also such poor unfortunate people as were afflicted with this terrible ailment were brought to the Lord. Invariably these people, when they caught sight of Him, or when they had looked at Him closely, fell down before Him at the urging of the demon in them, who must needs recognize in Christ the Lord of all, and cried out a confession of His divinity: Thou art the Son of God. But that was not the confession that the Savior sought; He wants no praise out of the mouth of Satan and his angels. He did not want to be revealed, did not want to be made known by them as the Messiah. Testimony from the enemies may have its value, but Jesus wanted the people to accept His Word and come to the knowledge of Him as the promised Redeemer through His Gospel.
The call of the Twelve: V. 13. And He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would; and they came unto Him. V. 14. And He ordained twelve that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, V. 15. and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils. V. 16. And Simon He surnamed Peter; V. 17. and James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James; and He surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The Sons of Thunder; v. 18. and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, V. 19. and Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him. And they went into an house. In the neighborhood of the sea, where Jesus had been performing the miracles, there was a mountain, later simply known among the apostles by this name; in a lonely region. Jesus managed to dismiss the multitudes for a time, since He was anxious to perform a very necessary piece of work, namely, the gaining of assistants and successors in His prophetic labors. On this hill they would be undisturbed, and He would have leisure to give them the information concerning the call given them at this time. He called to Him those whom He wanted; He made a deliberate selection or choice from the total number of those that had gathered about Him as His disciples. And as He told them off, they came to Him in a place apart from the others. He then literally made twelve apostles, constituting these as a body for themselves. A special ceremony of ordination is not mentioned. It was merely a calling, a separating for special work, that the Lord performed. But as "the Twelve" they were henceforth known. The Lord's charge to them consisted mainly in these points: That they should be with Him, be in His neighborhood at all times, this constant attendance upon His words being necessary for their training; that they should be sent out by Him for the work of heralding or proclaiming the Gospel; that they should, for this purpose, have power, transmitted to them by Jesus, to cast out demons. The power to perform miracles of such an extraordinary kind was necessary to substantiate their claim of a divine mission. The Twelve were thus called, and they received their charge, their appointment. And their names are recorded in order. Jesus surnamed, laid upon, Simon the name Peter, Matt. 16, 18. His nature was uncertain and vacillating, as his denial shows; but by the teaching of Jesus and through His mercy he was afterward strengthened in faith and in trust to become a true rock-man. James was the elder son of Zebedee, the fisherman, the name of the younger son being John. To these the Lord applied the Aramaic name Boanerges, "sons of thunder," on account of their fiery temper in their younger days, Luke 9, 54. 55. Their zeal was later tempered by the Lord's instruction. James became the first martyr of the apostles, and John was known as the "Apostle of Love." These three are mentioned first, because they were the intimate friends of the Lord, being with Him both on the Mount of Transfiguration and also in Gethsemane, not to speak of minor occasions. Andrew was the brother of Peter and one of the first to follow the Lord, John 1, 35-40. A third pair of brothers was Philip of Bethsaida and Bartholomew, who is undoubtedly identical with Nathanael, John I, 45.46. Matthew was formerly known as Levi, the publican, the son of Alphaeus, Matt. 10, 3. Thomas was also known as Didymus, the "twin," John 20, 24. Then there was James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, also known as Lebbaeus or Judas Lebbaeus, Acts I, 13, and Simon of Cana. Last of all is mentioned Judas, the traitor, who was from Keith, and was admitted to the rank of the apostles that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, John 13, 18. Their preliminary charge having been made to them, the Twelve returned to the valley with Jesus, and entered into a house. They were all in need of rest and recreation, the last days having been very strenuous.
The friends of Jesus think Him out of His senses: V. 20. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. V. 21. And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him; for they said, He is beside Himself. No sooner had Jesus returned to the city and to the house, no sooner had He come home, than a crowd again assembled. So urgent were they in their demand to see Him that Christ and His disciples were not even given time to partake of the necessary food needed to sustain life. If the eagerness of these people had only been for the Bread of Life, if they had only been hungering and thirsting after righteousness, there would not be a discordant element in the entire story. But their object was more than ever a glimpse of the great Healer and Benefactor; His message interested them little or not at all. In the mean time those nearest to the Lord, His relatives, His mother and His brothers, who are mentioned also at the end of the chapter, were becoming worried about Him. They had heard about the multitudes and their intense insistence upon seeing Jesus and giving Him no rest. So they set out from where they were with the purpose of taking Him under their care; for they had gained the impression, and no longer made any effort to conceal it, that He was in an unhealthy state of excitement, due to overwork, bordering on insanity. This peculiar idea, which was not at all flattering to the Lord, was due to lack of proper knowledge as to His power. Jesus was the Son of God, and He might become tired and weak, but He would not submit to the extent as was supposed by His relatives.
Discourse on the Casting Out of Devils. Mark 3, 22-35.
The pharisaic theory and the defense of Jesus: V. 22. And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils. V. 23. And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? V. 24. And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. V. 25. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. V. 26. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. V. 27. No man can enter into a strong man's house and spoil his goods except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. The work of Jesus had been characterized especially by the healing of demoniacs, a cure both difficult and pronounced. It was for this reason that the enemies of Jesus took occasion to attack above all these signs of healing. The scribes from Jerusalem they were, both Pharisees and elders, since it became evident that the local rabbis could not cope with the situation. They literally came down from the capital city, for Jerusalem is situated at an elevation of 2,800 feet, while the Sea of Galilee is 620 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. The leaders of the Jewish Church were deeply troubled over the fact that this unknown rabbi, who had received neither His instruction nor the sanction for His teaching from them, should have such marvelous success; hence the delegation. .An expressive and comprehensive term: they said. They made it their business, continually, and wherever an opportunity presented itself, to influence the people against Jesus. And their most malignant slander was this: He has Beelzebub, or Beelzebul; this prince of the devils gives Him the power to cast out demons. Beelzebub was the name of the patron idol of Ekron, a city of the Philistines. It meant "the god of flies"; but the Israelites changed one consonant, and had it read Beelzebul, "the god of dung," to ridicule the false god. In this way the word gradually came to designate the devil. The intention is plain. The meaning is: If this man were not in league with the devil, if He did not possess His power by authority and gift of the devil, the demons would not obey Him in going forth from the demoniacs. But Jesus has an answer ready to confound them. Knowing their thoughts, He assumes the offensive. He cites them to appear before Him and proposes to them a number of questions. Is it reasonable to suppose that Satan would cast out Satan? Would he be so foolish as to destroy his own kingdom by permitting divisions in the midst of his own armies! Would he permit the members of his own household to be at loggerheads with each other! Satan is far too keen and too prudent to bring harm upon himself and to destroy his own kingdom, for he knows that such a proceeding would signify and foretell the end of his reign. In a positive form, the defense of Christ was: Not by Beelzebub, but by the Spirit of God, I cast out devils. And this Spirit of God that spoke through Him and manifested Himself through Him, bore witness to the heart and minds also of the Pharisees. And yet they blasphemed and exhibited the poison of their heart by labeling the work of God as the work of the devil and hindering the spread of the Gospel. Similar blasphemies occur in the very midst of the so-called Christian Church to this day. The doctrine of Christ, the way of salvation as taught by Him, is blasphemed as a dangerous, harmful doctrine, and those that adhere to it in simple faith are adjudged undesirable neighbors and citizens. But the word of Jesus at this point may still be applied.
Over against the slanderous, blasphemous explanation of the Jews, Jesus now places His simple and true explanation. The devil is strong and mighty, indeed, but in Christ he has found more than his match, he has met Him whom he must acknowledge, without question, as his Master. Christ, the Son of God, has entered into the house of the strong one, Satan; He has taken with Him the spoil which fell to His lot at the time of His great victory. The demons, all the evil angels, had to confess Him and bow before Him as the Son of God; they were obliged to obey, even against their will, for all things have been put under His feet, Eph. 1, 22. By His life, Passion, and death, by His active and passive obedience to His heavenly Father's will Christ has conquered the devil and delivered all men from his power. Thus it is that Christ can now seize the spoils taken from Satan, tear from him his possessions, also those poor people whom he has possessed. This our Lord does even today through the Word, by which the souls of men are delivered from the power of the devil.
A warning against the unforgivable sin: V. 28. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; v. 29. but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: v. 30. because they said, He hath an unclean spirit. With solemn emphasis Jesus gives the Pharisees this warning. Jesus knew that the scribes did not believe their own theory as to His ability to cast out devils. "You are not merely mistaken theorists, you are men in a very perilous moral condition. Beware!" 9) God's mercy is as wide as heaven and earth; His forgiveness actually embraces all sins, even the ordinary blasphemies, wherewith so many people continually offend against Him. But there is one great exception, namely, when the blasphemy is directed against the Holy Ghost. This sin is unpardonable, its guilt lasts forever, it has no forgiveness forever. He that commits it is guilty of a transgression whose consequences will last throughout eternity. This solemn and complete declaration was called forth by the charge of the Jews that Jesus had an unclean spirit. Thus the blasphemy was directed against the Spirit of God that lived in Christ, and hence His warning. If the scribes had been ignorant, or if they had misunderstood the Lord and had been seeking some explanation of His strange power over demons, that would have been a sin against the Son of Man, and therefore pardonable. But they spoke against better knowledge; their charge was a deliberate, malicious blasphemy, and therefore their charge cast mockery upon the Holy Ghost.
The true relatives of the Lord: V. 31. There came then His brethren and His mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. V. 32. And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren without seek for Thee. V. 33. And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother, or My brethren? V. 34. And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! V. 35. For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother. Jesus had barely finished His discourse directed to the Pharisees, when there came an interruption. We were told that His kinsmen had gotten ready to save Him against the probable loss of His reason, V. 21. They had, in the mean time, reached the house where Jesus was sitting with His disciples, the people, and the scribes. They sent a message to Him, calling Him. They believed that the demands of relationship superseded all other considerations. They had made up their mind to take Him away for a while. The message was gradually transmitted to the Lord while He was still sitting there in the midst of His hearers, for the people sat round about Him, willing enough, for once, to listen to His preaching. But when Jesus received the message, telling that His mother and His brothers (stepbrothers, half-brothers, or cousins) were anxiously looking for Him and wanted Him outside, He gave a characteristic answer. Slowly letting His gaze travel round about in the circle, where His twelve disciples were sitting in the first row, and many others that had learned to believe on Him as near as possible, He called these men (and women) His mother and His brethren, His true relatives. Not that Christ intended to disparage the claims of relationship. He Himself was a model in the obedience and respect toward His mother, Luke 2, 51. 52; John 19, 27. But He wanted no unwarranted interference with His work and office. He desired to repudiate, first of all, the assumption as though He were not quite master of Himself and His actions. And He wanted them to understand, now and always, that the claims of earthly relationship did not dare to interfere with the business in hand, that of carrying out His ministry for the salvation of mankind. Under certain circumstances, it may happen even now, does happen, in fact, very frequently, that a man's enemies are those of his own household, chapter 7, 11-13; Matt. 10, 36. But the will of God may require that the relationship of blood, even the nearest and dearest relationship be denied in fulfilling His will. It may often take a great deal of spiritual knowledge and prudence, and at other times it may require an extraordinary amount of courage and determination, but the will of God in the government and work of His Church must be the paramount issue in all instances. There can be no divided allegiance in this case, Prov. 23, 26; Matt. 10, 37.
Summary. Jesus heals the man with a withered hand, performs miracles by the seaside, calls the twelve apostles, gives a discourse on the casting out of devils, and teaches wherein true relationship with Him consists.