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Ch. 3:1 6 . The Man with the Withered Hand
1. And he entered ] The narrative of St Mark here is peculiarly vivid and pictorial. He places the scene actually before us and relates it very much in the present tense. The incident occurred at Capernaum, and probably on the next Sabbath. See Luke 6:6 .
a withered hand ] It is characteristic of the physician St Luke that he tells us it was his “ right hand.” It was probably not merely paralysed in the sinews, but dried up and withered, the result of a partial atrophy. Comp. 1 Kings 13:4 , for the parallel case of Jeroboam. Such a malady, when once established, is incurable by any human art.
2. they watched him ] The same company of Scribes and Pharisees had gathered together from Judæa, Jerusalem, and Galilee itself (Luke 5:17 ), to find matter of accusation against Him. They watched Him with no friendly purpose. The word itself signifies stratagem and hostility: comp. Luke 20:20 , “And they watched Him and sent forth spies:” Acts 9:24 , “And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.”
3. he saith ] It would seem that the Pharisees first asked Him, “ Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? ” (Matthew 12:10 ). This question He answered, as was His wont (Matthew 21:24 ), by a counter-question, “ I will ask you one thing. Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good or to do evil? to save life or to destroy it? ”
4. But they held their peace ] St Mark alone mentions this striking circumstance, as also what we read in the next verse, that “ He looked round about on them with anger .”
5. with anger ] Not merely did He look upon them, He “ looked round ” upon them, surveyed each face with “an all-embracing gaze of grief and anger.” Feelings of “grief” and “anger” are here ascribed to Him, who was “very God and very Man,” just as in another place we read that “He wept” before the raising of Lazarus (John 11:35 ), and “slept” before He stilled the storm (Mark 4:38 ), and was an hungred (Matthew 4:2 ), and was “exceeding sorrowful even unto death” (Matthew 26:38 ).
being grieved ] The word here used occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and implies “a feeling of compassion for,” even in the midst of anger at, their conduct.
hardness ] The word thus rendered denotes literally (1) the process by which the extremities of fractured bones are re-united by a callus; then (2) callousness, hardness . St Paul uses the word in Romans 11:25 , saying, “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, … that hardness (see margin) in part is happened to Israel;” and again in Ephesians 4:18 , “Having the understanding darkened … because of the hardness of their heart” (see margin again). The verb, which = “to petrify,” “to harden into stone,” occurs in Mark 6:52 , Mark 6:8 :17; John 12:40 ; 2 Corinthians 3:14 .
whole as the other ] This is one of the instances where our Lord may be said to have wrought a miracle without a word , or the employment of any external means . It also forms one of seven miracles wrought on the Sabbath-day. The other six were, (1) The demoniac at Capernaum (Mark 1:21 ); (2) Simon’s wife’s mother (Mark 1:29 ); (3) the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:9 ); (4) the woman with a spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:14 ); (5) the man who had the dropsy (Luke 14:1 ); (6) the man born blind (John 9:14 ).
6. And the Pharisees went forth ] The effect of this miracle was very great. The Scribes and Pharisees were “ filled with madness .” the Saviour had not merely broken their traditions, but He had put them to silence before all the people. In their blind hate they did not shrink even from joining the Herodians, the court party, and their political opponents, and taking counsel with them how they might put Him to death. As before at Jerusalem so now in Galilee this design is deliberately formed.
the Herodians ] This is the first occasion on which the Herodians are mentioned. We shall meet with them again in Mark 12:13 , on the “Day of Questions” in Holy Week. Just as the partisans of Marius were called “Mariani,” of Pompeius “Pompeiani,” of Otho “Othoniani,” so the partisans of Herod the Great and his successors were called “Herodiani.” The sect was rather a political than a religious body. Adopting Sadducean opinions, they held that the hopes of the Jewish nation rested on the Herods as a bulwark against Roman ambition, and almost looked to them for a fulfilment of the prophecies respecting the advent of the Messiah. They favoured the compromise between the ancient faith and later civilisation, which Herod inaugurated, and his successors endeavoured to realise. On one occasion our Lord warns his disciples against “the leaven of Herod” in close connection with “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Mark 8:15 ; Luke 12:1 ). Galilee being the chief centre of Christ’s activity, the Pharisees from Judæa were glad on the present occasion to avail themselves of any aid from the tetrarch of this part of Palestine and his followers.
7 12. Withdrawal of Jesus to the Lake of Gennesaret
7. a great multitude ] Observe the wide area from which the multitude were now gathered together; the region (1) of Tyre and Sidon and Galilee in the North of Palestine; (2) of Judæa and Jerusalem in the centre, (3) of Peræa “beyond the Jordan” on the East, (4) of Idumæa in the extreme South. This is the only place where Idumæa, the country occupied by the descendants of Esau, is mentioned in the N. T. In the O. T. the name is found in Isaiah 34:5 , Isaiah 34:6 ; Ezekiel 35:15 , Ezekiel 36:5 .
9. a small ship ] The life on the sea, in the ship which was now His chief place of instruction in opposition to the synagogue, henceforth had its commencement.
10. plagues ] The word thus rendered denotes (1) a whip or scourge , and is used in this sense in Acts 22:24 ; Hebrews 11:36 ; (2) a plague or disease of the body . Comp. Mark 5:29 , Mark 5:34 ; Luke 7:21 .
11. Thou art the Son of God ] In the Synagogue of Capernaum they had called Him the “Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24 ), they now acknowledge Him as the “Son of God” (comp. Luke 4:41 ). The force of the imperfect tense in the original here is very striking, “ whenever the demons saw Him, they kept falling down before Him and saying ” … and as often as they did so, “He straitly charged them that they should not make Him known,” i. e. as the Messiah “the Son of God.”
13 19. The Calling of the Twelve Apostles
13. And he goeth ] We have now reached an important turning-point in the Gospel History, (i) The fame of the Saviour had spread abroad in every direction throughout the land, and the current of popular feeling had set strongly in His favour. But (ii) the animosity of the ruling powers had deepened in intensity alike in Judæa and Galilee, and an active correspondence was going on between the Scribes and Pharisees in both districts respecting Him. Meanwhile (iii) He Himself had seemed to stand almost alone. A few indeed had gathered round Him as His disciples, but as yet they did not present the appearance of a regular and organized body, nor had they received a distinct commission to disseminate His doctrines. Such a body was now to be formed. Such a commission was now to be given. Accordingly He retired to the mountain-range west of the Lake, and spent the whole night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12 ). The scene of His retirement and lonely vigil was in all probability the singular elevation now known as the Karûn Hattîn, or “Horns of Hattîn,” the only conspicuous hill on the western side of the Lake, and “singularly adapted by its conformation both to form a place for short retirement, and a rendezvous for gathering multitudes.” Then at dawn of the following day (Luke 6:13 ), He
calleth unto him whom he would ] of the disciples, who had gradually gathered around Him, and when they had come to Him He selected for Himself (Luke 6:13 ), and
14. ordained twelve ] Hitherto they had been His friends and disciples in a wider sense, now He formally called them, and joined them in a united band, that (i) they “might be with Him” (comp. Acts 1:21 ), (ii) that He might “send them forth” as heralds to preach, and (iii) that they “might have power to cast out demons,” for the words “ to heal sicknesses ” are omitted in some of the best MSS.
(i) The number of the Apostles . The number selected, answering to the twelve sons of Jacob, was small indeed as compared with the hundreds who enrolled themselves as disciples of a Hillel or a Gamaliel, and their position in life was humble and obscure, but “ the weak things of the world were to confound the things which are mighty ” (1 Corinthians 1:27 ), and these Twelve were to be the Twelve Pillars of the Church.
(ii) Their calling and training . Observe that the calling and training of the Twelve was a most important part of our Lord’s ministerial work. ( a ) Immediately after His Baptism and Temptation He began to prepare some of them for their future vocation (John 1:35-51 ); ( b ) to their training He devoted the greater part of His time and strength; ( c ) after His resurrection He continued for forty days His personal efforts for their improvement, and ( d ) at last He bestowed upon them His promised gift of the Holy Ghost.
(iii) Their title . The name also which He gave to them deserves attention. He named them Apostles (Luke 6:13 ). The word thus rendered means (i) as an adjective, despatched or sent forth , (ii) as a substantive, the actual delegate of the person who sends him.
( a ) In Classical Greek the word was almost entirely restricted to the meaning of a “naval expedition,” a “fleet despatched on foreign service,” and this meaning entirely superseded any other.
( b ) In the Septuagint the word occurs only once, namely, in 1 Kings 14:6 , in the sense of “a messenger,” “one who has a commission from God,” where Abijah says to the wife of Jeroboam, “I am a messenger unto thee of heavy tidings.”
( c ) With the later Jews the word was in common use, and was the title of those, who were sent from the mother city on any foreign mission, especially the collection of the tribute for the Temple service.
( d ) Thus when He employed it to designate His immediate and most favoured disciples, “our Lord was not introducing a new term, but adopting one which from its current usage would suggest to His hearers the idea of a highly responsible mission.” In Hebrews 3:1 He Himself is styled “The Apostle and high priest of our profession,” with which compare John 17:18 . Canon Lightfoot on the Epistle to the Galatians , p. 94.
16. and Simon ] We have in the New Testament four lists of the Apostles: ( a ) Matthew 10:2 ; ( b ) Mark 3:16 ; ( c ) Luke 6:14 ; ( d ) Acts 1:13 . The position of some of the names varies in the lists, but in all four the leaders of the three groups are the same, Peter, Philip, and James, the son of Alphæus, while in all four Judas Iscariot is placed last. According to St Mark’s catalogue they may be arranged in three groups:
(i) 1 Peter.
(ii) 5 Philip.
(iii) 9 James the Less.
11 Simon the Cananite.
12 Judas Iscariot.
( a ) Group i
i. Simon . The name of Simeon (Acts 15:14 ) or Simon, a “hearer,” the son of Jonas (John 1:42 , John 21:16 ), whom our Lord surnamed Peter or Cephas, the Rock-man , stands first in all the four lists. He was brought up in his father’s occupation, as a fisherman on the Galilean lake, and lived originally at Bethsaida, and afterwards in a house at Capernaum (Mark 1:21 , Mark 1:29 ). His earliest call came to him through his brother Andrew, who told him the Messias, the “Anointed One,” had been found in the Person of the Lord (John 1:43 ). His second call took place on the lake near Capernaum, where he and the other three in this group were fishing. He is specially prominent on various occasions before the rest of the Apostles. Sometimes he speaks in their name (Matthew 19:27 ; Luke 12:41 ); sometimes answers when all are addressed (Matthew 16:16 ; Mark 8:29 ); sometimes he is addressed as principal , even among the favoured Three by our Lord Himself (Matthew 26:40 ; Luke 22:31 ); sometimes he is appealed to by others as representing the rest (Matthew 17:24 ; Acts 2:37 ). After the Ascension he assumes a position of special prominence (Acts 1:15 , Acts 2:14 , Acts 4:8 , Acts 5:29 ).
17. ii. James the son of Zebedee and Salome (Matthew 27:56 ; Mark 15:40 ), a native of Bethsaida, commonly known as James “the Great,” the first of the Apostolic body to suffer martyrdom, and the only one of the Twelve whose death is actually recorded in the New Testament.
iii. John ] the brother of James, who never in his Gospel calls himself by this name, but sometimes “ the disciple whom Jesus loved ” (John 13:23 , John 19:26 ), sometimes “ the other disciple ” (John 18:15 , John 18:20 :2, John 18:3 ). To him our Lord committed the care of His earthly mother. These brothers were surnamed by our Lord, according to St Mark, Boanerges , i. e. “ sons of thunder ,” in allusion we may believe to the fiery intrepid zeal which marked their character. Of this feature we have traces in Luke 9:54 ; Mark 9:38 , Mark 10:37 .
18. iv. Andrew ] a brother of St Peter (Matthew 4:18 ), and like him a native of Bethsaida, and a former disciple of the Baptist (John 1:40 ). By his means his brother Simon was brought to Jesus (John 1:41 ). In the lists of the Apostles given by St Matthew and St Luke he appears second; but in St Mark and Acts 1:13 , fourth. We have three notices of him in the Gospels, (i) On the occasion of the feeding of the Five Thousand it is he who points out the little lad with the five barley loaves and the two fishes; (ii) when certain Greeks desired to see Jesus, it was he in conjunction with Philip who introduced them to the Lord (John 12:22 ); (iii) together with Peter, James, and John he inquired privately of our Lord respecting His future coming (Mark 13:3 ).
( b ) Group ii
v. Philip ] He also was a native of Bethsaida and one of the earliest disciples (John 1:43 ). To him first of the whole circle of the Apostles were spoken the solemn words “Follow Me.” It was to him the question was put “to prove him,” “ Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? ” (John 6:5-9 ); together with his friend and fellow townsman, St Andrew, he brought the inquiring Greeks to the Saviour (John 12:20-22 ); it was he who asked “ Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us ” (John 14:8 ).
vi. Bartholomew ] i. e. Bar-Tolmai, the “ Son of Tolmai ,” and probably identical with Nathanael = “ gift of God ” For (i) St John twice mentions Nathanael, never Bartholomew (John 1:45 , John 21:2 ); (ii) the other Evangelists all speak of Bartholomew, never of Nathanael; (iii) Philip first brought Nathanael to Jesus, and Bartholomew is mentioned by each of the Synoptic Evangelists immediately after Philip; (iv) St John couples Philip with Nathanael precisely in the same way that Simon is coupled with his brother Andrew. Respecting him, at least under the name Nathanael, we learn from the Gospels little more than ( a ) his birth-place, Cana of Galilee (John 21:2 ); ( b ) his simple, guileless character (John 1:47 ); and ( c ) that he was one of the seven, to whom our Lord shewed Himself by the lake of Gennesaret after His resurrection (John 21:2 ).
vii. Matthew ] or Levi , whose call has just been described. See above, on 2:14.
viii. Thomas ] or Didymus= a twin (John 11:16 , John 21:2 ), whose character was marked by a deep attachment to his Master and a readiness even to die with Him (John 11:16 ), but at the same time by a tendency to misgiving and despondency, which made him ever ready to take the darker view of things, and to distrust other evidence than that of sight (John 14:5 , John 20:25 ).
( c ) Group iii
ix. James ] or “James the Less” (see note below, 15:40), the son of Alphæus, so called to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee, mentioned above. He is probably a distinct person from James the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19 ), and author of the Epistle, which bears his name.
x. Thaddæus ] i. e. Judas , a brother, or possibly a son of James, bishop of Jerusalem (Acts 1:13 ). He was surnamed Thaddæus and Lebbæus (Matthew 10:3 ), which some interpret as = “ cordatus or animosus ” = “a man of energy and courage.” He is the author of the Epistle which bears his name. Once only in the Gospels do we find any act or saying of his recorded, viz., in John 14:22 , “ Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? ”
xi. Simon ] the Cananite, or Cananœan (Matthew 10:4 ), in Greek Zelotes (Luke 6:15 ; Acts 1:13 ). The spelling of the English Version here is misleading. The word does not signify a native of Canaan, or of Cana, but comes from a Chaldee or Syriac word Kanean or Kaneniah , by which the Jewish sect or faction of “the Zealots” was designated. To this sect Simon had probably belonged before his call.
19. xii. Judas Iscariot ] sometimes called the son of Simon (John 6:71 , John 6:13 :2, John 6:26 ), more generally Iscariot , i. e. probably “ a native of Kerioth ” a little village in the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:25 ; Jeremiah 48:24 ). For the probable motives that led him to become the traitor, see note on 14:10.
and they went into an house ] The incident here related took place after the delivery of the Sermon on the Mount, and the Saviour’s second ministerial journey, an interval of a few months (?).
20 30 . How can Satan cast out Satan?
20. the multitude cometh together again ] i. e. at Capernaum, which, had now become our Lord’s temporary home.
21. when his friends ] not the Apostles, but His relatives, including “His brethren and His mother,” who are noticed here as going forth, and a few verses later on as having arrived at the house where our Lord was (Mark 3:31 ), or the place where the crowds were thronging Him.
He is beside himself ] They deemed the zeal and daily devotion to His labour of love a sort of ecstasy or religious enthusiasm, which made Him no longer master of Himself. St Paul uses the word in this sense in 2 Corinthians 5:13 , “For whether we be beside ourselves , it is to God.” Comp. the words of Festus to St Paul (Acts 26:24 ).
22. And the scribes ] The hostile party from Jerusalem, noticed above, consisting of Scribes and Pharisees, still lingered at Capernaum.
He hath Beelzebub ] St Matthew tells us of the miracle, which was the occasion of this blasphemy, the cure of a man not only possessed with a demon, but also blind and dumb (Matthew 12:22 ). Beelzebub or rather Beelzebu- l was the title of a heathen deity, to whom the Jews ascribed the sovereignty of the “evil spirits.” ( a ) Some would connect the name with zebûl = habitation, so making it = the Lord of the dwelling (Matthew 10:25 ), in his character of “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2 ), or of the lower world, or as occupying a mansion in the seventh heavens. ( b ) Others would connect it with zebel = dung , and so make it = the lord of dung or the dung-hill , a term of derision amongst the Jews for the lord of idols, the prince of false gods . This fearful blasphemy was repeated more than once. See Luke 11:17 sq.
23. How can Satan cast out Satan? ] Using an irresistible argumentum ad hominem He shews them the absurdity of supposing that Satan could be his own enemy. If neither kingdom, nor city (Matthew 12:25 ), nor house could stand, when divided against itself, much less could the empire of the Evil One.
27. a strong man’s house ] The “strong man” is Satan; his House or Palace is this Lower world; the Stronger than the Strong is Christ, who first bound the Evil One, when He triumphed over his temptations. Comp. Luke 11:21 , Luke 11:22 .
28. Verily I say unto you ] a favourite formula of our Lord’s, which we often find in St John, when He would draw special attention to any of His Divine utterances.
29. but he that shall blaspheme ] The sin, against which these words are a terrible but merciful warning, is not so much an act , as a state of sin, on the part of one, who in defiance of light and knowledge, of set purpose rejects, and not only rejects but perseveres in rejecting, the warnings of conscience, and the Grace of the Holy Spirit, who blinded by religious bigotry rather than ascribe a good work to the Spirit of Good prefer to ascribe it to the Spirit of Evil, and thus wilfully put “bitter for sweet” and “sweet for bitter,” “darkness for light” and “light for darkness.” Such a state if persevered in and not repented of excludes from pardon, for it is the sin unto death spoken of in 1 John 5:16 .
31 35. His Mother and His Brethren come to Him
31. his brethren ] Their names, James, Joses, Simon, Judas, are given in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 . Some understand them to have been His literal “brethren,” others think they were the sons of Cleophas and Mary, the sister and namesake of the Virgin.
32. seek for thee ] They had already left the place where they abode, and gone forth in quest of Him; see above, v . 21.
33. Who is ] It is thought that the “brethren” wished to share in His fame, and to prove to the people their connection with Him and their influence over Him. But the tenderness of His love for His earthly mother, which He displayed so clearly upon the Cross, only brings out in stronger relief the devotion, with which He gave Himself up to the performance of the Will of His Father in heaven and the furtherance of His glory. “He despises not His Mother, He places before her His Father.” Bengel.
34. looked round ] Another graphic touch peculiar to the second Evangelist. See Introduction, p. 18. Our Lord repeated the saying here recorded on another occasion, Luke 8:21 .
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the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30