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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 3

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Verses 1-6

A Withered Hand Healed

The Lord enters the synagogue again (Mark 1:21). The synagogue is the place where the people of God come together and the law is studied. He goes in there to look for a man who needs Him and who He wants to make fit to enjoy the blessings. It is Sabbath and that is the opportunity to minister in the synagogue with the Word. Among those present is someone with a withered hand. He cannot pick and finely rub ears and eat of them (cf. Mark 2:23), he cannot enjoy the good gifts of God. But now the good Gift comes to him.

The opponents of the Lord are also present. They see both His goodness and the man who needs it. In their minds they combine them. They assume that on this Sabbath day He will not allow Himself to prevent the man from being healed. In their hearts, however, there is hatred for His goodness, while there is indifference to the needs of the man. Their only concern is that their precepts be kept.

It is striking that satan instinctively senses what the Lord will do. In the same way the world knows what a child of God will do or should do. For example, the world is surprised when it finds a Christian in an environment where he does not belong.

The Lord accepts the unspoken challenge and places the man in the front, so that everyone may witness this act of mercy. He publicizes the healing in an open way, showing to all what grace is. It is, as it were, an invitation to all to share in it. The man also has to do something. He must take the place that the Lord designates for him: he must come forward. In this way he becomes the visible proof to all of the grace that Christ will grant him.

Before the Lord heals, He wants to address the consciences of His opponents with a question about the purpose of the Sabbath. How bad must a system be that makes it necessary to ask whether it is lawful to do good! His question is whether an act of mercy performed on the Sabbath becomes a violation of the law because that act is performed on the Sabbath. He has come to do good. There is a need for that here. That is why He does good. It would be a sin not to do it (James 4:17). His act of goodness means to the man that he will be able to live. The law kills, but the Lord has come to give life.

His opponents do not answer His question. They know what the right answer is, but do not want to give it. They hate Him and His goodness because He doesn’t accept their home-made laws.

We clearly see how the old system, which is based on what man should be to God, is being replaced by what God is to man. The old system comes from God, but it has been made by man into a system of hatred for the full revelation of God in Christ. Christ is not there to support the Pharisees in their thinking about the law, but to prove His own grace. God’s laws have never intended to block His goodness.

The Lord responds to their silence with a penetrating gaze with which He looks all His adversaries around Him in the eye. The expression that the Lord “looks around” is found five times in this Gospel (Mark 3:5; Mark 3:34Mark 5:32; Mark 10:23Mark 11:11). The expression occurs a sixth time, but then it refers to the disciples (Mark 9:8). His gaze is a gaze of anger. At the same time there is grief in His heart. He is angry at their sin of mercilessness, for which they will receive His full wrath once. He is grieved because He sees the hardening of their hearts, that they do not want to repent. God hates sin and loves the sinner. Both these feelings are perfectly present in Him at the same time.

As He looks at His adversaries in this way, He addresses His words of healing to man. The man has to do something himself again. He must stretch out his hand. He does so and his hand is restored. Obedience to what God says always results in blessing. The man could have said, “I can’t, because my hand is withered.’ But obedience to what the Lord says will always be accompanied by strength that He Himself grants to do what He says.

The reaction of the zealots for the law is that they are plotting a murder. As if there was no command: “You shall not murder”! That is Phariseeism. They are planning to do evil and kill on the Sabbath, while He is planning to do good and save a life. What a stark contrast. What a grief for Him!

They also don’t see it as a problem to connect with the ungodly Herodians, the people who for selfish reasons support Herod’s ungodly politics. They, who are enemies by nature, find each other in their hatred of Christ. We find this later also with Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:12). This deliberation of Pharisees and Herodians is the first deliberation against Christ to kill Him.

Verses 7-12

Healings by the Sea

The opposition causes the Lord to retreat. This does not mean that the resistance will prevent the river of God’s blessing from flowing. That is impossible. On the contrary, it is a reason for pushing it in a different direction and making it greater, so that more people can get a share in it. The sea speaks of the Lord’s great field of work. People come to Him from all sides because they have heard of His deeds of blessing. Thus God’s blessing continues to flow to the eternal joy of the poor and needy who bow down before Christ.

In order not to be pushed aside by the crowd, He takes precautions. He, Almighty God, uses human means to do so. He could have made a path between men, just as He did when they wanted to throw Him off the mountain (Luke 4:29-Amos :). Here, however, He is not dealing with opponents, but with people who need Him.

The power of the Lord to heal is present. Everyone who needs Him can reach and touch Him. He is always reachable for those who need Him. He heals not only the physically ill, but also people who are possessed. The unclean spirits cannot remain silent in His presence. In the man in whom they dwell they throw themselves down before Him and confess His Name. ‘Shout’ means forced recognition expressed in ecstasy. The redeemed confess His Name not shouting loudly, but voluntarily, deeply grateful, with understanding and spiritual insight.

Thus He is engaged in doing good to the people and delivers them, without seeking anything for Himself from them. He does not want the demons to confess His Name openly. He accepts no testimony of man as such and even less of demons. What is the value of an acknowledgement of Who He is if it has not been worked by the Spirit of God?

Verses 13-19

Calling of the Twelve

All the miracles that the Lord performs, He does with effort. In them He always gives of Himself. He needs it after a day or period of being busy for the benefit of people to separate Himself in order to be with His God. He does this also now, but at the same time He wants to involve others in His work. As the true servant He wants to teach others to become servants in imitation of Him. That is why He climbs the mountain. He separates Himself from the people to God, and by sovereign election He summons those He wills. And they come.

By climbing the mountain, He shows us that the origin of His ministry is heaven and not men. On the mountain He calls the disciples to Himself, which also shows that the origin of their ministry is heaven and not men (Acts 13:1-Numbers :; Galatians 1:1). And just as He Himself went forth to preach (Mark 1:38), so here He gives the same command to those He calls.

But it begins by saying that “they would be with Him”. The preaching to others must be done from His presence. He determines the moment of sending out. When the time of their preparation is finished, the twelve will be broadcast. After the command to preach they also get the power to cast out demons. Miracles are never isolated events. They are there to support the Word that has been spoken (Hebrews 2:3-Numbers :).

The Lord appoints them. He has that authority, for He is the Son of God (Mark 1:1). He also gives Simon another name and calls him Peter. This indicates His position of authority. Only persons who have authority over others have the power to give or change names (Genesis 1:18; Daniel 1:7). If He changes a name, it has a meaning. Peter means ‘stone’. Peter is mentioned first in every list of the twelve.

James and John also get another name. The name He gives them shows that He knows the character of these men. Apart from the fact that that name, “Sons of Thunder”, can refer to their passionate temperament, it can also mean that they will speak the Word with special power in the name of God. God speaks in thunder to bring forth fruit in the wilderness (Job 38:25-Daniel :).

Of the other disciples we know little, of a few we know no more than his name. Andrew brings people to the Lord (John 1:41-Luke :; John 6:8-1 Samuel :John 12:21-Song of Solomon :). Philip is tested by the Lord (John 6:5) and tells Him about people who seek Him (John 12:21-Song of Solomon :). Bartholomew is the same as Nathanael (John 1:47). Matthew, or Levi the tax collector, is the author of the Gospel that bears his name. Thomas wants to die with the Lord and needs the tangible proof that He has risen (John 11:16; John 20:24-Joel :).

Apart from James, the brother of John (Mark 3:17), we hear here of another James, the son of Alphaeus. So he is someone other than the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19) and also someone other than James the Less (Mark 15:40). Thaddaeus is also called Judas (John 14:22). Simon is given the addition of “the Cananaean” or “Zealot,” which refers to his earlier violent religious and political views.

The last one mentioned is Judas. He occupies the last place in each list of the disciples, always mentioning what he will do with the Lord.

Verses 20-27

The Lord Jesus and Beelzebul

We find the Lord in various places in this chapter. We see Him in the synagogue (Mark 3:1), by the sea (Mark 3:7), and on the mountain (Mark 3:13). Now He is again in the house, where again a crowd gathers (Mark 2:1). There is no time to eat bread, so He lets the meal pass by. His service occupies Him completely. How am I concerned about the needs of others? Are my own daily material needs more important than the spiritual needs of others?

His family hears His tireless work and is ashamed of Him. The fact that they “hear” about it means they have been told. They won’t have been told in the sense of admiring what He does, because when they hear about it, they want to force Him to stop His work. They think they should not only warn Him, but to take custody of Him because they think He has lost His mind. The family name is up for grabs by Him, they think.

His relatives here are the first to attack His service. They are not enemies, yet they have no idea of God’s will and God’s work. They look at everything with their minds and think that He, Who lives totally devoted to God, is out of His mind. The Lord does not respond to their action and their words, which He does later (Mark 3:31-Habakkuk :).

This lack of understanding is to be expected by all those who want to be fully committed to the things of God in imitation of the Lord Jesus. Family and friends will not always be able to appreciate this, but will sometimes feel condemned.

After the admiration of the crowd in Mark 3:20 and the incomprehension of His family in Mark 3:21, the Lord also has to deal with the blasphemy of His enemies in Mark 3:22. These enemies, scholars, have descended from Jerusalem. This indicates their way from the place of blessing and their descent and finally downfall.

They cannot deny the power with which He acts in mercy for the sake of man against satan. They acknowledge that He drives out demons. But if they were to acknowledge that power as something from God, it would have been finished with their religious weight, and also with their profession and their income. That is why they would rather attribute that power to another source, that of satan.

His enemies are not in His immediate vicinity when they speak of Him in this way, but a little further away from Him. That is why He calls them to Himself. Just as He called His disciples to Himself in Mark 3:13, so here He calls His enemies to Himself. He speaks with divine authority and they come. Thus, when He sits on the great white throne (Revelation 20:11-2 Kings :), all His enemies will appear before Him at His command.

Before He confronts the scribes with the terrible sin they have committed, He first asks them a logical question. That question should make clear to them the folly of their remarks about Him. He does not wait for their answer, but gives it Himself. Every child can understand that internal division in a kingdom destroys this kingdom. To make it even clearer, He adds the example of a house divided against itself. What applies to a kingdom also applies to a house. In both cases internal division means its fall.

What goes for a kingdom and a house also goes for satan. In the kingdom of satan and the house of satan there is no division. All powers of darkness work together to plunge man into disaster and thereby destroy God’s work. The Lord Jesus does everything for the glory of God, and thereby destroys the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He was in the devil’s house for forty days and forty nights when He was in the wilderness and bound him there (Mark 1:13). Now He is robbing the house of the strong by freeing people from His power (Mark 5:15). The scribes attribute this work to the devil himself. It is absurd. A more terrible sin is unthinkable.

Verses 28-30

The Blasphemy Against the Spirit

Of “the sons of men” - and not of angels - all sins and blasphemies of any kind can be forgiven. As long as there is repentance of sins and repentance to God. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from every sin (1 John 1:9). That is a great word of encouragement for anyone who thinks their sins are too great and too much.

But there is one sin that is not forgiven, and that is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is no exception to the previous general promise. Every sin and blasphemy is done against the triune God and therefore also against the Holy Spirit. Now here we speak of “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” connected with the statement of the Lord Jesus, the Judge, that there is no forgiveness for this in eternity. The Lord says that someone who is guilty of this is guilty of eternal sin. That must therefore be a specific sin and that is what it is.

The Holy Spirit also makes clear what that specific sin is: “Because they were saying: “He has an unclean spirit.” The specificity of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is this: attributing the deeds of the Lord Jesus to an unclean spirit. The Lord Jesus always did everything perfectly through the Spirit. All His works and all His words were unmistakably the works and words of God the Holy Spirit. Whoever sees this with his own eyes and in spite of that attributes His works to the devil, does so consciously and with the purpose of making Him reprehensible in His service.

This sin could only be committed when the Lord Jesus was on earth. It is also impossible for a born-again man to commit this sin. Anyone in distress because he thinks he has committed that sin proves precisely by that fear that he has not committed that sin. He who blasphemes against the Spirit does not have a guilty conscience, but a completely hardened conscience. While the demons acknowledge Him as the Son of God (Mark 1:24) when He casts them out through the Holy Spirit, these people blaspheme the work the Spirit does through Him.

Verses 31-35

The True Family of the Lord

After the complete rejection by the religious leaders, the Lord will distinguish between the natural ties He has with Israel and a remnant to which He links Himself. The reason for this is the arrival of His mother and His brothers who want Him to come to them. Although His relatives are not hostile, they are “outside”. They are not under His blessing influence; they are not with Him in the house. There is another company around Him.

While He is in the house with a crowd around Him, His relatives let Him know they are looking for Him. Because of their natural ties with Him, they believe they have a certain right to Him. He has to be there for them first, and He has to leave the crowd for what it is.

The Lord answers with the question: “Who are My mother and My brothers?” With this question he does not set aside the natural family ties. He has set them as the Creator Himself and woe to the human being who doesn’t acknowledge them. But natural family ties should not rule over the connections between the members of the spiritual family, the family of God. At the same time we must handle this principle with caution. There have been believers who have neglected their natural ties for the sake of so-called spiritual activities. That, of course, is not what the Lord means to say.

He acknowledges those who listen to His words as His family. As He says so, He looks around them again, as it were, to have personal contact with each and every one of them. With this statement He also indicates the breach between Him and the people from whom He was born as a Man and for whom He came. He sets the old relationships aside and now establishes the new ones. The basis for the new relationships is to do the will of God. He executes that will perfectly. Only those who are connected with Him through His work on the cross also do God’s will. By giving Himself for them, He has made them His brethren (John 20:17; Hebrews 2:11).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/mark-3.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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