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Bible Commentaries
Mark 3

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-12

Fifth Conflict.—Healing of the Withered Hand on the Sabbath. The Traditionalists hardened into purposes of Murder. Withdrawal of Jesus to the Sea. Mark 3:1-12

(Parallels: Matthew 12:9-21; Luke 6:6-11; Mark 3:17-19.)

1And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth [up]. 4And 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. 5And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored [whole as the other]. 1 6And the Pharisees went forth, and straight way took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. 7But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to [εἰς, unto] 2 the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea, 8And from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. 9And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. 10For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. 11And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down be fore him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. 12And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.


See on the parallels—The narrative of Mark is here particularly vivid and pictorial. He places the scene actually before us, giving his relation very much in the present tense. Like Matthew, he regards the incident in the light of an important turning-point. But he omits the parabolic word concerning the sheep fallen into a pit.

Mark 3:1. And He entered again.—According to Luke, this occurred eight days later, on the Sabbath which immediately followed the Sabbath of the previous narrative. By the side of the reading εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν, Cod. D. [which Tischendorf follows] places the reading εἰς συν, into a synagogue: probably an exegetical hint that it was not the same synagogue as before. But the expression, “into the synagogue,” does not designate of itself any definite synagogue. It has, however, this advantage, that it marks the fact of Jesus having gone into the synagogue again, in spite of all the machinations of the Pharisees and scribes.

Mark 3:3. Stand forth.—Meyer: “Up! into the midst!”

Mark 3:4. To do good.—The ἀγαθοποιῆσαι and κακοποιῆσαι may be taken generally, to do good and to do evil; or, more concretely, to benefit and to injure. Erasmus, De Wette, and others, take it in the latter sense; Meyer, in the former, and Matthew decides us for this. The question of Jesus, that is, was an answer to their question, May a man heal on the Sabbath? This question Jesus answers by an impregnable principle; as appears also from the words, It is lawful to do good, to perform a good act, on the Sabbath-day (καλῶς ποιεῖν).—To save life.—The antithesis of doing good and doing evil now receives its concrete force, to benefit or to injure, and thereby its application to the present case.

Mark 3:5. With anger.—Mark gives vivid prominence to the indignation of Jesus. With a glance of displeasure and discomposure He looked round upon the assembly of men who were hardening their hearts before His eyes, as they could not refute His vindication of the right of healing, by reference to the design of the Sabbath—Grieved, συλλυπούμενος—The συν establishes Meyer’s translation, “feeling compassion for.”

Mark 3:6. With the Herodians.—Comp. on Matthew. De Wette, without reason, thinks that the Herodians have been by error introduced here from Matthew 22:16. Tiberias in Galilee was a place of residence for the Herodians, that is, the Herodian political party; and the time had come when they began to take part in the persecution of the Lord. But it marks a great advance in the enmity of the Pharisees, that they, who had before leagued themselves with the disciples of John for the sake of gathering weight against Christ, now entered into fellowship with the Herodians, whom in reality they hated, in order to destroy Him whom they hated still more, by machinations behind his back.—How they might destroy Him.—Thus the Galilean conflicts had in rapid process reached their conclusion.

Mark 3:7. To the sea.—Not merely to the coast. The life on the sea, in the ship which was now His chief place of instruction in opposition to the synagogue, and which more than once served Him for a transient retreat to the opposite bank, here had its commencement. Matthew also had made this turning-point prominent. But in Mark it is plainly enough characterized as a withdrawal of Christ from His customary work in the synagogue to the ship.—And a great multitude.—The great crowds who heard the ship-discourses of Jesus were formed of two main masses, who are distinguished by ἠκολούθησαν and ἦλθον πρὸς αὐτόν. Thus, after the words, “followed Him,” we must, with Griesbach, and De Wette, and Meyer, place either a colon or a period. The Jews from Galilee followed Him. The strangers from other parts came to Him. The “following” does not merely indicate external following; it includes a moral element also. In the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, they held with Jesus. It was the beginning of a specific discipleship, from which indeed most afterwards receded, but from which the germ of the Galilean believers was afterwards developed. The remaining multitude testifies the extent of the fame of Jesus; but we must also take into account the Jewish traffic, and the commercial route through Capernaum, which attracted multitudes in that direction. The description of the crowd brings them from all parts.

Mark 3:8. They about Tyre and Sidon are the Jews of that district. We quote the good remark of Meyer: “Observe the different position of πλῆθος in Mark 3:7 and Mark 3:8. In the one, the greatness of the mass of people is prominent; in the other, the idea of the mass itself is presented;” or rather their coming from all distances. With the followers, the most important thing was, that it was a great multitude; with the crowds coming, it was that they came from all parts, and from all distances. Comp. Luke 6:17; Matthew 12:15. Moreover, we must remark that the concourse of people round Jesus stood in a reciprocal relation to His excitement and His breach with the Pharisees. The time had now come when the people began to display an inclination to make a political party in His favor, and to exalt Him into a king. And on this account, also, He was constrained to withdraw from the people, now to this and now to the other side of the lake, in the ship that was provided. Comp. Mark 4:1 seq.; John 6:15. We must bear in mind the tendency of the vigorous and brave Galilean people to insurrection and uproar.—And from Idumea.—John Hyrcanus had brought the Idumeans by violence to embrace the Jewish faith. There were possibly some of that people by this time who voluntarily adhered to it, notwithstanding that unholy violence. But the words may refer to Jews who had been dispersed so far as Idumea and Arabia.—[“This is the fullest statement to be found in any of the Gospels as to the extent of our Lord’s personal influence and the composition of the multitudes who followed Him.” Alexander in loc.Ed.]

Mark 3:9. A small ship should wait on Him.—The immediate object was that the people should not throng Him. But this does not exclude the ulterior purpose, of having a freer position in the ship, and retreating often to the other shore.

Mark 3:10. Insomuch that they pressed upon Him.—The cause of the thronging. It was not merely the pressure of a vast listening multitude towards the central speaker; it was rather the intenser earnestness of many who were urged by their desire to touch Him for their cure.

Mark 3:11. Unclean spirits.—That is, demons, who identified themselves with these.

Mark 3:12. That they should not make Him known.—That is, as the Messiah.


1. See on the parallels.—The Pharisees now seek to involve the Lord Himself in the charge of Sabbath desecration. The present case seemed to differ from the former in this, that the healing of the withered hand was a matter that might have been postponed. And it did not appear to be one of those urgent works of necessity which even the Pharisees permitted themselves to do. On the other hand, the Lord declares the work of compassionate love, or doing good generally, to be of itself always urgent; and the thought is further involved, that sickness does not tarry at a. stand, but that there is a continual sinking into deeper danger and need.

2. On the previous Sabbath a work of necessity was justified and established; on the present, the Lord justifies and establishes a work of love. The Christian glorification of the Sabbath into the Lord’s day assumes two aspects: 1. The ethical law of the day of rest is, with the other laws of the decalogue, transformed into an ethical principle for the Christian social world, especially the State. 2. The divine law, and the human tradition, of the festival become now the Incarnate Lord’s creation and institution of the Sunday. The Sabbath was the end of the old world,—a figure of its rest in death after its labor under the law. The Sunday was the beginning of the new world,—a figure of the rising to a new life, which began with the resurrection of Christ. The former was the close of a week of labor which had passed in restless activity, like the days’ works of creation; the latter was the beginning of a festal week, the works of which should be performed in the joyful light of the Spirit and of love. On the historical and general relations of the day, consult Hengstenberg’s treatise (Berlin, 1852). Comp. also the writings of Rücker, Liebetrut, Oschwald, Wilhelmi, and others.

3. Christ the personal fulfilment and manifestation of the law in glorified form, and thus also of the Sabbath. The source and the founder of the day; Himself the Sun of the Christian Sunday.
4. The Pharisees and the Herodians. “Hierarchs and despots are necessary to each other.” F. v. Bander.


See the parallels.—The Lord’s Sabbath work: saving life and the soul; the traditionalists’ Sabbath work: destroying life (that of the Messiah Himself).—The needy and wretched in the synagogue; or, the school of the law cannot save and heal.—The envious glance of the spy in the sanctuary; or, how carnal zeal does not look up to the Lord, but sideways at what others are doing.—Christ performs the glorious work of heaven in the midst of the dark contentions of those who harden themselves in unbelief: standing alone as Saviour with His faithful few.—The Lord’s glance in the world is a looking around in indignation, or a looking upon in love.—The hardening of His enemies under the very eye of Christ.—Christ is to some a savor of life unto life; to others, a savor of death unto death.—As the paralytic, who could not move, took the boldest course through faith (over the roof); so the man with the withered hand learns by faith to come forward and stretch out his hand in spite of the mightiest enemies of faith.—As it was divinely great to work wonders in the midst of this envious circle of enemies, so it was humanly great to maintain faith in such a circle.—The old and new connection between need and the boldness of faith.—The leagues between carnal religious zeal and secular power against Christ (Pharisees and Herodians).—The transference of Christ’s preaching from the synagogue to the ship, in its significance; or, God’s word is not bound.—The thronging of the people round the Lord, in its various aspects: 1. A confused impulse to seek help, confused by a craving for the miraculous in that help; 2. an act of homage to the Prince of life: at Golgotha a band of deadly enemies, who cast Him out as if He had been the great enemy of man and destroyer of the people.—How men have ever sought to change the pastoral office, and preaching of the Gospel of Christ for the good of souls, into an office of external acts and helps (changing the spiritual Messiah into a worldly one).—Christ must often withdraw Himself, not only from His enemies, but also from His friends, in order to maintain the spirituality and freedom of His vocation.—It is beyond all important that we should accept Christ as the Physician of souls; for the redemption of the soul occurs now, the resurrection of the body at the last day.—The earthly mind would fain invert this order.—The ship 3 of the Church must save Christianity from intermingling with the politics of the world.—How often did Jesus retreat before the disposition of the people to proclaim Him as a Messiah in the carnal sense!—The crying demons mislead the people.—The infinitely discordant mixture of dispositions and characters in an excited mass of people.—The test of right-coming to Jesus: 1. A coming to Him alone, not only with, but also in spite of, the multitude; 2. a being alone with Him, whether among many or few; 3. a remaining alone with Him, and entering through Him into the fellowship of the saved.—The confession of the demons: how the Lord estimated its ambiguity and recoiled from it.—The demons were first in the confession that Jesus was the Messiah, but their confession was a slavish one.—The Lord had here to do not merely with the words of truth, but with the truth of the words.—The glance of Christ’s anger a prelude of the judgment; yet it was qualified by compassion.—Christ, the gentlest friend of men, will one day be a most terrible personage to many.

Starke:—Majus:—The contradiction and slander of enemies should not restrain us from avowing the truth, but make us more courageous and joyful in our confession.—Quesnel:—A miser, ah unfruitful Christian, a negligent ruler, a strong man that will not help, are all mere withered hands.—O avarice, how withered is thy hand!—To suck poison out of what is good, or to slander, is devilish.—Hypocrites are very urgent about ceremonies; but as it regards true discipline, they know nothing about it.—When we do what is right, we Seed not fear secret slanderers.—True love is not afraid of wicked men when it would do good to others.—Canstein:—The enemies of Christ are not sincere; they have seared consciences, and backbite in secret.—Quesnel:—There is much silence that proceeds from the Spirit of God, but there is also a devilish silence.—Here anger and love meet together; but the Socinians cannot, and will not, reconcile these.—The passions of Christ are a great mystery.—Majus:—Divine zeal against sin must be connected with love, with tender compassion towards the sinner.—Quesnel:—What a mystery is an envious heart! It poisons everything, and extracts poison from everything.—When Jesus is persecuted or forsaken of all, there is yet a little company of the faithful who follow Him.—Osiander:—The more fiercely the Gospel of Christ is persecuted; the more surely and widely it is diffused.—The hearing about Christ is not saving of itself; it must lead the soul to Himself.—Quesnel:— True love makes no difference among men, but does good to all, even to those who come with excitement and at an unseasonable time.—Christ would receive no testimony from lying spirits.

Gerlach:—The Sabbath was to remind us of, and introduce us into, that rest which God enjoyed when He contemplated the creatures happy in Himself after creation was finished, and that into which redeemed men shall again enter at the finishing of the new creation.—This rest is not the rest of death, but the highest life; and to spread abroad life and blessedness in the spirit of love, is the proper business of the Sabbath.—Lisco:—Herod’s servants are his servile dependants. (This is true; for the dependants of an absolute despot can only be his servants.) Braune:—That the Sabbath would not tolerate what might be postponed, was a law to them: he that had the withered hand was not in deadly danger, and his cure might as well take place the next day. Jesus penetrated their thoughts. Jesus established, that the not doing good was equivalent to the doing of evil; the sin of omission as bad as the sin of commission.—Their mouth was stopped, but their heart was not emptied of envy and malice.—Jesus’ glance: the enemy of sin, the friend of the sinner.—The withered hand, 1 Kings 13:4.—Instead of joining the tempted Saviour, they made a compact with their deadliest enemies, the dependants of Herod; and instead of sanctifying the Sabbath by doing good and preserving life, they engaged in plans to put to death the Lord of the Sabbath and of life.—The hatred which Jesus encountered was already an earnest of His death; and the multitude of the people coming to Him from Gentile lands was already an earnest of the blessing of His death.—The praise of the Holy One cannot issue from unholy lips and an unclean spirit.—Beda:—Jesus had victoriously defended His disciples from the charge of violating the Sabbath; but the Pharisees were all the more vehement in involving Him, the Master Himself, in the same condemnation.—Chrysostom:—Jesus places the unhappy man in the midst of the assembly, that his appearance might excite compassion, and his healing shame the wickedness of the enemies.—Schleiermacher:—What good thing we have to do, we must set about doing at once.—These Pharisees confederated with the officials of Herod against Him; those Pharisees in Jerusalem brought the affairs of the Redeemer before the Roman governor.—We see how one party stood in need of the other in order to accomplish that which was in each party a foul wrong, though there was something at the bottom like a dependence upon what they thought was the law of God.—How many examples of a similar kind in the history of the Christian Church!—(The withdrawal to the sea.) Here also He remained in the way of His vocation, and retreated from them without neglecting His mission.—(The cry of the demons.) The Redeemer would not that any faith in Him should arise which had not the right foundation.—Gossner:—The Saviour can be severe; but He is grieved that He must be angry.—Bauer:—The Pharisees were silent. The eye of the Lord rested upon them, but none of the Pharisees could stand that glance.—They kept angry silence, like that which precedes the storm.


Mark 3:5; Mark 3:5.—“Whole as the other” wanting in the most important Codd. Probably brought over from Matthew 12:13.

Mark 3:7; Mark 3:7.—Eἰς, after D., P., Lachmann, Tischendorf; stronger than the πρός.

[3]Perhaps there is an allusion here to the “nave” of the church edifice, which is derived from the Latin navis, from a supposed resemblance to the hull of a vessel.—Ed.

Verses 13-19


Mark 3:13 to Mark 6:6


Beginning of the Conflict. The Lord providing Himself Helpers, in the Calling of the Apostles. Mark 3:13-19

(Parallels: Matthew 10:1-8; Luke 6:12-16)

13And he goeth up into a [the] mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. 14And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15And to have power to heal sicknesses, 4and to cast 16 out devils. And Simon he surnamed Peter; 17And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder; 18And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 5 19And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into a house.


Mark 3:13. See on the parallels.—Into a mountain.—Not “up into the mountain of that locality,” for the locality was the margin of the sea; but it is used in accordance with the relations of the land in Palestine, and the phraseology concerning it: going up into a mountain, in contradistinction to abiding in the narrow vales or low strips of land. And it is to be observed that the expression is used to signify a withdrawal of the Lord, especially for solitary devotion.—And calleth unto Him.—The manner of the call is not defined, whether sending for them, or otherwise. The main point is the free choice of the Twelve out of the rest of the discipleship. Meyer supposes that Jesus made first a larger selection, and then in Mark 3:14 the narrower choice. But there is nothing to hinder our regarding Mark 3:14 as expressing the more specific end of the call, that is, the appointment and mission.

Mark 3:16. And Simon He surnamed Peter.—Some cursive MSS. have πρῶτον Σίμωνα. According to De Wette, Mark passed over the statement of Peter’s call, because the change of name was to him of special moment. But we may regard the statement of Peter’s call as included in the ἐπέθηκε. Thus Christ added, not merely to his name but rather to his general vocation, the distinguishing name of Peter. On account of these distinguishing names, Andrew follows in the fourth rank, after the two sons of Zebedee. The solemn appendage of the name in this place does not contradict the preliminary naming of Simon, which had taken place before, John 1:42.

Mark 3:17. Boanerges: בְּכֵי רֶגֶשׁ; in Aramæan, the sheva being equivalent to oa. The רֶגֶשׁ, in Hebrew meaning a threatening people (Psalms 55:15), in Syriac meant thunder.—That the name refers to the event mentioned in Luke 9:54 (according to Calmet, Heumann, etc.), is not contradicted by the supposition that it must have been a surname significant of praise, and not of blame. Comp. on this point the notes on Matthew. According to the ancients, the sons of Zebedee were so termed as μεγαλοκήρυκες καὶ θεολογικώτατοι (Theophylact, and others), because thunder is the ordinary symbol of solemn and profound utterances. We understand the expression to refer to the fiery, grand, sublime spirit, which found its utterance in correspondingly high, strong, and pregnant words. That the name was not habitually used, like the name Peter, may be explained by the fact that it was a collective one. It was distributed later, or merged in the several dignities of the first apostolical martyr, and the disciple who lay on the Lord’s bosom, the last great Evangelist.

Mark 3:18. Canaanite.—Though the form of the surname has in it something unusual, yet it is easily explicable by the term ζηλωτής in Luke, and the accompanying reading κανανίτης.

Mark 3:19. And they went into a house.—For the chronology, Comp. the notes on Matthew. The Evangelist’s arrangement here is not according to time, but regulated by a classification of the facts. For the circumstance described does not, as Meyer thinks, fall into the period after the return from the Sermon on the Mount, but into a later period, when Christ’s work in Galilee was drawing to its close. According to Ewald, an original form of Mark might have introduced, before this return, the Sermon on the Mount, and the narrative of the nobleman in Capernaum. These, and similar suppositions of Hilgenfeld, we have sufficiently dealt with in our introductory account of this Evangelist. Finally, it does not follow from their coming into a house, that the ensuing discourse took place in that house.—[“The true sense is most probably that given in the margin of the English Version, and long before by Wiclif, they came home, i. e., returned to Capernaum again as their headquarters, and the centre of their operations. Comp. εἰς οἶκον in Mark 2:1.” Alexander in loc.—Ed.]


1. Comp. on the parallels.—It is characteristic of Mark, that he gives prominence here to the sons of thunder. On the fiery zeal of John, comp. Gerlach, p. 118. “The peculiarity of John was pure simplicity, and also glowing, fiery zeal; this having been at first disturbed by impure passion (Mark 9:38; Luke 9:54), but sanctified afterwards by inward love to Christ. His epistles contain some of the sternest passages in the New Testament. See 1 John 2:22-23; 1 John 3:8; 2 John 1:7-11. Comp. also the Seven Epistles in the Apocalypse. Church history also records many things concerning his sacred zeal.” And then Gerlach introduces the narrative of John’s hastily leaving the bath in which the heretic was found.

2. As it respects the calling of the Twelve, it must be observed that it falls into two separate crises, according to Mark, Mark 3:13-19, and Mark 6:7 seq. Only it is evident that the more precise characterization of the mission in Mark 6:7 is identical with the mission in Matthew 10:1 seq., and Luke 6:12 seq. Hence, we assume that Mark here describes a selection of the Apostles preliminary to that mission, one that was a continuation and enlargement of the call of the four most select disciples at the Sea of Galilee, and intended primarily as a vocation to more decided discipleship and engagement in helping the Redeemer’s work. Yet the more express apostolical vocation is kept in view even here, as is manifest from the very solemn account of Mark, in which he anticipates some features of the later vocation. It would appear, indeed, that the point of time to which Mark here carries us, was even later than the proper historical epoch of the more express vocation. The motive for placing it in this connection was the fact of the commencement of the great conflict of our Lord with the unbelief of the world, as it is exhibited in this section.

3. The names of the Apostles, or their call, introduced with respect to Christ by the appointment of the Father: mediate, and yet immediate.
4. Judas possessed a certain species of endowment; yet observe the doubtfulness of such kind of endowments in the affairs of Church and State, inasmuch as the superficial ability may easily outweigh the central character.


See on the parallels.—The call of Christ’s servants a call from the mountain: 1. Christ stands on the mountain; 2. those called go up the mountain to Him; 3. they come down from the mountain into the world of men. See Isaiah 52:7.—The place of Jesus’ prayer the birthplace of apostolical and evangelical vocation.—Fellowships and collegiate bodies in the kingdom of God: 1. In their meaning: union of the divine and the human, even here. 2. Their design: mutual supplementing and strengthening, lessening of human one-sidedness, and increase of divine power.—Casting out of devils a main branch of ecclesiastical vocation.—The variety and differences of the disciples of Jesus are an unfolding of the riches of Christ and of His kingdom.—Judas Iscariot among the Twelve an eternal sign, 1. Of the all-endeavoring love of Christ, 2. of the greatness of human depravity, 3. of the dangers of the spiritual office (or of a mere external connection with the Lord) without perfect fidelity in the spiritual life (an internal union with Him), 4. of the aim and end of the Church (not a community of perfect saints, but of redeemed men).—Degrees in the apostolical circle, notwithstanding their unity and equality.—Even the dark power which was displayed by the last of the Twelve testified of the spiritual abilities of this company, over which Jesus reigned in kindly majesty.—“Who betrayed Him:” the called Apostle a denounced traitor.

Starke:—The choice of a pastor should be entered upon with prayer, Acts 1:24.—He who would be fit for the work of the Lord must first be much with the Lord.—Quesnel:—Spiritual pastors make up, with Christ the chief Pastor, only one Priest His priesthood in the preaching of the Gospel being continued, diffused, and perfected, 1 Peter 2:9.—The Lord gives the word along with the great host of the Evangelists. They who take their ease when they are placed in office, often become brethren of Judas.—It is a miserable delusion to repose in a legitimate call, while negligent of fidelity and diligence in discharging its functions.—Not all the names of Christians are written in heaven, though they may stand recorded in the books of the Church below.

Gossner:—He who would be a witness for Christ and His Gospel, must be much with Him, and by constant communion have learned to know Him.—How will they stand before Him, who learn what they have to say by heart, stand up, and only declaim, or read it off!—Bauer:—The death-roll of the Twelve Apostles itself a sermon.


[4] Mark 3:5; Mark 3:5.—“Whole as the other” wanting in the most important Codd. Probably brought over from Matthew 12:13.

Mark 3:7; Mark 3:7.—Eἰς, after D., P., Lachmann, Tischendorf; stronger than the πρός.

[3]Perhaps there is an allusion here to the “nave” of the church edifice, which is derived from the Latin navis, from a supposed resemblance to the hull of a vessel.—Ed.

Mark 3:15.—“To heal sicknesses, and” wanting in B., L., Δ., Copt., and others. It is omitted by Tischendorf, and seems a supplement from Matthew 10:1. The omission of this makes all the more prominent the casting out of the demons, in Mark the main point.

Mark 3:18; Mark 3:18.—The reading καναναῖος here, as in Matthew 10:4, is best supported.

Verses 20-35

1. Conflict of Jesus with the blaspheming Unbelief of His Enemies, and His Triumph over Human Wisdom . (Mark 3:20-30.)

2. His Conflict with the well-meaning Unbelief of His Friends; Triumph over Devilish Malice and Human Policy. (Mark 3:20-21, and Mark 3:31-35.)

(Parallels: Matthew 12:22-50; Luke 8:19-21; Luke 11:14-26)

20And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. 22And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. 23And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 27No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil [plunder] his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil [plunder] his house. 28Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, 6and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of [liable to] eternal damnation: 7 30Because they said, He hath an un cleanspirit. 31There came then his brethren, and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren8 without seek for thee. 33And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 9 34And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother10.


See on the parallels.

Mark 3:21. When His (friends).—This very important feature in the evangelical narrative is peculiar to Mark. According to Baur, Mark here represents the mother of Jesus, with His brethren, as confederate with the Pharisees. Meyer, on the contrary, shows that their opinion, ὅτι ἐξέστι, was honest error (not wickedness), and that their design was to provide for Christ’s safety. But if they really had thought Him beside Himself, their care for his safety would have taken the form of an attempt forcibly to seize and detain Him. We regard the step as having been the result of timid policy. At the crisis, when Christ’s breach with the powerful party of the Pharisees was decided, they sought by a fiction to remove Him from publicity and a supposed extreme danger. We may regard the adoptive brethren of Jesus as the representatives of this idea; but it is evident that Mary also was drawn into this error of worldly policy (see the notes on Matthew). It is quite in keeping with the character of such a policy, that these brethren soon afterwards sought to thrust Him forward, John 7:1 seq.—The household of Jesus did not come from Nazareth to Capernaum, as Meyer supposes, but from the house of their abode in Capernaum to the place where the crowds were thronging Him. That the Pharisees would here come against him with a public accusation would very well be known in Capernaum.—For they said.—Themselves, of course, the household of Jesus; and not, as Olshausen thinks, “it was said” by the malicious Pharisees, or by others generally (Ewald), or by messengers (Bengel).—He is beside Himself.—Not, as Luther says, “He will be beside Himself;” but not, with Meyer, “He is mad.” It is designedly ambiguous, inasmuch as the ἐξέστη may mean, in a good sense, the being for a season rapt into ecstasy by religious enthusiasm (2 Corinthians 5:13), as well as, in a bad sense, the being permanently insanc. In His ecstasy, He is no longer master of Himself. The involuntary, religious μαίνεσθαι is, indeed, not an Old-Testament idea, but a Greek one: it was, however, current in the Jewish popular notion; and the more ambiguous it was, the better it would suit the aim of their policy. It must not be confounded, as Theophylact confounds it, with the allegation of Christ’s opponents. 11 On the contrary, if His opponents should say that He was raging in demoniacal possession, the politic answer was at hand, “He is, indeed, beside Himself, but it is in a good demoniacal ecstasy.” According to Meyer, this circumstance cannot be reconciled with the previous history of Mary in Matthew and Luke. The supposition of Olshausen (and Lange), that this was a moment of weakness in her life, he thinks very precarious. And Pius IX. would agree with him, though for a different reason. For the various interpretations of the passage, see Meyer. Euthym. Zigab.: “Some envious ones said so.” Schöttgen and Wolf: “The disciples said that the people were mad.” Grotius: “Report said that he had fainted.” Kuinoel: “It was the message to come home to eat, for maxime defatigatus est,” etc.

Mark 3:30. An unclean spirit.—Characterization of Beelzebub, in opposition to the Holy Spirit.

Mark 3:34. And He looked round about.—Mark often gives prominence to the Lord’s glance around. Here it is in contrast with the indignant looking around of Mark 3:5.


1. See on the parallels.—Mark omits, among other things, to give us the immediate occasion of the main matter of the section,—the healing of the demoniac. The reason that his friends came out to Him as they did seems to have lain in the thronging of the crowds, and in the fact that there was no room to eat. These facts, however, furnished them with a pretext for rescuing Him from the hands of His enemies, whose designs and power they well knew John came not eating and drinking, and they said He hath a devil. Spirit-like oblivion of the body and of its nourishment, they interpreted as involuntary demoniac enthusiasm. Thus did it seem to be with the Lord at this time; and using this representation, his family went out to gain their object.

2. The choice of the Twelve was soon followed by this erring conduct of His own friends towards Him, several of the Twelve being among them. These, therefore, mistook their vocation, in the same manner as Peter and the sons of Zebedee mistook theirs on another occasion. The new impulse given to the Lord’s cause, and the new step it had taken, is followed by a new defeat and counter-stroke. As soon as He takes assistants to Himself, they aim to infuse earthly policy into His plans.
3. The worst manifestation of the kingdom of evil is the blasphemy with which hypocrites, unconsciously standing in the service of darkness, interpret the most glorious manifestations of the kingdom of heaven as works from below. The blasphemy against the Son of God, as approximating to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, is the most fearful display of the power of the arch-blasphemer.
4. While the pictorial vividness of the Evangelist is observable throughout the whole of the conflict which he depicts, he, however, omits the sign of Jonas, the statement concerning possession by seven devils, and the like.
5. And looking round.—Jesus, in His conflict with His enemies and the dark kingdom which they serve, does not trust to men, but does trust to His own influence on mankind; that is, he does not confide in His own friends, so far as they would dictate to Him with carnal policy as his natural family; but to His friends as they trustingly hang upon His lips as his spiritual family.

6. Christ’s defence becomes immediately an attack. Earnest apologetics pass over into polemics.


See on the parallels.—No room to eat. How often did the Lord, in the zeal of His vocation, forget eating and drinking and sleep!—The highest freedom of spirit and self-government are interpreted even by His people as bondage and being beside self.—How much to be reprobated is an ambiguous and feigned adoption of the notions of the enemies of truth, on the part of those who would represent the truth!—The concessions of carnal ecclesiastical policy to the unfriendly world always spring from evil.—The sound concession is the infinite forbearance with which Christ enters into the notions of His opponents to refute their assertions.—Christ exalted equally above the protection of His friends and the attacks of His foes.—Contrast between the Lord’s great conflict with His opponents and his disciples’ slight assistance: 1. Contrast in temper: heroic reliance in divine truth; petty trust in human cunning. 2. Contrast in the conflict itself: simple defence and simple attack; ambiguous apology and mediation. 3. Contrast in the result: high victory; deep humiliation.—The false and the true family of Jesus: 1. The one would watch over Him and His cause, the other will be watched over by Him; 2. the one would lead Him, the other will be led by Him; 3. the one would save Him, the other will be saved by Him; 4. the one would restrain and bring Him into danger, the other will be restrained and bound by His word and Spirit.—The Lord detects and cuts asunder the bands of perilous fellowship between His friends and His enemies: 1. He detects them: worldliness in religion, fear, cunning, and policy; 2. He cuts them asunder by the word of severance, by warning, and by blessing.—The divine dignity of our Lord in the decisive conflicts of His kingdom: 1. As opposed to His enemies, the instruments of darkness; 2. as opposed to His family, as they are confused by the apparent danger of His cause; 3. as opposed to His Church, which hangs upon His lips with child-like simplicity, not suspecting its danger.—Christ says to His people, in the days of apparent peril to religion: My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are My ways your ways.—Christ’s defence is, in its own nature, also a victorious attack.—Blasphemy against the Spirit is eternal guilt, and therefore exposed to eternal condemnation.—The calm declaration of Christ, that He wrought in the power of the Holy Spirit, in opposition to His blaspheming enemies, who charged him with being possessed by the spirit of darkness and working under his influence.—Maintenance of this opposition: 1. Divine repose against devilish excitement; 2. divine forbearance against devilish hatred; 3. divine illumination against devilish confusion.

Starke:—Canstein:—If Christ endures, the Christian Church endures.—Zeisius:—The devil never gives up the work that his name imports—slandering the good; nor do those who are on his side, John 8:44.—Quesnel:—We must strive to preserve our honorable name, so long as it is possible.—It is awful to ascribe to the devil that which comes from God. Thus God is made into Satan:—The Creator endures this blasphemy, in His patience and long-suffering, and men will endure nothing. We should be imitators of God.—Wolf does not eat wolf, nor does Satan drive out Satan.—Satan does not persecute Satan, yet Christians persecute Christians. O fearful wickedness!—Rebellion and insurrection are destructive and ruinous.—When once the devil is master of any heart, none but Jesus Christ can drive him out.—Cramer:—Children must honor their parents; but in matters that pertain to office, and the things of God and conscience, they should not be overruled by any.—There is no carnal prerogative in the kingdom of God.—Quesnel:—Ha who doeth the will of God to the end enters into an eternal alliance with God as his Father, with Jesus Christ as his brother, with the angels and saints as his sisters, and with the heavenly Jerusalem as his mother.—Gerlach: According to Mark, Jesus distinguishes general blasphemy against God from the particular blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; according to Matthew and Luke, He distinguishes from it also the blasphemy against the Son of Man: in both cases there is the contrast between a revelation which has been more external, and one which has seized the inner man with more convincing divine power.—He that doeth the will of God:” He means thereby faith, which is the fount and beginning of all holy obedience.—Braune: We must watch over zeal, as over fire in a house. But that cold moderation which the world loves so well is most offensive to Christ, who will spue the lukewarm out of His mouth, Revelation 3:16. This is our Lord’s official fidelity.—In the presence of this blaspheming malignity, the Redeemer exhibits a simplicity, a security, a freedom from all bitterness, Which must have produced a sacred impression upon all who beheld, even as upon us now.—It is in the Spirit of God that Jesus overcomes Satan.—Schleiermacher (on the words, He is beside Himself):—So those have always been accounted whom God in hard times has chosen for His special instruments: it was in the time of the Church’s Reformation, and it will always be so again when times of darkness shall return.—There have never been wanting such enemies of the truth, who have similarly sought to put another character upon that one only institute for human salvation which can never find a substitute. But, as in the text, their efforts are always vain.—How far blind and rash zeal may lead men!—“He that gathereth not with Me, scattereth.”—“He that for My sake forsaketh not father and mother is not worthy of Me.”—Christ on the cross: “Behold thy son ! Behold thy Mother!”—There should be, then, no conflict between our natural and spiritual relationships.—All the household must be members of the one same family.


Mark 3:28; Mark 3:28.—The words τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν� precede τὰ ἁμαρτήματα in the best Codd.; and so they are placed in Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf. B., D., G., Lachmann, and Tischendorf read ὅσα, instead of ὅσας.

Mark 3:29; Mark 3:29.—The reading ἔνοχός ἐστιν αἰωνίου ἁμαρτήματος, according to B., L., Δ., and others, is accepted by Griesbach, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. The readings κρίσεως and κολάσεως seem to have been explanatory paraphrases of this strong and pregnant expression.

Mark 3:32; Mark 3:32.—“His mother and His brethren” is the reading of B., C., D., G., Versions, Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann; better established than the order in the Recepta, “His brethren and His mother,” which is also adopted by Fritzsche and Tischendorf. Meyer holds to this last, thinking that the mother was afterwards put first on account of her rank, and in conformity with the parallels in Matthew and Luke. It may have been the purpose to make the mother less prominent, in a case of seeming error. An additional clause, καὶ αἱ�, has A., D., E., &c., for it; B., C., L., and many Versions against it. Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf accept it; so also De Wette and Meyer. We think the omission harder to account for than the insertion would be,—which probably had reference to Mark 6:3.

Mark 3:33; Mark 3:33.—B., C., L., Versions, Lachmann, and Meyer read καὶ οἱ, instead of ἤ οἱ.

Mark 3:35; Mark 3:35.—The μου after ἀδελφή is omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf, following preponderating authorities.

[11]Namely, that he was in league with the demons.—Ed.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Mark 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/mark-3.html. 1857-84.
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