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Bible Commentaries
Mark 3

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verses 1-13

(At or near Capernaum.)
aMATT. IX. 9; bMARK II. 13, 14; cLUKE V. 27, 28.

c27 And after these thingsa [after the healing of the paralytic] he went forth, aagain by the seaside [i. e., he left Capernaum, and sought the shore of the sea, which formed a convenient auditorium for him, and which was hence a favorite scene for his teaching]; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. 14 And as he aJesus passed by from thence, he saw cand beheld aa man, ca publican, named {ccalled} Matthew, cLevi, bthe son of Alphaeus [It will be observed that Matthew, in his account of his call, does not make himself prominent. All [189] the evangelists keep themselves in the background. Because Mark and Luke give us the name Levi, it has been thought by some that they describe the call of a different person from the one mentioned by Matthew--an opinion which seems to have started with Origen. But the difference in name is not an important divergence, for many in that day had two names; as, for example, Lebbæus, who was called Thaddæus; Silas, who was called Sylvanus; John, who was called Mark; etc. Moreover, it was then common to change the name; as is shown by the cases of Simon, who became Peter; Joseph, who became Barnabas; Saul, who became Paul, etc. Therefore, as we have previously suggested ( Matthew 10:3). It is not likely, however, that Matthew and James were brothers, for Alphæus was a very common Jewish name, and brothers are usually mentioned in pairs in the apostolic lists, and these two are not so mentioned. Pool takes the extreme view here, contending that James, Matthew, Thaddæus, and Simon Zelotes were four brethren], sitting at the place of toll [Wherever it is at all practicable, Orientals sit at their work. The place of toil was usually a booth or a small hut. Whether Matthew’s booth was by the lake, to collect duties on goods and people ferried across; or whether it was by the roadside on the great highway leading from Damascus to Acco, to collect taxes on all produce brought into Capernaum, is not material. The revenues which Rome derived from conquered nations consisted of tolls, tithes, harbor duties, taxes for use of public pasture lands, and duties for the use of mines and salt works], and he saith {csaid} unto him, Follow me. 28 And he forsook all, And he arose {crose up} and followed [190] him. [Such obedience was not, of course, performed in ignorance; it indicates that Matthew was already a disciple, as were the four fisherman when they also received a like call. Matthew was now called to become a personal attendant of Jesus, preparatory to being chosen an apostle. Nor are we to conclude from the abruptness of his movements that he went off without settling accounts with the head of his office. Though it may be more dramatic to thus picture him as departing at once, yet the settlement of accounts was indispensable to his good name in the future, and in no way diminishes the reality and beauty of his sacrifice--a beauty which Matthew himself forbears to mention, as became him ( Proverbs 27:2). But Matthew certainly neither delayed nor sought counsel ( Galatians 1:15, Galatians 1:16). By thus calling a publican, Jesus reproved the religious narrowness of his times.] [191]

[FFG 189-191]

Verses 2-6

(Probably Galilee.)
aMATT. XII. 9-14; bMARK III. 1-6; cLUKE VI. 6-11.

a9 And he departed thence. [The word here points to a journey as in Matthew 11:1, Matthew 15:29, which are the only places where Matthew uses this expression. Greswell may be right in thinking that it indicates the return back to Galilee from the Passover, since a cognate expression used by John expresses such a journey from Galilee to Judæa. See John 7:3], c6 And it came to pass on another sabbath [another sabbath than that on which the disciples plucked the grain], that he entered bagain aand went into their {cthe} synagogue and taught [The use of the pronoun "their" indicates that the synagogue in question was under the control of the same Pharisee who had caviled about plucking grain on the Sabbath. Where the synagogue was is not known. Some argue that from the presence of Herodians it was at Sepphoris, which was then capital of Herod Antipas. But Herodians were likely to be found everywhere.]: a10 and behold, bthere was a man who had {a having} a {bhis} hand withered. cand his right hand was withered. [The hand had dried up from insufficient absorption of nutriment, until its power was gone, and there was no remedy known by which it could be restored.] b2 And they cthe scribes and the Pharisees watched him, bwhether he would heal him on the sabbath day; cthat they might find how to accuse him. [They sought to accuse him before the local judges or officers of the synagogue; i. e., before a body of which they themselves were members. Jesus gave them abundant opportunity for such accusation, for we have seven recorded [214] instances of cures on the sabbath day; viz.: Mark 1:21, Mark 1:29, John 5:9, John 9:14, Luke 13:14, Luke 14:2, and this case.] aAnd they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? [They were afraid that Jesus might not notice the man, so they spoke about him. But, taught by their experience in the grainfield, they changed their bold assertion, "It is not lawful," and approached the subject with a guarded question, hoping to get an answer that could be used as a ground for accusation.] c8 But he knew their thoughts [omnisciently]; and he said to {bsaith unto} the man that had his hand withered, cRise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. [Jesus thus placed the man openly before all the people, as though he stood on trial as to his right to be healed on the sabbath day.] a11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be of you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12 How much then is a man of more value than a sheep! [A man who had but one sheep would set a high value upon it. But the most valuable sheep is not to be weighed in the balance against a man. The fact that Jesus used this illustration shows clearly that such an action was allowed at that time, though the rabbins forbade it afterward.] Wherefore it is lawful to do good on the sabbath day. c9 And Jesus aid {bsaith} unto them, cI ask you, Is it lawful on the sabbath bday to do good, or to do harm? to save life, or to kill? {cdestroy it?} [The rules of the Pharisees made the Sabbath question wholly a matter of doing or of not doing. But Jesus made it a question of doing good, and his question implies that a failure to do good, when one is able, is harmful and sinful. "The ability," says Cotton Mather, "to do good imposes an obligation to do it." To refrain from healing in such an instance would have been to abstain from using a power given him for that very purpose. The Jews held it lawful to defend themselves on the Sabbath, and considered themselves justified in killing their enemies if they [215] attacked on that day (I Macc. ii. 41; Josephus Ant. XII. vi. 2]. bBut they held their peace. [afraid to say that Jesus was wrong and stubbornly unwilling to admit that he was right.] 5 And when he had looked round about on them call, bwith anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart [The anger of Jesus was not a spiteful, revengeful passion, but a just indignation ( Ephesians 4:26). God may love the sinner, but he is angry at sin. Anger is not sin, but it is apt to run into it: hence it is a dangerous passion. Righteous anger rises from the love of God and man, but that which rises from self-love is sinful], he saith {csaid} a13 Then cunto him, bthe man, Stretch forth thy hand. cAnd he did so: ahe stretched it forth; and it bhis hand was restored. awhole, as the other. [As Jesus here healed without any word or action of healing, merely ordering the man to stretch forth his hand, the Pharisees could find no legal ground for accusation. God can not be tried by man, because his ways are hidden from the senses of man save as he chooses to reveal them.] c11 But they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. b6 And the Pharisees went out, and straightway with the Herodians took counsel against him, how they might destroy him. [Here the three Synoptists first tell of the counsel to put Jesus to death, and we should note that, like John, they described the anger of the Jewish rulers as arising because of this Sabbath question. Their real motive was envious hatred, but their pretext was a zeal for the law. That it was not genuine zeal for the law is shown by the fact that they consulted with the Herodians or the adherents of Herod Antipas, as they also did afterwards ( Matthew 22:16, Mark 12:13). They needed the secular power of the Herodians to secure the death of Jesus. Its efficiency for such ends had just been shown in the imprisonment of John the Baptist. But the Herodians were no friends of the Jewish law; in fact, they were real perverters of that law which Jesus merely correctly interpreted. This party and its predecessors had [216] flatteringly tried to make a Messiah of Herod the Great, and had been friends of Rome and patrons of Gentile influence. They favored the erection of temples for idolatrous ends, and pagan theaters and games, and Gentile customs generally. Unlike Jesus, the Pharisees grew angry and sinned, for it was against their conscience to consort with the Herodians.]

[FFG 214-217]

Verses 8-12

aMATT. XII. 15-21; bMARK III. 7-12.

a15 And Jesus perceiving it withdrew bwith his disciples afrom thence: bto the sea [This was the first withdrawal of Jesus for the avowed purpose of self-preservation. After this we find Jesus constantly retiring to avoid the plots of his enemies. The Sea of Galilee, with its boats and its shores touching different jurisdictions, formed a convenient and fairly safe retreat]: aand many followed him; band a great multitude from Galilee followed; and from Judæa, 8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and beyond the Jordan, and about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, hearing what great things he did, came unto him. [Idumæa was the land formerly inhabited by the Edomites. It is a Greek word from "Edom," which was another word for Esau ( Genesis 25:30), and means red. This land was originally the narrow strip reaching from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, lying between the Arabah on the west, and the desert on the east, being about one hundred miles long and fifteen or twenty broad. During the Babylonian captivity, however, the Edomites took possession of the southern portion of Judæa, and Strabo says that they encroached as far as to the city of Hebron. They were conquered by John Hyrcanus, one of the Asmonæan princes about 120 B. C., and were by him made subservient to the law and incorporated with the Jewish people. As before [217] noted, Herod the Great sprang from this people. Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean seacoast, westward from the Lake of Galilee.] aand he healed them all, 16 and charged them that they should not make him known: 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet [ Isaiah 42:1-4. Partly taken from the LXX and part an original translation], saying, 18 Behold, my servant whom I have chosen; My beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles. [The word translated "servant," means also son, but it is rightly translated "servant" here, for the Father uses another word when he would designate Jesus as specifically his Son ( Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5). Jesus was a servant in form ( Philippians 2:7), and in obedience ( Hebrews 10:9). The word "judgment," as used in the Old Testament, from which it is here translated, means rule, doctrine, truth. It is usually here understood as meaning that Jesus would reveal the gospel or the full truth of the new dispensation to the Gentiles.] 19 He shall not strive, nor cry aloud; Neither shall any one hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, Till he send forth judgment unto victory. [These two verses find their fulfillment in the events of this paragraph. Jesus did not strive nor quarrel with the Pharisees, but having victoriously put them to silence, he meekly and quietly withdrew from their presence, and the healing of the multitudes which followed him as aptly fulfilled the prediction about the reed and the flax, for these two words, symbolic of weakness ( Isaiah 36:6) and patience-trying annoyance ( Proverbs 10:26), fitly represented the sick and lame and blind--sinners who, by affliction, had been made contrite and poor in spirit, remorseful and repentant, and who were brought to Jesus to be healed. If the hollow cylinder of the reed is bruised, its strength is gone, and it is no longer able to stand erect. Flax was then used where we now use cotton, as wicking for lamps. Imperfection in the fiber of it would cause it to smoke. A violent [218] man, irritated by the fumes of the smoking wick, would put it out, and cast it from him. But the Lord’s servant would patiently fan it to flames. The statement that he would not break these bruised reeds, nor quench this smoking flax, was an emphatic declaration, by contrast, that he would heal their bruises and fan their dying energies and resolutions into a flame, until he sent forth judgment unto victory; i. e., until the gospel--the authoritative announcement of the divine purpose or will--shall be sent forth and advanced to its final triumph. Christ shall show patient mercy and forbearance until the gospel shall practically exclude the need of it, by triumphing over Jewish opposition and Gentile impiety so as to bring about universal righteousness.] 21 And in his name shall the Gentiles hope. [This verse sets forth the breadth of Christ’s conquest over all nations. It reaches beyond our times into a future which is yet to be. But it was partially fulfilled by the presence of Idumæans and citizens of Tyre and Sidon in the multitudes which Jesus healed--unless we say that only Jews from these quarters are meant, which is not likely.] b9 And he spake to his disciples, that a little boat should wait on him because of the crowd, lest they should throng him: 10 for he had healed many; insomuch that as many as plagues pressed upon him that they might touch him. [Literally, they "fell upon him;" such was their eagerness to be healed by touching him.] 11 And unclean spirits, whensoever they beheld him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. 12 And he charged them much that they should not make him known. [Because this was not the right time, nor were they the right witnesses to make him known.] [219]

[FFG 217-219]

Verses 13-19

(Near Capernaum.)
aMATT. X. 2-4; bMARK III. 13-19; cLUKE VI. 12-16.

c12 And it came to pass in these days, that he went out into the mountain b13 And he goeth up into the mountain, cto pray; and he continued all night in prayer to God. [It was a momentous occasion. He was about to choose those to whom he was to entrust the planting, organizing, and training of that church which was to be the purchase of his own blood. Jesus used such important crises, not as occasions for anxiety and worry, but as fitting times to seek and obtain the Father’s grace and blessing.] 13 And when it was day, he called his disciples: band calleth unto him whom he himself would; and they went unto him. cand he chose from them twelve [We can not think that the number twelve was adopted carelessly. It unquestionably had reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, over whom the apostles were to be tribal judges or viceroys ( Luke 22:30), and we find the tribes and apostles associated together in the structure of the New Jerusalem ( Revelation 21:12-14). Moreover, Paul seems to regard the twelve as ministers to the twelve tribes, or to the circumcision, rather than as ministers to the Gentiles or the world in general ( Galatians 2:7-9). See also James 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1. The tribal reference was doubtless preserved to indicate that the church would be God’s new Israel], b14 And he appointed twelve, that they might be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out demons: cwhom also he named apostles [The word apostle means "one sent." Its meaning was kindred to the word ambassador [220] ( 2 Corinthians 5:20), the messenger whom a king sent to foreign powers, and also to our modern word missionary, which also means "one sent." Christ himself was an apostle ( Hebrews 3:1), and so sent them ( John 20:21). The word apostle is translated "messenger" at 2 Corinthians 8:23, Philippians 2:25. The apostles were to be with Jesus, that they might be taught by his words, and that they might become teachers of that word and witnesses as to the life and actions of Jesus. A necessary condition, therefore, to their apostleship was this seeing of Jesus and the consequent ability to testify as to his actions, especially as to his resurrection ( Acts 1:8, Acts 1:21, 1 Corinthians 9:1, Acts 22:14, Acts 22:15). They could therefore have no successors. All the apostles were from Galilee save Judas Iscariot]: a2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these John 1:41, John 1:42. Peter, by reason of his early prominence, is named first in the four lists. His natural gifts gave him a personal but not an ecclesiastical pre-eminence over his fellows. As a reward for his being first to confess Christ, he was honored by being permitted to first use the keys of the kingdom of heaven; i. e., to preach the first gospel sermon both to the Jews and Gentiles. But after these two sermons the right of preaching to the Jews and Gentiles became common to all alike. That Peter had supremacy or authority over his brethren is nowhere stated by Christ, or claimed by Peter, or owned by the rest of the twelve. On [221] the contrary, the statement of Jesus places the apostles upon a level ( Matthew 23:8-11). See also Matthew 18:18, Matthew 19:27, Matthew 19:28, Matthew 20:25-27, John 20:21, Acts 1:8. And Peter himself claims no more than an equal position with other officers in the church ( 1 Peter 5:1, 1 Peter 5:4), and the apostles in the subsequent history of the church acted with perfect independence. Paul withstood Peter to his face and (if we may judge by the order of naming which is made so much of in the apostolic lists), he ranks Peter as second in importance to James, the Lord’s brother ( Galatians 2:11-14, Galatians 2:9). See also Acts 12:17, Acts 21:18. Again, James, in summing up the decree which was to be sent to the church at Antioch, gave no precedence to Peter, who was then present, but said, "Brethren, hearken unto me . . . my judgment is"--words which would be invaluable to those who advocate the supremacy of Peter, if only it had been Peter who spoke them. So much for the supremacy of Peter, which, even if it could be established, would still leave the papacy without a good title to its honors, for it would still have to prove that it was heir to the rights and honors of Peter, which is something it has never yet done. The papal claim rests not upon facts, but upon a threefold assumption: 1. That Peter had supreme authority. 2. That he was the first bishop of Rome. 3. That the peculiar powers and privileges of Peter (if he had any) passed at the time of his death from his own person, to which they belonged, to the chair or office which he vacated]; aand Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; {bthe brother of James;} and them he surnamed Boanerges, which is, Sons of thunder [This selection of brothers suggests that the bonds of nature may strengthen those of grace. Why James and John were called sons of thunder is not stated, but it was probably because of their stormy and destructive temper ( Luke 9:51-56, Mark 9:38). The vigor of the two brothers is apparent, for it marked James as a fit object for Herod’s spleen ( Acts 12:2), and it sustained John to extreme old age, for Epiphanius says [223] that he died at Ephesus at the age of ninety-four, but Jerome places his age at a hundred. No change is noted in the nature of James during the brief time which he survived his Lord. But the gracious and loving character of the aged John showed the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. But even to the last this son of thunder muttered in portentous strains against Diotrephes ( 3 John 1:9, 3 John 1:10), and his denunciations of sins and sinners is very forceful, including such epithets as "liar," "antichrist," "deceiver," "children of the devil" ( 1 John 1:6, 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:22, 1 John 3:15, 1 John 1:3-11). It is also worthy of note that except in this verse in Mark, which applies the name "Son of thunder" to John, neither the word "thunder," nor any of its derivatives is found anywhere in the New Testament save in the writings of John, by whom it and its derivatives are used eleven times, a fact which causes Bengel to remark, "A son of thunder is a fit person for hearing voices of thunder."] a3 Philip, and Bartholomew [as noted on Mark 15:40); probably because he was younger than the son of Zebedee. He must not be confounded with James the Lord’s brother, who, though called an apostle by Paul, was not one of the twelve apostles (nor was Barnabas-- Acts 14:14). James the Lord’s brother is mentioned at Matthew 13:55, 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, Galatians 1:19, Galatians 2:9, Galatians 2:12, Acts 15:6-9, Acts 21:18. He wrote the epistle which bears his name, and his brother Jude (who also must not be confounded with Judas Thaddæus, the apostle) wrote the epistle which bears his name. We do not know the James who was the father of Judas, and of Judas himself we know very little. He seems to have been known at first by his name Thaddæus, possibly to distinguish him from Iscariot, but later (for Luke and John wrote later than Matthew and Mark) by the name Judas-- John 14:22.] a4 Simon the Cananaean, cwho was called the Zealot [Cananæan means the same as zealot. It comes from the Hebrew word kana, which means zealous. The Zealots were a sect or order of men much like our modern "Regulators," or "Black Caps." They were zealous for the Jewish law, and citing Phinehas ( Numbers 25:7, Numbers 25:8) and Elijah ( 1 Kings 18:40) as their examples, they took justice in their own hands and punished offenders much after the manner lynchers. It is thought that they derived their name from the dying charge of the Asmonæan Mattathias when he said, "Be ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers" (I. Macc. ii. 50). Whatever they were at first, it is certain that their later course was marked by frightful excesses, and they are charged with having been the human instrument which brought about the destruction of Jerusalem. See Josephus, Wars, IV., iii. 9, v. 1-4; vi. 3; VII., viii. 1. Simon is the least known of all the apostles, being nowhere individually mentioned outside the catalogues], aand Judas Iscariot, cwho became a traitor; awho also betrayed him. [Judas is named last in all the three lists, and the same note of infamy attaches to him in each case. He is omitted from the list in Acts, for he was then dead. As he was treasurer of the apostolic group, he was probably chosen for office because of his executive ability. He was called Iscariot from his native city Kerioth, which pertained to Judah-- Joshua 15:25.]

{*} NOTE.--To avoid making the text too complex and confusing, we have followed the order in which Matthew gives the names of the twelve. The names of the apostles are recorded four times in the following different arrangements and orders. Some think that Matthew divides them into groups of two, so that he may show us who went together when Jesus sent them out in pairs ( Mark 6:7). But it is idle to speculate as to the differences in arrangement. We note, however, that the twelve are divided into three quaternions, or groups of four, and that each has a fixed leader. TABLE OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES.

{*} NOTE.--To aid the reader, we submit the following table of the women who watched the crucifixion of Jesus, for it is from their names and descriptions that we get our Scriptural light by which we distinguish the kindred of our Lord.

Matthew and Mark each name three women, whence it is thought that Salome was the name of the mother of James and John. But the solution of the problem depends on our rendering of John 19:25, which is translated thus: "But there were standing by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." Now, was Mary, the wife of Clopas, named and also additionally described as sister to our Lord’s mother, or was it the unnamed Salome who was her sister? Does John mention three or four women? The best modern scholarship says that there were four women, and that therefore James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were cousins of our Lord. In support of this it is argued: 1. That it is unlikely that two sisters would bear the same name, a fact which, as Meyer says, is "established by no instance." 2. John gives two pairs of women, each pair coupled by an "and." The first pair is kindred to Jesus, and is unnamed and is paralleled by the other pair, which is not kindred and of which the names are given. Hebrew writers often used such parallelism. 3. It accords with John’s custom to withhold the names of himself and all kindred, so that in his Gospel he nowhere gives his own, his mother’s, or his brother’s name, nor does he even give the name of our Lord’s mother, who was his aunt. 4. The relationship explains in part why Jesus, when dying, left the care of his mother to John. It was not an unnatural thing to impose such a burden upon a kinsman.

[FFG 220-226]

Verses 19-30

aMATT. XII. 22-37; bMARK III. 19-30; cLUKE XI. 14-23.

b19 And he cometh into a house. [Whose house is not stated.] 20 And the multitude cometh together again [as on a previous occasion-- Mark 2:1], so that they could not so much as eat bread. [They could not sit down to a regular meal. A wonderful picture of the intense importunity of people and the corresponding eagerness of Jesus, who was as willing to do as they were to have done.] 21 And when his friends heard it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. [These friends were his brothers and his mother, as appears from Mark 3:31, Mark 3:32. They probably came from Nazareth. To understand their feelings, we must bear in mind their want of [298] faith. See John 7:3-9. They regarded Jesus as carried away by his religious enthusiasm ( Acts 26:24, 2 Corinthians 5:13), and thought that he acted with reckless regard for his personal safety. They foresaw the conflict with the military authorities and the religious leaders into which the present course of Jesus was leading, and were satisfied that the case called for their interference. Despite her knowledge as to Jesus, Mary sympathized with her sons in this movement, and feared for the safety of Jesus.] a22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a demon, blind and dumb: {c14 And he was casting out a demon that was dumb.} aand he healed him, insomuch that cit came to pass, when the demon was gone out, athe dumb man spake and saw. [The man was brought because he could not come alone. While Luke does not mention the blindness, the similarity of the narratives makes it most likely that he is describing the same circumstances as Matthew and Mark, so we have combined the three accounts.] 23 And all the multitudes cmarvelled. awere amazed, and said, Can this be the son of David? [It was a time for amazement, for Jesus had performed a triple if not a quadruple miracle, restoring liberty, hearing and sight, and granting the power of speech. It wakened the hope that Jesus might be the Messiah, the son of David, but their hope is expressed in the most cautious manner, not only being stated as a question, but as a question which expects a negative answer. The question, however, was well calculated to arouse the envious opposition of the Pharisees.] c15 But some of them said [that is, some of the multitude. Who these "some" were is revealed by Matthew and Mark, thus:], a24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they b22 and the scribes that came down from Jerusalem said, aThis man doth not cast out demons, but by Beelzebub the prince of the demons. bHe hath Beelzebub, and, By the prince of the demons casteth he out the demons. [Beelzebub is a corruption of Baalzebub, the god of the fly. There was a tendency among the heathen to name [299] their gods after the pests which they were supposed to avert. Thus Zeus was called Apomuios (Averter of flies), and Apollo Ipuktonos (Slayer of vermin). How Beelzebub became identified with Satan in the Jewish mind is not known. In opposing the influence of Jesus and corrupting the public mind, these Pharisees showed a cunning worthy of the cultivated atmosphere, the seat of learning whence they came. Being unable to deny that a miracle was wrought (for Celsus in the second century is the first recorded person who had the temerity to do such a thing), they sought to so explain it as to reverse its potency, making it an evidence of diabolical rather than divine power. Their explanation was cleverly plausible, for there were at least two powers by which demons might be cast out, as both were invisible, it might appear impossible to decide whether it was done in this instance by the power of God or of Satan. It was an explanation very difficult to disprove, and Jesus himself considered it worthy of the very thorough reply which follows.] c16 And others, trying him, sought of him a sign from heaven. [These probably felt that the criticisms of the Pharisees were unjust, and wished that Jesus might put them to silence by showing some great sign, such as the pillar of cloud which sanctioned the guidance of Moses, or the descending fire which vindicated Elijah.] b23 And he called them unto him [thus singling out his accusers], a25 And {c17 But} aknowing their thoughts he said unto them, bin parables [We shall find that Jesus later replied to those who sought a sign. He here answers his accusers in a fourfold argument. First argument:], How can Satan cast out Satan? aEvery kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house [family] divided against itself shall not stand: b24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. cA house divided against a house falleth. {b25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.} a26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; c18 And if Satan also is [300] divided against himself, ahow then shall his kingdom stand? b26 And if Satan hath risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. cbecause ye say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub. [The explanation given by the Pharisees represented Satan as divided against himself; robbing himself of his greatest achievement; namely, his triumph over the souls and bodies of men. Jesus argues, not that Satan could not do this, but that he would not, and that therefore the explanation which supposes him to do it is absurd. We should note that Jesus here definitely recognizes two important truths: 1. That the powers of evil are organized into a kingdom with a head ( Matthew 13:29, Matthew 25:41, Mark 4:15, Luke 22:31). 2. That division tends to destruction. His argument therefore, "constitutes an incidental but strong argument against sectarianism. See 1 Corinthians 1:13" (Abbott). Second argument:] 19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges. [The sons of the Pharisees were not their children, but their disciples ( 2 Kings 2:3, Acts 19:13, Acts 19:14). Josephus mentions these exorcists (Ant. viii. 2, 5, and Wars vii. 6, 3), and there is abundant mention of them in later rabbinical books. Our Lord’s reference to them was merely for the purpose of presenting an argumentum ad hominem, and in no way implies that they exercised any real power over the demons; nor could they have done so in any marked degree, else the similar work of Christ would not have created such an astonishment. The argument therefore is this, I have already shown you that it is against reason that Satan cast out Satan; I now show you that it is against experience. The only instances of dispossession which you can cite are those of your own disciples. Do they act by the power of Satan? They therefore shall be your judges as to whether you have spoken rightly in saying that Satan casts out Satan. Third argument:] 20 But if I with the finger {aby the Spirit} of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. [The finger of God signifies the power of God [301] ( Exodus 8:19, Exodus 31:18, Psalms 8:3). [Jesus exercised this power in unison with the Spirit of God. Jesus here draws a conclusion from the two arguments presented. Since he does not cast out by Satan, he must cast out by the power of God, and therefore his actions demonstrated the potential arrival of the kingdom of God. The occasional accidental deliverance of exorcists might be evidence of the flow and ebb of a spiritual battle, but the steady, daily conquests of Christ over the powers of evil presented to the people the triumphant progress of an invading kingdom. It is an argument against the idea that there was a collusion between Christ and Satan. Fourth argument:] c21 When the strong man fully armed guardeth his own court, his goods are in peace: 22 but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him his whole armor wherein he trusted, and divided his spoils. b27 But no one can {a29 Or how can one} enter into the house of the strong man, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then will he spoil his house. [Satan is the strong man, his house the body of the demoniac, and his goods the evil spirit within the man. Jesus had entered his house, and robbed him of his goods; and this proved that, instead of being in league with Satan, he had overpowered Satan. Thus Jesus put to shame the Pharisees, and caused the divinity of his miracle to stand out in clearer light than ever. The power of Jesus to dispossess the demon was one of his most convincing credentials, and its meaning now stood forth in its true light.] 30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. [Jesus here addresses the bystanders. In the spiritual conflict between Jesus and Satan, neutrality is impossible. There are only two kingdoms, and every soul is either in one or the other, for there is no third. Hence one who fought Satan in the name of Christ was for Christ ( Luke 9:50). In the figure of gathering and scattering, the people are compared to a flock of sheep which Jesus would gather into the fold, but which Satan and all who aid him (such as the Pharisees) would [302] scatter and destroy.] b28 Verily a31 Therefore I say unto you, Every sins and blasphemy {ball their sins} shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme [Jesus here explains to the Pharisees the awful meaning of their enmity. Blasphemy is any kind of injurious speech. It is the worst form of sin, as we see by this passage. This does not declare that every man shall be forgiven all his sins, but that all kinds of sin committed by various men shall be forgiven. The forgiveness is universal as to the sin, not as to the men]: abut the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak {bblaspheme} against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin: ait shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come. b30 because they said, He hath an unclean spirit. [Blasphemy against the Son may be a temporary sin, for the one who commits it may be subsequently convinced of his error by the testimony of the Holy Spirit and become a believer ( 1 Timothy 1:13). But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is in its nature an eternal sin, for if one rejects the evidence given by the Holy Spirit and ascribes it to Satan, he rejects the only evidence upon which faith can be based; and without faith there is no forgiveness. The difference in the two sins is therefore in no way due to any difference in the Son and Spirit as to their degrees of sanctity or holiness. The punishment is naturally eternal because the sin is perpetual. The mention of the two worlds is, "just an extended way of saying ’never’" (Morison). Some assert that the Jews would not know what Jesus meant by the Holy Spirit, but the point is not so well taken. See Exodus 31:3, Numbers 11:26, 1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Samuel 19:20; Psalms 139:7, Psalms 143:10, Isaiah 48:16, Ezekiel 11:24. We see by Mark’s statement that blasphemy against the Spirit consisted in saying that Jesus had an unclean spirit, that his works were due to Satanic influence, and hence wrought to [303] accomplish Satanic ends. We can not call God Satan, nor the Holy Spirit a demon, until our state of sin has passed beyond all hope of reform. One can not confound the two kingdoms of good and evil unless he does so maliciously and willfully.] a33 Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit. [The meaning and connection are: "Be honest for once; represent the tree as good, and its fruit as good, or the tree as evil, and its fruit as evil; either say that I am evil, and that my works are evil, or, if you admit that my works are good, admit that I am good also and not in league with Beelzebub"--Carr.] 34 Ye offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. [Realizing the hopelessness of this attempt to get an honest judgment out of dishonest hearts, Jesus plainly informs them as to the condition of their hearts. Their very souls were full of poison like vipers. Their sin lay not in their words, but in a condition of heart which made such words possible. The heart being as it was, the words could not be otherwise. "What is in the well will be in the bucket"--Trapp.] 35 The good man out of his good treasure bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. [We have here a summary of the contrast given in the Matthew 12:33, Matthew 12:34. The good heart of Jesus brought forth its goodness, as the evil hearts of the Pharisees brought forth their evil.] 36 And I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. [It may have seemed to some that Jesus denounced too severely a saying which the Pharisees had hastily and lightly uttered. But it is the word inconsiderately spoken which betrays the true state of the heart. The hypocrite can talk like an angel if he be put on notice that his words are heard. Jesus here makes words the basis of the judgment of God. Elsewhere [304] we find it is works ( Romans 2:6, 2 Corinthians 5:10), and again we find it is faith ( Romans 3:28). There is no confusion here. The judgment in its finality must be based upon our character. Our faith forms our character, and our words and works are indices by which we may determine what manner of character it is.]

[FFG 298-305]

Verses 31-35

(Galilee, same day as the last lesson.)
aMATT. XII. 46-50; bMARK III. 31-35; cLUKE VIII. 19-21.

a46 While he yet speaking to the multitudes, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without seeking to speak to him. [Jesus was in a house, probably at Capernaum-- Mark 3:19, Matthew 13:1.] c19 and there came {bcome} cto him his mother and bhis brethren; cand they could not come at him for the crowd. aand, standing without, they sent unto him, calling him. 32 And the multitude was sitting about him [We learn at Mark 3:21, that they came to lay hold of him because they thought that he was beside himself. It was for this reason that they came in a body, for their numbers would enable them to control him. Jesus had four brethren ( Matthew 13:55). Finding him teaching with the crowd about him, they passed the word in to him that they wished to see him outside. To attempt to lay hold of him in the midst of his disciples would have been rashly inexpedient. The fact that they came with Mary establishes the strong presumption that they were the children of Mary and Joseph, and hence the literal brethren of the Lord. In thus seeking to take Jesus away from his enemies Mary yielded to a natural maternal impulse which even the revelations accorded to her did not quiet. The brethren, too, acted naturally, for they were unbelieving-- John 7:5.] a47 And one said {bthey say} unto him, c20 And it was told him, aBehold, thy mother and thy brethren bseek for thee. cstand without, desiring to see thee. aseeking to speak to thee. [310] [This message was at once an interruption and an interference. It assumed that their business with him was more urgent than his business with the people. It merited our Lord’s rebuke, even if it had not behind it the even greater presumption of an attempt to lay hold on him.] 48 But he answered {b33 And he answereth} aand said unto him that told him, band saith, {cand said unto them,} aWho is my mother? and who are my brethren? b34 And looking round on them that sat round about him, ahe stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, {bsaith,} aBehold, my mother and my brethren! cMy mother and my brethren are these that hear the word of God and do it. b35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, amy Father who in heaven, he {bthe same} is my brother, and my sister, and mother. [In this answer Jesus shows that he brooks no interference on the score of earthly relationships, and explodes the idea of his subserviency to his mother. To all who call on the "Mother of God," as Mary is blasphemously styled, Jesus answers, as he did to the Jews, "Who is my mother?" Jesus was then in the full course of his ministry as Messiah, and as such he recognized only spiritual relationships. By doing the will of God we become his spiritual children, and thus we become related to Christ. Jesus admits three human relationships--"brother, sister, mother"--but omits the paternal relationship, since he had no Father, save God. It is remarkable that in the only two instances in which Mary figures in the ministry of Jesus prior to his crucifixion, she stands forth reproved by him. This fact not only rebukes those who worship her, but especially corrects the doctrine of her immaculate conception.] [311]

[FFG 310-311]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on Mark 3". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/mark-3.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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