Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Mark 3

Verse 1

Had his hand withered (εχηραμμενην εχων την χειραexērammenēn echōn tēn cheira). He had his (the in the Greek, common idiom with article as possessive) hand (right hand, Luke 6:6) in a withered state, perfect passive participle (adjective χηρανxēran in Matthew and Luke), showing that it was not congenital, but the result of injury by accident or disease. Bengel: Non ex utero, sed morbo aut vulnere.

Verse 2

They watched (παρετηρουνparetēroun). Imperfect tense, were watching on the side (or sly). Luke uses the middle voice, παρετηρουντοparetērounto to accent their personal interest in the proceedings. It was the sabbath day and in the synagogue and they were there ready to catch him in the act if he should dare to violate their rules as he had done in the wheat fields on the previous sabbath. Probably the same Pharisees are present now as then.

That they might accuse him (ινα κατηγορησωσιν αυτουhina katēgorēsōsin autou). So Matthew 12:10. Luke has it “that they might find how to accuse him” (ινα ευρωσιν κατηγορειν αυτουhina heurōsin katēgorein autou). They were determined to accuse him. The sabbath controversy offered the best opening. So here they are ready for business.

Verse 3

Stand forth (εγειρε εις το μεσονegeire eis to meson). Step into the middle of the room where all can see. It was a bold defiance of the Christ‘s spying enemies. Wycliff rightly puts it:

They aspieden him. They played the spy on Jesus. One can see the commotion among the long-bearded hypocrites at this daring act of Jesus.

Verse 4

But they held their peace (οι δε εσιωπωνhoi de esiōpōn). Imperfect tense. In sullen silence and helplessness before the merciless questions of Jesus as the poor man stood there before them all. Jesus by his pitiless alternatives between doing good (αγατοποιεωagathopoieō late Greek word in lxx and N.T.) and doing evil (κακοποιεωkakopoieō ancient Greek word), to this man, for instance, to save a life or to kill (πσυχην σωσαι η αποκτειναιpsuchēn sōsai ē apokteinai), as in this case. It was a terrible exposure.

Verse 5

When he had looked round on them with anger (περιβλεπσαμενος αυτους μετ οργηςperiblepsamenos autous met' orgēs). Mark has a good deal to say about the looks of Jesus with this word (Mark 3:5, Mark 3:34; Mark 5:37; Mark 9:8; Mark 10:23; Mark 11:11) as here. So Luke only once, Luke 6:10. The eyes of Jesus swept the room all round and each rabbinical hypocrite felt the cut of that condemnatory glance. This indignant anger was not inconsistent with the love and pity of Jesus. Murder was in their hearts and Jesus knew it. Anger against wrong as wrong is a sign of moral health (Gould).

Being grieved at the hardness of their hearts (συνλυπουμενος επι τηι πωρωσει της καρδιας αυτωνsunlupoumenos epi tēi pōrōsei tēs kardias autōn). Mark alone gives this point. The anger was tempered by grief (Swete). Jesus is the Man of Sorrows and this present participle brings out the continuous state of grief whereas the momentary angry look is expressed by the aorist participle above. Their own heart or attitude was in a state of moral ossification (πωρωσιςpōrōsis) like hardened hands or feet. ΠωροςPōros was used of a kind of marble and then of the callus on fractured bones. “They were hardened by previous conceptions against this new truth” (Gould). See also on Matthew 12:9-14.

Verse 6

And straightway with the Herodians took council (ευτυς μετα των ηρωιδιανωνeuthus meta tōn Hērōidianōn). The Pharisees could stand no more. So out they stalked at once in a rage of madness (Luke 6:11) and outside of the synagogue took counsel (συμβουλιον εποιησανsumboulion epoiēsan) or gave counsel (συμβουλιον εδιδουνsumboulion edidoun as some MSS. have it, imperfect tense, offered counsel as their solution of the problem) with their bitter enemies, the Herodians, on the sabbath day still “how they might destroy him” (οπως αυτον απολεσωσινhopōs auton apolesōsin), a striking illustration of the alternatives of Jesus a few moments before, “to save life or to kill.” This is the first mention of the Herodians or adherents of Herod Antipas and the Herod family rather than the Romans. The Pharisees would welcome the help of their rivals to destroy Jesus. In the presence of Jesus they unite their forces as in Mark 8:15; Mark 12:13; Matthew 22:16.

Verse 7

Withdrew to the sea (ανεχωρησεν εις την ταλασσανanechōrēsen eis tēn thalassan). Evidently Jesus knew of the plot to kill him, “perceiving it” (Matthew 12:15). “He and His would be safer by the open beach” (Swete). He has the disciples with him. Vincent notes that on eleven occasions Mark mentions the withdrawals of Jesus to escape his enemies, for prayer, for rest, for private conference with his disciples (Mark 1:12; Mark 3:7; Mark 6:31, Mark 6:46; Mark 7:24, Mark 7:31; Mark 9:2; Mark 10:1; Mark 14:34). But, as often, a great multitude (πολυ πλητοςpolu plēthos) from Galilee followed him.

Verse 8

Hearing what great things he did (ακουοντες οσα ποιειakouontes hosa poiei). Masculine plural present participle, though πλητοςplēthos is neuter singular (construction according to sense in both number and gender). This crowd by the sea came from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond Jordan (Decapolis and Perea), Tyre and Sidon, Phoenicia, North, South, East, and Northwest, even from Idumea (mentioned here alone in the N.T.) won by John Hyrcanus to Palestine. “In our Lord‘s time Idumea was practically a part of Judea with a Jewish circumcised population” (George Adam Smith). Many of these were probably Gentiles (Phoenicia and Decapolis) and may have known only the Greek language. The fame of Jesus had spread through all the regions round about. There was a jam as the crowds came to Jesus by the Sea of Galilee.

Verse 9

That a little boat should wait on him (ινα πλοιαριον προσκαρτερηι αυτωιhina ploiarion proskarterēi autōi). The boat was to keep close (note present tense subjunctive of προσκαρτερεωproskartereō) to the shore in constant readiness and move as Jesus did. Whether he needed it or not is not told, but it was there at hand.

Lest they should throng him (ινα μη τλιβωσιν αυτονhina mē thlibōsin auton). Press or crush him. Jesus stayed with the crowds for they needed him. Present subjunctive again.

Verse 10

Pressed upon him (επιπιπτειν αυτωιepipiptein autōi). Were falling upon him to such an extent that it was dangerous. They were not hostile, but simply intensely eager, each to have his own case attended to by Jesus.

That they might touch him (ινα αυτου απσωνταιhina autou hapsōntai). If only that much. They hoped for a cure by contact with Christ. Aorist subjunctive. It was a really pathetic scene and a tremendous strain on Jesus.

As many as had plagues (οσοι ειχον μαστιγαςhosoi eichon mastigas). Strokes or scourges, terms used by us today as a paralytic stroke, the influenza scourge. Our word plague is from πληγηplēgē (Latin plaga), from πληγνυμιplēgnumi to strike a blow. Common in ancient Greek in this sense. See note on Mark 5:29, Mark 5:34; Luke 7:21 for the same use of μαστιγεςmastiges and also 2 Maccabees 9:11.

Verse 11

Whensoever they beheld him (οταν αυτον ετεωρουνhotan auton etheōroun). Imperfect indicative with οτανhotan of repeated action. They kept falling down before him (προσεπιπτονprosepipton) and crying, (εκραζονekrazon) and he kept charging or rebuking (επιτιμαepitimā) them, all imperfects. The unclean spirits (demons) recognize Jesus as the Son of God, as before. Jesus charged them not to make him known as he had also done before. He did not wish this testimony. It was a most exciting ordeal and is given only by Mark. Note non-final use of ιναhina f0).

Verse 13

He goeth up into the mountain (αναβαινει εις το οροςanabainei eis to oros). So Matthew (Matthew 5:1) and Luke (Luke 6:12), “to pray” Luke adds. Historical present so common in Mark‘s vivid narrative. Neither Gospel gives the name of the mountain, assuming it as well known, probably not far from the lake.

Whom he himself would (ους ητελεν αυτοςhous ēthelen autos). Emphatic use of αυτοςautos (himself) at end of sentence. Whether by personal imitation or through the disciples Jesus invites or calls to himself (προσκαλειταιproskaleitai historical middle present indicative) a select number out of the vast crowds by the sea, those whom he really wished to be with him.

They went off to him (απηλτον προς αυτονapēlthon pros auton). Luke states that Jesus “continued all night in prayer, to God.” It was a crisis in the ministry of Christ. This select group up in the hills probably respected the long agony of Jesus though they did not comprehend his motive. They formed a sort of spiritual body-guard around the Master during his night vigil in the mountain.

Verse 14

He appointed twelve (εποιησεν δωδεκαepoiēsen dōdeka). This was a second selection out of those invited to the hills and after the night of prayer and after day came (Luke 6:13). Why he chose twelve we are not told, probably because there were twelve tribes in Israel. It was a good round number at any rate. They were to be princes in the new Israel (cf. Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; Revelation 21:14, Revelation 21:15). Luke (Luke 6:13-16) also gives the list of the twelve at this point while Matthew (Matthew 10:1-4) postpones giving the names till they are sent out in Galilee. There is a fourth list in Acts 1:13. See discussion of the names of the apostles on Matthew 10:1-4 and pp. 271-3 of my Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ. The three groups of four begin alike (Simon, Philip, James). There are some difficulties.

Whom he also named apostles (hous kai apostolous ōnomasen). Margin of Revised Version, the text of Westcott and Hort after Aleph, B, C, etc. Genuine in Luke 6:13 and probably so here. The meaning is that Jesus himself gave the name apostle or missionary (apostellō to send) to this group of twelve. The word is applied in the New Testament to others besides as delegates or messengers of churches (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25), and messenger (John 13:16). It is applied also to Paul on a par with the twelve (Galatians 1:1, Galatians 1:11., etc.) and also to Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and perhaps also to Timothy and Silas (1 Timothy 2:6.). Two purposes of Jesus are mentioned by Mark in the choice of these twelve, that they might be with him (ους και αποστολους ωνομασενhina ōsin met' autou), and that he might send them forth (αποστελλωkai hina apostellēi autous). They were not ready to be sent forth till they had been with Jesus for some time. This is one of the chief tasks of Christ to train this group of men. See Bruce‘s The Training of the Twelve. The very word ινα ωσιν μετ αυτουapostolos is from και ινα αποστελληι αυτουςapostellō There were two purposes in sending them forth expressed by two infinitives, one to preach (αποστολοςkērussein from αποστελλωkērux herald), the other to have power to cast out demons (κηρυσσεινechein exousian ekballein ta daimonia). This double ministry of preaching and healing was to mark their work. The two things are, however, different, and one does not necessarily involve the other.

Verse 16

Simon he surnamed Peter (επετηκεν ονομα τωι Σιμωνι Πετρονepethēken onoma tōi Simōni Petron). The Greek idiom seems awkward, but it is not. Peter is in apposition with name or ονομαonoma (accusative). This surname Jesus gave in addition (επετηκενepethēken) to Simon (dative case). Here then is a direct reference to what is told in John 1:42 when Jesus met Simon for the first time. Mark here reflects Peter‘s own words. Luke (Luke 6:14) simply says “Whom he also surnamed Peter.” See note on Matthew 16:18 for the full explanation of the name Peter, a Rock, Cephas.

Verse 17

Boanerges, which is Sons of thunder (οανηργες ο εστιν υιοι βροντηςBoanērges ho estin huioi brontēs). This Hebrew nickname is given only by Mark and the reason for it is not clear. It may refer to the fiery temperament revealed in Luke 9:34 when James and John wanted to call down fire on the Samaritan villages that were unfriendly to them. The word literally means sons of tumult, sons of thunder in Syriac. No other epithets are given by Mark save descriptions to distinguish as Simon the Cananaean (or Zealot) and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him (Mark 3:19). Andrew, (from ανηρanēr a man) and Philip (Philippos, fond of horses) are both Greek names. Bartholomew, son of Tolmai, is the Nathanael of John‘s Gospel (John 21:2). He probably had both names. Matthew is a Hebrew name meaning gift of God (ΜατταιοςMaththaios). Thomas is Hebrew and means Twin (Didymus, John 11:16). There are two uses of the name of James (ΙαχωβοςIacōbos Jacob). Thaddeus is another name for Lebbaeus.

Verse 19

He cometh into a house (ερχεται εις οικονerchetai eis oikon). Historical present again and no article with noun. He comes home from the mountain, probably the house of Simon as in Mark 1:29. Mark passes by the Sermon on the Mount given by Matthew and Luke on the mountain (plateau on the mountain in Luke). We have to allow a reasonable interval for Mark‘s narrative. Mark‘s Gospel is full of action and does not undertake to tell all that Jesus did and said.

Verse 20

So that they could not so much as eat bread (ωστε μη δυνασται αυτους μηδε αρτον παγεινhōste mē dunasthai autous mēde arton phagein). Note infinitive with ωστεhōste Apparently Jesus and the disciples indoors with the great crowd in the house and at the door as in Mark 1:32; Mark 2:2 to which Mark refers by “again.” The jam was so great that they could not rest, could not eat, and apparently Jesus could not even teach. The crowd reassembled at once on Christ‘s return from the mountain.

Verse 21

His friends (οι παρ αυτουhoi par' autou). The phrase means literally “those from the side of him (Jesus).” It could mean another circle of disciples who had just arrived and who knew of the crowds and strain of the Galilean ministry who now come at this special juncture. But the idiom most likely means the kinspeople or family of Jesus as is common in the lxx. The fact that in Mark 3:31 “his mother and his brothers” are expressly mentioned would indicate that they are “the friends” alluded to in Mark 3:21. It is a mournful spectacle to think of the mother and brothers saying, He is beside himself (εχεστηexestē). Second aorist active indicative intransitive. The same charge was brought against Paul (Acts 26:24; 2 Corinthians 5:13). We say that one is out of his head. Certainly Mary did not believe that Jesus was in the power of Beelzebub as the rabbis said already. The scribes from Jerusalem are trying to discount the power and prestige of Jesus (Mark 3:22). See notes on Matthew 9:32-34; and note on Matthew 10:25; and note on Matthew 12:24 for Beelzebub and Beelzebul. Mary probably felt that Jesus was overwrought and wished to take him home out of the excitement and strain that he might get rest and proper food. See my The Mother of Jesus: Her Problems and Her Glory. The brothers did not as yet believe the pretensions and claims of Jesus (John 7:5). Herod Antipas will later consider Jesus as John the Baptist redivivus, the scribes treat him as under demonic possession, even the family and friends fear a disordered mind as a result of overstrain. It was a crucial moment for Jesus. His family or friends came to take him home, to lay hold of him (kratēsai), forcibly if need be.

Verse 23

In parables (εν παραβολαιςen parabolais). In crisp pungent thrusts that exposed the inconsistencies of the scribes and Pharisees. See notes in Matthew 13 for discussion of the word parable (παραβοληparabolē placing beside for comparison). These short parabolic quips concern Satan‘s casting out (εκβαλλειekballei the very word used of casting out demons) Satan (rhetorical question), a kingdom divided (μεριστηιmeristhēi for a mere portion) against itself, a house divided (μεριστηιmeristhēi) against itself, two conditions of the third class undetermined, but with prospect of determination.

Verse 27

Spoil (διαρπασαιdiarpasai). Plunder, compound verb, thoroughly ransack. Picture of Satan plundering the demons, the very tools (σκευηskeuē) by which he carried on his business. A reductio ad absurdum. Jesus is the conqueror of Satan, not in league with him.

Verse 29

Guilty of an eternal sin (ενοχος εστιν αιωνιου αμαρτηματοςenochos estin aiōniou hamartēmatos). The genitive of the penalty occurs here with ενοχοςenochos In saying that Jesus had an unclean spirit (Mark 3:30) they had attributed to the devil the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the unpardonable sin and it can be committed today by men who call the work of Christ the work of the devil, Nietzsche may be cited as an instance in point. Those who hope for a second probation hereafter may ponder carefully how a soul that eternally sins in such an environment can ever repent. That is eternal punishment. The text here is αμαρτηματοςhamartēmatos (sin), not κρισεωςkriseōs (judgment), as the Textus Receptus has it.

Verse 31

Standing without (εχω στηκοντεςexō stēkontes). A late present from the perfect εστηκαhestēka Pathetic picture of the mother and brothers standing on the outside of the house thinking that Jesus inside is beside himself and wanting to take him home. They were crowded out.

They sent unto him, calling him (απεστειλαν προς αυτον καλουντες αυτονapesteilan pros auton kalountes auton). They were unwilling to disclose their errand to take him home (Swete) and so get the crowd to pass word unto Jesus on the inside, “calling him” through others. Some of the MSS. add “sisters” to mother and brothers as seeking Jesus.

Verse 32

Was sitting about him (εκατητο περι αυτονekathēto peri auton). They sat in a circle (κυκλωιkuklōi) around Jesus with the disciples forming a sort of inner circle.

Verse 34

Looking round on them (περιβλεπσαμενοςperiblepsamenos). Another of Mark‘s life-like touches. Jesus calls those who do the will of God his mother, brothers, and sisters. This does not prove that the sisters were actually there. The brothers were hostile and that gives point to the tragic words of Jesus. One‘s heart goes out to Mary who has to go back home without even seeing her wondrous Son. What did it all mean to her at this hour?

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Mark 3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.