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I. The meaning of the withered hand. It was a word picture of that infirmity whatever it may be which destroys a man's power of doing anything well in this world of ours. There was a man there who had a withered hand. That right hand, as St. Luke describes it, robbed of its nourishment, hanging helplessly in a sling, was a picture of whatever deprives a man of the power of holy work, and renders him an incumbrance, if not a mischief, in God's great kingdom. (1) The bigotry of the Pharisees rendered them useless in the great kingdom of God and destroyed their power of serving Christ. (2) Prejudices wither up some of the energies of men. (3) Past inconsistences often wither up the power of service. (4) Easily besetting sins will paralyse the usefulness of any man who does not with earnestness, faith, and prayer, wage war against them. (5) The fear of man is another of the silent withering influences which restrain usefulness, and quench our zeal.
II. The healing of the withered hand. Christ came into this world not merely to set man free from the bondage of sin, but to emancipate all his faculties for holy service, to strengthen all his powers, to summon him to work while it is day. He cried in words which are preserved by three Evangelists, "Stretch forth thine hand," and immediately that hand which had no power in itself, which no human skill could heal, felt at once that a Divine energy was given to it. Divine strength was perfected in its weakness, and it was made whole even as the other. There are three lessons of practical value which we may learn from this narrative: (1) We may gather Christ's willingness to heal, as He is ever seeking us; His eye is always scanning our necessity; He knows our imperfections and shortcomings as no other can do, and He is able and willing to remove all that hampers and impedes the freedom of our spiritual life. (2) We may learn the way in which we are to make use of Divine strength. When the man willed to stretch forth his hand God willed in him; the communication of Divine strength was granted to him at the very moment when he determined to obey the will of Christ. This is just a type of what takes place whenever a sinner tries to seize and appropriate God's promises or God's strength. (4) Here is the great rule by which, at all times, we may overcome our listlessness and uselessness in God's service. It is by our own vigorous effort to overcome the withering up of our faculties that we shall test the worth of Divine promises. Let us stretch forth our hands, let us try to serve our Master; and let us work while it is day, for the night cometh.
H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. 207.
I. Christ's detection of human incompleteness. He instantly discovered that there was a man in the synagogue with a withered hand.
II. Jesus Christ's power over partial disease. The man had only a withered hand. In some cases Christ used to heal thoroughly diseased men; in this case the disease was local; yet in both instances His power was the same.
III. Christ's inability to heal the obstinacy of His enemies.
IV. Christ's moral indignation overcoming all outward obstacles. He was indignant with the men who valued the sacredness of a day above the sacredness of a human life.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 68.
References: Mark 3:1-6 . H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 55; Homilist, new series, vol. iii., p. 1; T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 32; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 265; vol. xii., p. 37. Mark 3:2 . W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 135; W. S. Houghton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 340.
Our Lord goes into the synagogue at Capernaum, where He had already wrought more than one miracle, and there He finds an object for His healing power in a poor man with a withered hand; and also a little knot of His enemies. The scribes and Pharisees expect Christ to heal the man. So much had they learned of His tenderness and of His power. But their belief that He could work a miracle did not carry them one step towards a recognition of Him as sent by God. They have no eye for the miracle, because they expect that He is going to break the Sabbath. There is nothing so blind as formal religionism. The poor man's infirmity did not touch their hearts with one little throb of compassion. They had rather that he had gone crippled all his days than that one of their rabbinical Sabbath restrictions should be violated. There is nothing so cruel as formal religionism. Our Lord reduces them all to silence and perplexity by His question, sharp, penetrating, unexpected, "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, or to do evil? You are ready to blame Me as breaking your Sabbatarian regulations if I heal this man. What if I do not heal him? Will that be doing nothing? Will not that be a worse breach of the Sabbath day than if I heal him?" He takes the question altogether out of the region of pedantic rabbinism, and bases His vindication upon the two great principles that mercy and help hallow any day, and that not to do good when we can is to do harm; and not to save life is to kill. They are silenced. His arrow touches them; they do not speak because they cannot answer, and they will not yield. There is a struggle going on in them, which Christ sees, and He fixes them with that steadfast look of His, of which our Evangelist is the only one who tells us what it expressed, and by what it was occasioned. "He looked round about on them with anger, being grieved."
I. Consider, first, the solemn fact of Christ's anger. It is the only occasion, so far as I remember, upon which that emotion is attributed to Him. Once and once only, the flash came out of the clear sky of that meek and gentle heart. He was once angry, and we may learn the lesson of the possibilities that lay slumbering in His love. He was only once angry, and we may learn the lesson that His perfect and Divine charity is not easily provoked. Christ's anger was part of the perfection of His manhood. The man that cannot be angry at evil lacks enthusiasm for good. The nature that is incapable of being touched with generous and righteous indignation is so, generally, either because it lacks fire and emotion altogether, or because its vigour has been dissolved into a lazy indifference, and easy good nature which it mistakes for love. It is one of the strengths of man that he shall be able to glow with indignation at evil.
II. Look at the compassion which goes with our Lord's anger here. "Being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." The somewhat singular word rendered here "grieved" may either simply imply that this sorrow co-existed with the anger, or it may describe the sorrow as being sympathy or compassion. I am disposed to take it in the latter application; and so the lesson that we gather from these words is the blessed thought that Christ's wrath was all blended with compassion and sympathetic sorrow. The scribes and Pharisees had very little notion that there was anything about them to compassionate. But the thing which in the sight of God makes the true evil of men's condition is not their circumstances, but their sins. The one thing to weep for when we look at the world is not its misfortunes, but its wickedness. Men are divided into two classes in their way of looking at wickedness in this world one set rigid and stern, and crackling into wrath; the other set placid and good-natured, and ready to weep over it as a calamity and misfortune and the like, but afraid or unwilling to say, "These poor creatures are to be blamed as well as pitied." We have to make an effort to keep in the centre, and never to look round in anger, unsoftened by pity, nor in pity, enfeebled by being separated from righteous indignation.
III. Note the occasion for both the sorrow and the anger. "Being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." And what was hardening their hearts? It was He! Why were their hearts being hardened? Because they were looking at Him, His graciousness, His goodness, and His power, and were steeling themselves against Him, opposing to His grace and tenderness their own obstinate determination. Nothing so tends to harden a man's heart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as religious formalism.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Oct. 23rd, 1884.
References: Mark 3:5 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1893; J. S. Exell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 374; J. J. Goadby, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 200; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 226; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 539; B. F. Westcott, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 461.
I. There is a time to withdraw from opponents.
II. Withdrawment is not necessarily the result of cowardice.
III. Withdrawment from one sphere should be followed by entrance into another. Great things draw great multitudes. How did Christ exercise His influence over great throngs? (1) He never lowered the moral tone of His teaching. (2) He was never unequal to the increasing demands made upon His power. (3) He never requested the multitude to help Him in any selfish endeavours.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 69.
References: Mark 3:7-9 . Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. vii., p. 515.Mark 3:7-12 . J. S. Exell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 408; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 267. Mark 3:7-19 . H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 60. Mark 3:8 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1529. Mark 3:9 . Todd, Lectures to Children, p. 140; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 291.Mark 3:10 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 841.Mark 3:13 . Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 254.Mark 3:13 , Mark 3:14 . Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 311.Mark 3:13-19 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 337; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 30. Mark 3:14 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. i., p. 29. Mark 3:17 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 381.Mark 3:20 , Mark 3:21 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 48. Mark 3:20-30 . H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 65.Mark 3:22-30 . W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 190.
Christ now encounters open hostility in addition to friendly, though mischievous remonstrance. A theory of explanation was proposed by the scribes. Christ's answer to that theory shows (1) that the opinions of leading minds may be entirely fallacious; and (2) that common sense often suggests the best answer to fanciful theories respecting the work of Christ. Christ's whole answer turned upon the common sense of His position. He does not plead authority; nor does He plead exemption from the ordinary laws of thought and service; He simply puts in the plea of common sense.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 70.
The world, or, to reduce the subject to what is equally true, and perhaps more practical, every one's own heart, is we have the authority of Christ to say it "a house" or a palace, which Satan, as a strong man, holds and keeps. So long as the strong man holds his palace on an undisputed tenure, it is all quiet; his goods are in peace. But when Christ, who is represented as the stronger One, comes, there is warfare warfare to the death; and thus warfare in the breast is the first, and for a long while the only, token for good. There are three stages, then. We will take them in their order.
I. First, "the strong man armed keepeth his palace." The strong one none know how strong, but those who try to escape and break off his tyranny so strong, that his strength is unseen, while in stillness and in silence he holds his own; so strong that the greatest determination of the most strong-minded man, unaided, trying to break any one of those many bonds, would be as if he were to try to uproot a mountain.
II. But the stronger comes, and now the fighting begins. Unknown to you, the stronger is binding the strong one. Heavy blasts blew, bitter winds came, and severe discipline and desolating bereavements fell upon you; but they were never meant to hurt you; they were to kill the strong one, the power of evil that is in you.
III. Now mark the spoil. He will bind the strong man, and then he will spoil his house. The habit of sin broken, the power of sin reduced, the love of sin destroyed the soul is emancipated; and now Christ is free to claim His own property, which His own blood has purchased, and His own right hand has rescued. Has He not a right? Are not all the spoils His? So once, two thousand years ago, when He had gained the victory over the whole world by His death, and when He had led captivity captive "up to the highest heaven," He took His seat before the throne, and distributed to men, from His royal greatness, the good things which, by that death, He had redeemed from Satan's grasp. Then, the outpourings of the day of Pentecost then the largesses of pardon, life, grace, joy, wisdom, service, love, heaven, which from His throne He is always pouring upon men. He had bound the strong man on Calvary. He had restored the property to the lawful owner, and then He ascended into the heaven of heavens, and "divided the spoils."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1867, p. 45.
Human life as affected by two different forces.
I. The strong enemy.
II. The strong friend. Man must be under one or other of these forces, the enemy or the friend. Those who continue under the devil will share the ruin to which he is doomed. When Satan's head is bruised, all who are in Satan's empire will be crushed.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 71.
References: Mark 3:27 . J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 292.Mark 3:28-30 . S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 321; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 110; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 207. Mark 3:30 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 68.
I. The spirituality of Christ's relationships. The kinship of the body is held subordinate to the kinship of the spirit.
II. The true bond of communion with Christ is obedience to God's will. (1) There is but one infallible will. (2) That will appeals for universal obedience.
III. The privileges resulting from communion with Christ. ( a ) Intimate relationship mother, sister, brother. ( b ) Social communion this is the family idea.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 71.
References: Mark 3:31-35 . Homilist, vol. vi., p. 428; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 70; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 372.Mark 3:34 , Mark 3:35 . J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 33.Mark 3:35 . H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 246. Mark 4:1-12 . H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 75.Mark 4:1-20 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ix., p. 331.Mark 4:1-34 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 41.
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