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Bible Commentaries
Mark 3

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

Mark 3:1. He entered again. On the next Sabbath (Luke 6:6). ‘Again’ may refer to Mark 1:21. In that case the place was Capernaum.

The synagogue . It is doubtful whether we should render: ‘the ‘or ‘a synagogue.’ Matthew says definitely ‘their synagogue,’ i.e. , that of His opponents. Luke adds that ‘He taught there.’

Withered. This word suggests disease or accident as the cause. It was the ‘right hand’ (Luke).

Verses 1-6

Mark 3:1-6. See on Matthew 12:9-14.

Verses 1-12

CHRONOLOGY . See on Matthew 11:1-21. These events took place just before the choosing of the Twelve (Mark 2:14, etc.). On the theory of a three years’ ministry in Galilee, they occurred shortly after the visit to Jerusalem mentioned in John 5:0, when the enmity of the Jews was awakened on this point of Sabbath observance. The interval between the call of Levi and these controversies may have been of considerable length.

Verse 2

Mark 3:2. And they watched him. Watched Him closely.

Whether he would. Lit., ‘will’ Mark’s account being in the present tense.

Verse 3

Mark 3:3. Stand forth. This command is omitted by Matthew. The account of Luke (Luke 6:8) is fullest. The subsequent discourse is rendered more impressive by the position of the diseased man.

Verse 4

Mark 3:4. Matthew 12:10; Matthew 12:10 shows that the question of our Lord was preceded by one from the Pharisees, just as His command had been occasioned by ‘their thoughts’ or ‘reasonings’ (Luke 6:8).

Is it lawful? i.e., according to the Mosaic law.

To do good, or to do harm. To benefit, or to injure, rather than to do right or to do wrong. This is repeated yet more forcibly: to save a life or to kill? Our Lord thus establishes the propriety of works of mercy on the Sabbath, even according to the Mosaic law (see on Matthew 12:11-12, where the falling of a sheep into a pit is introduced). His opponents were silenced; and his authority as ‘Lord also of the Sabbath’ (chap. Mark 2:28) is then vindicated by the miracle.

Verse 5

Mark 3:5. And he looked round about on them. So Luke, who adds ‘all,’ implying that He took a formal survey of those in the synagogue.

With anger. A holy indignation, mentioned by Mark alone, and no doubt expressed in His look.

Being grieved for the hardening of their hearts. The original implies a compassionate sympathy for their spiritual insensibility. These two feelings, usually excluding each other, are here combined. In this, Christ manifests the character of God as Holy Love, His anger was the result of holiness, His compassion of love. This character is revealed in the Bible alone. Of themselves men discover either God’s anger, forgetting His love, or His mercy, forgetting His holiness. So, too, they are usually angry without compassion, or compassionate without being just. ‘Hardening’ is preferable to ‘hardness,’ since the original suggests a process as well as a result. This process was going on as the effect of their opposition to Him, and as a punishment for this sin against privilege. For it man is responsible, and it can put men beyond the reach of the Saviour’s compassion. Not that anything is too hard for Him, but He never saves us against our will. On the cure, see Matthew 12:13.

Verse 6

Mark 3:6. With the Herodians. Mark alone mentions this fact. The Herodians were the court party, the adherents of the Herods. As friends of the Romans they were the political antagonists of the Pharisees.

Held a consultation. ‘Took counsel’ is too indefinite; ‘held a council’ implies a formal, legal assembly. Hatred of the truth produced this strange alliance. The Pharisees were ‘filled with madness’ (Luke), and would seek the support of those who could help them in their purpose, as they afterwards did that of Pilate. Dislike of John the Baptist may have made the Herodians hostile to Jesus also. ‘Hierarchs and despots are necessary to each other,’ and combine against Christ.

Verses 7-8

Mark 3:7-8. Withdrew. Not to avoid the multitudes, but rather to fulfil His ministry among them, undisturbed by the opposition of the Pharisees.

To the sea. To the shores of the sea of Galilee; perhaps to a boat from which He might teach (Mark 3:9, chap. Mark 4:1; comp. Luke 5:3). This description of the crowds waiting upon His ministry is the fullest given in the Gospels. The verses are unfortunately divided in the E. V. Two classes are spoken of, first, a great multitude from Galilee, where He was teaching, who followed him, holding to Him in His conflict with the Pharisees, then: from Judea, etc.

A great multitude, who in consequence of the reports of His works came unto him. Others prefer to distinguish the second crowd as those who came from Tyre and Sidon, but the correct reading forbids this view. The original emphasizes the greatness of the crowd in the first instance, and in the second their coming from different and distant places.

Idumea. Edom, southeast of Palestine, a sort of border land between the Jews and Gentiles. The inhabitants were descendants of Esau, but had been conquered and made Jews by violence about one hundred and twenty-five years before Christ.

Beyond Jordan. Perea, east of Jordan.

About Tyre and Sidon. The leading cities of Phenicia, north of Palestine along the sea-coast. They stand here for the whole district. Probably Jews and heathen alike came from all these quarters. The route of traffic between the points here specified was by Capernaum, so that reports would quickly spread and crowds easily gather.

Verse 9

Mark 3:9. That a small boat. The original refers to a boat even smaller than the usual fishing-boats.

Wait on him. Be constantly at His service.

Because of the crowd. A different word from ‘multitude’ (Mark 3:7-8), though the one usually so translated. The purpose was probably both to teach from the boat and to retire from the crowd when He wished. It was doubtless thus that He retired shortly afterwards (Mark 3:13). His ministry, rather than His personal comfort, was thus furthered.

Verse 10

Mark 3:10. They pressed upon him. Not merely gathered about Him to hear Him, and thus created a pressure, but actually pushed themselves upon Him, to touch him. The last clause shows that all were healed, as Matthew states.

Plagues. Lit., ‘scourges,’ not a particular class of diseases, as the word ‘plagues’ now implies. On the healing power, comp. Luke 6:19.

Verse 11

Mark 3:11. And unclean spirits. The demon identified himself with the person, since the confession was undoubtedly that of the evil spirit.

Whenever they saw him. This was the usual effect

Fell down before him and cried. The possessed man fell down, and his voice uttered the cry; but both acts are attributed to the evil spirit; hence the intimate possession.

The son of God. Comp. chap. Mark 1:24; Mark 1:34.

Verse 12

Mark 3:12. And he charged them much. Matthew 12:16, shows that some such charge was given to all who were healed; probably to prevent a premature rupture with the Pharisees. But the prohibition to evil spirits was special, and usually given. See the addition Matthew (Matthew 12:17-21) makes to this account of our Lord’s healing.

Verse 13

Mark 3:13. Into the mountain . Probably the mount of Beatitudes (comp. Matthew 5:1); or possibly the hill country in contrast with the seashore. Our Lord spent the previous night in prayer, choosing the Apostles in the morning (Luke 6:12-13).

Whom he himself would. The freedom of choice is made prominent. He gathered a larger number of disciples about Him and chose out twelve (Luke 6:13). This verse probably refers to the latter act. Strictly speaking, this was rather the formal announcement of His choice, for most of them (seven at least, had been specially called before this time.

They went, lit., ‘went away’ (i.e., from the others) unto him.

Verses 13-19

Luke tells or great works or healing immediately succeeding the choice of the Twelve. During the withdrawal, after the opening hostility of the Pharisees (Mark 3:7), this choice took place, followed by the Sermon on the Mount, of which Mark makes no mention. This event is to be distinguished from the sending out of the Twelve. See notes on Matthew 9:36; Matthew 10:4. Comp. Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1.

Verse 14

Mark 3:14. Appointed. Literally, ‘made,’ nominated, set apart. The word ‘ordained’ may mislead. The addition ‘whom also He named apostles,’ found in some authorities, is probably taken from Luke.

That they might be with him. This hints that they were first to be trained for their work. The best preparation for doing Christ’s work is being with Christ.

Send them forth. This took place afterwards. The word Mark uses implies that they were ‘Apostles,’ a title now given them (Luke 6:13), yet rarely applied by the other Evangelists. The discipleship was the main point while Christ lived, and only through the direct choice of the Master to the most intimate discipleship, did they become Apostles.

Verse 15

Mark 3:15. The phrase, ‘to heal sicknesses’ is to be omitted. Mark gives special prominence to the power of casting out demons.

Verse 16

Mark 3:16. He surnamed Peter. It is not asserted that this name was first given on this occasion. Still the words of our Lord at His first meeting with Simon (John 1:42) were prophetic, and Mark seems to have mentioned the name for the first time here, because it was the Apostolic name. On the lists of Apostles, see Matthew 10:1-4.

Verse 17

Mark 3:17. Boanerges. A transfer into Greek of an Aramaic word, which was modified from the Hebrew. Mark, writing for other than Jews, interprets it. He alone mentions it.

Sons of thunder. This seems to have been occasioned by their ‘ vehement and zealous disposition, as indicated in Luke 9:54; comp. Mark 9:38.’ This does not imply censure; for these traits, when sanctified, would be praiseworthy. John was not, as he is often portrayed, of a soft and almost effeminate disposition. Such neutral characters are rarely heroes of faith. The Apocalypse reveals the son of thunder. The name may refer also to the corresponding character of their eloquence. Powerful, fervid preachers are still thus termed. With the ancients, thunder was the symbol for profound and solemn utterances. The name would be prophetic in this application. It was not used frequently, like Simon’s surname, because it was borne by two brothers, one of whom was martyred earliest.

Verse 18

Mark 3:18. Matthew arranges the Twelve by pairs; Mark does not. In other respects the lists of Matthew and Mark correspond most closely.

Cananaean, or, ‘Zealot;’ see Matthew 10:4; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13.

Verse 19

Mark 3:19. And he cometh into a house. This indicates a return to Capernaum; as the succeeding events probably took place there. The sentence, therefore, properly belongs to the next section. In the interval a number of important events took place; see next note. If a particular house is meant, there is an undesigned coincidence. Matthew, in prefacing the parables of our Lord, tells us He went ‘out of the house,’ without having spoken of His entering one. Those parables were uttered just after the events next recorded by Mark, who speaks of this entering a house, without telling of His going out.

Verse 20

Mark 3:20. Cometh together again. If the last clause of Mark 3:19 means a return to Capernaum, ‘again ‘must refer to chap. Mark 2:1.

They could not so much as eat bread. A vivid description of the thronging. Our Lord and His disciples could not find time to have their regular meals. Notice the excitement and popularity was now at its height; the opposition now takes definite form and stems the tide.

Verses 20-35

CHRONOLOGY. At this point we find the largest gap in Mark’s narrative. Shortly after the choice of the Twelve, the Sermon on the Mount was delivered. See notes on Matthew. On and after the return to Capernaum, a number of events took place, recorded partly by Matthew and partly by Luke, and in most cases by both. The miracle immediately preceding the occurrences of the section before us, was the healing of a blind and dumb demoniac (Matthew 12:22), which called forth the charge of the scribes (Mark 3:22). Mark 3:20-21, are peculiar to Mark.

Verse 21

Mark 3:21. His friends, lit. ‘those by him.’ The exact reference is doubtful. The nearer relatives, spoken of in Mark 3:31, may not be included, since they waited outside; but probably the whole circle was engaged in this effort with varying feelings, the immediate family persisting longer (see on Matthew 12:46).

Heard it, i.e. what was going on; they may have heard that the scribes had come with a hostile purpose (Mark 3:22).

They went out, etc. Either from Nazareth, or from their house in Capernaum, since it is uncertain in which place they now lived.

For they said. The relatives just spoken of.

He is beside himself. This implies either actual insanity in a bad sense, or religious enthusiasm and ecstasy, even to derangement, in a good sense. While an accusation of madness on the part of His relatives is neither impossible nor improbable, so long as they were not true believers, it may have been a mere pretext. As His enemies had already, in all probability, said that He was possessed, His relatives, from motives of policy, may have adopted this modification of the charge to get Him away; with this, anxiety for His health may have entered as a motive. The context favors the thought that the motive was policy resulting from want of faith, though perhaps not from positive disbelief. This doubting, worldly policy, which could seek to shelter Him by meeting the accusations of His foes half way, is in keeping with the desire to thrust Him forward which was afterwards shown (John 7:3-5) Yet even among these relatives there was probably a great variety of opinions regarding Him.

Verse 22

Mark 3:22. The scribes that came down from Jerusalem. Mark thus defines the parties, while Matthew (Matthew 12:23) states the occasion of the accusation. The purpose of their coming was doubtless to entrap and oppose Him, and hence the place was probably Capernaum, since they would go to His headquarters.

He hath Beelzebub. See on Matthew 10:25; Matthew 12:24. Mark, however, both here and in Mark 3:20, states with greatest definiteness that they charged Him, not only with exercising Satanic power, but with being Himself possessed by an evil spirit.

Verses 22-30

Mark 3:22-30. See notes on Matthew 12:23-32.

Verse 26

Mark 3:26. But hath an end, i.e., ceases to be what he is; the supposition, which His enemies advanced, would, if fully carried out, argue Satan out of existence.

Verse 29

Mark 3:29. Guilty of, more than in danger of, or even liable to, indicating a present subjection to.

An eternal sin. Thus Mark expresses the same idea given by Matthew; ‘neither in this world, nor in that to come.’ The word we translate ‘sin’ includes the idea of guilt (Romans 3:25; Romans 5:16), but can scarcely be rendered “punishment.” It usually refers to an act, rather than a state of sin, but eternal sin points to an unending state of activity in sin. Damnation, or ‘judgment,’ is an explanatory alteration of the original text. The correct reading implies that the unpardonable sin, though it may begin with one act of blasphemy (Mark 3:30), results in a state of sinful activity which continues forever. For this reason it is unpardonable. The punishment is perpetual, because the sin is perpetual. The sin excludes pardon, because it excludes repentance. The remark of Matthew refers to the guilt, that of Mark to the sin itself, explaining the former. This is the most fearful aspect of eternal punishment; namely, being forever deprived of the needed influences of the Holy Spirit, and hence in a state of eternally growing sin and guilt. Conscious existence is evidently implied by the word chosen. Further, while the next verse suggests a particular form of the unpardonable sin, this phrase favors the view that it is an active state rather than a particular act. See on Matthew 12:32.

Verse 30

Mark 3:30. Because they said, he hath an unclean spirit. This does not necessarily define the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, but certainly indicates its character. Ever if these accusers had not committed it, their language tended in that direction. They had attributed to an evil spirit what was the work of the Holy Spirit, that too in presence of sufficient evidence of its true character.

Verses 31-35

Mark 3:31-35. Comparing these verses with the account of Matthew (Matthew 12:46-50), we find that Mark omits the introductory phrase; ‘While He yet talked to the people; in Mark 3:31 he tells us that His mother and brothers sent unto him; in Mark 3:32 he inserts: And a multitude was sitting about him; in Mark 3:34 he mentions our Lord’s glance: And he looked round, instead of the gesture preserved by Matthew: ‘And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples.’ The look was probably one of affectionate recognition; contrast the look of anger and grief (Mark 3:5). That the look as well as the word applied to more than the Twelve is evident. The blessed truth belongs to multitudes who sit about Jesus and feel His look of affection in a higher spiritual sense.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 3". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/mark-3.html. 1879-90.
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