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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Mark 3

Verses 5-7


Mark 3:5-7. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. But Jesus withdrew himself with his Disciples to the sea.

THE exercise of benevolence is, in itself, calculated to excite universal admiration; but it is far from producing that effect on those who are blinded by prejudice or passion. They whose conduct is reproved by it will rather take occasion from it to vent their spleen the more. This our Lord uniformly experienced from the Pharisees. A remarkable instance of it is recorded in the text. Let us,


Consider the circumstances of the miracle—

The Pharisees, observing our Lord’s intention to heal a man who had a withered hand, questioned his right to do so on the Sabbath-day—
[Wishing to accuse him of inconsistency, or a contempt of the law, they asked him whether it was lawful to heal on the sabbath-day [Note: Matthew 12:10.]? Our Lord shewed them, that it was [Note: Matthew 12:11-12.]. He then asked them, Whether, while they condemned him for doing so benevolent an action on the Sabbath, they were more justified in indulging murderous purposes against him on the Sabbath [Note: ver. 4. This seems the true import of this question.]? They, unable to answer except to their own confusion, “held their peace.” Though convinced of their unreasonableness and impiety, they would not confess it.]

Our Lord beheld their obstinacy with indignation and grief—
[Meek as our Lord was, he was susceptible of anger; yet that anger was not like the passion that too often agitates us. It was perfectly just and righteous. Sin was the object against which it was directed; and, while he was angry with the sin, he mourned over the sinner. Hereafter indeed his anger will be unmixed with any pity; but now it is, as ours also should ever be, tempered with compassion towards the offending person.]
Not intimidated by their malice, he proceeded to heal the withered hand—
[He bade the man stand forth in the midst of all. Surely such a pitiable object should have engaged all to interest themselves with Christ in his behalf. He then ordered him to stretch forth his hand. The man, notwithstanding he knew his inability to do it of himself, attempted to obey, and, in the attempt, received an instantaneous and perfect cure.]
Having thus more than ever exasperated his enemies, Jesus retired from their rage—
[One would have thought that all should have adored the author of such a benefit: but, instead of this, the Pharisees were “filled with madness [Note: Luke 6:11.].” Alas! what wickedness is there in the human heart! They joined immediately with the Herodians in a conspiracy against his life [Note: The Herodians and Pharisees differed so widely both in their political and religious sentiments, that they hated each other exceedingly. But what enemies will not unite against Jesus? Luke 23:12.]: but our Lord’s hour was not yet come; he withdrew therefore from their power, and thus defeated, for the present at least, their efforts against him.]

Having thus touched upon the principal incidents in the miracle, we shall proceed to,


Deduce from it some practical observations—

My first observation refers to our blessed Lord who wrought the miracle—
[Did our Lord in defiance of the rage of the surrounding Pharisees discharge his office boldly, yet, when he saw their murderous designs, withdraw himself? Then it may be observed, that, though we are never to decline any duty through the fear of man, yet are we at liberty to avoid the storms which we cannot allay.

Nothing is more clear than the duty of dismissing from our hearts altogether the fear of man. “Fear not man who can only kill the body; but fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell [Note: Luke 12:4-5.Isaiah 51:7-8; Isaiah 51:7-8; Isaiah 51:12-13.] — — — Indeed so obvious is this duty, that it commends itself even to the most prejudiced and embittered mind [Note: Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29.] — — — Not life itself is to be of any value in our eyes in comparison of a faithful adherence to this principle: we must be ready to lay down our lives for Christ’s sake, if ever we would be approved of him in the day of judgment [Note: Matthew 10:38-39.] — — —

But this does not forbid our prudently withdrawing from scenes of danger, provided we can do it without making any compromise of our fidelity to God. The seventy whom our Lord sent out to preach his Gospel, were told, that, “if they were persecuted in one city, they should flee to another [Note: Matthew 10:23.].” And St. Paul, when the Jews of Damascus watched the gates night and day in order to destroy him, was let down by the wall in a basket, in order that he might escape their murderous rage [Note: Acts 9:23-25.]. On many occasions our Lord himself withdrew from those who sought his life. And when Paul would have gone into the theatre at Ephesus, the Disciples kept him from his purpose, because they knew that he would instantly be put to death by his blood-thirsty enemies [Note: Acts 19:30-31.]. The truth is, that life is a talent to be improved for God, and is not to be carelessly thrown away. We must be willing to sacrifice it, if called to do so in the providence of God. Neither a fiery furnace, nor a den of lions must so intimidate us, as to cause any violation of our integrity. But if, consistently with fidelity to God, we may preserve life, our duty is rather to preserve it for God, than to throw it away by a needless exposure of it to dangers which we cannot withstand.]

My next observation relates to him in whom the miracle was wrought—
[Did the man with the withered hand, in compliance with the Lord’s command, stretch out his hand, and in that act experience the healing of it? Then we, however desperate am condition be, should endeavour to execute the commands of God, and in that act expect his blessing on our souls.

Doubtless we are in ourselves as impotent as the man with the withered hand. But are we therefore at liberty to sit still without making any effort to save ourselves? If that man who laboured under a natural infirmity had refused to make the effort which our Lord enjoined, he had in all probability lost the cure which, in making the attempt, he obtained. How much more then shall we be left to rue our folly, if we, whose impotence is only of a moral nature, decline using the means which God has ordained! It is our duty to repent: it is our duty to believe in Christ: it is our duty to surrender up ourselves unreservedly to God. And if, when called to these exertions, we excuse ourselves by saying that we are not able, we shall provoke Almighty God to withhold from us the blessings which we so greatly need, and which he is ever ready to bestow upon us. He has told us, that “his Spirit shall help our infirmities.” But how will he help us? Not by moving us without any co-operation on our part, but by taking hold of the opposite end of a burthen, and bearing it together with us [Note: Romans 8:26. συναντιλαμβάνεται.]. Very remarkable is that answer which Jehovah gave to his people of old. The Church prayed, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord.” The Lord answered, “Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem.” “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion [Note: Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 52:1.]” God does not need our efforts; but he requires them; and when they are put forth in obedience to his commands, and in dependence on his grace, he will “perfect his own strength in our weakness.”

I call upon you all then to repent of sin, to flee to Christ for refuge from the guilt and power of it, and to consecrate yourselves unreservedly to him. I readily acknowledge, that you are not of yourselves sufficient for these things: but “the grace of Christ is, and shall be, sufficient for you,” if, in dependence on his promised aid, you will address yourselves to these all-important duties. “Be workers together with God;” and he will never suffer you to work in vain. I grant, you are asleep; I grant, you are dead: but I say with confidence, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light [Note: Ephesians 5:14.].”]

My last observation is, that if, like this man, you have experienced the mighty working of Christ’s power, you must, throughout the whole remainder of your lives, shew yourselves living monuments of his power and grace.

[Wherever he went, he was a witness for Christ. And such must you be. You must let it be seen that he both does and will renew the powers of a withered soul, and infuse into it such energies as shall bear the stamp and character of divinity upon them. And one such witness, if he provoke hostility in some, will afford the greatest possible encouragement to others. The Sabbath-day is now the time that our Lord especially selects for the communication of his blessings to the souls of men. But the generality are content with an attendance on outward ordinances, without expecting any peculiar blessing from them. Let it however be seen in you that “his word is quick and powerful,” and, that to those who receive it aright, it “is the power of God to their salvation.”]

Verses 31-35


Mark 3:31-35. There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother [Note: Another on nearly the same words (Matthew 12:46-50.) has occurred before. But on a comparison of the two they are so exceedingly different, that without altering a word in either, they are both presented to the public, in hope that both of them may be profitable, as illustrating different modes of treating the same text.].

IT is common for persons to feel an undue degree of solicitude for the bodily welfare of their friends, whilst they have little anxiety for the spiritual and eternal welfare of mankind at large. Hence, if a minister be in danger of impairing his health by his exertions, they are ready to say to him, “Spare thyself” but, if thousands be perishing all around them for lack of knowledge, they are not so ready to stir him up to increased activity and diligence. The near relations of our Lord were under the influence of this partial regard, when “they went out to lay hold on him, and said of him, “He is beside himself;” or, as it might rather be translated, “He is transported too far [Note: ver. 20, 21. ὅτι ἐξέστη.].” It should seem that it was with that view that they called for him at this time: they were afraid that he would sink under the weight of his continued labours. But he felt, that both health, and life too, were well sacrificed in such a cause: and therefore he disregarded their message, and turned it into an occasion of expressing the greatness of his regard for his obedient followers.

From this declaration of our Lord, we shall be led to shew,


The character of those whom Jesus loves—

This is expressed in few, but comprehensive words; “They do the will of God.” But what is this will? It includes two things:


They believe in Jesus Christ—

[This is eminently the will of God [Note: 3 John 1:6; 3 John 1:63 John 1:6:29.]: and till this be done, nothing is done to any good purpose: the persons remain, and ever must remain, objects of his wrath [Note: John 3:18; John 3:36.] — — — This therefore they do in the first place — — — And they do it humbly, renouncing utterly every other ground of hope — — — and thankfully adoring God from their inmost souls for such a refuge — — —]


They seek after universal holiness—

[This also is the will of God [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:3.]; nor are the loudest professions of attachment to Christ of any avail without it [Note: Matthew 7:21.] — — —And, this also they do. And they do it unreservedly, accounting “no commandment grievous [Note: 1 John 5:3.]” — — — and in a progressive manner, never thinking they have attained, while any thing remains to be attained [Note: Philippians 3:12-14.] — — —

We pass on to consider,


The regard he bears towards them—

Our Lord gives them the preference to his nearest relations, as such; and honours them with the most endearing appellations of brother, sister, mother. Now from this we must understand, that,


He bears the tenderest affection towards them—

[We naturally expect the warmest affection to subsist between persons so closely allied to each other. But the love that is found amongst earthly relatives is but a faint image of that which both Christ and his Father feel towards all their obedient followers [Note: John 14:21.] — — —]


He will give them the most familiar access to him—

[His mother and his brethren were all this time without, whilst Jesus and his attentive followers were within, the house: and, though solicited by his own mother, he would not go out to her, because it would deprive them of the instructions which they were anxious to receive. And who can tell, what gracious communications Jesus will vouchsafe to those who serve him in spirit and in truth? They shall never seek his face in vain: they shall never call for him, but he will answer them, Here I am [Note: Compare John 14:23. with Isaiah 58:9; Isaiah 65:24.] — — —]


He will order every thing for their good—

[Any man that is not devoid of principle will consult the good of his family, when the management of their affairs is committed to him. And will not Jesus, who is constituted “Head over all things for the express benefit of his Church [Note: Ephesians 1:22.],” be attentive to the interests of his obedient people? Will he not supply all their wants, mitigate all their sorrows, and over rule all things for their eternal good [Note: Romans 8:28.]? — — —]


He will own them as his, in the last day—

[Suppose him in that day surrounded by the whole assembled universe; and many who were once related to him in the flesh, or who once professed themselves his followers, calling upon him, and saying, ‘We want a nearer access to thee; “we have eaten and drunk in thy presence; we have cast out devils in thy name, and in thy name done many wonderful works;” we are thy brethren, thy sisters, thy nearest and dearest relatives.’ Methinks he will then renew the same gracious declaration that is contained in our text; “Who is my mother, or my brethren?” And then, “stretching out his hand towards his obedient followers, he will say, Behold my mother, and my brethren: for, whosoever did the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”]


How reasonable are the terms on which Christ proposes to acknowledge us as his disciples!

[He requires that all who would be his disciples should apparently cast off all regard for their nearest friends and relatives [Note: Luke 14:26.]. I say apparently; for nothing is really farther from his intentions, than to encourage, either by this declaration, or by that in the text, any disrespect to our parents: on the contrary, we are commanded to honour our parents; and are told by the Apostle, that “that is the first commandment with promise.” But when our love or obedience to earthly parents stands in competition with our obedience to Christ, then we must resemble Levi; in commendation of whom it is said, “He said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children [Note: Deuteronomy 33:9. with Exodus 32:26-28.].” And shall this appear harsh or unreasonable? See what Jesus has done for us: He knew not his mother and his brethren in comparison of his believing and obedient people: and shall we prefer our earthly relatives to him? If he has so loved us, who are altogether polluted, and deserve nothing but evil at his hands, how much more should we so love him, who is altogether lovely, and deserves infinitely more love at our hands than eternity will be sufficient to express!]


What encouragement have we to comply with these terms!

[In complying with the terms which Christ has proposed, and adhering to him in opposition to the will of earthly friends, we may possibly incur their displeasure, and feel to the uttermost of their power the effects of their resentment: they may frown upon us, disown us, disinherit us. But “when father and mother forsake us, the Lord will take us up.” His express promise is, that for one father, mother, brother, sister, house, or estate we lose for his sake, we shall even in this life receive a hundred fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, houses, and estates [Note: Mark 10:29-30.]. Does any one ask, How shall this be accomplished? We might answer, that it is abundantly verified in the regard shewn to us by the Lord’s people: but, independent of that, we say, the Lord Jesus will give himself to us, and be to us more than ten thousand relatives, or ten thousand worlds. Let any one say, whether the love of Christ, the grace of Christ, and the glory of Christ, do not compensate a hundred-fold for all the creature-love, and all the temporal advantages, that we can lose for him? Let the determination then of Joshua be ours; that whatever course others may follow, and whatever obstacles they may lay in our way, “we, with God’s help, will serve the Lord.”]


How unlike to Christ are they, to whom a compliance with these terms is odious!

[None are so odious in the eyes of the ungodly world as the true, faithful, determined Christian. The generality, instead of loving him in proportion to his advancement in piety, will despise him; and will make his high attainments, not only the occasion, but the measure, of their contempt. They will be ashamed to acknowledge a pious character as a relation, or friend, or even as an acquaintance. They would rather be seen in public with an infidel or debauchee, than with one who was eminent for his love to Christ. But how unlike to Christ are they; when the very thing which endears them to him, renders them odious in their eyes! Surely it will be well for such persons to consider what Christ’s views of them must be? for if the godly are so precious to him because they are godly, surely the haters and despisers of godliness must for that very reason be most hateful in his eyes. Accordingly he has told us, how he will resent the contempt shewn to his people; and that “it were better for a man to have a millstone hanged about his neck, and to be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of his little ones [Note: Matthew 18:6.].”]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Mark 3". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.