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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Mark 3

Introduction

CHAP. III.

Christ healeth the withered hand, and many other infirmities: rebuketh the unclean spirits: chooseth his twelve Apostles: convinceth those of blasphemy who charged him with casting out devils by Beelzebub; and sheweth who are his brother, sister, and mother.

Anno Domini 31.

Verse 3

Mark 3:3. And he said unto the man—Stand forth. Our Lord ordered the man to shew himself to the whole congregation, that the sight of his distress might move them to pity him, and that they might be the more sensibly struck with the miracle, when theysaw the withered hand restored to its former dimensions and activity in an instant.

Verse 5

Mark 3:5. And when he had looked, &c.— Our Saviour looked about upon all, in such a manner, as to shew both his indignation at their wickedness, and his grief for their impenitence. He knew that his arguments did not prevail with his enemies present, because they wereresisting the conviction of their own minds; and he was both angry at their obstinacy, and grieved on account of the consequences of it; shewing these just affections of his righteous spirit by his looks, that if possible an impression might be made either on them, or on the spectators. He might in this likewise propose to teach us the just regulation of the passions and affections of our nature, which are not sinful in themselves; otherwise, he who was without sin could not have been subject to them. The evil of them lies in their being excited by wrong objects, or by right objects in an improper degree. "I am resolved," says Bishop Beveridge, "by the grace of God, so to be angry, as not to sin, and therefore to be angry at nothing but sin." See his Private Thoughts, 8vo. vol. 1: p. 221. At the same time that Jesus testified his displeasure at the Pharisees, he comforted the infirm man; for he commanded him to stretch out his contracted hand, and with the command communicated power to obey.

In an instant his hand was made sound as the other; so that he stretched it out immediately, in the sight of all present, who thus were eye-witnesses of the miracle. The Evangelists say no more; they leave their readers to imagine the wonder and astonishment of the numerous spectators, and the joy of the man, who had recovered the use of so necessary a member.

Verses 7-8

Mark 3:7-8. Jesus withdrew himself The immense multitude which followed our Lord, did not all come together purely out of curiosity; it was principle, no doubt, which moved many; but others came merely to be healed of their diseases and infirmities; and as our Lord's fame had spread, not only through the whole land of Israel, but into the neighbouring heathen countries, Idumea, Tyre, Sidon, Syria, and the rest, we may be sure that the diseased who came at this time to be cured by him were not a few; and that they with their attendants made a considerable part of the crowd; which was now so great, that, to avoid being trodden down by those who came to touch him, in order to be healed, Jesus was obliged to go into one of his disciples' boats; out of which, as on other occasions of a like nature, he no doubt taught them the doctrines of salvation; for it was his constant custom to join preaching with the working of miracles, the latter giving efficacy to the former. Idumea, Mar 3:8 comprehended not only the ancient possession of the Edomites, but the southern parts of Judea. After our Lord's time, the whole of Judea was sometimes called Idumea by the Greeks and Romans, who named even the Jews themselves Idumaeans, from the country which they possessed. See Grotius.

Verse 10

Mark 3:10. They pressed upon him, &c.— The phrase επιπιπτειν αυτω, strongly expresses this; they were ready to drive each other upon him! so that those nearest him could hardly stand, being pressed forward by those behind. The Syriac version joins the last clause of this verse to what follows; as many as had—torments (or scourges) and unclean spirits, fell down, &c. The word rendered plagues, is μαστιγας, literally, scourges. Instead of thou art the Son of God, at the end of the next verse, the famous Leicester manuscript reads, Thou art God, the Son of God; Συ ειΘεος, υιος του Θεου. See Doddridge.

Verse 12

Mark 3:12. He straitly charged them He strictly, &c. πολλα επετιμα αυτοις ; which seems to imply a strictness of charge, with some appearance of severity

Verse 14

Mark 3:14. And he ordained twelve, See Luke 6:12; Luke 6:49. Our Saviour ordained the twelve to be always with him, that they might learn from his mouth the doctrine which they were in due time to preach to the world;—that they might see his glory, Joh 1:14 the transcendent glory of the virtues which adorned his human life, and might be witnesses to all the wonderful works which he should perform, (Acts 10:39-41.) and by which his mission from God was to be clearly demonstrated. The twelve were thus to be qualified for supplying the people with that spiritual food which their teachers neglected to give them;—and that before and after their Master's death. Accordingly, when they had continued with Jesus as long as was necessary for this end, he sent them out by two and two into Judea on the important work of preparing the people for his reception, who was the true Shepherd. Hence he named them Apostles, that is, "Persons sent out." But their name was more particularly applicable to them, and their office was raised to its perfection, after Christ's ascension, when he sent them out into all the world with the doctrine of the Gospel, which he enabled them to preach by inspiration; givingthem power at the same time to confirm it by the most astonishing miracles. That this was the natureof the new dignity which Jesus now conferred on the twelve disciples, is evident from Joh 20:21 where we find him confirming them in the apostolical office; as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. "I send you upon the same errand, and with the same authority: I send you to reveal the will of God for the salvation of men; and I bestow on you both the gift of tongues, and the power of working miracles, that you may be able to preach the doctrine of salvation in every country, and to confirm it as divine, in opposition to all gain-sayers."After their election, the twelve accompanied Jesus constantly, lived with him on one common stock as his family, and never departed from him, unless by his express appointment.

Verse 21

Mark 3:21. For they said, He is beside himself. For they said, He fainted away. So the version of 1729. Dr. Macknight observes, that most translators render this verse as we do; but the meaning which they give is false, and such as suggests a very unbecoming idea of our Lord, who on no other occasion behaved so as to give his friends room to suspect that he was mad. The original runs thus; u922?αι ακουσαντες οι παρ αυτου, εξηλθον κρατησαι αυτον . u917?λεγον γαρ-g0-. u927?τι εξεστη-g0-. They that were with him, namely, in the house, (Mark 3:19.) ακουσαντες, hearing, viz. the noise which the mob made at the door, they went out, κρατησαι αυτον, to restrain, or quell,—not Jesus, for he was in the house, (Mark 3:19.) But the multitude, or mob [αυτον, it, viz. οχλος ] the multitude, either by dispersing them, or keeping them out; for they said εξεστη, (viz. οχλος) the multitude or mob is mad. This sense the verb κρατεω has without dispute, Rev 7:1 where we read, κρατουντας τους τεσσαρας ανεμους, — holding, detaining, restraining the four winds of the earth. Dr. Doddridge renders the words, he is transported too far. One can hardly think, says he, that Christ's friends would speak of him so contemptibly and impiously as our version represents; and if that sense must necessarily be retained, it would be much more decent to render the clause, "It (that is, the multitude, mentioned in the verse) is mad, thus unseasonably to break in upon him." But 2Co 5:13 is the only passage in the New Testament where the word has this signification: it generally signifies to be greatly transported; or as we express it, in a word derived from this, to be thrown into an exstasy. See Ch. Mark 2:12 Mar 5:42 Mark 6:51.Luke 8:56; Luke 8:56. Acts 2:7; Acts 2:12; Acts 12:16. And though the LXX sometimes use it for fainting away, as in Genesis 45:26. Joshua 2:11.Isaiah 7:2; Isaiah 7:2. I do not find that it ever signifies that faintness which arises from excess of labour, or want of food: but our Lord's attendants here seem to have feared, lest his zeal and the present fervency of his spirit should have been injurious to his health.

Verse 27

Mark 3:27. The strong man The strong one; Satan rightly so called, from his power in the hearts of men. Heylin.

Verse 28

Mark 3:28. Blasphemies—blaspheme Or revilings—revile. Mark 3:29. Is in danger of] Is liable to.

Inferences.—There is something peculiarly beautiful in the account which St. Mark gives us of our Lord's indignation in Mark 3:5. Even his anger was compassionate; he was angry, and yet grieved; angry at the sin, grieved for the sinner. Even when we, through our fatal obstinacy and hardness of heart, give him the justest cause for anger, yet at the same time is he afflicted for us; more pitiful and compassionate towards us, more anxious and earnest for our welfare and recovery, than the shepherd for his lost and wandering sheep; than the father for his prodigal and abandoned son. Our hardness of heart very justly excites his anger; our condemnation and destruction consequent upon this perverseness, raise in his heart the tenderest concern.

How much should this caution us, not to abuse his compassion and mercy, lest he be at length angry indeed, and utterly turn away his face in wrathful indignation from us! how much, on the contrary, should it prevent despair, and incline us to hasten to his feet, when we know that we have given him just cause of anger!—To our comfort recollecting, that though he be angry, yet he is also grieved at our offences, and willing to receive us, when, humbled in heart, we return unto him.
Our Lord's example also in this respect shews us, how our zeal in his cause should be moderated; teaching us to be angry at, and express our resentment solely against the sin, while we grieve for the sinner; truly sorry for that hardness of heart, which must involve those in destruction who resist all the motions of grace, all the offers of Christ; and who, like the Pharisees, when fully convinced, will yet contradict the evidence of their senses; will yet deny the Lord that bought them, and through base and malevolent principles oppose the Gospel of light and love. Therefore, worthy of all our observance is that resolution of Bishop Beveridge quoted in the note on the verse now under our notice: "For oh, what a sedate and contented spirit, says the good man, will this resolution breathe in me! how easy and quiet shall I be under all circumstances! Whilst others are peevish and fretful, and torment themselves with every petty trifle which doth but cross their inclinations, or seem to be injurious to them, or fall into the other extreme of a Stoical insensibility, I shall, by this resolution, maintain a medium betwixt both; and possess my soul in peace and patience."
When we consider how much the church in all ages has been indebted to the labours of the Apostles, and how much we ourselves owe to them, we shall see great reason for thankfulness to our wise and gracious Master, who was pleased to assign this work to his servants, and so eminently to qualify them for it. It is observable, that before he sent them forth, he chose them to be with him, in a more constant attendance on his person and ministry. May all who succeed them as preachers of the Gospel, be such as have intimately known Christ themselves, and have been accustomed to spiritual converse with him! that so they may with the greater ability recommend him to others.

All ecclesiastical functions are denoted by preaching, because this is a principal function of bishops and pastors; and because it is by means of the word, and of instruction, that the kingdom of God is spread and established. How then shall they presume to call themselves ministers of Christ, who either wholly omit, or perform in the most neglectful manner, this important duty!

How terrible, yet adorable is the judgment of God, who sometimes calls to the ministry one, who, he fore-knows, will make it an occasion of his damnation! Mark 3:19. One of the advantages which God draws from the perfidiousness of one of the twelve Apostles is, to prevent the scandal of wicked ministers in the church, at which the weak are apt to be troubled.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We see Christ dispensing his miraculous cures.

1. In the synagogue, on the sabbath-day, he healed a man who had a withered hand. He knew the malignity of his enemies, and that from such a deed of mercy they would seek to raise an accusation against him as a sabbath-breaker. He therefore first put a question to them for their determination, whether it was lawful on the sabbath day to do an act of mercy, or to do evil by neglecting it? to contribute to man's health and ease, or to let him languish, perhaps die, for want of assistance? The question answered itself; but they resolved not to admit the conviction, and in sullen silence held their peace. With indignation looking round upon them, grieved and displeased at their wilful obstinacy and hardness of heart, Jesus will not suffer their malevolence to prevent his works of grace; therefore in the face of the congregation he bids the lame man stretch out his hand, and instantly it was restored to perfect strength and soundness. Note; (1.) Deeds of mercy and charity are ever pleasing to God, and no day unseasonable for them. (2.) They who are obstinate in error and unbelief, will be convinced by no arguments. (3.) Jesus looks still with indignation upon the hard-hearted sinner; and if he do not now tremble under his frowns, he must quickly be consumed under his wrath. (4.) It is a grief to the Saviour, and all who are his people, when they behold men wilfully sinning against their own mercies. (5.) If people will be offended at our well-doing, we must not be concerned about their censures.

2. By the sea-side, whither he withdrew to shelter himself from the malice of his exasperated foes, who were now consulting about his destruction, he liberally dispensed his cures to the multitudes who resorted to him for healing from all the regions round about; till at last he was constrained to go into a boat, and put off a little from the shore, such crowds of diseased persons thronging upon him, in the confidence that could they but touch him, it would be sufficient to heal them of the most inveterate plagues. Even the devils, who dwelt in many whose bodies they had possessed, no sooner saw him, than they were forced to prostrate themselves before him, confess his divine power and Godhead, and own him as the Messiah. But to avoid the least appearance of receiving a testimony from them of his mission and character, lest his enemies should suggest that there was a confederacy between him and them, he sealed up their lips in silence, and left his own works to speak his glory, enjoining the same silence on all whom he had healed. Note; (1.) It is grievous to think, that men should ever deny that Divinity of our Lord, which even devils confessed. (2.) We never should seek the applause of men; it is enough that our works testify for us.

2nd, We have,
1. The ordination of the twelve Apostles. Going up into a mountain, he called to him whom he would from among his professed disciples, and they immediately came to him. Twelve of them he selected to be his constant attendants, to be witnesses of his doctrine, life, and miracles, and to preach his Gospel. Their names we have had before; but St. Mark particularly mentions the title given to the sons of Zebedee: they were called Boanerges, sons of thunder; either from the loudness of their voice, the vehemence of their address, or the powerful energy which should accompany their preaching. St. John, whose epistles breathe nothing but love, was one of them; and it would seem thereby to be intimated, that nothing acts so powerfully and forcibly upon the sinner's heart, as the doctrines of the rich love and free grace of God in Jesus Christ. These twelve the Lord was pleased to invest with miraculous powers to heal sicknesses, and cast out devils, in confirmation of the doctrines that they were to teach. And having thus appointed them their office, Christ retired with them into a house for refreshment; and they henceforward attended him as his peculiar family, and continued in the greatest intimacy with him during his abode upon earth.

2. No sooner was he known to be in the house at Capernaum, than the multitude assembled, eager to hear him; and though he and his disciples had scarcely time for necessary refreshment, yet he is ready to instruct them. Such incessant labours, without respite, excited the concern of some of his friends, who could not help thinking his zeal carried him too far, and that he would faint with fatigue and want of repose. They came therefore to persuade him to desist for a while, lest he should impair his health by such uninterrupted toils. Perhaps some might think his intellects disturbed, and would fain constrain him to come in and rest himself. Note; (1.) Faithful ministers will sometimes find as great trials from the mistaken affection of their friends, as from the avowed opposition of their enemies. (2.) Fervent zeal is often branded with madness by those who never felt the love of immortal souls; but if we be beside ourselves, it is to God, 2 Corinthians 5:13.

3rdly, That he did cast out devils from them that were possessed, was evident. To evade the force of the miracles therefore, we have,
1. The cavil raised by the scribes and Pharisees who came down from Jerusalem. They pretended that he was in compact with Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, and derived this power from him.

2. Christ confutes their suggestion. It was as absurd and self-contradictory to suppose, that Satan would cast out Satan, to confirm doctrines directly tending to destroy his power over the souls of men, as to suppose that a kingdom, or a house, divided against itself, can stand, or be established by intestine factions and civil wars. The power which Jesus exerted over the fiends of darkness was like that, which the conqueror exercises over the vanquished, when he enters the fortress, binds the prisoner, and spoils his substance: Satan never would quit his hold, unless compelled. Evident therefore it was, that Christ came not as his associate, but as his destroyer. See this subject fully considered in the critical notes on this chapter, and on Matthew 12:31-32.

4thly, While he was thus employed in instructing the simple-hearted in the ways of salvation, and in reproving the self-righteous Pharisees, those greatest enemies of Christ and vital religion,—his mother and kinsmen drew near to the congregation: and though the crowd sat so thick around him that they could have no immediate access to him, they conveyed to him, by some of the multitude, their desire to speak with him: but he was too well employed to be diverted from his sacred function; and therefore, instead of paying any regard to his mother or brethren in this case, he turned to those around him, professing for them a regard like that due to a mother or brethren, and declaring those to be his nearest and dearest relations who truly believed, and heartily obeyed the revealed will of God. Note; (1.) How great is the folly, as well as idolatry of the Romish church in worshipping the virgin, as if she could command her Son now that he is in heaven, when even in the days of his flesh she was judged so unfit to advise him, though he certainly omitted no acts of filial duty towards her! (2.) When we are engaged in the work of Jesus, and in the way of duty, nothing must divert us from the service.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/mark-3.html. 1801-1803.