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Bible Commentaries

J.D. Jones's Commentary on the Book of Mark
Mark 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-15

Chapter18.
The Calling of the Twelve

"And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse Him. And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the Prayer of Manasseh , 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: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judæa, And from Jerusalem, and from Idumæa, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things He did, came unto Him. And He spake to His disciples, that a small ship should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him. For He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon Him for to touch Him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And He straitly charged them that they should not make Him known. And He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom He would: and they came unto Him. And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils."Mark 3:1-15.

A Great Event.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the calling of the Twelve Apostles. "The wall of the city," says John , in his Apocalypse, "had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb" ( Revelation 21:14, R.V.). That is only a parabolic way of saying that the whole fabric of the Christian Church bears for ever upon it the stamp and impress of these men who laid its first foundations. Our Lord Himself realised that the choice of men to be His apostles was a critical choice, and, according to Luke"s account, He prepared for it by a night of vigil and prayer.

The Hour.

The opening verses of this chapter lead up to the account of the calling of the Twelve, and they help us to understand why it was just at this particular point in His career that our Lord felt the time had come to choose men who should be "with Him."

(1) The rulers had taken up an attitude of distinct hostility. In Mark 3:6 we read: "The Pharisees went out, and straightway with the Herodians took counsel against Him, how they might destroy Him." Our Lord foresaw what this meant. He knew that in the long run it meant the Cross. And knowing that that death was to be His lot, He took forethought for the continuance of His work by the choice of the Twelve. (2) The work our Lord Himself had begun had so increased that more labourers were demanded in order to cope with it. Mark 3:7 and Mark 3:8 speak of the ferment caused by the preaching and works of Jesus. Beyond the bounds of Palestine His fame had spread. The work had become too great for His single-handed efforts. And so Jesus called these twelve men to share with Him the work of preaching the good tidings of the Kingdom of God.

—And the Men.

"He appointed Twelve"; and the number twelve is significant. Jesus might have chosen more, had He so wished. A little later He did despatch seventy disciples upon this same work of preaching. He chose twelve—so many and no more—as corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. It was a subtle way of suggesting to the Jews that He was founding a new theocracy—the newer and nobler theocracy that was to replace the old. There is thus implied in this choice of twelve our Lord"s Messianic claim.

Their Work: in Relation to Christ.

And what was the work of the apostles to be? It was to be a twofold work. (1) Christ called these twelve men, "that they might be with Him." Our Lord wanted friends. There is something inexpressibly touching in that little sentence. "He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him" ( Mark 3:14, R.V.). It brings our blessed Lord very near to us, for it reveals a soul on its human side hungry for sympathy. We know how the presence of a friend helps and cheers us in our hours of trial. Our Lord was like unto His brethren in this respect. With opposition and rejection and the bitter cross to face, He hungered for sympathy, He longed for friends; and so He called these twelve men, that they might be with Him.

In spite of their manifold blunderings, they did give Christ some of the sympathy and love He craved. By their loyalty and affection they made things easier for Him, they strengthened His hand in God, and it was with a full heart that Jesus said to them the night before He died, "Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations" ( Luke 22:28, R. V.).

—In Relation to the World.

(2) He called these twelve men "that He might send them forth to preach." He called them not simply for His own sake, but even more for the work"s sake. The calling was with a view to the sending. There are here implied two stages in the training of these men for their apostolic work. First of all, they were called that they might be with Him. They were to be Christ"s companions, partly to help Him by their sympathy and love, but partly also that they might learn of Him. They were to be Christ"s pupils and scholars. And then, having learned of Christ, they were to go forth and preach. The time of fellowship was meant to issue in service.

Privilege and Duty.

You will see then, how privilege always leads up to duty. The twelve were made disciples that they might become apostles. They were blessed that they might become a blessing. They were saved that they might become saviours. They were called that they might be sent.

The same duty follows privilege still. Have we been called to be "with Him"? It is in order that He may send us forth to preach. Experience ought to end in expression. "Oh, speak to me," we say in our hymn. What for? "That I may speak, In living echoes of Thy tone."


Verses 16-19

Chapter20.
The Twelve: Their Diversity

"And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which Isaiah , The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philippians , and Bartholomew, and Matthew , and Thomas, and James the son of Alphæus, and Thaddæus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house."Mark 3:16-19.

In the last section we confined our attention to the social insignificance of the Twelve. But that is not the only notable thing about this list of the men whom Christ chose to be His friends and apostles.

Diversity in Apostolic Temperament.

I am greatly struck by the diversity and variety both of temperament and of gift that I find amongst them. Here you have, for instance, every diversity of temperament. The old physiologists used to talk of four temperaments—the Sanguine, the Choleric, the Phlegmatic, and the Melancholic. Each of these temperaments had its representative amongst the Twelve: the Sanguine in the impulsive Peter; the Choleric in the Sons of Thunder; the Phlegmatic in the slow and prosaic Philip; and the Melancholic in doubting Thomas.

—In Gift.

Here you have diversity of gift—Peter the man of action; John the soaring mystic; Andrew the man of practical common sense; and Matthew the man of literary aptitudes.

—In Political Feeling.

Here, too, you find deep-seated difference of political feeling. In modern society somehow or other political differences beget extraordinary bitterness, and men who begin by being political opponents often end by becoming personal foes. But there were two men in the Apostolate between whom in the old days there existed a political hate, by the side of which modern political rancours seem innocent and playful. These two men were Matthew and Simon the Zealot. Matthew had taken service with the hated Roman government; Simon had taken up arms against it. To Simon, Matthew was an apostate and a renegade and a traitor. And yet Matthew the publican and Simon the Zealot are in the Apostolate side by side. And from this diversity amongst the Twelve we may gather two or three lessons.

The Universality of the Saviour"s Love.

To begin with, we may find a lesson as to the universality of the love of Jesus. What a Catholic, in the true sense of the term, the Lord Jesus was! Most men are partial in their likings. They give their affection only to people who are kindred spirits. If a man found Peter to his taste, I scarcely think he would have made a friend of Thomas. If he found Philip a kindred spirit, I scarcely think he could have made a friend of John. But Peter and Thomas, Philip and John , all found a place in the love of Christ.

The Unifying Power of the Saviour"s Love.

Here also is a lesson as to the unifying power of the love of Jesus. Jesus loved these twelve men, different as they were, and by His love bound them all to Himself. But He did more than bind them to Himself; He bound them also to one another. A common love to Christ made even Matthew and Simon friends. "Beloved," the one said to the other, "if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" ( 1 John 4:11). And so the fierce patriot and the man who had worn the livery of Rome clasped hands and greeted one another as brethren in Christ. The love of Christ is the great unifier. In His Church there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, bond nor free—but all are one in Christ Jesus ( Colossians 3:11).

The Wide Opportunity of the Saviour"s Service.

And here we may also discover a lesson about diversity of service. These men differed in gift as well as in temperament, but our Lord found room for them in His Apostolate and opportunity for the exercise of their varied gifts. It is not one type of worker Christ wants. He wants every type. There are diversities of operations. Every man has his proper gift; it may be a small gift, a one-talent gift, but Christ wants it and can use it.

The one who Failed.

There is one name in the list that always makes us wonder how it came to be there at all. It is the last name, "Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him" ( Mark 3:19). It is difficult—to us it is impossible—to explain why Jesus called Judas. But what an example of warning Judas is! If privilege could have saved a Prayer of Manasseh , Judas ought to have had his name graven along with those of the eleven, upon the foundations of the New Jerusalem. But "there is a way to hell," as John Bunyan says, "even from the very gate of heaven." Cities and men, as a Greater than John Bunyan said, may be exalted to heaven in privilege, and yet thrust down to hell. That was the case with Judas Iscariot. And he stands upon the page of Scripture to warn us against trusting to religious privilege.

It is not outward connection with Christ that will save and keep us—but only living union with the Lord. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" ( 1 Corinthians 10:12).


Verse 20-21

Chapter21.
Christ and His Kinsfolk

"And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside Himself.... 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."Mark 3:20-21, Mark 3:31-35.

Our Lord and His Kinsfolk.

The story of our Lord"s relations and their well-meant but mistaken intervention is divided into two brief paragraphs by the interpolation of the account of our Lord"s controversy with the Jerusalem scribes. Mark 3:20-21 tell us how reports of Christ"s doings reached them in Nazareth; how they concluded He was beside Himself, and resolved to go and lay hold on Him. Mark 3:31-35 tell us what was the upshot of the journey which they made to Capernaum in order to carry out their resolve. These separated verses clearly belong to one another, and between them tell us the story of the attempt our Lord"s relations made to interfere with Him. We will think first of the interference and the charge brought against our Lord.

The Charge of Madness.

Our Lord"s kinsfolk, when reports of His tireless activities and sacrificial labours reached them in Nazareth, saw in them proof that His mind had lost its balance. "He Isaiah ," they said, "beside Himself." Now it sounds a terrible thing that members of our Lord"s own household should have thought Him mad, and should therefore have tried to put Him under restraint. But that was one of the sorrows Christ had to bear; He was misunderstood in His own home, for "neither did His brethren believe in Him" ( John 7:5).

The World and its Enthusiasts.

What we really get in their assertion that Christ was mad is often the world"s verdict upon religious and philanthropic enthusiasm. The world honours the man who for the sake of fame risks his life in battle; but if a man risks his life for souls for whom Christ died, it counts him a fool. The only kind of religion the world tolerates is religion of the tepid, Laodicean sort. But religion that breaks through the bonds of respectability and convention, religion that is earnest, red-hot, and means business, it calls "madness."

It has called it so all down the centuries. "Paul," cried Festus, "thou art mad; thy much learning doth turn thee to madness" ( Acts 26:24, R.V.). "What crack-brained fanatics!" was the remark the gentlemen of the eighteenth century made about Wesley and Whitfield. When Christian and Faithful refused even to look at the wares of Vanity Fair, but turned their eyes to heaven, what could the dwellers in the Fair, who regarded these wares as the only things worth having, think of them but that they were Bedlams and outlandish men? And when men like Henry Martyn in modern times let themselves "burn out" for God, when they cheerfully sacrifice every hope of worldly wealth and fame, and think only of the soul and heaven and the unseen Christ, what can men who regard worldly wealth and pleasure and fame as the only things worth living for think of them, except that they are "beside themselves"? It is just the necessary and inevitable verdict of the world upon those who seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

What is the Verdict on Ourselves?

Has the world ever said this about us? Is not this what is amiss with the Christian Church to-day? We lack zeal, enthusiasm, earnestness. We make compromises with the world. We are not out and out. The world sees nothing to be surprised at in us. And we are impotent as a result. Victory will come back only when we are willing to be counted fools for Christ"s sake, and give ourselves ever, only, all to Him.

The Solitariness of Christ.

"He is beside Himself"—it was just the verdict of the unspiritual person upon the zealous and sacrificial Christ. But it illustrates also the solitariness of Christ. How completely and utterly misunderstood He was! He was misunderstood even in His own home. Men can bear a great deal of opposition and misrepresentation from the world outside, if they find love and sympathy and appreciation waiting for them at home. But Jesus had none. He was the loneliest man who ever walked this earth; the loneliest just because He was the best. In the midst of the crowds that pressed upon Him and thronged Him, in the circle of the Twelve, at the family hearth, Jesus was a lonely man. There was none to understand or appreciate or sympathise. And this solitariness was part of the sore and heavy burden He took upon Himself when for us men and our salvation He consented to live His life of sacrifice and die His death of shame. "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with Me" ( Isaiah 63:3, R.V.).

A Claim Resisted.

Persuaded thus that Jesus was mad and needed to be put under restraint, His brethren, along with His mother Mary, make their way to Capernaum. They found Him engaged in preaching, with a great multitude listening to Him. For some time they seemed to have waited, and then, growing impatient, they send a message to Him—"Thy mother and Thy brethren without seek for Thee" ( Mark 3:32). Did Jesus know what they wanted him for? I believe He did. He knew, at any rate, that there was no sympathy for Him amongst His kinsfolk. And so He declined to interrupt His work. "Who is My mother and My brethren?" was His reply to the message. "And looking round on them which sat round about Him, He saith, Behold, My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother" ( Mark 3:32-33, R.V.).

The Cost of Resistance.

What it must have cost Jesus to say this! For what does it mean? It means the setting of God"s work above home-ties and family affection. A young fellow wanting to join the Church came to see his minister in trouble about that verse, "If any man cometh unto Me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" ( Luke 14:26, R.V.) That seemed to him a harsh demand, and he did not know that he was equal to it. But it comes even to that sometimes. It comes to choosing between one"s nearest and God. It came to that with Jesus Christ. He had to hate mother and sister and brethren for the Gospel"s sake. "A sword shall pierce through thine own soul," ( Luke 2:35), said Simeon to the exultant Mary when she presented her first-born in the Temple. Mary felt the stab of the sword that day; yes, and Jesus felt it too. He was pierced to the heart that day when He forsook mother and sisters and brethren for the Kingdom of God"s sake.

The True Kinship.

"Who is My mother and My brethren?... Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother" ( Mark 3:33, Mark 3:35, R.V.). There are affinities, our Lord says, more subtle and close and real than those of blood. The real kinship is a kinship of soul and spirit. Our Lord"s one aim in life was to do God"s will. It was for that He came into the world. And it was amongst those who cherished the like aim that He found His real kith and kin. The truth that spiritual kinship is the only real kinship is emphasised again and again in the New Testament. The true sons of Abraham are those who do the works of Abraham. The true circumcision is not the circumcision of the flesh, but of the spirit. The true sons of God are they that are led by the Spirit of God. So our Lord found His real kinsfolk, not in Joseph and Judah and James and Simon; He found His real kinsfolk in Peter and John and Nathanael and Matthew , and in that multitude of unnamed folk who heard the word of the Lord and received it

—In the Kingdom of God.

This was a hard saying for Mary and her sons; but what a glorious word it has been for the world! It has enlarged the limits of Christ"s family. It has multiplied the number of His brothers and sisters. Had kinship been a matter of blood, then you and I, my reader, had been for ever excluded from Christ"s family. But kinship is a matter of spirit, and so it becomes possible to you and me. One day, the Evangelist tells us, a woman in the crowd cried out, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee" ( Luke 11:27). There were many in Palestine who envied Mary the honour of being the mother of such a son. "Yea rather," was our Lord"s reply, "blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it" ( Luke 11:28). There is no need for any woman, as St Chrysostom says, to envy Mary. She can become as closely related to Jesus as His holy mother. "Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is—My mother." So it becomes open to any one to enter Christ"s family, on condition they do the will of God.

The Family Speech.

"To me to live is Christ" ( Philippians 1:21), said Paul—that is the family speech. "I have but one passion, "tis Jesus only," said Count Zinzendorf—that is the family speech. "I worship Thee, sweet Will of God," sang Faber—that is the family speech. Are we members of the family? How shall we know? Are we doing God"s will? Notice, it is not mere outward connexion with Christ"s Church, nor the observance of the form of religion that gives us a place in the family, but only the doing of the will. Can Christ, as He looks upon us, say, "Behold My brother, My sister, My mother!"?


Verses 22-27

Chapter22.
Christ and the Scribes

"And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils. And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man"s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house."Mark 3:22-27.

Malice and its Fruit.

The preceding paragraph tells us of the way in which our Lord"s own kinsfolk misunderstood Him. This paragraph tells us how utterly the religious leaders of Palestine misunderstood Him, and how cruelly they misrepresented Him. The misunderstanding of His brethren was born of ignorance and prejudice. The misunderstanding of the scribes was due to malice and wickedness. We may have pity for the one as a mistake, we can have nothing but indignation for the other as a sin.

The Miracle and the Blasphemy.

These scribes had come down from Jerusalem on purpose to watch Christ and pick a quarrel with Him. An occasion soon presented itself. According to Matthew"s account ( Matthew 12:22), there was brought to Jesus one day a blind and dumb lunatic. And Jesus healed him, "insomuch that the dumb man spake and saw." It was, as all have agreed, a most striking miracle; and indeed may be regarded as three miracles in one. The multitudes who witnessed it were amazed, and the excited question began to pass from lip to lip, "Is it possible that this is the Son of David?" It was just at this point these scribes gave utterance to their terrible blasphemy. "He hath Beelzebub," they said, "and, By the prince of the devils casteth He out the devils" ( Mark 3:22, R.V.). They put down all Christ"s deeds to Satanic agency. No doubt the slander was uttered in order to check the growing enthusiasm for Jesus; but it illustrates to what lengths of wickedness malice and hate will carry men.

The Lord"s Reply.

Now let us look at the answer Christ makes to this wicked and slanderous charge. For the "meek and lowly in heart" condescends to reply to these men. Never had deadlier insult been flung at any Prayer of Manasseh , and yet He does not retort with hot words. "Reviled, He reviled not again" ( 1 Peter 2:23). Instead of denouncing these scribes, He reasons with them.

The Folly of the Charge.

"By the prince of the devils casteth He out the devils" was their account of His wonderful power. But, Jesus asks, "how can Satan cast out Satan?" Then, in two very brief seed-parables, He sets forth the consequences of disunion. "If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand" (vers.

24 , 25 , R.V.). That is to say, disunion alike in states and houses ends in destruction. And Song of Solomon , our Lord adds, "if Satan hath risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end" ( Mark 3:26, R.V.). And that was exactly what their blasphemous assertion came to. For manifestly and undeniably, when Christ cast out evil spirits, and gave sight to the blind and speech to the dumb, and so on, He was destroying the works of the devil. But, according to the blasphemy of the scribes, He did it all "by the prince of the devils." So this was the absurdity to which the scribes had committed themselves—that the devil was busy destroying the works of the devil; in a word, that Satan was committing suicide!

The True Explanation.

But if the "casting out" of these evil spirits was not Satan"s voluntary Acts , if it was not suicide, what was it? There was only one answer—Satan had been conquered and overpowered. And in another brief parable our Lord gives the true explanation. Far from being Satan"s ally, He was Satan"s spoiler. "No one," He said, "can enter into the house of the strong Prayer of Manasseh , and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man" ( Mark 3:27, R.V.). No one, He says in effect, can rescue the slaves and captives of Satan, unless he first overcome Satan himself. But the fact that Jesus had done it, that this Prayer of Manasseh , afflicted with a blind and dumb spirit, had been rescued from the grip of Satan, and now both spoke and saw, was proof that Satan himself had been bound, that in Jesus he had more than met his match.

Christ the Mighty.

That is the account Christ gives of this mighty deliverance; that is the great claim He makes for Himself. He is the "stronger than the strong." He has "bound the strong man." He has "cast out" Satan. He can "spoil his house." He can rob him of all his captives and slaves. And no one else can do it.


Verses 28-30

Chapter23.
The Eternal Sin

"Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, He hath an unclean spirit."Mark 3:28-30.

It behoves one to walk warily and softly in discussing so solemn a passage as this; and yet perhaps there is in the whole of the New Testament no passage upon which we so imperatively need clear ideas, for mistaken interpretations of it have caused needless pain to thousands.

The Peril of the Scribes.

Obviously it was addressed to those "scribes which came down from Jerusalem" ( Mark 3:22). And the reason why it was addressed to them is plainly stated, "because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." There was something in that slander of theirs that told our Lord they were in peril of this eternal sin of "blaspheming against the Holy Spirit." Can we find what that something was? A glance at the terms of the warning will perhaps help us to our answer.

A Distinction Drawn.

Our Lord draws a distinction between all other blasphemies and the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In Matthew"s account ( Matthew 12:31-32)

He says, for instance, that blasphemy against the Son of Man is forgivable, but blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is unforgivable. Why this distinction? Well, Jesus was so different from all the ideas of Messiah they had ever cherished that evil speech against Him need not indicate a "hopelessly evil nature," and so could be forgiven. But the ministry of the Holy Spirit is inward. It is the voice of God in a man"s own soul. It Isaiah , as the Friends would say, "the inner light." A man might conceivably reject and denounce Christ in all good conscience, as Saul did. But when a man sins against the Holy Spirit, he sins against his own conscience, against the light that is in him, and the man who enters upon such a course is in danger of "eternal sin."

The Sin of the Scribes.

Now that is exactly what these scribes had done. There was some excuse for their doubt about the Messiahship of Jesus. There was absolutely none for their wicked and monstrous charge that by "Beelzebub the prince of devils casteth He out devils." They knew that gracious miracle which they had witnessed was no Satanic deed; they knew it was a work of God. But they hardened their hearts, and deliberately put out the light that was in them, and declared it was a work of the devil. And a person who does that, says our Lord, Isaiah ,—not "in danger of eternal damnation" (as the Authorised Version has it), nor even "is guilty of an eternal sin" (as the Revised Version has it), but rather "is in the grip of, is liable to, is involved in, eternal sin."

The Stifling of Conscience and its Results.

This is not a threat; this is simply the working out of one of the great and austere laws of the spiritual world. No man can afford to stifle his conscience. A neglected conscience becomes a seared conscience. If a man ignores the light that is in him, the light itself becomes darkness. That is to say, this sin against the inward light tends to beget a permanent sinful state, an eternal sin. And these scribes were in danger of it. They were busy putting out the light—because they kept saying, "He hath an unclean spirit."

And so it brings a solemn warning to us as to the peril of persistent neglect of conscience and the testimony of the voice within.

Unwarranted Inferences.

Candour, however, compels me to add that multitudes have tormented and still torment themselves needlessly on account of this verse. They torture themselves with the thought that they have committed some act of sin that has placed them beyond the reach of the Divine forgiveness. This passage, however, solemn though it Isaiah , warrants no such thought. It does not speak of any act of sin as unpardonable. It does not speak of unpardonable sin at all. What it speaks of is eternal sin. And that is the sin which cannot be pardoned, the sin which is eternal. It cannot be pardoned, just because it is eternal. A man may so harden himself in sin as to become incapable of repenting, and because he cannot repent he cannot be forgiven. This is not so much a case of unpardonable as of indomitable sin. It is not the grace of God that fails even here, but the man cannot be renewed unto repentance.

Does a man ever get into this awful state? I cannot tell; but at any rate those who go mourning because they think they have committed this sin, prove by their very broken-heartedness that they have not committed it. When a man gets into the grip of "eternal sin" he does not care—he is past feeling. The fact that men feel, is proof they are not in it. As Bishop Chadwick says, "No penitent has ever been rejected for this guilt, for no penitent has ever been thus guilty."


Verses 31-35

Chapter21.
Christ and His Kinsfolk

"And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside Himself.... 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."Mark 3:20-21, Mark 3:31-35.

Our Lord and His Kinsfolk.

The story of our Lord"s relations and their well-meant but mistaken intervention is divided into two brief paragraphs by the interpolation of the account of our Lord"s controversy with the Jerusalem scribes. Mark 3:20-21 tell us how reports of Christ"s doings reached them in Nazareth; how they concluded He was beside Himself, and resolved to go and lay hold on Him. Mark 3:31-35 tell us what was the upshot of the journey which they made to Capernaum in order to carry out their resolve. These separated verses clearly belong to one another, and between them tell us the story of the attempt our Lord"s relations made to interfere with Him. We will think first of the interference and the charge brought against our Lord.

The Charge of Madness.

Our Lord"s kinsfolk, when reports of His tireless activities and sacrificial labours reached them in Nazareth, saw in them proof that His mind had lost its balance. "He Isaiah ," they said, "beside Himself." Now it sounds a terrible thing that members of our Lord"s own household should have thought Him mad, and should therefore have tried to put Him under restraint. But that was one of the sorrows Christ had to bear; He was misunderstood in His own home, for "neither did His brethren believe in Him" ( John 7:5).

The World and its Enthusiasts.

What we really get in their assertion that Christ was mad is often the world"s verdict upon religious and philanthropic enthusiasm. The world honours the man who for the sake of fame risks his life in battle; but if a man risks his life for souls for whom Christ died, it counts him a fool. The only kind of religion the world tolerates is religion of the tepid, Laodicean sort. But religion that breaks through the bonds of respectability and convention, religion that is earnest, red-hot, and means business, it calls "madness."

It has called it so all down the centuries. "Paul," cried Festus, "thou art mad; thy much learning doth turn thee to madness" ( Acts 26:24, R.V.). "What crack-brained fanatics!" was the remark the gentlemen of the eighteenth century made about Wesley and Whitfield. When Christian and Faithful refused even to look at the wares of Vanity Fair, but turned their eyes to heaven, what could the dwellers in the Fair, who regarded these wares as the only things worth having, think of them but that they were Bedlams and outlandish men? And when men like Henry Martyn in modern times let themselves "burn out" for God, when they cheerfully sacrifice every hope of worldly wealth and fame, and think only of the soul and heaven and the unseen Christ, what can men who regard worldly wealth and pleasure and fame as the only things worth living for think of them, except that they are "beside themselves"? It is just the necessary and inevitable verdict of the world upon those who seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

What is the Verdict on Ourselves?

Has the world ever said this about us? Is not this what is amiss with the Christian Church to-day? We lack zeal, enthusiasm, earnestness. We make compromises with the world. We are not out and out. The world sees nothing to be surprised at in us. And we are impotent as a result. Victory will come back only when we are willing to be counted fools for Christ"s sake, and give ourselves ever, only, all to Him.

The Solitariness of Christ.

"He is beside Himself"—it was just the verdict of the unspiritual person upon the zealous and sacrificial Christ. But it illustrates also the solitariness of Christ. How completely and utterly misunderstood He was! He was misunderstood even in His own home. Men can bear a great deal of opposition and misrepresentation from the world outside, if they find love and sympathy and appreciation waiting for them at home. But Jesus had none. He was the loneliest man who ever walked this earth; the loneliest just because He was the best. In the midst of the crowds that pressed upon Him and thronged Him, in the circle of the Twelve, at the family hearth, Jesus was a lonely man. There was none to understand or appreciate or sympathise. And this solitariness was part of the sore and heavy burden He took upon Himself when for us men and our salvation He consented to live His life of sacrifice and die His death of shame. "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with Me" ( Isaiah 63:3, R.V.).

A Claim Resisted.

Persuaded thus that Jesus was mad and needed to be put under restraint, His brethren, along with His mother Mary, make their way to Capernaum. They found Him engaged in preaching, with a great multitude listening to Him. For some time they seemed to have waited, and then, growing impatient, they send a message to Him—"Thy mother and Thy brethren without seek for Thee" ( Mark 3:32). Did Jesus know what they wanted him for? I believe He did. He knew, at any rate, that there was no sympathy for Him amongst His kinsfolk. And so He declined to interrupt His work. "Who is My mother and My brethren?" was His reply to the message. "And looking round on them which sat round about Him, He saith, Behold, My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother" ( Mark 3:32-33, R.V.).

The Cost of Resistance.

What it must have cost Jesus to say this! For what does it mean? It means the setting of God"s work above home-ties and family affection. A young fellow wanting to join the Church came to see his minister in trouble about that verse, "If any man cometh unto Me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" ( Luke 14:26, R.V.) That seemed to him a harsh demand, and he did not know that he was equal to it. But it comes even to that sometimes. It comes to choosing between one"s nearest and God. It came to that with Jesus Christ. He had to hate mother and sister and brethren for the Gospel"s sake. "A sword shall pierce through thine own soul," ( Luke 2:35), said Simeon to the exultant Mary when she presented her first-born in the Temple. Mary felt the stab of the sword that day; yes, and Jesus felt it too. He was pierced to the heart that day when He forsook mother and sisters and brethren for the Kingdom of God"s sake.

The True Kinship.

"Who is My mother and My brethren?... Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother" ( Mark 3:33, Mark 3:35, R.V.). There are affinities, our Lord says, more subtle and close and real than those of blood. The real kinship is a kinship of soul and spirit. Our Lord"s one aim in life was to do God"s will. It was for that He came into the world. And it was amongst those who cherished the like aim that He found His real kith and kin. The truth that spiritual kinship is the only real kinship is emphasised again and again in the New Testament. The true sons of Abraham are those who do the works of Abraham. The true circumcision is not the circumcision of the flesh, but of the spirit. The true sons of God are they that are led by the Spirit of God. So our Lord found His real kinsfolk, not in Joseph and Judah and James and Simon; He found His real kinsfolk in Peter and John and Nathanael and Matthew , and in that multitude of unnamed folk who heard the word of the Lord and received it

—In the Kingdom of God.

This was a hard saying for Mary and her sons; but what a glorious word it has been for the world! It has enlarged the limits of Christ"s family. It has multiplied the number of His brothers and sisters. Had kinship been a matter of blood, then you and I, my reader, had been for ever excluded from Christ"s family. But kinship is a matter of spirit, and so it becomes possible to you and me. One day, the Evangelist tells us, a woman in the crowd cried out, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee" ( Luke 11:27). There were many in Palestine who envied Mary the honour of being the mother of such a son. "Yea rather," was our Lord"s reply, "blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it" ( Luke 11:28). There is no need for any woman, as St Chrysostom says, to envy Mary. She can become as closely related to Jesus as His holy mother. "Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is—My mother." So it becomes open to any one to enter Christ"s family, on condition they do the will of God.

The Family Speech.

"To me to live is Christ" ( Philippians 1:21), said Paul—that is the family speech. "I have but one passion, "tis Jesus only," said Count Zinzendorf—that is the family speech. "I worship Thee, sweet Will of God," sang Faber—that is the family speech. Are we members of the family? How shall we know? Are we doing God"s will? Notice, it is not mere outward connexion with Christ"s Church, nor the observance of the form of religion that gives us a place in the family, but only the doing of the will. Can Christ, as He looks upon us, say, "Behold My brother, My sister, My mother!"?

 


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Bibliography Information
Jones, J.D. "Commentary on Mark 3:4". J.D. Jones's Commentary on the Book of Mark. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jom/mark-3.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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