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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Mark 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-5

Mark 3:1-5

And there was a man there which had a withered hand.

The withered hand

I. What the withered hand may be said to symbolize.

1. It represents capacity for work. By the hand the toiling millions earn their bread.

2. The hand stands as the symbol of fellowship. This is what our custom of shaking hands expresses.

3. There is one more thing symbolized by the hand-generosity. By the hand we convey our gifts.

II. The causes of the hand’s withering.

1. The first suggestion is that, like some forms of blindness and certain deformities, it is sometimes a sad, inexplicable inheritance, possessed from birth.

2. The hand would become withered, I should think, if you fastened tight ligatures or bandages round the arm so as to impede the free circulation of blood. Our narrowness may cause the same result.

3. And then, perhaps, another cause may be cited-disuse of the hand, if long continued. Nature’s gifts are cancelled, if not made use of.

III. The means of healing.

1. The man is made to “stand forth.” The healthful effects which flow to a man when he is drawn out of the solitude of a self-shrouded life, and constrained by force of circumstances to come into contact with other human beings: We need to be stored up with all sorts of social agencies.

2. There is another thing in this narrative-obedience to Christ. His obedience evidenced his faith. (W. S. Houghton.)

The withered hand

I. The meaning of the withered hand. The disease was not like the palsy, a type of universal inaction; it was not like some consuming fever, a type of the way in which sin and vice pervert all the faculties of the soul; but there was a vivid picture of that infirmity which destroys a man’s power of doing anything well in this world of ours. The hand of man is one of those noble physical features which distinguish him from the brute. “The hand” is but another name for human skill, power, and usefulness, and for She studied adaptation of means to ends.

1. The bigotry of these Pharisees rendered them useless in the great kingdom of God, and destroyed their power of serving Christ. Christ did not keep the Sabbath in their way, and that was enough for their malice. That man with a “withered hand” was an apt picture of the way in which their bigotry had incapacitated them for any holy service. Bigotry ties up men’s hands still.

2. Prejudices wither up some of the energies of men. By prejudices I mean opinions taken up without sufficient reasons, and maintained with obstinacy; opinions that rest on feelings rather than on facts. There are many men-and professing Christians, too-who are so full of obstinate prejudices that they invariably find fault with every good work that has to be done, and with every possible way of doing it; but who very seldom do anything themselves. Their hand is withered.

3. Past inconsistencies often wither up the power of service. It is a mournful truth that if a man has once forfeited his character for integrity, or Christian prudence, he may have repented; but still his power for service is crippled.

4. Easily-besetting sins will paralyze the usefulness of any man who does not with earnestness wage war against them. Let a man yield himself indolently to the slavery of an evil habit, idle talk, vain thoughts, he will soon find that his hand is withered, that his power of serving God is gone. Indolence, fear of man, ungoverned temper, paralyze our energies.

II. The healing of the withered hand. Christ came into this world not mainly to set men free from the bondage of sin, but to emancipate all his faculties for holy service. There are three lessons we may learn from this narrative.

1. We may gather Christ’s willingness to heal us.

2. The way in which we are to make use of Divine strength. When the man willed to stretch forth his hand, God willed in him; the communication of Divine strength was granted to him at the very moment when he determined to obey the command of Christ. If we will we may make the Divine strength our own. Verily while we “work out salvation with fear and trembling,” God is working “within us both to will and do of His good pleasure.”

3. Here is the great rule by which at all times, through the help of God’s grace, we may overcome our listlessness and uselessness in His service. It is by our own vigorous effort to overcome the withering up of our faculties that we shall test the worth of Divine promises. (H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)

Restoring of the man with the withered hand

I. the scene of this miracle.

“He went into their synagogue.” We often find our Saviour in the synagogue.

1. To show respect for Divine institutions. Places of worship may be despised by some, but not by Christ who came to do His Father’s will.

2. To secure the great objects of His own mission. He appeared as a Divine Teacher, and frequented the synagogue in order to make known the glad tidings of His kingdom.

II. The person on whom this miracle was wrought. We are first shown-

1. The nature of his complaint. He was not affected in his whole body, but in one of his members.

2. Something similar to this was occasionally inflicted as a Divine judgment. Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:1-34).

3. This case may be regarded as a representation of man’s spiritual condition. By sin the powers of his soul have been paralyzed.

III. The dispute by which this miracle was preceded.

1. The question proposed-“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?”

2. The conclusive reply-“What man shall there be among you, etc.” Interest is a very decisive casuist, and removes men’s scruples in a moment. It is always soonest consulted and most readily obeyed.

3. The verdict pronounced-“The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

IV. The manner in which the miracle was performed.

1. An authoritative mandate-“Stretch forth thine hand.”

2. An instant compliance.

3. A gratifying result-“And it was restored whole, like the other.” (Expository Outlines.)

Withered hands

If there were no withered hearts there would be no withered hands-make the fountain clear, and the stream will be pure. (Dr. Parker.)

The human side of a miracle

No great stretch of imagination is needed to see in this narrative a picture of man’s spiritual state. The gospel of Jesus not merely tells us what we ought to be, but gives the power by which we actually become that which it requires. There have been many teaching gospels, but this is the only transforming gospel. But the strength of grace is bestowed upon conditions, and these seem to be set forth in the text, “Stretch forth thine hand.” By the command of the text three conditions were demanded.

I. It is easy to see that there was faith required. His faith had much to encourage it; yet he would perhaps feel something of that diffidence which makes it hard to realize as possible to oneself the blessings which have come to others. His faith would also be somewhat severely tested by the manner in which the Saviour dealt with him. Moreover, it appears that there was no outward act on the part of our Lord. It was merely by a word that the invisible power was communicated. This faith was indispensable. It was a condition invariably demanded. Without it Jesus wrought no miracles. Unbelief hinders His merciful designs. Faith is the mysterious moral force which thrusts out the hand of humanity to take the gift Divine.

II. The faith of this man was accompanied by obedience. The commands, “Stand forth,” “Stretch forth thine hand,” were by no means easy to obey. But undaunted he obeyed, and in the very act of obedience he found the blessing that he craved. This obedience was the fruit of his faith, and the faith which does not produce obedience is of little worth. Saving faith is always obedient faith.

III. It seems evident that there was needed in the case of this man a strong resolution. This may appear from what has been already said. Still more if we consider the act which was required of him. But he found that the law of Christ is, Obey, and thou hast the power. (S. S. Bosward.)

Analogies of faith

You say, “I have no faith.” We answer, “Believe, and faith is yours.” Does it seem a paradox. But paradoxes are often great truths, and are only hard to us because they come to us from a higher region, where our poor logic is of small account. But how many analogies there are of this paradox of faith even in the lower spheres of life! How often is the ability to perform an act, not merely revealed, but actually developed or even created by the very effort to accomplish it! How many works exist today as monuments of genius which never would have existed if their authors had waited till they had the necessary power. So it is in the matter of salvation. You can never have it till you take it. You will never have the gift of faith until you believe. Your will is all God waits for. He speaks by His prophet thus: “Hear, ye deaf, that ye may hear; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” And by His incarnate Son He says to every impotent soul, “Stretch forth thine hand!” (S. S. Bosward.)

Stretch forth thine hand

I. Christ sometimes enjoins what seems to be impossible.

II. Faith is shown in doing what He commands, even when it seems to be impossible.

III. Where there is the “obedience of faith,” power will be granted. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Divine kindness amid human opposition

The destructive effects of sin are abundantly seen in this life. It destroys men’s mental eyesight, making them blind to their own best interests. Notice here-

I. The Divine Healer seeking opportunity to do good.

1. The pathway of filial obedience is the pathway of useful service. Jesus went to the synagogue because there He was sure to meet with human needs. He went to do good as well as to get good. These two things are identical at the root.

2. The comprehensiveness of God’s purpose puts to shame the selfish narrowness of man’s. No place or day can be too sacred for giving free play to the love of God.

II. The Divine Healer disciplining the faith of the distressed. The measure of our present strength is not the limit of what we can do. Divine help supplements human endeavour.

III. The Divine Healer provoking the hostility of the proud.

1. It is possible for man’s will to resist Divine influence.

2. The choicest blessing can he perverted into the direst curse.

3. Contact with Jesus makes men either better or worse. The ice that is not melted by the midsummer sun is greatly hardened thereby.

IV. The Divine Healer doing good, heedless of his own interests. Come what may, Jesus Christ must do good. It was the natural forth-putting of His inexhaustible love. It is as natural for Christ to show unmerited kindness as for the sun to shed its light, the rose to diffuse its fragrance. (D. Davies, M. A.)

A withered hand

We may behold our own weakness in this emblem, which represents that total inability of doing good to which sin has reduced mankind. A withered hand, in the sight of God, and in the eyes of faith, is-

Publicity

There is no public action which the world is not ready to scan; there is no action so private which the evil spirits are not witnesses of. I will endeavour so to live, as knowing that I am ever in the eyes of mine enemies. (Bishop Hall.)

The good eye and the evil eye

“They watched Him.” And He watched them. But with what different eyes! The evil eye, like the eye of the serpent, confuses with distress, overcomes by pain; and a good eye, like the eye of man fronting the wild beast of the forest, subdues. But the evil eye makes us a prey; the good eye subdues the beast of prey itself. If we can but gaze calmly on the angry face of the world, we have already half tamed that great foe. Christ went on His daily course surrounded with evil eyes. He did indeed face the angry world. Men quailed before Him, multitudes hushed, and enemies whose tongue was arrogantly loud, were silenced. But think not that courage can be exerted even by the best without frequent anguish. To be watched by the unkind, even if we can maintain our composure and good will, inflicts a pang; and to be watched in time of festive and unsuspicious pleasure by the enemy, instead of being permitted to utter all with unusual freedom through the presence of kind sympathy-this is indeed distressing. (T. T. Lynch.)

“To save life or to kill?”

The man was not in danger of his life, and he would have survived undoubtedly had no cure been wrought. But that question implied, that not to give health and strength, not to restore the vital power when the restoration lies within your reach, is equivalent to taking it away. To leave a good deed undone is hardly less sinful than doing a bad one. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

The sin of neglecting to do good

In God’s account there is no difference, in regard of simple unlawfulness, between not doing good to the body or life of our neighbour, in the case of necessity, and doing hurt unto them: he that doth not good to the body and life of his neighbour (when his necessity requireth, and when it is in his power) is truly said to do hurt unto them, at least indirectly and by consequence. The rich glutton, e.g., in not relieving poor Lazarus, may be truly said to have murdered him. The reason of which is, because both these, as well the not doing of good to our neighbour’s body and life, as the doing of hurt to them, are forbidden in the sixth commandment, as degrees of murder; therefore he that doth not good, he that shows not mercy to his neighbour’s body in case of necessity, is truly said to do hurt, and to show cruelty against it. How deceived, then, are those who think it enough if they do no harm to others, if they do not wrong or oppress them, though they take no trouble to relieve or help them. Let us clearly understand this: that not to save life is to destroy it, though not directly, yet indirectly and by consequence. They are both degrees of murder, though the latter is a higher degree than the former. Let this move us not only to forbear hurting our neighbour, but also to make conscience of doing good to him. (G. Petter.)

Christ and the Sabbath

They watched Him with an evil eye. Not to understand but to bring accusation against Him.

I. The world watched the Saviour; the world watches the Saviour’s disciples. “No man liveth to himself.” The eye of the world is always on the Church, on every disciple, just as it was on the Church’s and the disciples’ Lord. What a lesson of circumspection this should read!

II. The Saviour did good on the Sabbath day; it is the duty of his disciples to do good. Did men expect that He would be held within the stone walls of Jewish ceremonialism? (J. B. Lister.)

Good lawfully done on the Sabbath: or, love the over-ruling law

At other times the defence of the Lord was based on the nature of the works which He had performed. He held and taught that “it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” Nay, He went farther, and maintained that there is a class of duties which we not only may, but must perform on that day. It was ordained at first for the benefit of man, and, therefore, it was never intended that it should operate to his detriment. Whenever, therefore, an injury would be inflicted on a fellow man by our refusing to labour for his assistance on the Sabbath, we are bound to exert ourselves, even on that day, for his relief. Nay, more; in the case of the lower animals, when an emergency shall arise like that which a fire or a flood creates, or when a necessity exists like that which requires that they shall be regularly fed, the higher law of benevolence comes in and suspends, for the moment, the lower law of rest. There are thus degrees of obligation in moral duties. As a general rule children are bound to obey their parents; but when that obedience would interfere with their duty to God, the stronger obligation comes in and requires them to do what is right in the sight of God. In chemistry you may have a substance which, yielding to the law of gravitation, falls to the bottom of the vase; but when you introduce another ingredient, you shall see the particles, whose weight formerly held them down, rising in obedience to the mightier principle of affinity, and combining to produce a new result. Precisely so the new principle of love operates in the interpretation of law. All law is for the good of man and the glory of God; and when the highest welfare of the individual creates a necessity, love is to seek to meet that emergency, even though in doing so it may seem to be violating the Sabbath. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The power of the human hand

The hand of a man is one of those noble physical features which distinguish him from the brute. “The hand” is but another name for human skill, power, and usefulness, and for the studied adaptation of means to ends. By his hand, as the servant of his intellect and his heart, man is put on a physical level with, if not far above, all other living beings, in respect of his power to defend himself against the formidable creatures who are furnished by nature with ponderous and deadly weapons, both of attack and resistance. By the aid of this wonderful instrument, he can cover his nakedness, he can build for himself a home, and make the whole world do his bidding; he can subdue it unto himself, and fill it with the trophies of his mastery. The houses, the roads, the bridges, the fleets, the palaces, the temples, the pyramids, of earth, have all been wrought by the little hands of men. The agriculture and industry by which the whole habitable face of our globe has been fashioned into “the great bright useful thing it is,” have been file work of man’s hand. While the working man’s hand is his sole capital, the hand of man is constantly used as the symbol of power and the type of developed and practical wisdom. The hand commits thought to paper, and imagination to marble and to canvas. Literature, science, and art are as dependent on its service, as are the toils of the labourer, or the fabric of the artizan. If manual toil is economized by machinery, still man’s hand is essential for the construction of the machine, and for its subsequent control, so that the hand is the symbol and the instrument of all the arts of human life. We can, therefore, scarcely refrain from the thought that that “withered hand” in the synagogue was a type of uselessness and feebleness; and that “right hand,” as St. Luke describes it, robbed of its nourishment, hanging helplessly in a sling, was a picture of whatever deprives a man of the power of holy work, and renders him an encumbrance, if not a mischief, in God’s great kingdom. (H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)


Verses 1-6

Verse 5

Mark 3:5

Being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.

The anger of Christ

I. But is anger a passion which it was right for Christ to show and to feel? And if it were right for Christ, is it equally right for us? The answer to the first question is simple enough. As the Holy One, the very presence of evil must be abhorrent to Him. He may be reconciled to the sinner, but He can never be reconciled to sin. His whole nature revolts from the evil thing. It was not then the mere ebullition of passion. It was not a sudden outburst of rage. It was righteous wrath. It was the emotion which stirred His whole being, just because sin is the utterly opposite of Himself. The trained eye is offended with that which is distorted and ugly; the trained ear is pained beyond expression with that which violates the very elements of harmony; and the perfect heart loathes and cannot but be angry with sin. Can there be any doubt that Christ’s anger with sin in these men also glanced at their relations with other men? “No man liveth unto himself.” He was angry at the blighting influence of the men’s lives. Yet there was no sin in Christ’s anger, although Christ was angry with sin. While His anger was strong His pity was yet Divine. He was sorrowful at the thought of what it all meant, and would yet Himself rescue them from the snare. Anger and grief were blent together in the same mind, just because in His mind there was perfect holiness, and there was perfect love; for it is not the stirring and agitation of the waters that troubles and defiles them, but the sediment at the bottom. Where there is no sediment, mere agitation will not create impurity. There was none in Christ. His anger was the anger of a holy Being at sin, at the devil’s corruption of God’s creature. His grief was for man, God’s offspring. He hated the thing which alienated the sons from the Father. The anger may well make us tremble, but should not the pity make us trust?

II. If it were right in Christ to be angry with sin, is it equally right and becoming in us? We are always right in being angry with sin. But just here is the difficulty. We are angry not so much at sin as at something in it which affects and inconveniences us. It is not that which is opposed to the holy law of God which most commonly makes us angry, but that which brings us some petty discomfort and trouble. We see how sin injures others. Purity will bring its own anger. Remember, however, that anger with sin is not something permitted; it is an emotion demanded. “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” But our anger must be interblent with pity. Christ sought to give these hard-hearted men another chance. He did not permit them to hinder His work. He would have won them if only they would have opened their hearts to the truth. It is Christ’s great love alone which can fill our souls with unwearied compassion for sinners. Beware, then, of thinking that anger with sin is enough. It is but one-half of our work. Pity is the other half. (J. J. Goadby.)

Anger against sin blended with pity

It should be so trained in us by our docile obedience to Christ, that sin should always, and upon the instant, fire the righteous indignation of our hearts. It is not to be like that anger which one of the ancients describes as the fire of straw, quickly blazing up, and as quickly extinguished. It is rather to become an unquenchable fire. The other ball of our duty is equally binding that we pity the sinner, and do our best to free him from his thraldom. It is here that so much yet needs to be done. One may cheaply earn, to our own satisfaction, a passing praise for righteousness, by anger against sin; but the best proof that it is the hateful thing to us which we proclaim it to be, is this, the efforts we make to get rid of it, the sacrifices we cheerfully bear to snatch men from its bondage, and the earnestness and persistence of our endeavours to secure their freedom. (J. J. Goadby.)

Rules to be observed, that our anger against sin may be good and warrantable

1. We must not be too hasty and sudden in giving way to our anger, without duly considering that there is just cause for it.

2. We must distinguish between the offence done against God and any personal indignity we may have suffered. When these two are combined, as often happens, our anger must be directed chiefly against the sin; the offence against ourselves we must forgive.

3. Our anger must be properly proportioned, according to the degree of sin.

4. We must be impartial, being displeased at sin wherever and in whomsoever we find it; as well at our own sins, as at the sins of others; as well at the faults of friends as of enemies.

5. Our anger must be joined with grief for the person against whose sin we are offended.

6. Our anger against the sin must be joined with love to the sinner, making us willing and desirous to do him any good we can. (G. Petter.)

Christ’s anger not like ours

There was in Christ real anger, sorrow, and the rest of the passions and affections as they exist in other men, only subject to reason. Wherefore anger was in Him a whetstone of virtue. In us (says F. Lucas) anger is a passion; in Christ it was, as it were, an action. It arises spontaneously in us; by Christ it was stirred up in Himself. When it has arisen in us it disturbs the other faculties of the body and mind, nor can it be repressed at our own pleasure; but when stirred up in Christ it acts as He wills it to act, it disturbs nothing-in fine, it ceases when He wills it to cease. (Cornelius a Lapide.)

Christ’s indignation

The anger here mentioned was no uneasy passion, but an excess of generous grief occasioned by their obstinate stupidity and blindness. From this passage the following conclusions may be drawn:

1. It is the duty of a Christian to sorrow not only for his own sins, but also to be grieved for the sins of others.

2. All anger is not to be considered sinful.

3. He does not bear the image of Christ, but rather that of Satan, who can either behold with indifference the wickedness of others, or rejoice in it.

4. Nothing is more wretched than an obdurate heart, since it caused Him, who is the source of all true joy, to be filled with grief in beholding it.

5. Our indignation against wickedness must be tempered by compassion for the persons of the wicked. (T. H. Horne, D. D.)

The disposition of a wise minister

This conduct and these dispositions of Christ ought to be imitated by a wise minister.

1. He ought to have a holy indignation against those who, out of envy, oppose their own conversion.

2. A real affliction of heart on account of their blindness.

3. A charitable and constant application to those whom God sends to him, notwithstanding all contradiction.

4. He must incite them to lift up, and stretch forth, their hands toward God, in order to pray to Him; toward the poor, to relieve them; and toward their enemies, to be reconciled to them. (Quesnel.)

Hardness of heart

II. Let us show what is meant by hardness of heart. A hard-hearted man, in the current use of language, means a man void of humanity; a man of cruel habits. In the Bible it is a compound of pride, perverseness, presumption, and obstinacy. It is said of Nebuchadnezzar, “that when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took away his glory from him.”

II. The causes of hardness of heart.

1. By neglecting the word and ordinances of God. There is a salutary power in Divine truth of which it is not easy to give adequate ideas (Psalms 81:11-12).

2. By our slighting and despising the corrective dispensations of Providence. When painful events do not rouse to seriousness, and fiery trials do not melt to tenderness, we generally see increased levity and obstinacy.

3. By cherishing false opinions in religion.

4. By persisting in any known course of sin (Deuteronomy 29:19).

III. The awful consequences of hardness of heart.

1. It provokes God to leave men to their own errors, base passions, and inveterate passions.

2. It involves men in utter and irretrievable ruin. “He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

Learn:

1. How much guilt there is in hardness of heart.

2. Take the warnings of Scripture against hardness of heart.

3. Take those measures which are absolutely necessary to guard you against hardness of heart. (J. Thornton.)

Hardness of heart

I. The heart-figuratively the seat of feeling, or affection.

II. It is said to be tender when it is easily affected by the sufferings of others; by our own sin and danger; by the love and commands of God-when we are easily made to feel on the great subjects pertaining to our interest (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

III. It is hard when nothing moves it; when a man is alike insensible to the sufferings of others, the dangers of his own condition, and the commands, the love, and the threatenings of God. It is most tender in youth. It is made hard by indulgence in sin; by long resisting the offers of salvation. Hence the most favourable period for securing an interest in Christ, or for becoming a Christian, is in youth-the first, the tenderest, and the best days of life. (A. Barnes, D. D.)

Hardness of the heart

Stones are charged with the worst species of hardness-“as stubborn as a stone;” and yet the hardest stones submit to be smoothed and rounded under the soft friction of water. Ask the myriads of stones on the seashore what has become of all their angles, once so sharp, and of the roughness and uncouthness of their whole appearance. Their simple reply is, “Water wrought with us; nothing but water, and none of us resisted.” If they yield to be fashioned by the water, and you do not yield to be fashioned by God, what wonder if the very stones cry out against you? (Pulsfords Quiet Hours.”)

Hardness of heart

In that Christ mourned in Himself for this hardness of their hearts, we may learn that it is a most fearful and grievous sin, and to be greatly lamented in whomsoever it is found. It is that sin whereby the heart of man is so rooted and settled in the corruption of sin, that it is hardly or not at all withdrawn or reclaimed from it by any good means that are used to that end. Two kinds are to be distinguished.

I. When the obstinacy and perverseness of the heart is in some measure felt and perceived by those in whom it is, and also lamented and bewailed and resisted. This kind of hardness may be, and is, found more or less in the best saints and children of God (Mark 6:52; Mark 16:14).

II. That hardness which either is not felt at all, or, if felt, is not resisted. This is found only in wicked men. It is a fearful and dangerous sin; for-

1. It keeps out repentance, which is the remedy for sin.

2. God often punishes other heinous sins with this sin (Romans 1:28).

3. God also punishes this sin with other sins (Ephesians 4:18).

4. In the Bible we find fearful threatenings against this sin (Deuteronomy 29:19; Romans 2:5). (G. Petter.)

Signs whereby men may know whether their hearts are hardened

1. If they are not moved to repentance and true humiliation for sin, by seeing or hearing of the judgments of God inflicted on themselves or others; or if they are a little moved for the time, yet afterwards grow as bad or worse than before.

2. If the mercies of God, shown to themselves and others, do not affect them and persuade their hearts to turn to God (Romans 2:4).

3. If the word preached fail to humble them in the sight of God; but the more the hammer of the Word beats on their hearts, the harder they become, like the smith’s anvil. These are all evident signs of great hardness of heart, in whomsoever they are found. And it is fearful to think how many there are of this rank and number. Let them consider how fearful their case is, and fear to continue in it. Let them be humbled for it, and lament it. (G. Petter.)

Remedies for hard-heartedness

I. Pray earnestly to God to soften our hearts by the work of His Spirit, to take away our stony hearts and to give us hearts of flesh. He only is able to do it, and He has promised to do it if we carefully use the means (Ezekiel 36:26).

II. Be diligent and constant in hearing the Word of God. This is the hammer which will break the stone; the fire to melt and thaw the heart frozen in sin.

III. Meditate much and often upon God’s infinite and unspeakable mercy toward penitent sinners (Exodus 34:6).

IV. Meditate seriously upon the bitter sufferings of Christ. It is said that the blood of a goat, while it is warm, will break the hardest adamant; so the blood of Christ, apprehended by faith, and applied to the conscience, will break the hardest heart in pieces, with godly sorrow for sin.

V. We are to use Christian admonitions and exhortations one to another: if we see others fall into any sin, point it out to them in a loving manner, and beseech them to repent of it; and if others admonish and exhort us, let us hearken to it.

VI. Be careful to avoid the causes of hardness of heart; viz.

1. Habitual sin; for, as a way or path, the more it is trodden and trampled upon, the harder it gets, so the more we inure ourselves to the practice of any sin, the harder our hearts will grow. It is said of Mithridates, that through the custom of drinking poison, he became so used to it that he drank it without danger; so the wicked, by habitual indulgence in swearing, uncleanness, etc., make these sins so familiar to them, that they can swallow them without any remorse of conscience.

2. Take heed of sinning against knowledge and the light of conscience.

3. Guard against negligence and coldness in religious exercises, such as prayer, hearing and reading the Word, etc. If we either begin to omit, or else carelessly to perform these duties, by which our hearts should be daily softened and kept tender, then by little and little we shall become dangerously hardened. (G. Petter.)


Verse 6

Mark 3:6

How they might destroy Him.

The meanness, evil, and sinfulness of hatred

I. The meanness of hatred is exhibited in the conduct of the Pharisees.

1. They professed to be peculiarly holy and righteous men. But here, on the Sabbath, in the synagogue, they watched Jesus, only that they might bring an accusation against Him.

2. They charged the Herodians with being traitors to their country. Yet now, in order to accomplish their murderous purpose on Jesus, they are willing to join hands with them.

II. The evil of hatred is here seen.

1. Its evil effects upon themselves. They grew more and more bitter towards Jesus, and their hearts and consciences more and more seared.

2. Its evil effects upon society. They ultimately induced the people in a fit of madness to demand the murder of Jesus.

III. The sinfulness of hatred.

1. The Bible denounces it as murder (1 John 3:15).

2. It is inconsistent with a state of grace (1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:8). (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

Sin breeds sin

The Pharisees having before harboured malice and hatred in their hearts, now show it by seeking Christ’s death. From this we may observe the policy of Satan, tempting and drawing men to the practice of sin by certain steps and degrees-first to lesser sins, and then to greater and more heinous ones. First the heart is drawn away and enticed by some sinful object: then lust conceives, i.e., consent is given to the sin in heart: then this inward consent brings forth actual sin: nor does the sinner stay here, but proceeds to the finishing or perfecting of sin, which is done by custom and continuance in it. This should teach us a point of spiritual wisdom, viz., to resist sin in the first beginnings of it, before we proceed far in it. Withstand the first motions of sin arising in the heart, or suggested by Satan; strive and pray against them at first; and labour at the very first to cast them out of the heart and mind, and not to suffer them to lodge or take possession there. Satan and sin are most easily resisted at first; but if either of them get hold in us, it will be very hard afterwards to dispossess them. Be wise, therefore, to resist and keep them out betimes. The only way to be kept from actual committing of gross sins is to withstand the first motions of those sins. The only way to be kept from the fearful sin of actual murder is, to guard against yielding to unadvised anger, and especially to take care not to harbour malice and rancour in our hearts against such as wrong us. These lower degrees of murder do often make way to the highest degree of that bloody sin; therefore, as thou wouldst be prevented from falling into the latter, beware of giving way to the former. Once give way to the first occasions and beginnings of any sin, and it is a thousand to one but thou wilt proceed further in it; and the further thou goest on in it, the worse and the harder thou wilt find the return by repentance; therefore resist it betimes. We must deal with sin, if we would mortify it in ourselves, as we do with venomous creatures such as adders or snakes; we must kill the young brood. If we could practise but this one point of resisting the first beginnings of sin in ourselves, how profitable would it be. How many dangerous sins might we be kept from by this means. And the not practising of this has been the cause of the fearful falls of many into most grievous sins. If our first parents, and David, Peter, Judas, had resisted the beginnings of those sins into which they fell, they had not fallen into them so dangerously as they did. Let us therefore be warned by their harms, and beware of giving way to the first occasions and beginnings of any sin, lest if we yield to them, the devil bring us by degrees to the highest pitch of that sin. (G. Petter.)

Hatred of Christ

A generous nature would have hoped for some other result than is here described; that on reflection they would mark the love, the omnipotence, the courage and the tenderness of Christ. Marking these things they might have learned some more excellent way than that bondage of scrupulous forms under which they groaned. But, alas! they only feel their discomfiture-not the Saviour’s greatness; the wound given to their pride-not the lesson given to their conscience. All His greatness seems to them a reason only for making their efforts to suppress Him more rigorous. And from the gracious teaching and the wondrous works of the Saviour they gather only harm and hatred. How true it is that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” There is in all of us something which, if not checked, will grow into hatred of our Saviour. Our envy will make us dislike His goodness; our pride, His authority; our evil, the purity of His precepts; while our indolence will make us dislike His very love, because of the obligations under which it lays us. (R. Glover.)


Verse 7-8

Mark 3:7-8

Came unto Him.

A powerful reason for coming to Christ

I. The attraction. They had heard with somewhat of a believing ear. They drew from what they heard an argument of hope. No doubt they were partly urged to come to Him by their own sad condition. They also perceived that Jesus was able to meet their case.

II. The gathering. Hearing did not content them. They did not wait until Jesus came to them. These people did not stop at His disciples. These people who came to Jesus in such crowds must have left their business. Many of them came from a great distance. They came with all their ailments about them.

III. The result. Not one was ever repulsed. All were cured. The attraction, therefore, grew. Therefore, sinners should come because-

(a) Jesus’ name invites them;

(b) His power encourages them;

(c) His character should allure them;

(d) His preparations should compel them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ accepted by some if hated by others: Christian effort not all in vain

All the world is not bound up in a Pharisee’s phylactery, nor held in chains by a philosopher’s new fancy. If some will not have the Saviour, others will; God’s eternal purpose will stand, and the kingdom of His anointed will come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Flowers after showers

I would have you count upon opposition, and regard it as a token of coming blessing. Dread not the black cloud, it does but prognosticate a shower. March may howl and bluster; April may damp all things with its rains, but the May flowers and the autumn’s harvest of varied fruits will come, and come by this very means. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 7-19

Verse 9

Mark 3:9

A small ship.

Christ was always willing to accept service

He borrowed a boat, an ass, a grave. He accepted a draught of water from a well, a few fishes from a net, and the money of those women who ministered unto Him. He who loves the Saviour will be surprised to find how many things there are that He can consecrate and that Christ can use. Some persons cannot preach unless they have a proper pulpit, their priestly robe, organ, choir, and other things; but Christ is at home anywhere, and can preach afloat as well as in the synagogue. Note this characteristic of Christ. The late Bishop Selwyn, who was a devoted missionary bishop in New Zealand, said that all a missionary wanted in going about was a blanket and a frying pan. He might have gathered that homely ease from the example of the great Master Himself. (R. Glover.)


Verse 10

Mark 3:10

They pressed upon Him for to touch Him.

Crowding to touch the Saviour

I. The parallel between the present times and those of the text. Jesus had healed many. These have been thoroughly and effectually restored. So far the parallel exists, but here is the marvel-that those who know this do not throng to Christ to obtain the self-same blessing.

II. What are the sins which prevent the carrying out of this parallel? Ignorance. Insensibility. Indifference. Procrastination. They really love the disease.

III. The grace which invites us to complete the parallel of the text. You are spared in this world. Spared to hear the gospel.

IV. Two cautions which seek to be needful. Never be content with merely pressing upon Christ. Do not be content with touching them who are healed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The desire for healing an instinct of humanity

As many as had plagues came to Jesus, that they might touch Him and be healed. Tell of the annual pilgrimages to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury, where thousands gathered from all parts of England, believing that their needs could be supplied and their diseases healed at the shrine of the saint. It is their needs that today take so many to Lourdes and Knock. Two centuries ago-and the superstition is not dead yet-it was believed that the touch of a king could heal a certain painful disorder; how eagerly people sought for that touch is seen in the case of Charles II. of England, who, in his reign, touched over a hundred thousand persons for the healing of the “king’s evil.” During the recent famines in India and in Turkey, the houses of the missionaries were besieged by crowds of hungry people seeking relief. When a medical missionary first appears in a new district, and his mission is made known to the people, the sick are brought to him from all the country around. It was therefore one of the commonest instincts of humanity that brought the needy to Jesus, in whom only they could find all that they sought.


Verse 11

Mark 3:11

And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him.

Christ’s supremacy over evil spirits

Whence the commotion in the intelligent universe when the Saviour entered on His public ministry? The diseased crowded around Him to be healed; the teachable to hear the words of celestial wisdom; the curious to witness the stupendous miracles; and the captious that they might entangle Him in His talk. Nor was His audience composed exclusively of men. Heaven and hell waited on His steps. The Father spake of Him from the excellent glory; the Holy Ghost descended upon Him; sinless angels followed in His train; and the demons of the abyss pronounced His eulogium, and deprecated His wrath. Why this mighty congregation streaming from the remotest points of the universe to meet Him? On the principle, doubtless, that where the King is, there is the Court. Every type of moral being surrounded our Lord.

I. Impiety abashed in the presence of holiness. That devils are conscious of their own character, and that they are correct judges of the character of other beings, must be admitted on the simple ground of their intelligence. The consciousness of their awful degradation remains in unblunted keenness; and it cowers in the presence of moral purity. Why do Ananias and Sapphira fall dead beneath the calm questions of the apostle? It is falsehood slain by the glittering sword of truth. And why does Felix tremble when Paul, the prisoner, reasons of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come? No external force is brought to bear upon the governor, no visible sword hangs over his head; and yet he trembles; why? He is shaken like a leaf in the hurricane, by an invisible host of memories more powerful far than a legion of visible foes. Evil confesses the superiority of good; vice crowns virtue with a lasting garland; sin declares holiness to be infinitely above it.

II. Divine truth may be intellectually recognized without the accompaniment of salvation. It is possible for a man to vindicate the truth against all opponents without embracing it; to contend earnestly for the faith delivered to the saints without adopting it; to construct an elaborate system of divinity without fellowship with the Saviour; and to preach the gospel in eloquent language without either part or lot in the matter.

III. Here are devils acknowledging the supremacy of the Son of God over them. The supremacy of the Son of God, as such, over all creatures, without respect to their moral character, or their position in the scale of being, must, of course, be freely admitted. But this is not the point here; for first, there is the acknowledgment of this supremacy; and second, it is the Son of God in His character of the Messiah, whose supremacy they acknowledge. They had the strongest reasons for not looking on the outward appearance but on the reality. They knew Him, and believed, and confessed, and “trembled!” They worshipped, but it was in demon fashion, the worship of terror. This confession of supremacy, as uttered by evil spirits, means this: “We are intruders and impostors, having no right here. This is Thy world. By falsehood have we gained our position here, afflicting the bodies, maddening the minds, and ruining the souls of men. We know our doom, and that Thou wilt pronounce it; but surely not so soon.” It was a confession of defeat. Lying lips speak sublime truth for once.

IV. He whose supremacy is acknowledged by evil spirits is your Friend and Saviour, if you will accept Him as such. Inferences:

1. In the kingdom of grace, love is a greater thing than knowledge. Fallen spirits believe and tremble; worldly men assent and are indifferent; Christians believe and love. Christ seeks our affection.

2. Laying hold on the Redeemer’s strength, you are stronger than evil spirits. They are conquered foes; conquered by your Saviour; on your account. In Christ you have not only righteousness, but strength.

3. Following the Redeemer, you will be shortly where evil spirits cannot follow you. (W. Leask, D. D.)


Verse 12

Mark 3:12

That they should not make Him known.

The art to conceal good deeds

It is the art of art to hide art, and the glory of glory to conceal glory. It is only the Christ who can charge the trophies of His healing power that they should not make Him known. (L. Palmer.)

Creation’s glories concealed

Many of the most glorious works of God in creation are concealed from the eye of man. Some of the most beautiful forms in nature are the shells in the deepest depths of the sea. Nowhere is ornament more richly seen than in the insects which the most powerful microscopes enable only a few to see just once in their lives. Neither in nature nor grace does the Lord parade His works before the eyes of men. (Anon.)


Verses 13-21

Mark 3:13-21

And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him.

This was the third stage in the preparation of the disciples for the apostolate

A certain number had been admitted at the beginning to terms of intimacy and friendship with Jesus. Then they had left their secular calling for a time to attend upon Him. And now the final step must be taken, and a selection made of such as would give themselves wholly to the work, and go no more back to the world. The twelve apostles are divided by the evangelists into three groups.

I. Notice the manifold variety represented among them.

1. In character. Where in the whole world could we find dispositions more diverse than in Peter and John-the one ardent and impulsive, the very embodiment of energy and vehemence; the other quiet and contemplative, fitted for nothing so well as the life of a recluse?

2. In calling. What callings could be more incongruous than those which Simon and Matthew had respectively chosen? The fiery patriot could brook no allegiance to an earthly ruler, but would do and dare anything to resist the Roman claim to impose taxation upon the people of God. But his fellow apostle had degraded himself, of his own free-will, to exact from his own flesh and blood the obnoxious tribute. Yet such was the comprehensive work which lay before the ministry of the Church, that a sphere was found in it for the “tax gatherer” no less than the “tax hater;” for the Jew who had sold his birthright as well as for their reconcilable nationalist. Jew and Greek, bond and free, rich and poor, men of every type and people, were destined to be embraced in the Catholic Church; and Jesus Christ foreshadowed the future when He welded together the most discordant elements in that first society of the Twelve Apostles.

II. Another thought of scarcely less importance arises out of the social position from which He made His choice. The Jewish Rabbis estimated the weight of their influence by the rank or wealth or learning of the pupils who sat at their feet. The first Teacher of Christianity aimed, on the contrary, at attracting the poorest of men. It may be urged that He had no alternative; that men in the position of Joseph and Nicodemus wine so reluctant to accept the call that, had He waited for their adherence, the apostolic roll would never have been filled up in His lifetime. But His choice of the poor and despised, the ignorant and unlearned, was based upon a principle which governed the whole of His life on earth; which selected for His birthplace the manger of a wayside khan, for His home a humble cottage, and for His early occupation the trade of an artizan, among a people intellectually of the lowest type in Palestine. It was in perfect consistency with all that had gone before that He should associate with Himself for the work of the ministry men of the humblest rank, who probably knew little more than their letters, and, judged by a human standard, were worthless for that unto which they were called … For the first three centuries the progress of Christianity was a gradual triumph of the lowly over the great, till, by the irresistible might of its weakness, it shook the world and compelled “the master of legions” to cast his crown at the foot of the Cross. Then was the wisdom of His choice demonstrated. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

The twelve

1. The sons of Jacob were twelve. The princes of the children of Israel were twelve. The fountains of Elim were twelve. The stones in Aaron’s breastplate were twelve. The loaves of shewbread were twelve. The spies sent by Moses into Canaan were twelve. The stones of the altar were twelve, The stones taken out of Jordan were twelve. The oxen which supported the brazen Laver in the temple were twelve. The stars on the crown of the woman in the Apocalypse are twelve. The foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem are twelve. The gates of the celestial city are twelve. The twelve tribes of Israel were the beginning of the Old Testament Church: the twelve apostles were the beginning of the New Testament Church, Hence both these numbers joined together describe the four and twenty elders, representing the entire Church in glory.

2. We have four lists of the apostles: in Matthew, in Mark, in Luke, and in the Acts. The order in which the names are given is not the same in all. It has been suggested that in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke they are enrolled chronologically in the order of their calling: whereas in Mark and in Acts the matter of personal influence is made the ground of that order which places Peter always first and Judas always last.

I. What were the characteristics of the twelve as a body.

1. They were men of good health. Mr. Talmage says: “Christ did not want twelve invalids hanging about Him, complaining all the time how badly they felt. He leaves the delicate students at Jerusalem and Rome for their mothers and aunts to take care of, and goes down to the seashore, and out of the toughest material makes an apostleship. The ministry need more corporeal vigour than any other class. Fine minds and good intentions are important, but there must be physical force to back them. The intellectual mill wheel may be well built and the grist good, but there must be enough flood in the mill race to turn the one and to grind the other.” And, yet, how many invalids in the pulpit have been stars of the first magnitude? Witness Robert Hall, McCheyne, and Robertson of Brighton, England.

2. They were men without power. They had no social or political rank.

3. They were laymen. This also is significant. Men of ecclesiastical or philosophical influence, who are committed to the support of a certain system of truth, are not free from prejudice. In the seventeenth century William Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood-a fact which no sane man disputes. And yet no physician forty years of age in that day accepted Harvey’s discovery. So great is the power of prejudice! These laymen, chosen by Christ, were unshackled ecclesiastically and philosophically. It appears unfortunate that Martin Luther was an ecclesiastic. His work had been more thorough, but for certain Church shackles which even his great soul was unable to shake off. Witness the Lutheran Creed and the present condition of Germany.

4. They were simple men. Now, Mohammed, for example, was not a simple man. He was a dissembler. Jesus of Nazareth calls no man common or unclean. AEsop was a slave. Protagoras was a porter. Terence was a slave. Horace was the son of a slave. Among the poets, Gay was apprentice to a draper and Prior was a tavern boy. Pope was the son of a draper, Keats of a livery stable keeper, and Chatterton of a sexton. Ben Jonson worked for his bread as a bricklayer.

II. Why did the Lord choose apostles?

1. In order to crowd into a brief public ministry as much work as possible. His public ministry was so brief, that but for the cooperation of the twelve He could not have spoken all the words of wisdom or done all the acts of mercy which crowned and crowded that eventful life. In the great religious movement of the last century in England, John Wesley evinced a sagacity superior to that of either Whitefield or his brother Charles, in securing co-workers and doing in general the work of an organizer. All great teachers have done the same. Witness Socrates, Peter the Hermit, Luther, Loyola, and Savonarola, of Florence.

2. In order to provide testimony after His death. The apostles were to bear public witness of all they saw and heard whilst remaining with Him. Christianity then is historic, and is a system of doctrines resting upon facts.

3. In order to establish a body of men who should bear the public seal of the Church, viz,: Miracles.

4. To shield, by miraculous power, feeble Churches. (W. F. Bishop.)

The ministerial office

Bishops and clergy are called to the ministry of Jesus Christ-

1. In order to work with Him, extend, complete, and continue His priesthood ripen earth.

2. To preach His Word, and make known His truth, and the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. All ecclesiastical functions are denoted by preaching, because this is a principal duty of the clergy, and it is by means of the Word and instruction that the Church is established and perpetuated.

3. To be the physicians of souls, and apply themselves to heal their diseases.

4. To wage war with the devil, and destroy his kingdom. Whoever looks upon the ministerial office as a state of ease, and not of continual labour, understands but very little these words of Christ. (Quesnel.)

Christ and His disciples

A superhuman worker will have his own superhuman methods.

I. Christ’s methods. No man would have begun in such a way.

1. He wrote nothing. Plato has left us the description of his “Ideal Republic”-so men have always done; but the King of the only enduring kingdom wrote only once-in the sand, and not on parchment. Seneca penned his book on Morals for men to ponder; but the Christ who knew no sin, and whose precepts have been planted in every Christian civilization, simply spoke the precepts which in after years others should write down. The heavenly worker wrought in an unearthly way.

2. He chose unlettered men. When Carlyle speaks and Emerson ponders, the world puts its hand to its ear to catch even the lowest spoken truths; but it may be that some fisherman coasting the shore of Solway Firth, or some sower of seed on the fields of Concord, shall stand higher in God’s view than even the rugged Scotchman and the honoured sage of America. The Saviour of mankind, the Revolutionist of the ages, the Son of the Highest committed Himself, His power, His teachings, to twelve plain and hitherto unhonoured men, all of them common people, and all of them unlearned.

3. The character of the twelve. Judged from a human point of view, they were certainly unpromising men-slow of heart, dull of understanding, weak in action, and one false at heart. But time has shown that Christ made no mistake. By so much as His apostles’ characters were incomplete, and in so far as the Christian faith has ruled in the earth, even so His mysterious choice is vindicated beyond cavil. Upon them He stamped His own greatness.

II. The plan involved in Christ’s methods. Nothing Divine is ever done by chance. (G. R. Leavitt.)

The twelve

I. Christ thought fit to employ human agents in the promulgation of His religion.

II. Christ selected His agents by virtue of His own wisdom and authority.

III. Christ chose His trusted apostles from a lowly position of society.

IV. Christ appointed agents with various gifts, qualifications, and character.

V. Christ recognized and employed the special gift of His disciples in His own service.

VI. Christ qualified these agents by keeping them in His own society and beneath His own influence.

VII. Christ Himself commissioned and authorized these agents.

1. To preach the gospel.

2. To cast out devils. (J. R. Thomson, M. A.)

Christ’s choice of His helpers

The whole instruction of this story for our use now turns upon the word “chose;” for it reveals the fact that the sovereignty of God as well as His wisdom was in the procedure. So our several lessons need only to be stated in their order.

I. The earliest matter of notice is this: Our Lord’s policy was one of continuous reconstruction for our entire fallen humanity, and not merely an expedient for His own convenience.

1. For a purpose, He might have chosen death, instead of which He chose life. He could have taken the best of the race up into the air higher than Ararat, and held them safely, as it were, outside of the world, while He washed the wicked earth beneath them, and then put them back. He did that once; but, with a rainbow for a sign, He said He would never do it again. He evidently planned now to redeem sinners, not to destroy them.

2. For a method, He might have chosen a permanent incarnation; instead of which He chose a book. He was now finding men just to make and perpetuate the New Testament. Ours is a “book religion,” as cavillers call it. Christianity is the Bible, and the Bible is Christianity. In this form of procedure our Lord indicated that the chief of all approaches to the human conscience is through the reason, and this He intended to use for His end.

3. For the instruments, He might have chosen angels, instead of which He chose men. We see that He selected ordinary, poor, humble individuals from the lowliest callings. Hence, we admit they are subject to the same laws of estimate and criticism as other men. Not even inspiration changed their peculiar characteristics or their natural temperaments.

4. For a plan, He might have chosen unofficial representatives; instead of which He chose ordained officers, and organized a Church. Here, then, is the inalienable warrant for a fixed ministry in the Christian Church through all time.

II. The second matter of notice for us now is, that our Lord’s selection of His helpers implied great varieties of service in evangelizing the world, requiring diversities of gifts.

1. Observe the significant number of these men. It was large, to begin with, and exceedingly wide in its representative range.

2. Observe, likewise, the special histories of these men.

3. Observe that one of these men was a treacherous hypocrite, known from the beginning of his career.

III. The next matter of notice in this choice is that Jesus Christ fixed the wise order in arrangement that discipleship should in all cases come before apostleship.

1. These twelve men needed knowledge of the Divine purposes. That must be the reason why for so many months they mere kept patiently wandering alongside of our Lord, as He advanced in His public work.

2. They needed acquaintance also with human nature. They were to deal with men, women, and children.

3. These men needed the practical exercise of their teaching gifts under their Master’s eye. So we learn that Jesus arranged that they “should be with Him,” before He “might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14).

4. They needed experience in actual dealing with masses of unorganized people.

IV. Once more, it is a matter of notice in this choice of helpers, that Jesus showed how previous gifts and education in other work can all be utilized under the gospel plan.

1. Recall the former occupations of these men.

2. Bear in mind with what painstaking Christ impressed on them the one principle that all success in evangelical work demands immediate and entire consecration (Luke 5:11; Luke 5:28).

3. Then see that instantly, and ever afterwards, their training told.

V. Finally, it is a matter of notice that in His choice of such helpers our Lord give the best of all counsel and example for every man who seeks to be useful in the Church of God.

1. Let Christian people remember that the Divine purpose, the plan of procedure, the end to be secured, the selection of instruments-all these, so finely illustrated that memorable morning beside the Sea of Galilee, remain exactly the same, unchanged through the ages. The conditions of effective working are quite unaltered. Hence this primitive wisdom is priceless.

2. Let the churches have confidence in their own machinery, and be content with New Testament methods of evangelization. There is no necessity for fresh excitements, and there is no advantage in looking for them.

3. Let those who desire to take up Christian endeavour for a life work bear in mind that training time is by no means for any one lost time.

4. Let the whole world know that what is wanted first and last and always is a thorough consecration of what one has to the Lord Jesus Christ. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Christ’s workers varied

Note the variety of character among the twelve chosen. Every stone in a building is not alike, yet room is found for all-each in its own place. A painting is made up of many colours. Christ will find room in His temple for all who come to Him. (Anon.)

God employs little and lowly apostles

Look at yonder sun. God made it, and hung it up there in the sky that it might give light to our world. But the light which this sun gives comes to us in tiny little bits, smaller than the point of the finest needle that ever was made. They are so small that hundreds of them can rush right into our eyes, as they are doing all the time, and not hurt them the least. Here we see how God makes use of little things, and does a great work with them. And then look at yonder ocean. The waves of that ocean are so powerful that they can break in pieces the strongest ships that men have ever built. And yet, when God wishes to keep that mighty ocean in its place, He makes use of little grains of sand for this purpose. Here again we see how God employs little things, and does a great work with them. And we find God working in this way continually. Let us look at one or two illustrations. What a plant did:-A little plant was given to a sick girl. In trying to take care of it the family made changes in their way of living which added greatly to their comfort and happiness. First they cleaned the window, that more light might come in to the leaves of the plant. Then, when not too cold, they opened the window, that fresh air might help the plant to grow; and this did the family good as well as the plant. Next, the clean window made the rest of the room look so untidy, that they washed the floor, and cleaned the walls, and arranged the furniture more neatly. This led the father of the family to mend a broken chair or two, which kept him at home several evenings. After this he took to staying at home with his family in the evenings instead of spending his time at the tavern; and the money thus saved went to buy comforts for them all. And then, as their home grew more pleasant, the whole family loved it better than ever before, and they grew healthier and happier with their flowers. What a little thing that plant was, and yet it was God’s apostle to that family! It did a great work for them in blessing them, and making them happy. And that was work that an angel would have been glad to do. (Dr. Newton.)

Power to cast out devils

In China, both heathen and Christian agree in marking off certain cases, which occur not infrequently, as distinctly cases of “spiritual possession.” The Chinese have names for insanity, and for the various forms of nervous and mental disease, and they distinguish sharply between all these and another very different condition in which the patient is said to be “possessed of devils.” Miss Cumming tells us “the symptoms are so precisely those which were thus described in Biblical times, that foreigners, after vainly seeking for some medical term to express the condition of the victim, are fain to accept the Chinese solution. They find a being apparently mad, foaming at the mouth, tearing off every shred of raiment, and wildly appealing to God to let her (or him) alone.” These poor afflicted ones are brought to the Taoist and Buddhist priests, who perform tedious and expensive exorcisms, which are continued indeed until the paroxysm abates, and are renewed after the same fashion when it returns. Miss Cumming says, “In a considerable number of cases such as these, the native Christians have been appealed to by their heathen neighbours to see whether they could do anything to help them; and these, remembering how of old those who had faith in the Master were enabled to ‘cast out the spirits by His word,’ have sought to follow in their wake, and, taking up their position beside ‘him that was grievously tormented with a devil,’ have thus wrestled in prayer with passionate earnestness, pleading that the true God would reveal His power in the presence of the heathen, and concluding with the apostolic words, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ! command thee to come out.’ Again and again their prayer has been granted, the wild tempest has been allayed, and the sufferer lulled to a condition of deep peace, whence, after a while, he has arisen to go forth ‘clothed and in his right mind’ to tell his heathen brethren of the marvellous way in which he has beta cured, and, in short, to become from that hour a faithful worker in the Master’s cause.” (See Wanderings in China, by C. F. Gordon Cumming.)


Verses 14-19

Verse 17

Mark 3:17

And He surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder.

The soils of thunder

In what sense this name was applicable to the character or teaching of these two brethren is not certain, particularly in the case of St. John, the apostle of gentleness and love. Perhaps, however, if we had heard him preach, we should have discerned in a moment the fitness of the name. If he wrote as he wrote in his epistle, there would be much to vindicate the title, for he wrote such terrible words as, “who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” And respecting a certain troubler of the Church he writes, “If I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth.” We must remember, too, that this epistle was written in his old age, when years had toned down his decisiveness and vehemence. Respecting the preaching of the other brother we know nothing except this, that when Herod would gratify the Jewish hatred of the gospel, he singled out James as his first victim, which he would hardly have done unless this apostle also had been foremost in aggressive energy of speech. (M. F. Sadler.)

Gentleness and energy of Christianity

I. We will consider some things in Christianity that are adapted to give gentleness to the character.

1. The view which it gives a person of himself. This, you know, is anything but flattering. Christian humility certainly tends to promote gentleness.

2. I mention next the view Christianity gives of God and of eternity. Not only is a person who has felt “the powers of the world to come” apt to feel that the paltry interests of time are not worth contending for, but habitual contemplation of eternal realities, and of Him who “inhabiteth eternity,” will so awe and elevate the spirit, that it will have the utmost disrelish for contention. Would it not be strange if two persons should quarrel while gazing together at the cataract of Niagara, listening to its solemn roar, and feeling its solemn tremor? Is it possible to retain anger when you stand at a window, watching the coming up of a storm; or at the foot of cliffs, that lift themselves ruggedly up to the sky; or on the shore of the ocean, stretching away beyond the utmost reach of vision, endlessly rolling in its waves, and ceaselessly lifting up its voice! Christianity, studied, believed, embraced, experienced, causes the soul to dwell habitually in the presence of sublimer objects than these, and under the influence of nobler contemplations.

3. The character of Christ, as it is delineated in the Scriptures, and as the Christian contemplates it, is calculated to promote gentleness. He is exhibited as “the Lamb of God,”-not only a spotless victim, fit for the sacrifice, but dumb and unresisting when led to slaughter.

II. Some things in Christianity that are adapted to give energy to the character.

1. Look at the objects of effort which if presents-all that is involved in one’s own eternal salvation, and all that tends to the well-being of mankind and the glory of God.

2. Look at the motives to effort which Christianity supplies.

3. Consider the examples which Christianity exhibits. I hope you see that the energy which Christianity inspires does not mar the gentleness which is so beautiful an ornament of character; and that the gentleness which Christianity cultivates does not soften and enervate the soul. The two elements do most harmoniously blend, balancing and tempering, not at all hindering each other. In all our efforts at self-culture, let us seek for the attainment of both these elements in scriptural proportions and in scriptural combination. (H. A. Nelson, D. D.)

Thunder in preaching

If we thunder in our preaching we must lighten in our lives. (Anon.)

Zeal blended with discretion

Barnabas and Boanerges, “the sons of consolation and of thunder” make a good mixture. The good Samaritan pours in wine to search the wounds and oil to supple them. Discretion must hold zeal by the heel. These two must be as the lions that supported Solomon’s throne. He that hath them may be a Moses for his meekness and a Phinehas for his fervour. (Trapp.)

Be true to a good name

Names were given that they might be stirred up to verify the meaning and signification of them. Wherefore let every Obadiah strive to be a servant of God; each Nathanael to be a gift of God; Onesimus, to be profitable; every Roger, quiet and peaceable; Robert, famous for counsel; and William, a help and defence to many … that they may be incited to imitate the virtues of those worthy persons who formerly have been owners and bearers of them. Let all Abrahams be faithful; Isaacs, quiet; Jacobs, painful (painstaking); Josephs, chaste; every Louis, pious; Edward, confessor of the new faith; William, conqueror over his own corruptions. Let them also carefully avoid those sins for which the bearers of the names stand branded to posterity. Let every Jonah beware of frowardness; Thomas, of distrustfulness; Martha, of worldliness; Mary, of wantonness; etc., etc.


Verse 19

Verses 20-27

Verse 21

Mark 3:21

He Is beside Himself.

The sinner mad, not the saint

I find St. Paul in the same chapter confesses and denies madness in himself. Whilst he was mad indeed, then none did suspect or accuse him to be distracted; but when converted, and in his right mind, then Festus taxeth him of madness. (See Acts 26:11.) (Thomas Fuller, D. D.)

Mad because exceptional.

There is a country in Africa wherein all the natives have pendulous lips, hanging down like a dog’s ears, always raw and sore. Here only such as are handsome are pointed at for monsters. (Thomas Fuller, D. D.)

Troubled with a good son

When the son of Dr. Innes became a missionary, the good old man, who sorely grudged parting with his boy, said, “Some people are troubled with a bad son, but I am troubled with a good one.”


Verses 22-26

Mark 3:22-26

And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub.

Scribes-a literal knowledge of Scripture vain

These men were learned in the law of Moses, having great knowledge and skill in the letter of it; and yet they were wicked men, and blasphemers of Christ. How vain a thing it is, then, for any to glory in their literal knowledge of the Scriptures, as if this alone could make them good Christians. The Jews boasted of this-that they knew the will of God, and were instructed in the law; and thereupon they thought themselves very religious: yet for all that they were wicked hypocrites, living in manifest breaches of the law. So it is with many nowadays. They think themselves very religious, because they have knowledge in the Scriptures, and can discourse of them in company, and make a great show of acquaintance with God’s precepts. To these I say, it is well that they have knowledge, and I wish that many had more than they have. Yet know withal, that if it be but an historical or literal knowledge, without a sanctified heart to embrace what thou knowest, it shall do thee no good; thou mayest, notwithstanding all thy knowledge, be void of all truth of sanctifying grace. Beware, then, of resting in this. Labour not only to know the Word of God, but for a sanctified heart to yield obedience to it. Everyone has so much saving knowledge, as he has grace and affection of heart to embrace and act upon what he knows; and without this, all knowledge is ignorance in God’s reckoning. The smallest measure of knowledge with a sanctified heart is more pleasing to God, and more available to thy salvation, than all the learning and knowledge of the scribes without sanctifying grace. Look to thy knowledge, therefore, that it be such as not only floats in the head but goes down to the heart, and causes it to yield obedience to the things thou hast learned out of the Word of God. Get this wisdom above all possessions, and thou shalt be rich and learned indeed. (G. Petter.)

Interested lying

From the accounts of Matthew and Luke we learn that Jesus had been casting out a deaf and dumb devil. The work was one of Divine goodness and mercy. The religious world of the period looked on and called it bad. He cast out devils, they said, through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. Let us beware of thus giving the lie to the moral sense, for it is the very sin against the Holy Ghost, and we may be terribly near it without knowing it. The tendency is a common one. If goodness, or truth, or mercy touch my pocket, or my honour, or my interest, my pleasures, or even my prejudices, I will destroy and deny them, when and how I can. That is the tendency. These are spots in our feasts of charity, blots on our professions. I have known medical men deny cures not wrought by the accredited methods. The disease has been cast out by fraud, by quackery, or not cast out at all, say they. When I was in Italy, and the regular Piedmontese army arrived at Naples after Garibaldi and his irregular volunteers had done all the work down south, one heard nothing but abuse of Garibaldi and his men by the king’s officers. They hated them, they cheapened their valour, they sneered at their sacrifices, even denied their exploits, attributing all to chance, luck, even to mistake. General Garibaldi had won, well, in spite of his stupidity. Such interested lying is not confined to the doctor or the soldier; it is found in the Church. I have heard clergymen deny the good work and righteous fruits of congregations opposed to them. I have seen in the country war between the orthodox rector, who could not fill his church, and the dissenting baptist, whose church over the way was crowded. The fruits of the Spirit were there, the devils were defeated; but the rector still stood out that it was by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

Opposition from foes and from friends

I. The opposition.

1. From friends.

2. From foes.

II. How he met the opposition.

1. The opposition of foes.

2. The opposition from friends (verses 33-35). Conclusion: On which side are we? For Christ, or against Him? Are we His open enemies? Are we His half-hearted friends? Are we His faithful disciples? For and against-see what the end of both will be (Matthew 10:32-33). (E. Stock.)

For or against

I. Those who are not Christ’s friends are to be esteemed his foes: “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30).

1. The issue is clear. Our Lord begins with saying that oven Beelzebub would fall if he suffered his kingdom to be divided against itself.

2. The decision must be clear.

3. If anyone refuses this issue, and defers this decision, it must be because he is not Christ’s friend, but His foe. One would think that human hearts would welcome such an offer, and would stand to it with a joyous acceptance unfalteringly to the end. Alexander the Great was once asked how it was that he had conquered the world; and he answered, “By not wavering.” If men had only held the faith as Jesus has held His covenant, the whole world would have been converted long ago.

II. Those who are not Christ’s foes are His friends; So He says: “He that is not against us is on our part” (Mark 9:40).

III. The enemies of Christ are evidenced by their enmity. At first sight this would seem to be a truism: let us see.

1. An enemy of Christ hates the notion of God’s being.

2. An enemy of Christ hates the notion of God’s character. Holiness is the most unpopular of all the Divine attributes.

3. An enemy of Christ hates the notion of God’s law. It perplexes, restrains, and condemns him.

4. An enemy of Christ hates the notion of God’s plan of redemption. He is not willing to admit his need, and take his pardon as a lost sinner.

5. An enemy of Christ hates the notion of God’s service.

6. An enemy of Christ hates the notion of God’s sovereignty.

IV. The friends of Christ are evidenced by their obedience-“Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” This wonderful verse (John 15:14) will bear an analysis.

1. Obedience to Christ will be active in its nature. The word here is not feel, but “do.”

2. Obedience to Christ will be universal in its reach.

3. Obedience to Christ will be submissive in its temper.

4. Obedience to Christ will be affectionate in its spirit. An old divine says “the obedience of the heart is the heart of obedience.”

V. It is wise foe all immortal beings to settle at once whether they are friends or enemies of Jesus Christ.

1. No neutrality is permitted during these war times in the universe. No negative moral state is possible before God.

2. Those who teach truth must urge immediate decision on all around them.

3. Any enemy of Christ can become a friend in an instant, if he will. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Satan not self-destructive

When the Netherlanders broke away from the bondage of Spain, they still professed to be loyal subjects of King Philip, and, in the king’s name, went out to fight against the king’s armies. That was a kind of loyalty which King Philip refused to recognize. The Pharisees professed to believe that the devil was content with loyalty like this-that, in fact, he hugely enjoyed the destruction of his own works by Jesus, and supplied our Lord with all the help he wanted in that line. A sane man does not burn his insurance policy, and then set fire to his house as a means of providing for his family, A loyal soldier will not undermine his own camp and blow it into the air as a means of increasing the strength of that camp. The captain who is anxious for the safety of his ship will not step down into the hold and bore a hole through the ship’s bottom. Nor will Satan join in destroying his own kingdom. That Christ came and destroyed the works of the devil shows that He is Satan’s enemy and Satan’s conqueror.


Verse 27

Mark 3:27

No man can enter into a strong man’s house and spoil his goods.

The devil’s strength

Christ is showing that He casts out demons by a greater power than Satan’s, viz., by the power of His own Godhead. This He illustrates by a comparison taken from one who forcibly enters the house of a strong man, and makes spoil of it by violent seizure of the goods and weapons that he had in his house. Such an one must be stronger than the strong man, else he cannot do it. Even so (says the Saviour) seeing that I have forcibly entered upon Satan’s possession, and have bound him and spoiled his goods, i.e., taken from him that power and tyranny which he before exercised over the body of him that was possessed; and seeing I have also cast him out of his own house, i.e., out of the person possessed; hence it may appear that I have done all this by a greater power than the power of Satan is, even by the power of My Godhead. Note that-

1. Christ likens Satan to a strong man well armed, and furnished with weapons to defend himself and his house in which he dwells.

2. He likens Himself to One that is stronger than that strong man.

3. He resembles the person that was possessed with the demon to the house of the strong man in which he holds possession.

4. He resembles the power of Satan to the goods and weapons of the strong man.

5. He compares the casting out of Satan by Himself to the entering into the strong man’s house, and binding of him, and spoiling of his house, etc. (G. Petter.)

Satan being likened to the strong man

, this teaches us that he is a creature of great strength and power (Luke 11:21; 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:12).

I. Wherein this power of the devil is manifested-

1. In working upon the insensible creatures-air, earth, water, etc.

2. In working upon those sensible creatures that want reason-beasts, birds, fishes, etc. He is able to enter into them and to move and work in them.

3. On the bodies of men; entering into them, hurting and annoying them, vexing and tormenting them with pain and disease.

4. On the minds, hearts, and affections of men, in tempting them inwardly, and soliciting them to sin by inward suggestion. This he does, not directly, but partly by the outward senses representing evil objects to them and so conveying evil thoughts to the mind, and partly by insinuating himself into the fancy or imagination.

II. What kind of power it is. Not an absolute power, but limited.

III. From whence He derives it. From God only; and He who gave, controls it.

IV. Why God gives Him such power.

1. That His own Divine power may the more appear in subduing Satan.

2. For the trial of His own children.

3. For the executing of His heavy vengeance and punishment on the wicked by Satan. (G. Petter.)

“The strong man armed:”

First, “the strong man armed keepeth his palace.” For indeed it is “a palace”-that soul of yours-made to be a royal habitation; and well did the King of kings furnish it for Himself. He had supplied it marvellously with all that should be for royal use and royal glory, and He had decked it with the most precious ornaments, and He set a throne there. Is it empty? No. Who sits on it? Who is supreme there over the affections? Who is that that is holding his silken reins that are as bands of iron? “The strong one”-none know how “strong” but those who try to escape, and throw off his tyranny; so “strong” that his strength is unseen, while in stillness and in silence he holds his own; so “strong” that the greatest determination of the most strong-minded man, unaided, trying to break any one of those many bonds, would be as if he were to try to uproot a mountain. And well is that strong one “armed.” Not in vain has he been reading the human heart for six thousand years; not in vain are all his vast experiences. Of amazing intellect is he-of immense power-a fallen angel of light, and he can wear all aspects, and he can bear all disguises. Awful the thought-that as the Lord Jesus had His “armour” so has that strong one-wherein he rightly trusts. There are the light, glittering “darts” of pleasure, that which has slain many a mighty one. And there is the heavy “sword” of unsanctified intellect to lay low the strong-minded. And there is the “breastplate” of selfishness, wrapping the heart round in its soft indulgences. And there is “the shield” of uncharitable controversy, which irritates without convincing. And there is “the helmet” of bold presumption, starting high in its false professions; and “the girdle” of infidelity-cramping, binding, girding the very loins of the man; and “the shoes” that walk roughly, and “the spirit” that takes converse only with itself. So, for years and years, “the strong one armed” rules, and so he “keeps” his captives quiet. And it is a weeping sight before the holy angels-those noble courts of man’s immortality, so trodden down, and profaned, and desolate. But “the stronger” comes; and now the fighting begins. Go with me a little way; for, thank God! that that gentle One who is so tender with weak and child-like hearts that “He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax,” is yet of such gigantic might that He, stronger than the strongest, can and will trample down all His enemies and ours under His feet, “till He brings forth judgment unto victory.” See, then, how He “binds.” A little while ago some straitening circumstance happened to you, and you felt strangely circumscribed. Perhaps you were confined to your house; perhaps you were laid on a sick bed-you were shut out from the scenes you loved so well-your spirit felt cramped-your life became as a galling fetter-and you chafed against the restraint which you felt, but could not overcome. You did not know or think at that time that this was the very way by which that “stronger one” was proceeding to “bind” that old, strong, self-willed, impetuous nature in you, which, rampant so many years, had done you such grievous harm-you, who were the slave of your evil passions! Or, a very heavy trial almost crushed you-not you, but the old habit-the old affection-the old man in you-which many a lighter means had been tried, and tried in vain, to subdue and to destroy. Or, a very deep humiliation visited your heart, and many a high thought of your youth was brought low-you felt it very hard; for you did not realize into what pride “the strong one” was lashing you, and what curbing that proud heart of yours needed before it could be broken. And remember, even the knocking off the prisoner’s chains will give him pain, and the longer he has worn the chain the greater the pain of loosening. Now mark “the spoil.” “He will bind the strong man, and then He will spoil his house.” The habit of sin broken, the soul emancipated; Christ is free to claim His own property, which His own blood has purchased, and His own right hand has rescued. He had restored the property to its rightful owner. And wondrously, in His infinite love, He “divides the spoils” which He has taken. You, He gives to yourself, so that that is which was not before, nor ever could be-He has made you your own. Nevertheless, “you are not your own,” but His-your own, because you are His. Your heart, which Satan bound, and He looses, He keeps all for Himself. Your fellowships, your sympathies, He allots for the Church. Your time, your talents, your energies, your charities for the world; your highest exercises of mind, for communion with Himself; your faith for the promises; your ambition for the extension of the truth, and the exalting of His own empire; your awe and love for holy worship; your soul, “bound up in the bundle of life,” for heaven, and for eternity; your knees for prayer; your tongue for holy utterances; your ears for truth; your eyes to receive and emit sacred influences; your feet for mission; your whole body for saintly service. So He “divides the spoils;” and yet they are all the more one, because they are divided; for it is all for all; and all for all for Him; and all for all for Him forever. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)


Verse 28

Mark 3:28; Mark 3:30

All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men.

Great sin not unpardonable, but continuance in it

There is great comfort to be derived from this statement, for such as are tempted by Satan to think their sins are too great to be forgiven. Thus thought wicked Cain, and thus many good though weak Christians are tempted to think still. Let such be assured, that there is no sin so great but God’s mercy is sufficient to pardon it, and the blood of Christ sufficient to purge away the guilt of it; neither is it the multitude or greatness of sins simply, that hinders from pardon, but impenitency in sins, whether many or few, great or small. Therefore look not only at the greatness of thy sins with one eye, as it were, but look also, with the other, at the greatness of God’s mercy and the infinite value of Christ’s merits; both which are sufficient to pardon and take away the guilt of thy most heinous sins if truly repented of. Look therefore at this, that there be in this a great measure of godly sorrow and repentance for thy great sins; and labour by faith to apply the blood of Christ to thy conscience for the purging of thy sins, and thou needest not doubt but they shall be pardoned. Whether thy sins be many or few, small or great, this makes nothing for thee or against thee as touching the obtaining of pardon; but it is thy continuing, or not continuing in thy sins impenitently, that shall make against thee or for thee. To the impenitent all sins are unpardonable; to the penitent all sins are pardonable, though never so great and heinous. Yet let none abuse this doctrine to presumption or boldness in sinning, because God’s mercy is great and sufficient to pardon all sins, even the greatest, except the sin against the Holy Ghost. Beware of sinning that grace may abound; beware of turning the grace of God into wantonness, for God has said He will not be merciful to such as sin, presuming on His mercy. Besides, we must remember that, although God has mercy enough to pardon great sins, yet great sins require a great and extraordinary measure of repentance. (G. Petter.)

Blasphemy

In that our Saviour, setting out the riches of God’s mercy, in pardoning all sorts of sins, though never so great (except that against the Holy Ghost), doth give instance in blasphemy, as one of the greatest; hence gather, that blasphemy against God is one of the most heinous sins, and very hard to be forgiven. This sin is committed in the following ways.

1. By attributing to God that which is dishonourable to Him, and unbeseeming His Majesty; e.g., to say He is unjust, cruel, or the author of sin, etc.

2. By taking from God, and denying unto Him that which belongs to Him.

3. By attributing the properties of God to creatures.

4. By speaking contemptibly of God. Pharaoh (Exodus 5:2); Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:15). (G. Petter.)

Remedies against this sin of blasphemy

1. Consider the fearfulness of the sin. It argues great wickedness in the heart harbouring it.2. Consider how God has avenged Himself on blasphemers, even by temporal judgments.

3. Our tongues are given us to bless God and man.

4. Labour for a reverent fear of God in our hearts.

5. Take heed of using God’s Name irreverently, and of common swearing. (G. Petter.)

The man who will not be forgiven, cannot be forgiven

In one place Jesus seems to speak of this sin as an action, at another time He calls it speaking a word against the Holy Ghost. Is there any one word or action that a man or woman can perpetrate which will forever cut them off from God’s mercy and pardon? Not one! Study this phrase of the scribes, that Jesus cast out devils by Beelzebub, for it was the phrase which brought them under sentence for sin against the Holy Ghost, and you will understand what that sin of theirs really was. The word spoken is nothing apart from the state of heart which it reveals. It has only power to save or damn, because out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh. It bears witness to that. The sin is not a word or an action, then, but a state-a state of heart; the state which sees good and denies it; which turns the light into darkness; which can look on Jesus and still lie. Such a state is the unforgiven and unforgivable sin in this world-in the eternity that now is or in that which is to come. Pardon is between two parties; he who will not be forgiven cannot be forgiven. In the hardened state above described-the state which is sin against the Holy Ghost-you will not, therefore you cannot, be forgiven. As long as you are so, that will be so, but it is nowhere said that you shall never be lifted out of that state; converted-awakened-aroused-saved-just as a man lying down with the snow torpor upon him, which means coming death, may be kept walking about, or lifted out of that torpor and saved; but as long as he is in it he cannot be saved-he must die. (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

The unpardonable sin indescribable

Explanation of this mystery there is probably none. It best explains itself by exciting a holy fear as to trespass. Another step-only one-and we may be over the line. One word more, and we may have passed into the state unpardonable. Do not ask what this sin is; only know that every other sin leads straight up to it; and at best there is but a step between life and death. From what the merciful God does pardon, we can only infer that the sin which hath never forgiveness is something too terrible for full expression in words. He pardons “abundantly.” He pardoned Nineveh; He passed by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage; where sin abounded, He sent the mightiest billows of His grace; when the enemy would have stoned the redeemed, by reminding them of sins manifold, and base with exceeding aggravation, behold their sins could not be found, for His merciful hand had east them into the sea. Yet there is one sin that hath never forgiveness! As it is unpardonable, so it is indescribable. If it be too great for God’s mercy, what wonder that it should be too mysterious for our comprehension? My soul, come not thou into that secret. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Irreclaimable

Those who make the best things effects of the worst are irreclaimable. (J. H. Godwin.)

The unforgivable sin

If you poison the spring, the very source, you must die of drinking the water, so long as the poison is there. And if you deny and blaspheme the very essence from which forgiveness springs and flows, forgiveness is killed (for you) by your own hand. There can be no remission, no healing for that, since it is in fact-“Evil, be thou my good; good, thou art evil!” How significant it is that it is the attributing goodness, righteousness of word, life, action, “good works” in short, to an evil source, which is the unpardonable sin-not the converse; not the ascribing unworthy things to the source of good; not the having faulty conceptions of Him. If it were that, who among us would escape? (Vita.)

Sin against consciousness greater than against sight

Christ taught that a word spoken against the Son of Man would be forgiven, but that a word spoken against the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven: by which He probably meant that in His visible form there was so much that contravened the expectations of the people, that they might, under the mistaken guidance of their carnal feelings, speak against One who had claimed kingly position under a servant’s form; but that in the course of events He would appear not to the eye but to the consciousness of men; and that when He came by this higher ministry, refusal of His appeal would place man in an unpardonable state. The vital principle would seem to be, that when man denies his own consciousness, or shuts himself up from such influences as would purify and quicken his consciousness, he cuts himself off from God, and becomes a “son of perdition.” Speaking against the Holy Ghost is speaking against the higher and final revelation of the Son of Man. (J. Parker, D. D.)

God wilt vindicate His honour

During the prevalence of infidelity in America after the reign of terror in France, Newbury, New York, was remarkable for its abandonment. Through the influence of “Blind Palmer,” there was formed a Druidical Society, so called, which had a high priest, and met at stated times to uproot and destroy all true religion. They descended sometimes to acts the most infamous and blasphemous. Thus, for instance, at one of their meetings they burned the Bible, baptized a eat, partook of a mock sacrament, and one of the number, with the approval of the rest, administered it to a dog. Now, mark the retributive judgments of God, which at once commenced falling on these blasphemers. In the evening he who had administered this mock sacrament was attacked with a violent inflammatory disease; his inflamed eyeballs were protruded from their sockets, his tongue was swollen, and he died before the following morning in great bodily and mental agony. Another of the party was found dead in his bed the next morning. A third, who had been present, fell in a fit, and died immediately; and three others were drowned a few days afterwards. In short, within five years from the time the Druidical Society was organized, all the original members met their death in some strange or unnatural manner. There were thirty-six of them in all, and of these two were starved to death, seven drowned, eight shot, five committed suicide, seven died on the gallows, one was frozen to death, and three died “accidentally.” Of these statements there is good proof; they have been certified before justices of peace in New York.

The unpardonable sin

The doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of Christianity, both as a system of doctrines and as a religion. We stand in special relation to the several persons of the Trinity. All sin as against the Father or the Son may be forgiven, but the sin against the Holy Ghost can never be forgiven.

I. Its general character.

1. That there is such a sin which is unpardonable.

2. It is an open sin, not a sin merely of the heart. It is blasphemy. It requires to be uttered and carried out in act.

3. It is directed against the Holy Ghost, specifically. It terminates on Him. It consists in blaspheming Him, or doing despite unto Him.

II. Its specific character. This includes-

1. Regarding and pronouncing the Holy Ghost to be evil; ascribing the effect which He produces to Satan or to an evil, impure spirit.

2. The rejection of His testimony as false. He testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. The man guilty of this sin declares Him to be a man only. He testifies that Jesus is holy. The other declares He is a malefactor. He testifies that His blood cleanses from all sin. The other, that it is an unclean thing, and tramples it under foot.

3. The conscious, deliberate, malicious resistance of the Holy Spirit, and the determined opposition of the soul to Him and His gospel, and a turning away from both with abhorrence.

His sin supposes-

1. Knowledge of the gospel.

2. Conviction of its truth.

3. Experience of its power.

It is the rejection of the whole testimony of the Spirit, and rejection of Him and His work, with malicious and outspoken blasphemy. It is by a comparison of Matthew 12:31, and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, with Hebrews 6:6-10; Hebrews 10:26-29 that the true idea of the unpardonable sin is to be obtained.

III. The consequence of this sin is reprobation, or a reprobate mind.

IV. Importance of clear views of this subject.

1. Because erroneous views prevail, as

2. Because people of tender conscience often are unnecessarily tormented with the fear that they have committed this sin. It is hard to deal with such persons, for they are generally in a morbid state.

3. Because as there is such a sin, every approach to it should be avoided and dreaded.

4. Because we owe specific reverence to the Holy Ghost on whom our spiritual life depends. (C. Hedge, D. D.)

The unpardonable sin

I. Now, what is forgiveness? It is the remission of the consequences of a violation of law, and of pains and penalties of every kind which arise from having broken a law. It may be considered as, first, organic. In other words, far away from human society the Divine will expresses itself in natural law. Thus a man, by intemperance, by gluttony, by excess of activity, by violation of physical law, may disarrange his whole structure. His head may suffer, his chest may suffer, any part of his body may suffer. Violence may fracture a limb, or some sprain may distort a tendon or a muscle; and everywhere man, as a physical organization, is in contact with God’s organic law in the physical world in which we live.

II. The principle of forgiveness runs through creation. That is to say, all violations of law are not fatal. They may inflict more or less pain; they may bring upon a man suffering to a certain extent; but so soon as a man finds that the derangement of his stomach has arisen from eating improper food, although the knowledge and the reformation do not take away the dyspepsia, yet, if he thoroughly turns away from the course he has been pursuing, and pursues wholesome methods, in time he will recover. Nature has forgiven him. Throughout the physical world you may cure fevers, dropsies, fractures, derangements of vital organs; you may violate all the multiplied economies that go to constitute the individual physical man, and rebound will bring forgiveness; but there is a point beyond which if you go it will not, either in youth, in middle life, or in old age. Many a young man who spends himself until he has drained the fountain of vitality dry in youth is an old man at thirty years of age; he creeps and crawls at forty, and at fifty, if he is alive, he is a wretch. Nature says, “I forgive all manner of iniquity and transgression and sin to a man who does not commit the unpardonable sin.”

III. For there is an unpardonable sin, physically speaking, that is possible to every man. If a thousand-pound weight fall upon a man so that it grinds the bones of his leg to powder, like flour, I should like to see any surgeon that could restore it to him. He may give him a substitute in the form of wood or cork, but he cannot give him his leg again. There is an unpardonable sin that may be committed in connection with the lungs, with the heart, or with the head. They are strung with nerves as thick as beads on a string; and up to a certain point of excess or abuse of the nervous system if you rebound there will be remission, and you will be put hack, or nearly hack, where you were before you transgressed nature’s laws; but beyond that point-it differs in different men, and in different parts of the same man-if you go on transgressing, and persist in transgression, you will never get over the effect of it as long as you live. (H. W. Beecher.)

The unpardonable sin

I. What are the signs? This I speak by way of relief to many and many a needlessly tried soul. The inevitable sign of the commission of the unpardonable sin is a condition in which men are past feeling; and if a man has come into that condition in which he is unpardonable-incurable-the sign will be that he does not care. If you find a person who is alarmed lest he is in that condition, his very alarm is a sign that he is not in it. I know not what was the particular case that led to the request that I should preach on the subject; but if there be those that are suffering because they fear that they have committed the unpardonable sin, in the first place, it is not a single act, it is a condition that men come into by education; and, in the second place, that condition is one in which there is a cessation of sensibility. It is a want of spiritual pulse. It is a want of the capacity of spiritual suffering. Therefore, if you do not suffer at all, it may be, it is quite likely, that you are in that condition. Those who are in that condition are never troubled about their spiritual state. But where persons are anxious on the subject of their spiritual state, and are in distress about it, and talk much respecting it, they are the very ones that cannot be in the unpardonable condition. What would you think of a man who should anxiously go around asking every physician if he did not think he was blind, when the reason of his anxiety was that he had such acuteness of vision that he saw everything so very plainly and continuously? Acuteness of vision is not a sign of blindness. What would you think of a man that should go to his physician to ascertain if he was not growing deaf, because his hearing was so good? The symptoms of deafness do not go that way. And how incompatible with the condition in which one has committed the unpardonable sin is fear lest one has committed it. That condition is one in which a person is past all feeling, and is given over to his wickedness.

II. This subject will lead us to make an important discrimination-one which we may all of us need-whether we are in a sinful state or are beginning to lead a Christian life. There is a tendency to fear great sins, and a tendency to be indifferent to little ones. Now, there are certain great sins that, being committed, may give such a moral shock to a man’s constitution as to be fatal in their effects; but these are not usually fallen into. Men are not very much in danger of great sins. They are ten thousand times more in danger of little ones. Men are not in danger of committing perjury as much as they are of telling “white lies,” as they are called. Men are not so much in danger of counterfeiting as they are of putting on little minute false appearances. Men are not so much in danger of committing burglary as they are of committing the myriad infinitesimal injustices with which life is filled. Any particular act, to be sure, such as I have alluded to, which of itself is simply as a particle of dust, is not so culpable as a great sin; but what is the effect on the constitution of a series of these offences that are so small as to be almost imperceptible? It is these little sins, continued and multiplied, that by friction take off the enamel of a man’s conscience. It is these numberless petty wrongs that men do not fear, persisted in, that are the most damaging. I should dread the incursion into my garden, in the night time, of rooting swine, or trampling ox, or browsing buffalo; but, after all, aphides are worse than these big brutes. I could kill anyone, or half a dozen, or a score of them, if they came in such limited numbers; but when they swarm by the billion I cannot kill one in ten thousand of them-and what can I do? Myriads of these insignificant little insects will eat faster than I can work, and they are the pest and danger of the garden, as often my poor asters and roses testify. There is many and many a flower that I would work hard to save, but the fecundity of insect life will quite match and overmatch, any man’s industry. Weakness multiplied is stronger than strength. Now, that which does the mischief is these aphides, these myriad infinitesimal worms, these pestiferous little sins, every one of which is called white, and is a mere nothing, a small point-a mote, a speck of dust. Why, many a caravan has been overtaken, smothered and destroyed by clouds of dust, the separate particles of which were so minute as to be almost invisible. Many men are afraid that they will be left to some great sin-and they ought to fear that; but they have not the slightest fear of that which is a great deal more likely to bring them to condemnation-the series of petty violations of conscience, and truth, and duty, with which human experience is filled. Here is where every man should most seriously ponder his condition, and ask himself, “What is the effect of the conduct that I am day by day evolving? Am I educating myself toward moral sensibility, or away from moral sensibility?”

III. This leads me to say that every man should take heed to the way in which he treats his conscience. If the light in him be darkness, how great is that darkness! When we put a lighthouse on the coast, that in the night mariners may explore the dark and terrible way of the sea, we not only swing glass around it to protect it, but we enclose that glass itself in a network of iron wire, that birds may not dash it in, the summer winds may not swoop it out, and that swarms of insects may not destroy themselves and the light. For if the light in the lighthouse be put out, how great a darkness falls upon the land and upon the sea. And the mariner, waiting for the light, or seeing it not, miscalculates, and perishes. Now, a man’s conscience ought to be protected from those influences that would diminish its light, or that would put it out; but there are thousands of men who are every day doing their utmost to destroy this light. When they do wrong, their conscience rebukes them, and they instantly attempt to suppress it and put it down. They undertake to excuse themselves and palliate the wrong. The next day, when they do wrong, the same process goes on, and they make a deliberate war against their conscience; for it is a very painful thing for a man to do wrong and carry the hurt, and he feels that he must overcome this tormentor if he would have any peace, a great many men not only are making war against the light of God in the soul, but are beginning to feel the greatest complacency in their achievements. They come to a state in which they can lie and not feel bad. They come to a state in which they can do a great deal of injustice, and not have it strike them any mere as injustice. Men that have got along so far in this moral perversion that their conscience has ceased to trouble them, and they think of wrong-doing merely as a thing that is in the way of business, are sometimes surprised as their mind strikes back to the time when they were more sensitive to right, and they say, “I recollect that, ten or fifteen years ago, when I first began to do such things, I used to be so troubled about them that I lay awake nights; but, it is a long time since they have given me any trouble.” They muse, and say, “How queer it is. I used to shrink from things that were not just right, and to be afraid to deviate in the least from the strictest rectitude; but I have got over it. Now I do not feel so. How is it? I wonder what has happened to me.” Oh, yes; you wonder what has happened to you. There has been death in your house. The cradle is empty. Souls die. The moral element of your soul is dead. Why, many and many a man, who used to be sensitive to purity, whose cheek used to colour at the allusion to impurity, has got so now that the whole literature of impurity is familiar to him. Impure scenes, impure narratives, the whole morbid intercourse of impure minds, they now never feel any shrinking from. Their moral nature is seared as with a hot iron. There are men that come not only to be wicked, but to be struck through and through with wickedness, so that they love men that are, wicked, and hate men that are not. They come to have a great contempt for anything that is not wickedness, and to have a great regard, if not respect, for wickedness itself. And this they come to not at a plunge. Men never go down such a moral precipice headlong. They go down by degrees. The decline from a state of moral sensitiveness is very gradual-so gradual that it does not seem to men to be on the downward way. Flowers are round about their feet, the path is shaded and pleasant, and they go far down before they begin to have any sense of an approaching change. The way from right to wrong is a deceptive way, and a fatal way, and on it men go far along toward destruction before their suspicions are awakened. (H. W. Beecher.)

Warning and encouragement

1. There is here a very full proclamation of the grace of the gospel-the efficacy of His blood.

2. A particular sin is nevertheless singled out, and placed beyond the reach of forgiveness. Warned against it rather than charged with it. It seems to belong to the gospel dispensation.

3. Its characteristics are-It is committed against the Spirit personally, against the clearest demonstration, from malice, without relenting or repentance. Repentance, being a grace of the Spirit, would show that it had not been committed. (J. Stewart.)

Despair vanquished by prayer

I have read of one in despair whom Satan persuaded it was in vain to pray or serve God, for he must certainly go to hell; he nevertheless still went to prayer, and begged of God that if he must go to hell when he died, yet He would please give him leave to serve Him whilst he lived. Having thus prayed, his terrors vanished, being clearly convinced that none could pray that prayer who had sinned against the Holy Ghost. (Sheffield.)


Verses 28-30

Verse 30

Mark 3:28; Mark 3:30

All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men.

Great sin not unpardonable, but continuance in it

There is great comfort to be derived from this statement, for such as are tempted by Satan to think their sins are too great to be forgiven. Thus thought wicked Cain, and thus many good though weak Christians are tempted to think still. Let such be assured, that there is no sin so great but God’s mercy is sufficient to pardon it, and the blood of Christ sufficient to purge away the guilt of it; neither is it the multitude or greatness of sins simply, that hinders from pardon, but impenitency in sins, whether many or few, great or small. Therefore look not only at the greatness of thy sins with one eye, as it were, but look also, with the other, at the greatness of God’s mercy and the infinite value of Christ’s merits; both which are sufficient to pardon and take away the guilt of thy most heinous sins if truly repented of. Look therefore at this, that there be in this a great measure of godly sorrow and repentance for thy great sins; and labour by faith to apply the blood of Christ to thy conscience for the purging of thy sins, and thou needest not doubt but they shall be pardoned. Whether thy sins be many or few, small or great, this makes nothing for thee or against thee as touching the obtaining of pardon; but it is thy continuing, or not continuing in thy sins impenitently, that shall make against thee or for thee. To the impenitent all sins are unpardonable; to the penitent all sins are pardonable, though never so great and heinous. Yet let none abuse this doctrine to presumption or boldness in sinning, because God’s mercy is great and sufficient to pardon all sins, even the greatest, except the sin against the Holy Ghost. Beware of sinning that grace may abound; beware of turning the grace of God into wantonness, for God has said He will not be merciful to such as sin, presuming on His mercy. Besides, we must remember that, although God has mercy enough to pardon great sins, yet great sins require a great and extraordinary measure of repentance. (G. Petter.)

Blasphemy

In that our Saviour, setting out the riches of God’s mercy, in pardoning all sorts of sins, though never so great (except that against the Holy Ghost), doth give instance in blasphemy, as one of the greatest; hence gather, that blasphemy against God is one of the most heinous sins, and very hard to be forgiven. This sin is committed in the following ways.

1. By attributing to God that which is dishonourable to Him, and unbeseeming His Majesty; e.g., to say He is unjust, cruel, or the author of sin, etc.

2. By taking from God, and denying unto Him that which belongs to Him.

3. By attributing the properties of God to creatures.

4. By speaking contemptibly of God. Pharaoh (Exodus 5:2); Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:15). (G. Petter.)

Remedies against this sin of blasphemy

1. Consider the fearfulness of the sin. It argues great wickedness in the heart harbouring it.2. Consider how God has avenged Himself on blasphemers, even by temporal judgments.

3. Our tongues are given us to bless God and man.

4. Labour for a reverent fear of God in our hearts.

5. Take heed of using God’s Name irreverently, and of common swearing. (G. Petter.)

The man who will not be forgiven, cannot be forgiven

In one place Jesus seems to speak of this sin as an action, at another time He calls it speaking a word against the Holy Ghost. Is there any one word or action that a man or woman can perpetrate which will forever cut them off from God’s mercy and pardon? Not one! Study this phrase of the scribes, that Jesus cast out devils by Beelzebub, for it was the phrase which brought them under sentence for sin against the Holy Ghost, and you will understand what that sin of theirs really was. The word spoken is nothing apart from the state of heart which it reveals. It has only power to save or damn, because out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh. It bears witness to that. The sin is not a word or an action, then, but a state-a state of heart; the state which sees good and denies it; which turns the light into darkness; which can look on Jesus and still lie. Such a state is the unforgiven and unforgivable sin in this world-in the eternity that now is or in that which is to come. Pardon is between two parties; he who will not be forgiven cannot be forgiven. In the hardened state above described-the state which is sin against the Holy Ghost-you will not, therefore you cannot, be forgiven. As long as you are so, that will be so, but it is nowhere said that you shall never be lifted out of that state; converted-awakened-aroused-saved-just as a man lying down with the snow torpor upon him, which means coming death, may be kept walking about, or lifted out of that torpor and saved; but as long as he is in it he cannot be saved-he must die. (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

The unpardonable sin indescribable

Explanation of this mystery there is probably none. It best explains itself by exciting a holy fear as to trespass. Another step-only one-and we may be over the line. One word more, and we may have passed into the state unpardonable. Do not ask what this sin is; only know that every other sin leads straight up to it; and at best there is but a step between life and death. From what the merciful God does pardon, we can only infer that the sin which hath never forgiveness is something too terrible for full expression in words. He pardons “abundantly.” He pardoned Nineveh; He passed by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage; where sin abounded, He sent the mightiest billows of His grace; when the enemy would have stoned the redeemed, by reminding them of sins manifold, and base with exceeding aggravation, behold their sins could not be found, for His merciful hand had east them into the sea. Yet there is one sin that hath never forgiveness! As it is unpardonable, so it is indescribable. If it be too great for God’s mercy, what wonder that it should be too mysterious for our comprehension? My soul, come not thou into that secret. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Irreclaimable

Those who make the best things effects of the worst are irreclaimable. (J. H. Godwin.)

The unforgivable sin

If you poison the spring, the very source, you must die of drinking the water, so long as the poison is there. And if you deny and blaspheme the very essence from which forgiveness springs and flows, forgiveness is killed (for you) by your own hand. There can be no remission, no healing for that, since it is in fact-“Evil, be thou my good; good, thou art evil!” How significant it is that it is the attributing goodness, righteousness of word, life, action, “good works” in short, to an evil source, which is the unpardonable sin-not the converse; not the ascribing unworthy things to the source of good; not the having faulty conceptions of Him. If it were that, who among us would escape? (Vita.)

Sin against consciousness greater than against sight

Christ taught that a word spoken against the Son of Man would be forgiven, but that a word spoken against the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven: by which He probably meant that in His visible form there was so much that contravened the expectations of the people, that they might, under the mistaken guidance of their carnal feelings, speak against One who had claimed kingly position under a servant’s form; but that in the course of events He would appear not to the eye but to the consciousness of men; and that when He came by this higher ministry, refusal of His appeal would place man in an unpardonable state. The vital principle would seem to be, that when man denies his own consciousness, or shuts himself up from such influences as would purify and quicken his consciousness, he cuts himself off from God, and becomes a “son of perdition.” Speaking against the Holy Ghost is speaking against the higher and final revelation of the Son of Man. (J. Parker, D. D.)

God wilt vindicate His honour

During the prevalence of infidelity in America after the reign of terror in France, Newbury, New York, was remarkable for its abandonment. Through the influence of “Blind Palmer,” there was formed a Druidical Society, so called, which had a high priest, and met at stated times to uproot and destroy all true religion. They descended sometimes to acts the most infamous and blasphemous. Thus, for instance, at one of their meetings they burned the Bible, baptized a eat, partook of a mock sacrament, and one of the number, with the approval of the rest, administered it to a dog. Now, mark the retributive judgments of God, which at once commenced falling on these blasphemers. In the evening he who had administered this mock sacrament was attacked with a violent inflammatory disease; his inflamed eyeballs were protruded from their sockets, his tongue was swollen, and he died before the following morning in great bodily and mental agony. Another of the party was found dead in his bed the next morning. A third, who had been present, fell in a fit, and died immediately; and three others were drowned a few days afterwards. In short, within five years from the time the Druidical Society was organized, all the original members met their death in some strange or unnatural manner. There were thirty-six of them in all, and of these two were starved to death, seven drowned, eight shot, five committed suicide, seven died on the gallows, one was frozen to death, and three died “accidentally.” Of these statements there is good proof; they have been certified before justices of peace in New York.

The unpardonable sin

The doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of Christianity, both as a system of doctrines and as a religion. We stand in special relation to the several persons of the Trinity. All sin as against the Father or the Son may be forgiven, but the sin against the Holy Ghost can never be forgiven.

I. Its general character.

1. That there is such a sin which is unpardonable.

2. It is an open sin, not a sin merely of the heart. It is blasphemy. It requires to be uttered and carried out in act.

3. It is directed against the Holy Ghost, specifically. It terminates on Him. It consists in blaspheming Him, or doing despite unto Him.

II. Its specific character. This includes-

1. Regarding and pronouncing the Holy Ghost to be evil; ascribing the effect which He produces to Satan or to an evil, impure spirit.

2. The rejection of His testimony as false. He testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. The man guilty of this sin declares Him to be a man only. He testifies that Jesus is holy. The other declares He is a malefactor. He testifies that His blood cleanses from all sin. The other, that it is an unclean thing, and tramples it under foot.

3. The conscious, deliberate, malicious resistance of the Holy Spirit, and the determined opposition of the soul to Him and His gospel, and a turning away from both with abhorrence.

His sin supposes-

1. Knowledge of the gospel.

2. Conviction of its truth.

3. Experience of its power.

It is the rejection of the whole testimony of the Spirit, and rejection of Him and His work, with malicious and outspoken blasphemy. It is by a comparison of Matthew 12:31, and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, with Hebrews 6:6-10; Hebrews 10:26-29 that the true idea of the unpardonable sin is to be obtained.

III. The consequence of this sin is reprobation, or a reprobate mind.

IV. Importance of clear views of this subject.

1. Because erroneous views prevail, as

2. Because people of tender conscience often are unnecessarily tormented with the fear that they have committed this sin. It is hard to deal with such persons, for they are generally in a morbid state.

3. Because as there is such a sin, every approach to it should be avoided and dreaded.

4. Because we owe specific reverence to the Holy Ghost on whom our spiritual life depends. (C. Hedge, D. D.)

The unpardonable sin

I. Now, what is forgiveness? It is the remission of the consequences of a violation of law, and of pains and penalties of every kind which arise from having broken a law. It may be considered as, first, organic. In other words, far away from human society the Divine will expresses itself in natural law. Thus a man, by intemperance, by gluttony, by excess of activity, by violation of physical law, may disarrange his whole structure. His head may suffer, his chest may suffer, any part of his body may suffer. Violence may fracture a limb, or some sprain may distort a tendon or a muscle; and everywhere man, as a physical organization, is in contact with God’s organic law in the physical world in which we live.

II. The principle of forgiveness runs through creation. That is to say, all violations of law are not fatal. They may inflict more or less pain; they may bring upon a man suffering to a certain extent; but so soon as a man finds that the derangement of his stomach has arisen from eating improper food, although the knowledge and the reformation do not take away the dyspepsia, yet, if he thoroughly turns away from the course he has been pursuing, and pursues wholesome methods, in time he will recover. Nature has forgiven him. Throughout the physical world you may cure fevers, dropsies, fractures, derangements of vital organs; you may violate all the multiplied economies that go to constitute the individual physical man, and rebound will bring forgiveness; but there is a point beyond which if you go it will not, either in youth, in middle life, or in old age. Many a young man who spends himself until he has drained the fountain of vitality dry in youth is an old man at thirty years of age; he creeps and crawls at forty, and at fifty, if he is alive, he is a wretch. Nature says, “I forgive all manner of iniquity and transgression and sin to a man who does not commit the unpardonable sin.”

III. For there is an unpardonable sin, physically speaking, that is possible to every man. If a thousand-pound weight fall upon a man so that it grinds the bones of his leg to powder, like flour, I should like to see any surgeon that could restore it to him. He may give him a substitute in the form of wood or cork, but he cannot give him his leg again. There is an unpardonable sin that may be committed in connection with the lungs, with the heart, or with the head. They are strung with nerves as thick as beads on a string; and up to a certain point of excess or abuse of the nervous system if you rebound there will be remission, and you will be put hack, or nearly hack, where you were before you transgressed nature’s laws; but beyond that point-it differs in different men, and in different parts of the same man-if you go on transgressing, and persist in transgression, you will never get over the effect of it as long as you live. (H. W. Beecher.)

The unpardonable sin

I. What are the signs? This I speak by way of relief to many and many a needlessly tried soul. The inevitable sign of the commission of the unpardonable sin is a condition in which men are past feeling; and if a man has come into that condition in which he is unpardonable-incurable-the sign will be that he does not care. If you find a person who is alarmed lest he is in that condition, his very alarm is a sign that he is not in it. I know not what was the particular case that led to the request that I should preach on the subject; but if there be those that are suffering because they fear that they have committed the unpardonable sin, in the first place, it is not a single act, it is a condition that men come into by education; and, in the second place, that condition is one in which there is a cessation of sensibility. It is a want of spiritual pulse. It is a want of the capacity of spiritual suffering. Therefore, if you do not suffer at all, it may be, it is quite likely, that you are in that condition. Those who are in that condition are never troubled about their spiritual state. But where persons are anxious on the subject of their spiritual state, and are in distress about it, and talk much respecting it, they are the very ones that cannot be in the unpardonable condition. What would you think of a man who should anxiously go around asking every physician if he did not think he was blind, when the reason of his anxiety was that he had such acuteness of vision that he saw everything so very plainly and continuously? Acuteness of vision is not a sign of blindness. What would you think of a man that should go to his physician to ascertain if he was not growing deaf, because his hearing was so good? The symptoms of deafness do not go that way. And how incompatible with the condition in which one has committed the unpardonable sin is fear lest one has committed it. That condition is one in which a person is past all feeling, and is given over to his wickedness.

II. This subject will lead us to make an important discrimination-one which we may all of us need-whether we are in a sinful state or are beginning to lead a Christian life. There is a tendency to fear great sins, and a tendency to be indifferent to little ones. Now, there are certain great sins that, being committed, may give such a moral shock to a man’s constitution as to be fatal in their effects; but these are not usually fallen into. Men are not very much in danger of great sins. They are ten thousand times more in danger of little ones. Men are not in danger of committing perjury as much as they are of telling “white lies,” as they are called. Men are not so much in danger of counterfeiting as they are of putting on little minute false appearances. Men are not so much in danger of committing burglary as they are of committing the myriad infinitesimal injustices with which life is filled. Any particular act, to be sure, such as I have alluded to, which of itself is simply as a particle of dust, is not so culpable as a great sin; but what is the effect on the constitution of a series of these offences that are so small as to be almost imperceptible? It is these little sins, continued and multiplied, that by friction take off the enamel of a man’s conscience. It is these numberless petty wrongs that men do not fear, persisted in, that are the most damaging. I should dread the incursion into my garden, in the night time, of rooting swine, or trampling ox, or browsing buffalo; but, after all, aphides are worse than these big brutes. I could kill anyone, or half a dozen, or a score of them, if they came in such limited numbers; but when they swarm by the billion I cannot kill one in ten thousand of them-and what can I do? Myriads of these insignificant little insects will eat faster than I can work, and they are the pest and danger of the garden, as often my poor asters and roses testify. There is many and many a flower that I would work hard to save, but the fecundity of insect life will quite match and overmatch, any man’s industry. Weakness multiplied is stronger than strength. Now, that which does the mischief is these aphides, these myriad infinitesimal worms, these pestiferous little sins, every one of which is called white, and is a mere nothing, a small point-a mote, a speck of dust. Why, many a caravan has been overtaken, smothered and destroyed by clouds of dust, the separate particles of which were so minute as to be almost invisible. Many men are afraid that they will be left to some great sin-and they ought to fear that; but they have not the slightest fear of that which is a great deal more likely to bring them to condemnation-the series of petty violations of conscience, and truth, and duty, with which human experience is filled. Here is where every man should most seriously ponder his condition, and ask himself, “What is the effect of the conduct that I am day by day evolving? Am I educating myself toward moral sensibility, or away from moral sensibility?”

III. This leads me to say that every man should take heed to the way in which he treats his conscience. If the light in him be darkness, how great is that darkness! When we put a lighthouse on the coast, that in the night mariners may explore the dark and terrible way of the sea, we not only swing glass around it to protect it, but we enclose that glass itself in a network of iron wire, that birds may not dash it in, the summer winds may not swoop it out, and that swarms of insects may not destroy themselves and the light. For if the light in the lighthouse be put out, how great a darkness falls upon the land and upon the sea. And the mariner, waiting for the light, or seeing it not, miscalculates, and perishes. Now, a man’s conscience ought to be protected from those influences that would diminish its light, or that would put it out; but there are thousands of men who are every day doing their utmost to destroy this light. When they do wrong, their conscience rebukes them, and they instantly attempt to suppress it and put it down. They undertake to excuse themselves and palliate the wrong. The next day, when they do wrong, the same process goes on, and they make a deliberate war against their conscience; for it is a very painful thing for a man to do wrong and carry the hurt, and he feels that he must overcome this tormentor if he would have any peace, a great many men not only are making war against the light of God in the soul, but are beginning to feel the greatest complacency in their achievements. They come to a state in which they can lie and not feel bad. They come to a state in which they can do a great deal of injustice, and not have it strike them any mere as injustice. Men that have got along so far in this moral perversion that their conscience has ceased to trouble them, and they think of wrong-doing merely as a thing that is in the way of business, are sometimes surprised as their mind strikes back to the time when they were more sensitive to right, and they say, “I recollect that, ten or fifteen years ago, when I first began to do such things, I used to be so troubled about them that I lay awake nights; but, it is a long time since they have given me any trouble.” They muse, and say, “How queer it is. I used to shrink from things that were not just right, and to be afraid to deviate in the least from the strictest rectitude; but I have got over it. Now I do not feel so. How is it? I wonder what has happened to me.” Oh, yes; you wonder what has happened to you. There has been death in your house. The cradle is empty. Souls die. The moral element of your soul is dead. Why, many and many a man, who used to be sensitive to purity, whose cheek used to colour at the allusion to impurity, has got so now that the whole literature of impurity is familiar to him. Impure scenes, impure narratives, the whole morbid intercourse of impure minds, they now never feel any shrinking from. Their moral nature is seared as with a hot iron. There are men that come not only to be wicked, but to be struck through and through with wickedness, so that they love men that are, wicked, and hate men that are not. They come to have a great contempt for anything that is not wickedness, and to have a great regard, if not respect, for wickedness itself. And this they come to not at a plunge. Men never go down such a moral precipice headlong. They go down by degrees. The decline from a state of moral sensitiveness is very gradual-so gradual that it does not seem to men to be on the downward way. Flowers are round about their feet, the path is shaded and pleasant, and they go far down before they begin to have any sense of an approaching change. The way from right to wrong is a deceptive way, and a fatal way, and on it men go far along toward destruction before their suspicions are awakened. (H. W. Beecher.)

Warning and encouragement

1. There is here a very full proclamation of the grace of the gospel-the efficacy of His blood.

2. A particular sin is nevertheless singled out, and placed beyond the reach of forgiveness. Warned against it rather than charged with it. It seems to belong to the gospel dispensation.

3. Its characteristics are-It is committed against the Spirit personally, against the clearest demonstration, from malice, without relenting or repentance. Repentance, being a grace of the Spirit, would show that it had not been committed. (J. Stewart.)

Despair vanquished by prayer

I have read of one in despair whom Satan persuaded it was in vain to pray or serve God, for he must certainly go to hell; he nevertheless still went to prayer, and begged of God that if he must go to hell when he died, yet He would please give him leave to serve Him whilst he lived. Having thus prayed, his terrors vanished, being clearly convinced that none could pray that prayer who had sinned against the Holy Ghost. (Sheffield.)


Verses 31-35

Mark 3:31-35

There came then His brethren and His mother.

Spiritual kinship with Christ

See the honour and dignity of good Christians that believe in Christ. There is a most near union between Christ and them, even as near as between natural parents and children, or between those that are of nearest kindred by natural birth: therefore He accounts them as His spiritual kindred, as dear nod near to Him as His mother and brethren. And what an honour is this, to be of the spiritual kindred of Christ Himself, to be called and accounted His brother or His sister. If it be an honour to be of the blood-royal, or of the kindred of some noble personage, how much more honourable to be the brother or sister of Christ Jesus! Let all believers think of this dignity vouchsafed to them; and let it comfort them (as well it may) against all the contempt they meet with in the world. The grace of faith engrafts the believer into the stock of Christ, and brings him within His pedigree, making him to be of most near kindred with Him in a spiritual manner: it makes Christ and the believer as near to each other as natural parents and children; yea, as husband and wife, for it marries them together, whence it is that Christ is said to be the Husband of the true Church. Let this move us to labour for true faith in Christ. If we had been born and lived about the time when He was upon earth, would we not have been glad to be in the number of His natural brethren and sisters? How much more desirous should we be to be His brethren and sisters by faith? Never rest till thou know thyself a believer in Christ, and one of His kindred spiritually engrafted into Him; without this thou art miserable, though thou hast kinship by natural blood with all the princes and great men in the world. (G. Petter.)

The result of relationship with Jesus

The tenderest human ties were used by the Son of God as an illustration of our Divine relationship. To be Christ’s disciple is to belong to His family. Home, with its deep-rooted sympathies and precious endearments, is to picture our union with the Lord. Religion is as personal in its affections as in its duties. Holiness may seem to the undeveloped saint an almost fearful thing, hard to imagine, impossible to realize. But to live with Jesus and love Him is very real and very glorious. The believer finds a hand to clasp, a face to gaze upon, an ear for whispered confidences. How strange and beautiful the words must have sounded. It is as if a prince had taken by the hand a rude and ignorant slave, and drawn him into the dignity and affection of the royal household. (C. M. Southgate.)

Doing the will of God

One of the household words of the kingdom of God. It emphatically teaches that there are but two divisions of mankind-those who do the will of God, and those who disobey that will; and that not even the closest blood relationships (much less the possession of national, or church, or religious privileges) can in the slightest degree affect the distinctness and permanence of the line between these divisions. Of all relationships, spiritual ones are the closest; and there is but one permanent relationship to God, which is conformity to His will. (M. F. Sadler.)

Spiritual relationship

A poor, but pious, woman called upon two wealthy and refined young ladies, who, regardless of her poverty, received her with Christian affection, and sat down in the drawing room to converse with her upon religious subjects. While thus employed, a dashing youth by chance entered, and appeared astonished to see his sisters thus engaged. One of them instantly started up and exclaimed, “Brother, don’t be surprised; this is a king’s daughter, though she has not yet got her fine clothing.”

Divine relationships

Let us look at this subject in one or two of its important bearings upon some of the relative positions of life.

I. As regards our ties of natural relationship one to another. There is a bond stronger even than the strongest bond of nature. We may not say that Christ, as Divine, had an independence of natural affections. Yet these considerations are not to diminish the duty and affection which are to fasten relations together; no book invests our home relationship with such sweetness and power as the Bible. Yet there is a bond stronger. It is of the very last importance that the ties which fasten us together in blood and kindred should be exceedingly and paramountly strong. What parent does not feel it with his child? What husband does not feel it to his wife? Or what brother and sister do not feel it one to another? See, then, the immense necessity that the spiritual and the natural attachment run in one. Otherwise, there will be a want of sympathy. Otherwise, look at your position, worldly parents, if you have a pious child; or you, worldly children, if you have pious parents; or worldly brothers and sisters, if you have pious ones. With all you love, there is an influence at work in this world-and it may spring up any moment in your family-which may clash with the natural affections and the human obligations. And remember (it is almost awful to say it), remember, it has in it the elements of an infinite separation forever and ever. Do I say, that if your child is religious he will love you less? God forbid. But this I say, that if a worldly parent has a religious child, that child may be, and indeed sometimes must be, placed in the most difficult and perplexing of all possible relationships-a relationship of which the result may be most disastrous to peace. On the other hand, what and if the tide of grace rolls into the current of nature? What and if the omnipotence of a heavenly love wrap round and bind the human attachment? What and if relations are one in the unity of the mystical body of Christ? What and if we have our natural fathers spiritual fathers, and our natural children spiritual children, and our natural brothers and sisters brothers and sisters in Christ? How exceedingly, how eternally happy the bond! Now then, brethren, if it be so, what an argument there is here! Never voluntarily form any connection which is not “in the Lord!” And what an argument is here for continual, earnest prayer, and efforts for the conversion and salvation of those who are nearest and dearest to us. For then are they fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children indeed when the one Christ in all hearts makes one body and one soul; and the ray from heaven meeting the ray from earth, they blend together, till they glow into a perfect flame of light and love. But there is another relative duty which necessarily grows out of these words.

II. And now, God is gathering such a family around Him, and all the feelings and affections which He has planted in these hearts of ours, even the fondest, are only the dim types and shadows of that higher life, when before admiring hosts He shall say, “Behold My mother and My brethren.” But who are they who are so very dear to Christ? Now mark everywhere Christ’s jealousy for the Father’s glory, “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father.” That is the road to the heart of Christ-do God’s will. The determining question is, What is the will of God? Am I doing it? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The different phases of the love of Christ

And so it is, my brethren. The love of Christ is represented to us in the text as comprising within itself all those affections which endear our homes to us, and which, being all derived from His fulness, are parted in a fragmentary state among the various relationships of human life. Consider the manifoldness of aspect under which this love is represented to us. Christ Himself is represented to us under manifold aspects-each aspect suitable and satisfying to some want of the human mind. There are four portraitures of Christ-four gospels; and why? Because the subject to be apprehended is infinitely grand, and the mind’s capabilities of apprehension limited. It is with the mind as with the eye. If an object be real and substantial, the eye does not take it in, in its integrity, by viewing it on one side only. Thus it is with a house or other building. You survey it from a point at which only one side is turned towards you. It presents certain features, a certain arrangement of buttress and arch, doorway and window. This, however, is but a superficial acquaintance with it. Go round, and view another side. You discover there fresh designs of architectural beauty, or fresh adaptations to the convenience of the inmates. And now a third side. It is in shade and frowns-leaving altogether an impression on the mind, totally different from that upon whose white marble the sunlight was sparkling. When you have seen the fourth side, you have seen all: your impression is complete-it is made up of various elements, but all combine to form one whole. Now the mind resembles the eye. It can only become acquainted with objects-especially with large and comprehensive objects-piecemeal. It cannot gain the whole truth from one survey, without planting itself at different standing points. Even so it will help us to realize the love of Christ, if we consider one by one its various elements, those bright lines which enter into its composition.

I. What is the distinguishing trait of a brother’s love. The idea is not congeniality of tastes in every respect, but active support in all the struggles and difficulties of life. This, then, is the first phase of the love which is in Christ-the love of active support.

II. “The same is My sister.” A love remarkable for its tenderness and delicacy-different from that entertained towards a brother. This, then, is the second phase of the love which is in Christ-the being sensitive to the feelings of the person loved.

III. “The same is My mother.” The love entertained for a sister and mother have the one element in common. But superadded is a feeling of reverence, honour, and gratitude (1 Kings 2:19). “Them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30). That God and Christ will honour sinful man confers great dignity. Such, then, are the several ingredients of the love of Christ towards all those who come under the terms here specified. Nay, all love and affection, existing among men, in whatever quarter and under whatever circumstances, may be said to be comprised in His love, into be a mere emanation from the fulness of love which is in Him. Again I recur to my image of the light. Light is one thing, though comprising in itself several hues. All the fair hues of nature inhere in the light-so that where there is no light, there is no colour. Wherever the light travels, it disparts its colours to natural objects-to one after this manner, to another after that-the emerald green to the leaves-to the flowers violet, and yellow, and crimson. And in the same manner all love is in Christ, and is from Him, as its Fountainhead and Centre, disparted among the various relations of human life. A ray from His light struggles forth in the care of the father, in the tenderness of the mother, in the active support of the brother or friend, in the sister’s refined sympathy-nay, in the affectionate homage of the son. And this whole love, in all its manifold elements, is brought to converge, with unshorn beams, upon that thrice happy man or boy, who does the will of God. (E. F. Goulburn, D. C. L.)

The kinsmen of Christ

I. Christ determines the claims of earthly relationship when compared with the claims of God and duty.

1. His mother and brethren presumed on their relationship.

2. The multitude concurred.

3. Christ practically declared the superior claims of duty-or of God, to those of earthly relations. Relations and duty often clash. But for this decision, how much difficulty, etc. How much support has it given.

II. The weakness of the ties of nature, when compared with those ties to which the gospel gives existence.

1. Christ asked who His mother and brethren were, i.e., who stood to Him in nearest relation?

2. He answered the question-His disciples. The one temporary, the other eternal.

3. Their comparative strength has been tried.

4. How beautiful when united!

III. The honourable position of believers-the kinsmen of Christ.

1. He has entered the human family.

2. He has introduced them into the Divine family.

3. As a kinsman He redeemed the inheritance which was lost.

4. He is not ashamed, in heaven, to call them brethren.

5. They take rank from Him, not He from them.

IV. The character of Christ’s kinsmen.

1. It is in respect of the moral nature that man is born again.

2. The Divine nature, which through regeneration is imparted, is holiness.

3. Hence the family likeness, i.e., holiness. (Expository Discourses.)

Relationship to Christ

I. Its importance. It is an everlasting relationship.

1. It delivers us from what is earthly and vain. It is only by the formation of a higher kinsmanship that we can be severed from the drag of the carnal.

2. It connects with salvation and eternal life. It is the grafting into the living stem of the vine.

3. It connects us with honour and glory. All that our kinsman has becomes ours.

II. Its formation (John 1:12). This is the first point at which we commence doing the will of God.

III. Its manifestation. A life of service, of doing the Father’s will.

1. Are our hearts doing the Father’s will?

2. Are our intellects doing the Father’s will?

3. Are our purposes doing the Father’s will?

4. Is our life doing the Father’s will?

5. Is our family doing the Father’s will?

6. Is our business life doing the Father’s will? Thus let us test our relationship to Christ. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The test of relationship:-If you go out into the woods in the summer, you may see, high up on some tree, a branch with dry twigs and withered leaves. It seems to be a part of the tree. Yet when you look closer, you find it has been broken away, and now it is only a piece of dead wood encumbering a living tree. The test of relationship with the tree is life-fruit-bearing. That is also the test of relationship with Christ. The power which binds the iron to the magnet is unseen, but real; the iron so bound becomes itself a magnet: the power that binds believers to Christ and makes them members of Him, is as real, though also unseen..


Verses 31-35

Mark 3:31-35

There came then His brethren and His mother.

Spiritual kinship with Christ

See the honour and dignity of good Christians that believe in Christ. There is a most near union between Christ and them, even as near as between natural parents and children, or between those that are of nearest kindred by natural birth: therefore He accounts them as His spiritual kindred, as dear nod near to Him as His mother and brethren. And what an honour is this, to be of the spiritual kindred of Christ Himself, to be called and accounted His brother or His sister. If it be an honour to be of the blood-royal, or of the kindred of some noble personage, how much more honourable to be the brother or sister of Christ Jesus! Let all believers think of this dignity vouchsafed to them; and let it comfort them (as well it may) against all the contempt they meet with in the world. The grace of faith engrafts the believer into the stock of Christ, and brings him within His pedigree, making him to be of most near kindred with Him in a spiritual manner: it makes Christ and the believer as near to each other as natural parents and children; yea, as husband and wife, for it marries them together, whence it is that Christ is said to be the Husband of the true Church. Let this move us to labour for true faith in Christ. If we had been born and lived about the time when He was upon earth, would we not have been glad to be in the number of His natural brethren and sisters? How much more desirous should we be to be His brethren and sisters by faith? Never rest till thou know thyself a believer in Christ, and one of His kindred spiritually engrafted into Him; without this thou art miserable, though thou hast kinship by natural blood with all the princes and great men in the world. (G. Petter.)

The result of relationship with Jesus

The tenderest human ties were used by the Son of God as an illustration of our Divine relationship. To be Christ’s disciple is to belong to His family. Home, with its deep-rooted sympathies and precious endearments, is to picture our union with the Lord. Religion is as personal in its affections as in its duties. Holiness may seem to the undeveloped saint an almost fearful thing, hard to imagine, impossible to realize. But to live with Jesus and love Him is very real and very glorious. The believer finds a hand to clasp, a face to gaze upon, an ear for whispered confidences. How strange and beautiful the words must have sounded. It is as if a prince had taken by the hand a rude and ignorant slave, and drawn him into the dignity and affection of the royal household. (C. M. Southgate.)

Doing the will of God

One of the household words of the kingdom of God. It emphatically teaches that there are but two divisions of mankind-those who do the will of God, and those who disobey that will; and that not even the closest blood relationships (much less the possession of national, or church, or religious privileges) can in the slightest degree affect the distinctness and permanence of the line between these divisions. Of all relationships, spiritual ones are the closest; and there is but one permanent relationship to God, which is conformity to His will. (M. F. Sadler.)

Spiritual relationship

A poor, but pious, woman called upon two wealthy and refined young ladies, who, regardless of her poverty, received her with Christian affection, and sat down in the drawing room to converse with her upon religious subjects. While thus employed, a dashing youth by chance entered, and appeared astonished to see his sisters thus engaged. One of them instantly started up and exclaimed, “Brother, don’t be surprised; this is a king’s daughter, though she has not yet got her fine clothing.”

Divine relationships

Let us look at this subject in one or two of its important bearings upon some of the relative positions of life.

I. As regards our ties of natural relationship one to another. There is a bond stronger even than the strongest bond of nature. We may not say that Christ, as Divine, had an independence of natural affections. Yet these considerations are not to diminish the duty and affection which are to fasten relations together; no book invests our home relationship with such sweetness and power as the Bible. Yet there is a bond stronger. It is of the very last importance that the ties which fasten us together in blood and kindred should be exceedingly and paramountly strong. What parent does not feel it with his child? What husband does not feel it to his wife? Or what brother and sister do not feel it one to another? See, then, the immense necessity that the spiritual and the natural attachment run in one. Otherwise, there will be a want of sympathy. Otherwise, look at your position, worldly parents, if you have a pious child; or you, worldly children, if you have pious parents; or worldly brothers and sisters, if you have pious ones. With all you love, there is an influence at work in this world-and it may spring up any moment in your family-which may clash with the natural affections and the human obligations. And remember (it is almost awful to say it), remember, it has in it the elements of an infinite separation forever and ever. Do I say, that if your child is religious he will love you less? God forbid. But this I say, that if a worldly parent has a religious child, that child may be, and indeed sometimes must be, placed in the most difficult and perplexing of all possible relationships-a relationship of which the result may be most disastrous to peace. On the other hand, what and if the tide of grace rolls into the current of nature? What and if the omnipotence of a heavenly love wrap round and bind the human attachment? What and if relations are one in the unity of the mystical body of Christ? What and if we have our natural fathers spiritual fathers, and our natural children spiritual children, and our natural brothers and sisters brothers and sisters in Christ? How exceedingly, how eternally happy the bond! Now then, brethren, if it be so, what an argument there is here! Never voluntarily form any connection which is not “in the Lord!” And what an argument is here for continual, earnest prayer, and efforts for the conversion and salvation of those who are nearest and dearest to us. For then are they fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children indeed when the one Christ in all hearts makes one body and one soul; and the ray from heaven meeting the ray from earth, they blend together, till they glow into a perfect flame of light and love. But there is another relative duty which necessarily grows out of these words.

II. And now, God is gathering such a family around Him, and all the feelings and affections which He has planted in these hearts of ours, even the fondest, are only the dim types and shadows of that higher life, when before admiring hosts He shall say, “Behold My mother and My brethren.” But who are they who are so very dear to Christ? Now mark everywhere Christ’s jealousy for the Father’s glory, “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father.” That is the road to the heart of Christ-do God’s will. The determining question is, What is the will of God? Am I doing it? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The different phases of the love of Christ

And so it is, my brethren. The love of Christ is represented to us in the text as comprising within itself all those affections which endear our homes to us, and which, being all derived from His fulness, are parted in a fragmentary state among the various relationships of human life. Consider the manifoldness of aspect under which this love is represented to us. Christ Himself is represented to us under manifold aspects-each aspect suitable and satisfying to some want of the human mind. There are four portraitures of Christ-four gospels; and why? Because the subject to be apprehended is infinitely grand, and the mind’s capabilities of apprehension limited. It is with the mind as with the eye. If an object be real and substantial, the eye does not take it in, in its integrity, by viewing it on one side only. Thus it is with a house or other building. You survey it from a point at which only one side is turned towards you. It presents certain features, a certain arrangement of buttress and arch, doorway and window. This, however, is but a superficial acquaintance with it. Go round, and view another side. You discover there fresh designs of architectural beauty, or fresh adaptations to the convenience of the inmates. And now a third side. It is in shade and frowns-leaving altogether an impression on the mind, totally different from that upon whose white marble the sunlight was sparkling. When you have seen the fourth side, you have seen all: your impression is complete-it is made up of various elements, but all combine to form one whole. Now the mind resembles the eye. It can only become acquainted with objects-especially with large and comprehensive objects-piecemeal. It cannot gain the whole truth from one survey, without planting itself at different standing points. Even so it will help us to realize the love of Christ, if we consider one by one its various elements, those bright lines which enter into its composition.

I. What is the distinguishing trait of a brother’s love. The idea is not congeniality of tastes in every respect, but active support in all the struggles and difficulties of life. This, then, is the first phase of the love which is in Christ-the love of active support.

II. “The same is My sister.” A love remarkable for its tenderness and delicacy-different from that entertained towards a brother. This, then, is the second phase of the love which is in Christ-the being sensitive to the feelings of the person loved.

III. “The same is My mother.” The love entertained for a sister and mother have the one element in common. But superadded is a feeling of reverence, honour, and gratitude (1 Kings 2:19). “Them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30). That God and Christ will honour sinful man confers great dignity. Such, then, are the several ingredients of the love of Christ towards all those who come under the terms here specified. Nay, all love and affection, existing among men, in whatever quarter and under whatever circumstances, may be said to be comprised in His love, into be a mere emanation from the fulness of love which is in Him. Again I recur to my image of the light. Light is one thing, though comprising in itself several hues. All the fair hues of nature inhere in the light-so that where there is no light, there is no colour. Wherever the light travels, it disparts its colours to natural objects-to one after this manner, to another after that-the emerald green to the leaves-to the flowers violet, and yellow, and crimson. And in the same manner all love is in Christ, and is from Him, as its Fountainhead and Centre, disparted among the various relations of human life. A ray from His light struggles forth in the care of the father, in the tenderness of the mother, in the active support of the brother or friend, in the sister’s refined sympathy-nay, in the affectionate homage of the son. And this whole love, in all its manifold elements, is brought to converge, with unshorn beams, upon that thrice happy man or boy, who does the will of God. (E. F. Goulburn, D. C. L.)

The kinsmen of Christ

I. Christ determines the claims of earthly relationship when compared with the claims of God and duty.

1. His mother and brethren presumed on their relationship.

2. The multitude concurred.

3. Christ practically declared the superior claims of duty-or of God, to those of earthly relations. Relations and duty often clash. But for this decision, how much difficulty, etc. How much support has it given.

II. The weakness of the ties of nature, when compared with those ties to which the gospel gives existence.

1. Christ asked who His mother and brethren were, i.e., who stood to Him in nearest relation?

2. He answered the question-His disciples. The one temporary, the other eternal.

3. Their comparative strength has been tried.

4. How beautiful when united!

III. The honourable position of believers-the kinsmen of Christ.

1. He has entered the human family.

2. He has introduced them into the Divine family.

3. As a kinsman He redeemed the inheritance which was lost.

4. He is not ashamed, in heaven, to call them brethren.

5. They take rank from Him, not He from them.

IV. The character of Christ’s kinsmen.

1. It is in respect of the moral nature that man is born again.

2. The Divine nature, which through regeneration is imparted, is holiness.

3. Hence the family likeness, i.e., holiness. (Expository Discourses.)

Relationship to Christ

I. Its importance. It is an everlasting relationship.

1. It delivers us from what is earthly and vain. It is only by the formation of a higher kinsmanship that we can be severed from the drag of the carnal.

2. It connects with salvation and eternal life. It is the grafting into the living stem of the vine.

3. It connects us with honour and glory. All that our kinsman has becomes ours.

II. Its formation (John 1:12). This is the first point at which we commence doing the will of God.

III. Its manifestation. A life of service, of doing the Father’s will.

1. Are our hearts doing the Father’s will?

2. Are our intellects doing the Father’s will?

3. Are our purposes doing the Father’s will?

4. Is our life doing the Father’s will?

5. Is our family doing the Father’s will?

6. Is our business life doing the Father’s will? Thus let us test our relationship to Christ. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The test of relationship:-If you go out into the woods in the summer, you may see, high up on some tree, a branch with dry twigs and withered leaves. It seems to be a part of the tree. Yet when you look closer, you find it has been broken away, and now it is only a piece of dead wood encumbering a living tree. The test of relationship with the tree is life-fruit-bearing. That is also the test of relationship with Christ. The power which binds the iron to the magnet is unseen, but real; the iron so bound becomes itself a magnet: the power that binds believers to Christ and makes them members of Him, is as real, though also unseen..

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Mark 3:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/mark-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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