Doing Good on the Sabbath
3:1 Then Jesus entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.
It was Jesus’ custom to attend the local synagogue; and on this occasion he met there a man with a withered hand.
3:2 They watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they could accuse him.
The Pharisees were there, scrutinising Jesus’ every word and action; ready to pounce on him with an accusation. They only saw the man's handicap as an opportunity to bring charges against Jesus. They had no compassion for the man himself. Jesus on the other hand saw the man's need, and reached out to him in genuine compassion; whilst at the same time taking the opportunity to emphasise his teaching concerning the Sabbath.
3:3 So he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Stand up among all these people.’
In calling the man to come forward in front of the whole congregation Jesus was challenging the man's faith.
3:4 Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or evil, to save a life or destroy it?’ But they were silent.
Jesus then challenged his opponents by asking them “is it lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath?” They did not dare answer him, for they did not wish to become ensnared in the very trap which they had set for him.
3:5 After looking around at them in anger, grieved by the hardness of their hearts, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
The Lord became very angry and was grieved over the hardness of their hearts; their unwillingness to bend the rules even for the sake of a helpless man. To the Hebrew “hardness of heart” meant “a stubborn resistance to the purpose of God” (A. Cole). If finding such hardness in the hearts of his enemies caused Christ pain, how much more must he be grieved to find hard hearts among the common people (John 12:37-40) or even his own disciples (Mark 6:52). At the command of Jesus the man stretched out his hand, and as he did so it was healed.
3:6 So the Pharisees went out immediately and began plotting with the Herodians, as to how they could assassinate him.
The Pharisees did not rejoice to see the man healed; they only saw Jesus as a threat to their authority and that of the law of Moses. The Pharisees and the Herodians hated each other vehemently, yet such was their mutual hatred of Christ that they joined forces in order to plot his death.
Note: Herodians. These were a party among the Jews who were supporters of King Herod and his family, as they looked upon him as the last hope for the Jews of retaining their own national government, as distinguished from absolute dependence on Rome
3:7-8 Then Jesus went away with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him. And from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan River, and around Tyre and Sidon a great multitude came to him when they heard about the things he had done.
Because of the rejection of the religious leaders Jesus withdrew from his synagogue ministry to continue preaching in the open air, as so many have been forced to do since (e.g. John Wesley in England). Christ returned to the seaside where the people came to him, not only from Galilee but from all over Israel. They came to hear his teaching and to be healed by him. The reason for the vast crowds was the publicity Jesus had gained by “word of mouth”. They had heard from others the mighty things that Jesus had done, and wanted to see for themselves. It is only as we tell others about Jesus that they can know his power to save them (Rom. 10:14). Yet we also learn from these verses that there are times in our witnessing when we need to withdraw (as Christ did from the Pharisees) and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work, especially when our witness is rejected.
3:9 Because of the crowd, he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him so the crowd would not press toward him.
The Lord was not ignorant of the possibility of his being overcome by the crush of the large crowd, and so asked his disciples to have a small boat standing by that he might use it as a pulpit. We might wonder why he should take this precaution, since in other places we see Christ divinely protected from the crowds (such as those who wanted to throw him over the cliff in Nazareth in Luke 4:29-30). Yet it appears that even in Jesus’ case, God expects men to use their common sense, and if provision can be made, to make it. Remember what Jesus answered when Satan tempted him to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:7).
3:10 For he had healed many, so that all who were afflicted with diseases pressed toward him in order to touch him.
There seemed to be no end to the number of people who needed healing of a huge variety of diseases. We read again that many were healed, which would perhaps suggest that not everybody was; not because of Christ's inability but because of their unbelief.
3:11-12 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
Whenever unclean spirits saw him, they fell at his feet and cried out; acknowledging who he was. One commenter has suggested that the reason that there was such great activity by demonic power at this time was because Jesus Christ had come to destroy them. The reason for the increase in the manifestation of demonic power in the world today might be the same – for the devil and his demons know that the time is short before Christ comes to cast them into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).
Christ silences the demons, for he does not need their testimony. What matters most to God is not the confession of vanquished demons, but the voluntary confession from the hearts of men who gladly yield their allegiance to him.
Jesus Calls the Twelve
3:13 Now Jesus went up the mountain and called for those he wanted, and they came to him.
Jesus next departed to the quietness of the mountains, where we are told (Luke 6:12) that he prayed all night before choosing his twelve apostles. Like Jesus, before we make any important decision, we should pray and have an open heart to receive the answer; whatever it might be. We may not all have the privilege today of being called as apostles, but Jesus is continually calling every one of us to a closer walk with him.
3:14-15 He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles), so that they would be with him and he could send them to preach and to have authority to cast out demons.
Christ’s purpose in choosing these men was to prepare them for the ministry he wanted them to fulfil. This ministry entailed preaching the gospel message and (through Christ’s name) healing the sick and casting out demons.
3:16-19 He appointed twelve: To Simon he gave the name Peter; to James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee, he gave the name Boanerges (that is, ‘sons of thunder’); and Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
The apostles were certainly a mixed bunch and if they were interviewed by employers according to today’s values they certainly would not have been chosen for the job. But God does not look at the outward appearance or at our achievements but at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).
Consider those who were chosen: Simon (meaning hasty, or rough and ready); whom he re-named Peter (a rock), for Jesus new that a work of grace would be done in his life to make him steadfast and sure; Andrew - the earnest but quiet witness who brought his brother Simon to the Lord (John 1:40-41); James and John - sons of thunder, boisterous, demanding (Mark 10:35-36) and aggressive. You would never have thought that John would be found leaning on Jesus’ breast and that James would be martyred so early in his ministry (Acts 12:1-2). Philip was slow to understand the truth (John 14:8), but he became an earnest witness. He found Nathanael (Bartholomew), who was a thinker, and in whom was no deceit. Matthew was the hated tax collector and cheat who worked for the Roman enemies. Dithering and doubting Thomas was also chosen, together with Judas Iscariot, the thief and betrayer. Of the other disciples named here we know very little.
3:20-21 Now Jesus went home, and a crowd gathered so that they were not able to eat. When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’
The family of Jesus did not believe in him until after the resurrection. On hearing that he was so heavily pressed by the people that neither he nor his disciples had time to even eat, they arrived to take him back home, accusing him of being mad.
3:22 The experts in the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and, ‘By the ruler of demons he casts out demons.’
The scribes who had come especially from Jerusalem to trap him seized this opportunity to accuse Jesus of being the devil or a demon (Beelzebul) and of casting out demons by the power of the prince of the devils (Satan).
3:23 So he called them and spoke to them in parables: ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?
Note that Jesus does not get angry or openly rebuke the lawyers, but calls them to him privately and corrects them by giving two parables. But first of all he asks them a simple and clear question: “how can Satan cast out Satan?”
3:24-25 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom will not be able to stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
The first parable they should have understood from reference to their history in the Old Testament. A kingdom is united when it has one king to reign over it. Saul was the first king of Israel, David the second and Solomon the third. Only these three kings ruled over a united kingdom; for when Solomon died and his son Rehoboam became king the kingdom was divided. The two tribes of Judah and Benjamin became one kingdom under Rehoboam and the other ten tribes formed the northern kingdom, appointing their own king (Jeroboam). Eventually both kingdoms were destroyed and all the tribes were scattered throughout the world (1 Kings 12). The second parable of a house divided against itself is more personal, since if there is strife or rebellion in the family home it will not remain together.
3:26 And if Satan rises against himself and is divided, he is not able to stand and his end has come.
So it is with Satan: if he rose up in rebellion against himself, he could not stand but would bring about his own destruction.
3:27 But no one is able to enter a strong man's house and steal his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can thoroughly plunder his house.
This third parable concerns the Lord's defeat of Satan. The strong man is the devil; his goods are those he holds captive by sin. He will not willingly give his goods over but will fight to retain them. The man who comes to take his possessions is the Lord Jesus Christ who has bound the strong man and set the captives free (Isaiah 53:12; John 12:32; 2 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 2:14).
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Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark