The Gospel According to Mark

Chapter 3

3:1-2 The man had a withered hand (Greek exyrammenos means become dry, withered like a plant killed by drought or a vine branch cut off from the sap, John 15:6). He was already in the synagogue when Jesus arrived, and it is possible he was specially brought there to see if Jesus would cure him on the sabbath day. Their intended accusation was a direct denial of what Jesus had said "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath" (2:27).

3:3 The Messiah told the man to come forward from among the crowd in the synagogue. This was a clear challenge to those who wanted to accuse Jesus. It was a public confrontation.

3:4 Then before healing the man with his withered hand Jesus forced the question of what the Sabbath was about. Is the law about the day of rest on the side of doing good or harming others, to save life or to kill? This took Jesus' saying about the sabbath being for our good (2:37) to a deeper level. And put that way the religious leaders could not answer the question.

3:5 In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that "If you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment" (Matthew 5:22). And Paul wrote "Put away from you all bitterness and anger" (Ephesians 4:31). So literalists might assume that anger is always sinful. But Jesus himself was indignant when the disciples tried to keep little children away from him (Mark 10:13-14). His clearing of the temple with a lash was certainly an expression of anger. And there are many references to the Lord's anger and wrath (Exodus 4:14, Numbers 11:1, 10, 12:9, etc.) in the Old Testament. As in this case of the man with a withered hand there is a necessary anger at heartless inhumanity. We should be angry if our children tip an old lady out of her wheelchair, and go riding up and down the street in it. But even if we are righteously angry we must not let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26). Which means that however angry we are, it should turn to love for the person.

3:6 When the Pharisees saw the man stretching out the hand which was healed, they left the synagogue in total frustration. But already at this stage they began conspiring with their enemies to have Jesus destroyed (see 12:13).. The Herodians were supporters of the Herod family of puppet rulers appointed by the Roman Emperor. Together with the temple priests and wealthy aristocrats of Jerusalem, they were usually Sadducees in denying the resurrection (Mark 12:18, Acts 23:8).

3:7-9 Peter evidently remembered the huge crowds that began gathering from a hundred miles around. But in the interview with Mark it is interesting that Peter did not mention that it was his fishing boat that Jesus taught from (Luke 5:3). "Lest they should crush him" points to the fact that Jesus was in mortal danger and took reasonable steps for his protection. (See the devil's challenge to throw himself down based on Psalm 91:11-12 in Matthew 3:6-7).

3:10 Healing could be by a word of command (3:5), in some cases Jesus touched the sick (Mark 1:31, 41, 5:41, 8:25 ), in other cases healing was a response to faith (7:29), but often it was when people came up to touch Jesus (as in 5:27-28).

3:11-12 Those who engage in the work of casting out demon possession (exorcism) recommend never touching such persons, but speaking to the spirit with a word of authority as Jesus did. He always silenced the evil spirits that recognized him as the Son of God (as in 1:24-25), and he never allowed them to make him known. Peter remembered that it had taken him at least two years to recognize who Jesus was (8:29, compare Matthew 16:17), but the demons recognized him immediately.

3:13 This may have been the hill (not a high mountain) just inland from Magdala on the lake of Galilee where Jesus often taught disciples, as in the Sermon the Mount (not the Mount of Transfiguration, Mark 9:2-13, which was probably on Mount Lebanon).

3:14-15 Peter remembered that among the many baptized disciples (John 4:1) twelve were chosen to be apostles (Greek apostolos means one sent on a mission, an ambassador, or delegate. In classical Greek it meant the leader of a naval expedition). The function of the twelve was to be with Jesus (helping in the ministry of baptizing and teaching), to fan out to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom, and to engage in the specific task of silencing the demonic powers and freeing those who were possessed by them in each place.

3:16 Simon placed himself at the head of the list, and noted the name Peter that Jesus gave him when he became a disciple (John 1:42). Jesus repeated the name when Peter finally realized who Jesus was (Matthew 16:18). But in his interview with Mark he did not mention that Jesus would name him the Rock, he would be the foundation stone of the church, and he would receive the keys to open up the church to welcome people of all nations (as made clear in Matthew 16:18-19, see Acts 2:38-48, 8:17, 10:34-48). His brother was Andrew (3:18) who had first introduced Simon to Jesus (John 1:35-43). This was several months earlier when Jesus was baptized (see 1:9-11, compare John 1:32-42) by John the Baptist.

3:17 James and John worked with their father Zebedee in a prosperous fishing business (1:19-20) in which Simon and Andrew were also partners (1:16, Luke 5:10). They are listed before Peter's brother Andrew because Peter, James and John were in Jesus' inner circle in the healing of Jairus' daughter (5:37), the transfiguration (Mark 9:2), and in the Garden of Gethsemane (14:33). Jesus called them Boanerges (Hebrew bene regesh meaning sons of thunder). Luke recorded their impetuous nature (Luke 9:49, 54) and Peter heard them ask for places on the right and left of Jesus in his glory (10:35-37). James was the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2).

3:18-19 Like the first four apostles, Philip also came from Bethsaida, and had brought Nathanael to meet Jesus (John 1:44-51). He seems to have been a spokesman for the apostles. Jesus asked him a question before feeding the 5,000 (John 6:5-7). A group of Greek speaking Jews approached him about meeting Jesus (John 12:21-22), and he spoke up at the last supper (John 14:8-9). By comparing the lists in the Gospels it seems that Bartholomew was also given the name Nathanael (Hebrew nathan-el, gift of God, John 1:45). Matthew was introduced as Levi the son of Alphaeus, the tax collector (2:13-15), so he seems to have been the brother of James the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3) which gives us a third pair of brothers among the twelve. Thomas is named the twin in the fourth Gospel (John 11:16, 21:2) and his doubts are also described (14:4-5, 20:24-29). Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:3) seems to be the same person as Judas son (or brother) of James (Luke 6:16, John 14:22). Simon the Cananaean was also called the zealot (Matthew 10:4, Luke 6:15).

Judas was the son of Simon of Kerioth (ish kerioth means man of Kerioth, John 6:71, 13:26). John reports that earlier in their ministry Jesus knew who would betray him, but none of the other apostles suspected who he was. In the interview with Mark Peter reported the betrayal of Judas (14:10, 43), but either he did not know or did not report the reasons. John seems to have sensed that things were going wrong and tells us he was the treasurer of the band of apostles, and began misusing the money (John12:4-6, 13:28-29 ). Having decided to betray his teacher he became possessed by Satan (Luke 22:3).

3:20, 21 Having appointed the twelve who would be his apostles, Jesus went back to his home in Capernaum and again a crowd gathered. Peter then reported that Jesus family tried to restrain him because people were saying that he had gone out of his mind (Greek exesty literally meaning he has gone out of it, see 3:31). This is one of the reports that Matthew chose not to include in his Gospel.

3:22 The theologians who had come down from Jerusalem decided that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul (Hebrew baal zeboub meaning the lord of the flies) a name for the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24). They explained that was why Jesus had the power to cast out demons with such power.

3:23-27 Jesus called them to show the emptiness of this argument by a series of parabolic questions. The answers were obvious. Satan is not going to cast out his own demons. If satan's kingdom is in a civil war, it cannot survive. Nor can a divided family. The only way a stronghold can be plundered is by first tying up the owner. Which was exactly what Jesus was doing.

3:28-30 In every psychiatric hospital there are those who think they have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, and they can never be forgiven. Here the sin against the Holy Spirit is calling good evil. If someone thinks hate is good and love is evil, misery is good and joy evil, gnawing anxiety is good and peace is evil, he or she would never be happy in heaven. That's what Satan thinks, and calling Jesus the Lord of the flies (3:22) is part of that.

3:31-32 Jesus mother Mary, and Jesus' step brothers (James, Joses, Judas, Simon, 6:3) arrived expecting to be welcomed as family. John commented that "not even his brothers believed in him: (John 7:5). They were evidently changed by the resurrection of Jesus and were prayerfully awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). The Lord appeared specially to James (1 Corinthians 15:7), who later became the presiding elder of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-19). Though Mary had been told who her son would be (Luke 1:32-33), she obviously found his behavior hard to understand (Luke 2:46-49).

3:34-35 As Jesus pointed out, we experience the fact that our fellow Christians, who share with us in the work of the Kingdom, often become closer to us than our own family (especially when they despise and oppose our faith).

Chapter 4