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Mark 3

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Mark 3:7-12… Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

Commentary

After dealing with the whining and accusatory questions of the scribes and Pharisees who were following Jesus in Mark 2:1-3:6, he “withdrew” with his disciples. It wasn’t in Jesus’ plan to stay in one town and preach long-term. He was always on the move during his brief ministry on the earth. Even though there was a need to stay in Capernaum and argue the truth with the naysayers, Jesus was on a mission to announce to all of Israel that the kingdom of heaven had arrived. He took his disciples, and they went “to the sea” (of Galilee). As they went a large crowd followed them from all over Palestine – even from beyond the Jordan in the east all the way to Tyre and Sidon in the west. Jesus’ fame had spread to the corners of Palestine, and many were coming to see and hear the preacher with authority who was casting out demons.

In v. 9 Jesus made plans to have a boat ready so that he could escape the danger of the crowds pressing against him. Verse 10 says that everyone was coming to either be healed of some sickness or to be exorcised. They were pushing through the crowds to get to Jesus. The sight must have been incredible as the crowd desperately sought Jesus’ healing powers.

In v. 11 the behavior of the demons, acting through the ones they possessed, is striking. Their presence within particular people is evident. The fact that the people they possessed went to Jesus attests to the people’s ability to think on their own even though influenced by demons. It also attests to the fact that either the demons couldn’t stop them or that they were clueless as to who the person was that they were to see, namely Jesus. When the possessed person made their way to Jesus however, the unclean spirits “cried out” and fell down in front of Jesus – literally fell prostrate before him. Their cry that Jesus was the Son of God is especially of note because it attests to the fact that once the person they possessed came face-to-face with Jesus it aroused and frightened the demonic influence in them. All of a sudden they knew exactly Who they were looking at. Their confession that Jesus was the Son of God, however, was rebuked by Jesus. Though their cries were true in that he was the Son of God, v. 12 has Jesus silencing them. The NET Bible commentary says, “Jesus did not permit the demons to make him known because the time for such disclosure was not yet at hand, and such a revelation would have certainly been misunderstood by the people. In all likelihood, if the people had understood him early on to be the Son of God, or Messiah, they would have reduced his mission to one of political deliverance from Roman oppression (cf. John 6:15). Jesus wanted to avoid, as much as possible, any premature misunderstanding about who he was and what he was doing. However, at the end of his ministry, he did not deny such a title when the high priest asked him (14:61-62).”

Food for Thought

            In reference to those coming to touch Jesus to be healed, St. Augustine said, “It was no great thing to touch [Jesus] manually. Even his oppressors doubtless touched him when they apprehended him, and crucified him, but by their ill-motivated touch they lost precisely what they were laying hold of.” Only by reaching out to Jesus in faith are we healed and made whole.

Mark 3:13-19… And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons: 16 Simon whom he named Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Commentary

            Jesus appointed twelve apostles/disciples. Verse 13 says that he “called those whom he desired, and they came to him.” So it is when God calls people to faith in His Son. They cannot resist the calling of the Lord, and they come to immediate faith and eternal salvation. In the case of the disciples he called them, appointed them as apostles (“sent ones”), and sent them out to preach concerning the Messiah. In v. 15 these men are given powers over demons, namely to cast them out and free the individuals who were possessed and/or influenced by them.

            Notice the powers of the disciples. They held an elite office as apostles. (The fact that he appointed 12 men is significant in that there were also 12 Jewish tribes who came from Abraham’s loins held a covenant relationship with God). Their task was to preach the kingdom of God and cast out demons – the very tasks of Jesus, and their commission occurred on a mountain – reminiscent of God’s ordination of Moses on Mt. Sinai 1500 years prior.

The first disciple named is “Simon” who was given the name “Peter.” Peter was not a proper name but is a Greek word for “rock” – likely describing the character of Simon. He had been following Jesus from the beginning. Next named are James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They too had been following Jesus from the get-go having left their father to follow Jesus (1:19-20). Jesus called them “Boanerges” – Aramaic for “sons of thunder” – also a reference to their personalities. Andrew, Peter’s brother, who had been one of the original four followers of Jesus, is mentioned alongside of Philip. Next is “Bartholomew” which isn’t a proper name but a Hebrew phrase that means “son of Talmai.” Bartholomew is another name for Nathanael who is referenced in John 1:45. Matthew (a.k.a. Levi) is next who had been called to discipleship in 2:14. “Thomas” is the doubting Thomas of John 20:24ff., and his name means “twin” denoting that he may have had a twin brother. Next is “James the son of Alphaeus” who could be the brother of Matthew who is called “Levi the son of Alphaeus” in 2:14. Following that is “Thaddaeus” who is known in other texts as “Judas, the son of James” (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Thaddeaus was probably his preferred name, especially since the other Judas had betrayed Jesus. Then there is “Simon the Cananean.” The “Cananean” has no relation to the geographical Cana or Canaan but is derived from the Aramaic term for “enthusiast, zealot” – hence, this is Simon the Zealot of Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. “Zealot” likely refers to his zeal for Jewish independence from Rome along with his temperament (e.g. the “sons of thunder” and the “rock”).

The final disciple mentioned is “Judas Iscariot.” Though the term “Iscariot” is debatable and may refer to a region in Judea, it’s probably transliterated Hebrew meaning “man of Kerioth” – a reference to at least two villages in the area. And since there was already a Judas in the group, “Iscariot” was likely a designation to distinguish the two men. He was the betrayer.

Food for Thought

            Out of God’s mercy and His Own freewill He selects those whom He desires. It’s called “election,” and it wholly depends on His choice alone. Just as He called the apostles to service, He calls true believers today. His call is irresistible, and His mercy and grace are unfathomable.

Mark 3:19b-27… Then he went into a home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Commentary

            Once again Jesus made his way back to Capernaum and into a certain home. And as always the crowds gathered around him. The scene resembled one out of Hollywood with a certain celebrity that everyone wanted to see and touch. The sight must have been pure mayhem.

            In v. 21 Jesus’ family heard about where he was, and because they had no doubt become aware of all that Jesus had been doing in and around Galilee – and because they weren’t believers in his true mission at that point – they came to “seize” him. That term means to “lay hold of; to restrain.” In other words, once Jesus got back to a place where they knew they could get to him, his family came to seize him by force and take him home to Nazareth. After all, the message his family had gotten about him was that “he is beside himself” – a phrase that means, “he’s gone mad; he’s confused.” With this in mind, and with all the hubbub going around about their family member, they came to put an end to it by seizing Jesus and taking him home.

            In the midst of his own family’s disbelief and their mission to take Jesus home by force, the scribes chimed in once again with their accusations about Jesus’ ability to cast out demons. Apparently the talk of the day was that Jesus was simply another madman going around the countryside casting out demons. The only answer to Jesus’ unique abilities, according to the skeptical scribes, was that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul – another name the scribes used to describe the prince of demons – Satan himself. But Jesus used a short story, a parable, to debunk their theory that he was actually using Satanic power to cast out demons (the very servants of Satan!). Jesus simply made the point that if he were casting out demons by the power of their leader (Satan) then Satan would be divided against himself, and anyone divided against himself is doomed. Ironically, while they were accusing Jesus of being insane it was their logic that proved insane, and Jesus exposed their stupidity of thought.

            In v. 27 Jesus concluded his defense against those who believed he was insane and casting out demons by the power of Satan by refuting their faulty thinking and turning it against them. He said that no one, if they plan to plunder another man’s house, can plunder that house without tying up the strong man of that house. Once he ties him up, however, then he can plunder. Jesus’ parable here illustrated the fact that he himself had indeed tied up Satan and was now plundering his domain by casting out Satan’s demons and their influence on God’s people.

Food for Thought

            Jesus’ miracles are unexplainable, and that’s what makes them miracles. They’ve always offended those who refuse to believe, so it’s no wonder that skeptics today reject most of Jesus’ works. But the only ones who are insane are those who refuse to believe in spite of the evidence of Jesus’ works. But he fatally wounded the devil at the cross and took the sting of death away from all those who will die with the confession of Jesus Christ’s lordship on their lips.

Mark 3:28-30… “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” -  30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Commentary

            It is impossible to separate vv. 28-30 from vv. 20-27. In that context the scribes were attributing the powers of Jesus to cast out demons to Satan. In other words, their conclusion as to Jesus’ healing power and his ability to cast out demons was that it was satanic and demonic. For this belief Jesus delivers a stinging and ever-so-sobering rebuke about such an accusation.

            Jesus begins his forceful rebuke by saying “truly, I say to you.” The word for “truly” in the Greek text is “amen.” Jesus is the only one in the NT who speaks with this formula. The fact that he does so was not only a new way of speaking but of solemnizing what would follow. Saying “amen” to begin his sentence proved that his words were reliable and true, and it is a sure-fire proof that he himself was God Almighty, for no man could speak with such authority.

            Jesus basically said that all sins can be forgiven except for the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The word “blasphemy” is a word used to describe defiant hostility toward God by slandering His name. The scribes knew this well, and even they viewed blasphemy against God as a sin in which God Himself would immediately avenge. But because of their refusal to believe Jesus they apparently didn’t consider that they might be guilty of that crime. Even in light of the fact that Jesus cast out demons, healed the sick, and preached the truth of God they still denied the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. Instead they attributed his power to Satan, and in this context they were blaspheming God by consciously rejecting His saving power which manifested itself through Jesus. They gave no credence to the possibility that Jesus’ ability to cast out demons was a sign that the Kingdom of God had come. They made their decision to reject the Holy Spirit. And this didn’t come from ignorant laymen. On the contrary, the scribes were learned men – carefully trained specialists who should have known who they were accusing. In v. 30 the Greek text uses an imperfect verb tense which literally means, “they were saying he has an unclean spirit.” In other words, their repetition that Jesus had a demon revealed their hardened hearts – the very trait that proved that it was they who were possessed by an unclean spirit.

            In sum, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit seems to consist primarily with attributing the words and works of Jesus Christ, of God Almighty, to Satan or anything else for that matter. Remember that the next time you hear that chance and/or evolution created the universe or that the miracles of Christ can be explained simply by reason and/or natural events.

Food for Thought

Truly the sin of consciously rejecting God’s work is one He never forgives. For those folks who fear they may have committed the eternal sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, the NET Bible Commentary offers this: First, the nature of the sin is to ascribe what is the obvious work of the Holy Spirit to Satan himself. Second, it is not simply a momentary doubt or sinful attitude about the works of God, but it is indeed a settled condition which opposes the Holy Spirit’s work, as typified by the religious leaders who opposed Jesus in his day. William Lane says, “A person so insensitive to the Spirit that he attributes what is of God to demonic origin will not be conscious of having committed the ultimate transgression.” And Greek commentator C.E.B. Cranfield says, “It is a matter of great importance pastorally that we can say with absolute confidence to anyone who is overwhelmed by the fear that he has committed [the unpardonable] sin, that the fact that he is so troubled is itself a sure proof that he has not committed it.”

Mark 3:31-35… And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Commentary

            Verses 31-35 reflect back to v. 21 and resumes the account that was suspended there. It was in v. 21 that Jesus was in a house, and a large crowd began to gather outside of the home. His family had come to the home from Nazareth to “seize” Jesus because the report about him was that he was a madman. They were undoubtedly concerned and probably embarrassed by the behavior of Jesus, so they set out to “seize” him and take him home.

            In v. 31 the text says that Jesus’ “mother and brothers came.” Of course Mary was Jesus’ mother, and his earthly father was Joseph. His brothers are named in Mark 6:3 as “James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.” Mark 6:3 also claims that Jesus had sisters, although they are unnamed. The fact that Jesus had brothers and sisters, albeit half-brothers and sisters, proves that Mary did not remain a perpetual virgin after the birth of Jesus. A normal reading of the text mitigates against the idea that these were not simply close relatives, for the Greek text has other words that can be used to describe cousins and the like. These siblings were clearly his brothers and sisters from the union between Mary and Joseph following the birth of Jesus. Be that as it was, it was Jesus’ family who had come to the house to find him, talk to him, and restrain his activity by taking him home to Nazareth. Incidentally, Jesus knew the unbelief of his brothers (cf. John 7:3-10), and he also knew that severing family ties was part of the gospel call. Therefore, he himself was never hesitant to call others to leave their family and homes to pursue obedience to God.

            In v. 33 Jesus took the comment about his family and used it as opportunity to teach about the heavenly family. The word came to him that his natural family was outside waiting for him, so he seized the chance to pose a question to his disciples. He asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” The room must have been very quiet as he looked around at those present – those who had been accusing him of casting out demons by the power of Satan himself. Then he answered his own question by singling out those who sat around him (the disciples) and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” In the immediate context Jesus was pointing to the Twelve who had given up everything to follow Jesus. In a more broad context, however, he was pointing to all people who do the will of God; they are his true family. Jesus had broken the tie with his physical family to do the will of God. In the process he gathered about him those who were his true family. He equipped them for the work for which he had commissioned them, and they would obey him to the death. And most of those early disciples died painful deaths as part of their obedience.

Food for Thought

            There are countless examples in the Bible about the family of God, our male/female roles within that family, our spiritual gifts, and our duties as saints of God. Our earthly families are important, but if we aren’t willing to give them up and even abandon them for the sake of the gospel (just the willingness to do so!) we can’t really be part of the family of God. Thankfully, however, serving our earthly families is part of being obedient. Don’t forget, first and foremost that being a Christian is about obedience to God. Obedience to Him, through a knowledge of His Word, makes us children of God and part of His greater family for eternity. Simple obedience.

I)            The Saving Touch of Faith (3:7-12)

II)         The Chosen Apostles (3:13-19)

1.      Simon = Peter

2.      James/John = Sons of Thunder

3.      Andrew = Manly (former disciple of John)

4.      Philip = lover of horses

5.      Bartholomew = Son of Talmai – “Nathanael” – the gift of God

6.      Matthew = Levi son of Alphaeus

7.      Thomas = Twin

8.      James the Son of Alphaeus = brother of Levi?

9.      Thaddaeus = Judas the son of James

10.  Simon the Cananean = Simon the Zealot

11.  Judas Iscariot = the betrayer

III)      A Blasphemous Accusation (3:20-27)

IV)      The Unforgivable Sin (3:28-30)

  • “Truly” is God’s authoritative word
  • “Blasphemy” is to maliciously malign God
  • It ignores the obvious truths of God and attributes it to Satan (continually)
  • It takes a clear understanding that Jesus is the Christ
  • Paul and Peter blasphemed but were forgiven
  • We question God’s goodness and deny the truth of Scripture: blasphemy!
  • Blasphemy against “Son of Man” is forgivable b/c it’s only Christ’s humanity
  • True blasphemy against the HS consists of knowing God and rejecting Him.
  • Cf. Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:28-31 of those who reject God to the point of no return.
  • Cf. 1 John 5:16-17 as the “sin that leads to death”
  • Those who speak against Jesus and his divinity blaspheme the HS.
  • Blasphemy of the HS is an eternal sin that leads to death. Denying Christ’s humanity in ignorance, though blasphemy, can be forgiven. But to deny Jesus Christ’s deity and the works of his deity, with full knowledge of his deity, constitutes an eternal sin.
  • The NET Bible Commentary: First, the nature of the sin is to ascribe what is the obvious work of the Holy Spirit to Satan himself. Second, it is not simply a momentary doubt or sinful attitude about the works of God, but it is indeed a settled condition which opposes the Holy Spirit’s work, as typified by the religious leaders who opposed Jesus in his day.
  • William Lane says, “A person so insensitive to the Spirit that he attributes what is of God to demonic origin will not be conscious of having committed the ultimate transgression.”
  • Cranfield says, “It is a matter of great importance pastorally that we can say with absolute confidence to anyone who is overwhelmed by the fear that he has committed the sin, that the fact that he is so troubled is itself a sure proof that he has not committed it.”
  • William Hendrickson said, “For a thief, an adulterer, and a murderer there is hope. The message of the gospel may cause him to cry out, ‘Oh God be merciful to me, a sinner.’ But when a man has become hardened, so that he has made up his mind not to pay any attention to the … Spirit, … he has placed himself on the road that leads to perdition.”

V)         Our True Spiritual Family (3:31-35)

  • A willingness to leave earthly family
  • A desire to obey our Spiritual Father
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