Mark 3 Bible Commentary

McGarvey and Pendleton

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(Read all of Mark 3)
3:6  And the Pharisees went out1, and straightway with the Herodians took counsel against him, how they might destroy him2.
And the Pharisees went out. Here the Synoptists first tell of the counsel to put Jesus to death, and we should note that, like John, they described the anger of the Jewish rulers as arising because of this Sabbath question. Their real motive was envious hatred, but their pretext was a zeal for the law. That it was not genuine zeal for the law is shown by the fact that they consulted with the Herodians or the adherents of Herod Antipas, as they also did afterwards (Matthew 22:16
And straightway with the Herodians took counsel against him, how they might destroy him. They needed the secular power of the Herodians to secure the death of Jesus. Its efficacy for such ends had just been shown in the imprisonment of John the Baptist. But the Herodians were no friends of the Jewish law; in fact, they were real perverters of that law which Jesus merely correctly interpreted. This party and its predecessors had flatteringly tried to make a Messiah of Herod the Great, and had been friends of Rome and patrons of Gentile influence. They favored the erection of temples for idolatrous ends, and pagan theaters and games, and Gentile customs generally. Unlike Jesus, the Pharisees grew angry and sinned, for it was against their conscience to consort with the Herodians.

3:7  And Jesus with his disciples withdrew to the sea1: and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and from Judaea, JESUS HEALS MULTITUDES BESIDE THE SEA OF GALILEE. Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12
And Jesus with his disciples withdrew to the sea. This was the first withdrawal of Jesus for the avowed purpose of self-preservation. After this we find Jesus constantly retiring to avoid the plots of his enemies. The Sea of Galilee, with its boats and its shores touching different jurisdictions, formed a convenient and fairly safe retreat.

3:8  and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea1, and beyond the Jordan, and about Tyre and Sidon2, a great multitude, hearing what great things he did, came unto him.
Idumaea. Idumea was the land formerly inhabited by the Edomites. It is a Greek word from "Edom", which was another word for Esau (Genesis 25:30), and means "red". This land was originally the narrow strip reaching from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, lying between the Arabah on the west, and the desert on the east, being about one hundred miles long and fifteen or twenty broad. During the Babylonian captivity, however, the Edomites took possession of the southern portion of Judea, and Strabo says that they encroached as far as to the city of Hebron. They were conquered by John Hyrcanus, one of the Asmonean princes about 120 B.C., and were by him made subservient to the law and incorporated with the Jewish people. As before noted (Matthew 2:1; Luke 1:5), Herod the Great sprang from this people.
Tyre and Sidon. Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean seacoast, westward from the Lake of Galilee. Also see Matthew 11:21.

3:10  for he had healed many; insomuch that as many as had plagues pressed upon him that they might touch him1.
As many as had plagues pressed upon him that they might touch him. Literally, the "fell upon him"; such was their eagerness to be healed by touching him. Compare Luke 6:19.

3:11  And the unclean spirits1, whensoever they beheld him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.
The unclean spirits. See Mark 1:23.

3:12  And he charged them much that they should not make him known1.
And he charged them much that they should not make him known. Because this was not the right time, nor were they the right witnesses to make him known.

3:13  And he goeth up into the mountain, and calleth unto him whom he himself would; and they went unto him. AFTER PRAYER JESUS SELECTS TWELVE APOSTLES. (Near Capernaum.) Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16

3:14  And he appointed twelve1, that they might be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
He appointed twelve. We cannot think that the number twelve was adopted carelessly. It unquestionably had reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, over whom the apostles were to be tribal judges or viceroys (Luke 22:30), and we find the tribes and apostles associated together in the structure of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12-14). Moreover, Paul seems to regard the twelve as ministers to the twelve tribes, or to the circumcision, rather than as ministers to the Gentiles or the world in general (Galatians 2:7-9). See also James 1:1 1 Peter 1:1. The tribal reference was doubtless preserved to indicate that the church would be God's new Israel.

3:16  and Simon he surnamed Peter1;
And Simon he surnamed Peter. For the surnaming of Simon, see John 1:41,42. Peter, by reason of his early prominence, is named first in the four lists. His natural gifts gave him a personal but not an ecclesiastical pre-eminence over his fellows. As a reward for his being first to confess Christ, he was honored by being permitted to first use the keys of the kingdom of heaven; that is, to preach the first gospel sermon both to the Jews and Gentiles. But after these two sermons the right of preaching to the Jews and Gentiles became common to all alike. That Peter had supremacy or authority over his brethren is nowhere stated by Christ, or claimed by Peter, or owned by the rest of the twelve. On the contrary, the statement of Jesus places the apostles upon a level (Matthew 23:8-11). See also Matthew 18:18; Matthew 19:27,28; Matthew 20:25-27 John 20:21; Acts 1:8. And Peter himself claims no more than an equal position with other officers in the church (1 Peter 5:1,4), and the apostles in the subsequent history of the church acted with perfect independence. Paul withstood Peter to his face and (if we may judge by the order of naming which is made so much of in the apostolic lists), he ranks Peter as second in importance to James, the Lord's brother (Galatians 2:11-14,9). See also Acts 12:17; Acts 21:18. Again, James, in summing up the decree which was to be sent to the church at Antioch, gave no precedence to Peter, who was then present, but said, "Brethren, hearken unto me . . . my judgment is" (Acts 15:13,19)--words which would be invaluable to those who advocate the supremacy of Peter, if only it had been Peter who spoke them. So much for the supremacy of Peter, which, even if it could be established, would still leave the papacy without a good title to its honors, for it would still have to prove that it was heir to the rights and honors of Peter, which is something it has never yet done. The papal claim rests not upon facts, but upon a threefold assumption: (1) That Peter had supreme authority. (2) That he was the first bishop of Rome. (3) That the peculiar powers and privileges of Peter (if he had any) passed at the time of his death from his own person, to which they belonged, to the chair or office which he vacated.

3:17  and James the [son] of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and them he surnamed Boanerges, which is, Sons of thunder1:
And them he surnamed Boanerges, which is, Sons of thunder. Why James and John were called sons of thunder is not stated, but it was probably because of their stormy and destructive temper (Mark 9:38; Luke 9:51-56). The vigor of the two brothers is apparent, for it marked James as a fit object for Herod's spleen (Acts 12:2), and it sustained John to extreme old age, for Epiphanius says that he died at Ephesus at the age of ninety-four, but Jerome places his age at a hundred. No change is noted in the nature of James during the brief time which he survived his Lord. But the gracious and loving character of the aged John showed the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. But even to the last this son of thunder muttered in portentous strains against Diotrephes (John 3:9,10), and his denunciation of sins and sinners is very forceful, including such epithets as "liar", "antichrist," "deceiver," "children of the devil" (1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:4,22; 1 John 3:15; 2 John 1:3-11). It is also worthy of note that except in this verse in Mark, which applies the name "Son of thunder" to John", neither the word "thunder", or any of its derivatives is found anywhere in the New Testament save in the writings of John, by whom it and its derivatives are used eleven times, a fact which causes Bengel to remark,

"A son of thunder is a fit person for hearing voices of thunder."

3:18  and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew1, and Matthew2, and Thomas3, and James the [son] of Alphaeus4, and Thaddaeus5, and Simon the Cananaean6,
Bartholomew. As noted in John 1:45, Bartholomew is usually identified with the man whom John calls Nathanael, in which case his full name would be Nathanael Bar Tolmai.
Matthew calls himself the publican (tax collector). None of the others apply that term of reproach to him. Matthew doubtless assumes it in remembrance of the riches of Christ's grace toward loving him while he was yet a sinner. Exposing the sin of his own past life, he is silent as to the past lives of the others, not even noting that the first four were humble "fishermen".
Thomas. Thomas is also called Didymus, the first being the Aramaic and the second the Greek word for "twin" (John 11:16; John 20:24; John 21:2).
James the [son] of Alphaeus. Matthew's father was also named Alphaeus, but it was another Alphaeus. This was a very common name. In its Hebrew form it is Chalphai. So in the New Testament we sometimes find it Alphaeus, and again Cleopas, or Clopas. The apostle James is thought by some to be our Lord's brother, and by others to be his cousin; but he is probably neither. For an additional note and chart, see Matthew 10:2. This apostle is also called James the younger, probably because he was younger than the son of Zebedee. He must not be confounded with James the Lord's brother, who, though called an apostle by Paul, was not one of the twelve apostles (nor was Barnabas) (Acts 14:14). James the Lord's brother is mentioned at Matthew 13:55 1 Corinthians 15:5-7; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9,12; Acts 15:6-9; Acts 21:18. He wrote the epistle which bears his name, and his brother Jude (who also must not be confounded with Judas Thaddaeus, the apostle) wrote the epistle which bears his name.
Thaddaeus. We do not know the James who was the father of Judas, and of Judas himself we know very little. He seems to have been known at first by his name Thaddaeus, possibly to distinguish him from Iscariot, but later (for Luke and John wrote later than Matthew and Mark) by the name Judas (Luke 6:16; John 14:22).
Simon the Cananaean. "Cananaean" means the same as zealot. It comes from the Hebrew word "kana", which means "zealous". The Zealots were a sect or order of men much like our modern "Regulators" or "Black Caps". They were zealous for the Jewish law, and citing Phinehas and Elijah (Numbers 25:7,8; 1 Kings 18:40) as their examples, they took justice in their own hands and punished offenders much after the manner lynchers. It is thought that they derived their name from the dying charge of the Asmonean Mattathias when he said, "Be ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers" (1 Mac. 2:50). Whatever they were at first, it is certain that their later course was marked by frightful excesses, and they are charged with having been the human instrument which brought about the destruction of Jerusalem. See Josephus, Wars 4:3.9, 5.1-4; 6.3; 7:8.1. Simon is the least known of all the apostles, being nowhere individually mentioned outside the catalogues.

3:19  and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him1. And he cometh into a house2.
And Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. Judas is named last in all the three lists (Matthew 10:4; Luke 16), and the same note of infamy attaches to him in each case. He is omitted from the list in Acts, for he was then dead (Acts 1:13,18). As he was treasurer of the apostolic group, he was probably chosen for office because of his executive ability. He was called Iscariot from his native village of Kerioth, which pertained to Judah (Joshua 15:25).

BLASPHEMOUS ACCUSATIONS OF THE JEWS. (Galilee.) Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:19-30; Luke 11:14-23
And he cometh into a house. Whose house is not stated. See Matthew 13:1.

3:20  And the multitude cometh together again1, so that they could not so much as eat bread2.
And the multitude cometh together again. As on a previous occasion (Mark 2:1).
So that they could not so much as eat bread. They could not sit down to a regular meal. A wonderful picture of the intense importunity of people and the corresponding eagerness of Jesus, who was as willing to do as they were to have done.

3:21  And when his friends heard it1, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself2.
And when his friends heard it. These friends were his brothers and his mother, as appears from Mark 3:31,32. They probably came from Nazareth.
They went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. To understand their feelings, we must bear in mind their want of faith. See John 7:3-9. They regarded Jesus as carried away by his religious enthusiasm (Acts 26:24; 2 Corinthians 5:13), and thought that he acted with reckless regard for his personal safety. They foresaw the conflict with the military authorities and the religious leaders into which the present course of Jesus was leading, and were satisfied that the case called for their interference. Despite her knowledge as to Jesus, Mary sympathized with her sons in this movement, and feared for the safety of Jesus.

3:22  And the scribes that came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub1, and, By the prince of the demons casteth he out the demons2.
He hath Beelzebub. Beelzebub is a corruption of Baalzebub, the god of the fly. There was a tendency among the heathen to name their gods after the pests which they were supposed to avert. Thus Zeus was called "Apomuios" (Averter of flies), and Apollo "Ipuktonos" (Slayer of vermin). How Beelzebub became identified with Satan in the Jewish mind is not known.
And, By the prince of the demons casteth he out the demons. In opposing the influence of Jesus and corrupting the public mind, these Pharisees showed a cunning worthy of the cultivated atmosphere, the seat of learning whence they came. Being unable to deny that a miracle was wrought (for Celsus in the second century is the first recorded person who had the temerity to do such a thing), they sought to so explain it as to reverse its potency, making it an evidence of diabolical rather than divine power. Their explanation was cleverly plausible, for there were at least two powers by which demons might be cast out, as both were invisible, it might appear impossible to decide whether it was done in this instance by the power of God or of Satan. It was an explanation very difficult to disprove, and Jesus himself considered it worthy of the very thorough reply which follows.

3:23  And he called them unto him1, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan3? Mark 3:23-26
He called them unto him. Thus singling out his accusers.
And said to them in parables. We shall find that Jesus later replied to those who sought sign. He here answers his accusers in a fourfold argument. See notes at Matthew 12:27,28; Mark 3:27.
How can Satan cast out Satan? The first argument. The explanation given by the Pharisees represented Satan as divided against himself; robbing himself of his greatest achievement; namely, his triumph over the souls and bodies of men. Jesus argues, not that Satan "could" not do this, but that he "would" not, and that therefore the explanation which supposes him to do it is absurd. We should note that Jesus here definitely recognizes two important truths: (1) That the powers of evil are organized into a kingdom with a head (Matthew 13:29; Matthew 25:41; Mark 4:15 therefore, says Abbott,

"constitutes an incidental but strong argument against sectarianism."

See 1 Corinthians 1:13.

3:27  But no one can enter into the house of the strong [man], and spoil his goods1, except he first bind the strong [man]; and then he will spoil his house2.
But no one can enter into the house of the strong [man], and spoil his goods. The fourth argument. Satan is the strong man, his house the body of the demoniac, and his goods the evil spirit within the man.
Except he first bind the strong [man]; and then he will spoil his house. Jesus had entered his house, and robbed him of his goods; and this proved that, instead of being in league with Satan, he had overpowered Satan. Thus Jesus put to shame the Pharisees, and caused the divinity of his miracle to stand out in clearer light than ever. The power of Jesus to dispossess the demon was one of his most convincing credentials, and its meaning now stood forth in its true light.

3:28  Verily I say unto you1, All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme2:
Verily I say unto you. Jesus here explains to the Pharisees the awful meaning of their enmity.
All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme. Blasphemy is any kind of injurious speech. It is the worst form of sin, as we see by this passage. This does not declare that every man shall be forgiven all his sins, but that all kinds of sin committed by various men shall be forgiven. The forgiveness is universal as to the sin, not as to the men.

3:29  but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness1, but is guilty of an eternal sin2:
But whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is in its nature an eternal sin, for if one rejects the evidence given by the Holy Spirit and ascribes it to Satan, he rejects the only evidence upon which faith can be based; and without faith there is no forgiveness. The difference in the two sins is therefore in no way due to any difference in the Son and Spirit "as to their degress of sanctity or holiness".
But is guilty of an eternal sin. The punishment is naturally eternal because the sin is perpetual. The mention of the two words is, as Morison says,

"just an extended way of saving "never"."

Some assert that the Jews would not know what Jesus meant by the Holy Spirit, but the point is not so well taken. See Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:26 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20; Psalms 137:7; Psalms 143:10; Isaiah 48:16; Ezekiel 11:24.

3:30  because they said, He hath an unclean spirit1.
Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit. We see by Mark's statement that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consisted in saying that Jesus had an unclean spirit, that his works were due to Satanic influence, and hence wrought to accomplish Satanic ends. We cannot call God Satan, nor the Holy Spirit a demon, until our state of sin has passed beyond all hope of reform. One cannot confound the two kingdoms of good and evil unless he does so maliciously and willfully. On unclean spirits, see Mark 1:23.

3:31  And there come his mother and his brethren; and, standing without1, they sent unto him, calling him. CHRIST'S TEACHING AS TO HIS MOTHER AND BRETHREN. (Galilee, same day as the last lesson.) Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21
And there come his mother and his brethren; and, standing without. Jesus was in a house, probably at Capernaum (Mark 3:19; Matthew 13:1).

3:32  And a multitude was sitting about him; and they say unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee1.
Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. Jesus had four brethren (Matthew 13:55) Finding him teaching with the crowd about him, they passed the word in to him that they wished to see him outside. To attempt to lay hold of him in the midst of his disciples would have been rashly inexpedient. The fact that they came with Mary establishes the strong presumption that they were the children of Mary and Joseph, and hence the literal brethren of the Lord. In thus seeking to take Jesus away from his enemies, Mary yielded to a natural maternal impulse which even the revelations accorded to her did not quiet. The brethren, too, acted naturally, for they were unbelieving (John 7:5). We learn at Mark 3:21 that they came to lay hold of him because they thought that he was beside himself. It was for this reason that they came in a body, for their numbers would enable them to control him. See Matthew 12:47.

3:33  And he answereth them, and saith, Who is my mother and my brethren1? Mark 3:33-35
Who is my mother and my brethren? In this answer Jesus shows that he brooks no interference on the score of earthly relationships, and explodes the idea of his subserviency to his mother. To all who call on the "Mother of God", as Mary is blasphemously styled, Jesus answers, as he did to the Jews, "Who is my mother"?

3:34  And looking round on them that sat round about him, he saith, Behold, my mother and my brethren1!
Behold, my mother and my brethren! Jesus was then in the full course of his ministry as Messiah, and as such he recognized only spiritual relationships.

3:35  For whosoever shall do the will of God1, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
For whosoever shall do the will of God. By doing the will of God we become his spiritual children, and thus we become related to Christ.
The same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. Jesus admits three human relationships--brother, sister, mother--but omits the paternal relationship, since he had no Father, save God. It is remarkable that in the only two instances in which Mary figures in the ministry of Jesus prior to his crucifixion, she stands forth reproved by him (Matthew 12:50; Luke 8:21; John 2:4). This fact not only rebukes those who worship her, but especially corrects the doctrine of her immaculate conception.