Mark 3
Benson Commentary
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
Mark 3:1-5. He entered again into the synagogue — Luke says, On another sabbath. The synagogue seems not to have been at Capernaum, but in some city which lay in his way as he went through Galilee. And there was a man which had a withered hand — His hand was not only withered, but contracted, as appears from Mark 3:5. See the notes on Matthew 12:10-13. And they — The scribes and Pharisees, watched him — These men, being ever unfriendly to the Saviour, carefully attended to every thing he said and did, with an expectation of finding some matter of blame in him, by which they might blast his reputation with the people. Their pride, anger, and shame, after being so often put to silence, began now to ripen into malice. Luke observes, He knew their thoughts, their malicious designs. We may therefore see, in this instance, the greatness of our blessed Lord’s courage, who resolutely performed the benevolent action he had undertaken, notwithstanding he knew it would expose him to the fiercest resentment of these wicked men. And said to the man, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. He ordered him to stand forth and show himself to the congregation, that the sight of his distress might move them to pity him; and that they might be the more sensibly struck with the miracle, when they observed the wasted hand restored to perfect soundness in an instant. Then Jesus said, Is it lawful to do good, &c. — That he might expose the malice and superstition of these scribes and Pharisees, he appealed to the dictates of their own minds, whether it was not more lawful to do good on the sabbath days, than to do evil; to save life, than to kill. He meant, more lawful for him to save men’s lives, than for them to plot his death without the least provocation. But it is justly observed here by Dr. Campbell, that in the style of Scripture, the mere negation of any thing is often expressed by the affirmation of the contrary. Thus, Luke 14:26, not to love, or even to love less, is called, to hate; Matthew 11:25. not to reveal, is to hide; and here, not to do good, when we can, is to do evil; not to save, is to kill. From this, and many other passages of the New Testament, it may be justly deduced, as a standing principle of Christian ethics, that not to do the good which we have the opportunity and power to do, is, in a certain degree, the same as to do the contrary evil; and not to prevent mischief, when we can, the same as to commit it. Thus, also, Dr. Whitby: “Hence, it seems to follow, that he who doth not do good to his neighbour when he can, doth evil to him; it being a want of charity, and therefore evil, to neglect any opportunity of doing good, or showing kindness to any man in misery; and that not to preserve his life when it is in danger, is to transgress that precept which saith, Thou shalt not kill.” Our Lord’s words contained a severe, but just rebuke, which in the present circumstances must have been sensibly felt. Yet these men, pretending not to understand his meaning, held their peace — Being confounded, though not convinced, therefore he answered them with an argument which the dulness of stupidity could not possibly overlook, nor the peevishness of cavilling gainsay: What man that shall have one sheep, &c. — See on Matthew 12:11. Having uttered these convincing arguments and cutting reproofs, he looked round about on them, (Luke, on them all,) with anger, grieved at the hardness of their hearts — Showing at once his indignation at their wickedness, and his grief for their impenitence. See on Matthew as above. He knew his arguments did not prevail with them, because they were resisting the convictions of their own minds; and was both angry at their obstinacy, and grieved on account of the consequences of it; showing these just affections of his righteous spirit by his looks, that if possible an impression might be made either on them or on the spectators. He might in this, likewise, propose to teach us the just regulation of the passions and affections of our nature, which are not sinful in themselves, otherwise he who was without sin could not have been subject to them. The evil of them lies in their being excited by wrong objects, or by right objects in an improper degree. Thus Dr. Whitby:

“Hence we learn that anger is not always sinful; this passion being found in him in whom was no sin. But then it must be noted, that anger is not properly defined by philosophers, ορεξις αντιλυπησεως, a desire of revenge, or, of causing grief, to him who hath provoked or hath grieved us; for this desire of revenge is always evil; and though our Saviour was angry with the Pharisees for the hardness of their hearts, yet had he no desire to revenge this sin upon them, but had a great compassion for them, and desire to remove this evil.” Mr. Scott, who quotes a part of the above note properly adds, “Our Lord’s anger was not only not sinful, but it was a holy indignation, a perfectly right state of heart, and the want of it would have been a sinful defect. It would show a want of filial respect and affection for a son to hear, without emotion, his father’s character unjustly aspersed. Would it not, then, be a want of due reverence for God, to hear his name blasphemed, without feeling and expressing an indignant disapprobation? Vengeance belongs to the ruler exclusively; and he may grieve at the necessity imposed on him of thus expressing his disapprobation of crimes; but it is his duty. Eli ought to have shown anger as well as grief when informed of the vile conduct of his sons; and to have expressed it by severe coercive measures. Thus parents and masters, as well as magistrates, may sin, in not feeling and expressing just displeasure against those under their care: and anger is only sinful when it springs from selfishness and malevolence; when causeless, or above the cause; and when expressed by unhallowed words and actions.”

And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
Mark 3:6-12. And the Pharisees went forth, &c. — From Matthew’s observing that they held a council against him, it seems probable that those of them, with the scribes, who were present at this miracle, were members of the sanhedrim, or great council; with the Herodians — As bitter as they and the Pharisees usually were against each other. How they might destroy him — For to such a pitch was their anger raised, that nothing but his life would satisfy them. But Jesus withdrew himself — Knowing their designs, he retired into Galilee, where he preached the word, and wrought so many miracles, that his fame was spread abroad more than ever, and great multitudes were gathered round him from all parts; not only from Judea, but from Idumea, the natives of which had now professed the Jewish religion above one hundred and fifty years; and from beyond Jordan — The regions that lay east of that river; and they about Tyre and Sidon — The Israelites who lived in those coasts. And he spake, that a small ship should wait on him — Should be in readiness near him; because of the multitude which was now flocking around him; lest they should throng him — Namely, in a manner that would be very inconvenient to him, and would prevent great numbers from either seeing his miracles or hearing his discourses. For he had healed many — Matthew, he healed them all, namely, that applied to him. Insomuch that they pressed upon him — Gr. ωστε επιπιπτειν αυτω, so that they rushed, or fell upon him. The expression signifies, that they were ready to drive each other upon him, so that those nearer him could hardly stand, being pressed forward by those behind. For to touch him, as many as had plagues — Gr. μαστιγας, scourges, as the word properly signifies. Those very painful and afflictive disorders seem to be intended, which were frequently sent, or at least permitted of God, as a scourge or punishment of sin. And unclean spirits — That is, those who were possessed by them — when they saw him — Even though they had been entire strangers to him; fell down before him — In a posture of submission and homage; and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God — That is, the true Messiah that was to come into the world. And he charged them that they should not make him known — It was not the time yet; nor were they fit preachers. For a further explanation of this passage, see notes on Matthew 12:14-21.

But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea,
And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.
And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him.
For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues.
And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.
And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.
And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.
Mark 3:13. He goeth up into a mountain — Thus Luke also represents him as retiring to a mountain for solemn prayer, and indeed continuing all night in that duty, before he made choice of twelve out of his disciples, and appointed them to be apostles: thereby showing, that much consideration and prayer ought to precede and accompany the choice and ordination of persons for ministers, and that nothing in so important a business should be done rashly. And calleth unto him whom he would — With regard to the eternal states of men, God always acts as a merciful Saviour and just Lawgiver, Governor, and Judge. But with regard to numberless other things, he seems to us to act as a mere Sovereign.

And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
Mark 3:14-16. He ordained, Gr. εποιησε, he made, constituted, or appointed, twelve — The word is elsewhere used for appointing to an office. See 1 Samuel 12:6 — Greek; Hebrews 3:2. Henry thinks our Lord appointed them by imposition of hands, but of this there is no proof. Indeed, this appointment seems to have been made some time before they were sent out to preach, or entered properly on their office. They were now called and appointed merely to be with him, that is, not only to attend on his public ministry, but to enjoy the benefit of his private conversation and daily instructions, that they might thereby be better fitted for the great work in which they were to be employed. If, as is generally supposed, our Lord, in appointing twelve, had a reference to the twelve patriarchs, and twelve tribes of Israel, and therefore, on the death of Judas, another was chosen to make up the number, this was only a piece of respect paid to that people, previous to the grand offer of the gospel to them. For, when they had generally rejected it, two more, Paul and Barnabas, were added, without any regard to the particular number of twelve. That he might send them forth to preach — His gospel, and thereby make way for his own visits to some places where he had not been; and to have power to heal sicknesses, &c. — And thereby to show that they were sent of God, and that he approved and confirmed their doctrine. After their election, these twelve accompanied Jesus constantly, lived with him on one common stock as his family, and never departed from him unless by his express appointment.

And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:
And Simon he surnamed Peter;
And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:
Mark 3:17. James and John he surnamed Boanerges — “This word,” says Dr. Hammond, “is the corruption of the Hebrew בני רעשּׁ, benei ragnash, sons of earthquake, tempest, or any other commotion, such as is here styled, βροντη, thunder. And the meaning of this title may seem to be, that those two sons of Zebedee were to be special, eminent ministers of the gospel, which is called, Hebrews 12:26, φονη την γην γαλευουσα, a voice shaking the earth, taken from Haggai 2:7, which is directly the periphrasis of רעשּׁ, which is here rendered thunder, in the notion wherein φονη, voice, and βροντη, thunder, are promiscuously used for the same thing.” If the learned reader will consult Dr. Lightfoot and Grotius, he will receive further information concerning the derivation of the word Boanerges. Whitby thinks, “Christ gave James and John this name from a foresight of the heat and zeal of their temper, of which they quickly gave an instance in their desire to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans. Hence we find, in the Acts, Peter and John are the chief speakers and actors in the defence and propagation of the gospel; and the zeal of James and Peter seems to be the reason why the one was slain by Herod, and the other imprisoned in order to the like execution.” Doubtless our Lord, in giving them this name, had respect to three things: the warmth and impetuosity of their spirits, their fervent manner of preaching, and the power of their word.

And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite,
And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.
Mark 3:19-21. And they went into a house — It appears, from the manner in which Mark here connects this with the names of the apostles, that it happened very quickly after their being chosen. The other evangelists, indeed, inform us of some previous events which happened in the meantime, but they might be despatched in a few hours. And the multitude cometh together — Assembled again about the doors and windows of the house, and pressed so eagerly upon him; that they — Christ and his disciples, or the members of the family — could not so much as eat bread — Or take any sustenance, though it was the proper hour for it. And when his friends heard of it — Greek, οι παραυτου; “a common phrase,” says Dr. Campbell, “for denoting sui, (so the Vulgate,) his friends, propinqui, cognati, his kinsmen or relations. I prefer,” says he, “the word kinsmen, as the circumstances of the story evince that it is not his disciples who are meant.” This interpretation of the expression the doctor defends very ably by a critical examination of the original text, and an elaborate exposition of the verse; but which is too long to be inserted here. They went — Or, went forth, namely, from their own homes; to lay hold on him — Namely, says Grotius, “that they might take him away from that house, in which he was pressed, to another place:” for they said, Οτι εξεστη, that he faints, or, may faint; so Grotius, Dr. Whitby, and some others, understand the word, thinking it “absurd to say, that Christ did, either in his gestures or in his actions, show any symptoms of transportation or excess of mind; nor could his kindred, they think, have any reason to conceive thus of him, who had never given the least symptoms of any such excess, though those of them who believed not in him, might have such unworthy thoughts of him.” Dr. Hammond, however, justly observes that the word here used “doth, in all places of the New Testament but this and 2 Corinthians 5:13, signify being amazed, or astonished, or in some sudden perturbation of mind, depriving a person of the exercise of his faculties. And in the place just referred to, it is opposed to σωφρονειν, sobriety, or temper. And thus in the Old Testament it is variously used for excess, vehemency, or commotion of mind. Psalm 31:22, we read, I said in my haste, &c., where the Greek is, εν τη εκστασει μου, in the excess, or vehemence of my mind.

Accordingly, here he supposes the word may be most fitly taken for a commotions, excess, vehemence, or transportation of mind, acting or speaking in zeal, (above what is ordinarily called temper and sobriety;) or in such a manner as they were wont to act or speak who were moved by some extraordinary influence, as the prophets, and other inspired persons, according to that of Chrysostom, Τουτο μαντεως ιδιον το εξεστηκεναι, It belongs to prophets to be thus transported, which sense of the word is suited to the place, for in this chapter Christ begins to show himself in the full lustre of his office; he cures on the sabbath day, which the Pharisees conceived to be unlawful; looks about him with anger, or some incitation of mind; is followed by great multitudes; heals the diseased, and is flocked to for that purpose; is called openly the Son of God by the demoniacs; makes twelve disciples, and commissions them to preach and to do cures. Upon this the Pharisees and Herodians take counsel against him, and those of their faction say, He acts by Beelzebub, and is possessed by him, that is, that he was actuated by some principal evil spirit, and did all his miracles thereby; and so was not to be followed, but abhorred by men. And they who uttered not these high blasphemies against him, yet thought and said, οτι εξεστη, that he was in an excess, or transportation of mind, and this, it seems, was the conceit of his own kindred. They had a special prejudice against him, chap. Mark 6:4; and did not believe on him, John 7:5; and accordingly, hearing a report of his doing these extraordinary things, they came out, κρατησαι, to lay hold on, or get him into their hands, and take him home with them, for they said he was guilty of some excesses.” The above interpretation supposes the sense of the expression to be nearly the same with that which is given by our translators, He is beside himself, which has the sanction of the Vulgate, in furorem versus est, and which, as has been noticed, is fully justified by Dr. Campbell, who concludes his defence of it in the following words: “I cannot help observing, on the whole, that in the way the verse is here rendered, no signification is assigned to the words which it is not universally allowed they frequently bear; no force is put upon the construction, but every thing interpreted in the manner which would most readily occur to a reader of common understanding, who, without any preconceived opinion, entered on the study. On the contrary, there is none of the other interpretations which does not, as has been shown, offer some violence to the words or to the syntax; in consequence of which, the sense extracted is far from being that which would most readily present itself to an unprejudiced reader. It hardly admits a doubt, that the only thing which has hindered the universal concurrence of translators in the common version, is the unfavourable light it puts our Lord’s relations in. But that their disposition was, at least, not always favourable to his claims, we have the best authority for asserting.”

And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.
And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.
And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.
Mark 3:22. The scribes (and Pharisees, Matthew 12:22) who had come down from Jerusalem, &c. — Purposely, on the devil’s errand; and not without success. For the common people now began to drink in the poison from these learned, good, honourable men! He hath Beelzebub — At command; is in league with him: And by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils — How easily may a man of learning elude the strongest proof of a work of God! How readily can he account for every incident, without ever taking God into the question! See note on Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:22-32, where this passage occurs, and is explained at large.

And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?
And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.
No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
Mark 3:30. Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit — That is, because they said, he hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth out devils, Mark 3:22. Is it not astonishing that men who have ever read these words should doubt what is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? Can any words declare more plainly that it is “the ascribing those miracles to the power of the devil, which Christ wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost?”

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.
Mark 3:31-35. There came then his brethren and his mother — Having at length made their way through the crowd, so as to come to the door. His brethren are here named first, as being first and most earnest in the design of taking him; for neither did these of his brethren believe on him. They sent to him, calling him — They sent one into the house, who called him aloud by name. Looking round on them who sat about him — With the utmost sweetness: he said, Behold my mother and my brethren — In this preference of his true disciples even to the Virgin Mary, considered merely as his mother after the flesh, he not only shows his high and tender affection for them, but seems designedly to guard against those excessive and idolatrous honours which he foresaw would, in after ages, be paid to her. See the notes on Matthew 12:46-50.

And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.
And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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