Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.True Lawfulness
This is one of the instances of Christ's power of subtle and at first sight unperceived retort Have you really collated into one radiant conspectus the answers of Christ to the people who wished to take Him by guile or otherwise? You would make quite a little Bible if you were to collate all those happy and even thrilling instances of Christ's power in retort, in sending back in another form that which had been flung at Him by hostile hands. He was great in asking questions, and peculiarly great in reply. His replies were always on the spur of the moment He never took any time to consider what answer He would make to anybody.
I. Let us look into this case a little further, and see how it touches us. Learn first that a man may break the law—say, the Sabbath—in the very act of ostentatiously keeping it You can only keep the Sabbath in the heart, you can only keep it in penitence and in thankfulness; it can only be kept in its own spirit, which is a spirit of peace and meekness, restfulness and love. Christ's resurrection day cannot be kept by finding fault with the way in which other people keep it. When we enter into these deeper sympathies and realizations of the Divine Spirit we shall have a cleansed world.
II. A man may dishonour the Bible in the very act of ostentatiously believing that every dot, every comma, is the punctuation of the almost visible Divine hand. The Bible is alive. You may have taken off its coat or patched it here and there with some historic or syntactical patching, and the coat may be none the worse for it, but the revelation is still alive, the truth is still as energetic in the Bible, as it ever was. He honours, keeps, the Bible who finds its truth, its Gospel, its mighty blood, and holds them up as the ministries and evidences of God. We owe nothing to ignorance. Ignorance is only pardonable when it knows that it is ignorant and wants to be instructed, refined, and ennobled.
III. See then how we are driven back, back into the spirituality of religion. The true religion is not a certificate which you take out annually; the true faith is not a renewal of your registration at a guinea a year: it is something that belongs to the soul, the very soul of the soul, so that religion is an affair between man and God, between God and man, away among the unspeakables, away among the saddest, gladdest ministries. We may keep the letter, and deny the spirit. We may have the book, but not the revelation; a beautifully bound Bible, but no spirit Bible, no spirit Gospel, singing to us and teaching us and helping us along all the way of life.
—Joseph Parker, Guy Temple Pulpit, vol. iv. p. 184.
References.—III. 5.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 94. C. E. Jefferson, The Character of Jesus, p. 297. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1893. III. 6-19.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 105. III. 8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1529. III. 10.—Ibid. vol. xiv. No. 841. III. 13-15.—W. Howell Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 304.
His hold over all his pupils I know perfectly astonished me. It was not so much an enthusiastic admiration for his genius or learning or eloquence which stirred within them; it was a sympathetic thrill, caught from a spirit that was earnestly at work in the world—whose work was healthy, sustained, and constantly carried forward in the fear of God.
—Mr. Price in Stanley's Life of Arnold, ii.
References.—III. 14.—J. Rendel Harris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxii. 1902, p. 153. H. C. G. Moule, My Brethren and Companions, p. 14. III. 20, 21.—John Watson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 273. III. 20-35.—W. H. Bennett, The Life of Christ According to St. Mark, p. 47.
I. Jesus was counted mad simply because He was enthusiastic, and the incident is therefore typical. Our Master illustrates that passion for religion which is prepared to sacrifice everything, even life itself, in the service of God, and His family represents for the time the worldly mind which regarded Him with angry suspicion and has been pouring cold water on enthusiasm ever since. Two states of mind are contrasted—one inspired and self-forgetful, the other prosaic and self-regarding.
From time to time a tide of emotion has swept through the Church, cleansing her life from the pollution of the world and lifting it to a higher spiritual level, as when the ocean fills the bed of a shrunken river with its wholesome buoyant water. Every such springtime has been a lift to religion, and has been condemned as madness by the world.
II. There are two convincing pleas for enthusiasm and the first is its reasonableness. A man may be keen about many interests, but of all things he ought to be keenest about religion. If any one believes that the kingdom of God will remain when this world has disappeared like a shadow, then he is right to fling away all that he possesses, and himself too, for its advancement and victory.
My second plea for enthusiasm is its success. Take if you please the enthusiast who has not always been perfectly wise, and whose plans any one can criticize; the man who has not had tangible success. It does not follow that the cause of God is condemned in him or has lost by him. There is something more important than results which can be tabulated in reports, there is the spirit which inspires action and without which there will be no report to write. When a knight dies in his steel armour it does not matter much in the long result whether he lost or won. Every one who saw him fall, fearless to the last, leaves the lists with a higher idea of manhood. III. We are hag-ridden in the Church of God by the idea of machinery, and we forget that the motive power of religion is inspiration. 'The world,' some one has said, 'is filled with the proverbs of a base prudence which adores the rule of three, which never subscribes, which never gives, which seldom lends, and only asks one question—Will it bake bread?' What we have to search for high and low is imprudent people, self-forgetful, uncalculating, heroic people.
—J. Watson (Ian Maclaren), The Inspiration of Our Faith, p. 24.
References.—III. 21.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 112. Vincent Tymms, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxix. 1905, p. 27. Henry Drummond, The Ideal Life, p. 9. III. 22-35.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 122.
An Eternal Sin
Or—'guilty of an eternal sin'. This is almost certainly the true rendering of the words of the Evangelist, from which some transcribers shrank as something strange and unusual, and took refuge in a word more easy to be explained and more closely related to cognate expressions.
I. What may we take it to mean, this description of a state, which men seem to have hesitated even to write down? It means surely, first of all, a great mistake. You may notice that our blessed Lord had just been speaking about that mysterious blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which has so exercised the thoughts and guesses, and even terrors of men. It is this which brings man into the imminent danger of which we are thinking. Surely we are face to face with the possibility of a great mistake where a man gets so entirely out of sympathy with God that where there is God, he can only see an evil spirit; where there is goodness, he can only see malignity; where there is mercy, he can only see cruel tyranny. The great mistake! It begins, perhaps, in the will. Life is presented with all its fascinating material; there is the deadly bias of disposition, while there is the make-weight of grace; and the will gives in. And the dishonoured will now seeks to justify its degradation by an appeal to the intellect. Sin is decried as an ecclesiastical bogey. And then from the intellect it goes to the heart. 'I will pull down my barns, and build greater.' This is the extent of the heart's ambition. See how the great mistake has spread! Self has deflected all the relations of life until the man has become denaturalized. He has made a great mistake—his relations to the world, to God, to self, are inverted unless God interferes, i.e. unless the man allows God to interfere; he is guilty of an eternal sin, in the sense of having made an irreparable mistake, and missed the object for which he was created, the purpose for which he was endowed.
II. But, besides a great mistake, an eternal sin means a great catastrophe.
What a terrible consciousness to wake up to the thought that the position which God has given us, the talents, the intellect, the skill, have been abused by a real perversion of life, and that we have been only doing harm when we were meant to be centres of good! See how an eternal sin may mean an eternal catastrophe, where the forces of life have become mutinous and disobedient; where self-control has gone for ever, and anarchy or misrule riot across life, where there is the perversion of blessings which reaches its climax in the fact that man is the great exception in the order of nature; that while every other living thing is striving for its own good, man alone is found choosing what he knows to be for his hurt. There is no ruin to compare to it, no depravity so utterly depraved as that which comes from a disordered and shattered human nature.
III. Lastly, we are face to face with a great loss. 'I do not wonder at what people suffer, but I wonder often at what they lose.'
The loss of God out of life, which begins, it may be, with a deprivation, and is a disquieting pang, which, if it is not arrested, becomes death, which, if persisted in, becomes eternal, becomes utter and complete separation from God, which becomes what we know as hell—the condition of an eternal sin.
—W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 230.
Illustration.—It was only that petty thieving from the bag, which Judas forgot as the miracles flashed before him, in speaking tongues, in unstopped ears, healed lepers, and awakened dead. It was only the selfish love of the world which he forgot, as he listened to the wondrous word of searching power, of veiling parable, or piercing insight, but insensibly it has begun to tell. A rift has begun to open in the lute. He finds himself as he never did before, a critic; he finds himself a grumbler; he finds himself in opposition. He is outside the charmed circle; 'this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor'. He has a policy and a purpose of his own, 'what will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?' Christ has dropped out of his life. He is definitely on the side of His enemies, 'And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them'. 'I have sinned;' remorse pushes out repentance, and he stands in the piteous void of the awful and eternal loss.
—W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 243.
References.—III. 29.—William Alexander, Primary Convictions, p. 133. W. Leighton Grane, Hard Sayings of Jesus Christ, p. 133. W. Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 214. III. 31-35.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 129. R. Rainy, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 109. III. 33-35.—R. J. Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 409. T. Vincent Tymms, ibid. vol. lxix. 1906, p. 219. III. 34.—R. Rainy, Sojourning With God, p. 114. III. 35.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 138. IV. 1-25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2512. IV. 1-34.—W. H. Bennett. The Life of Christ According to St. Mark, p. 54. IV. 3-8, 14-20.—C. G. Lang, Thoughts on Some of the Parables of Jesus, p. 13. IV. 4.—F. Y. Leggatt, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 337. IV. 5, 6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1132.
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.
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.
And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
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:
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.
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.
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.
There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.
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.