Mark 3
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
In the most sacred and joyous scenes there may be circumstances of pain and sorrow. There are often some in God's house who are hindered in their enjoyment by personal affliction. But even these may be of service in testing the spirit and disposition of God's professed people.


1. Outward observances are of value only as expressing and fostering this.

2. Evil hearts will fail to keep the day even, whilst seemingly engaged in its special duties.

3. Institutions that were designed for the highest ends may be perverted to the worst.


1. Because they are always urgent.

2. They exercise the holiest emotions and faculties of human nature.

3. They are the service of God.

4. They may be the means of others keeping the day and serving him.

III. THE TRUE SABBATIC SPIRIT CONVICTS AND INFLAMES THE FALSE. The hatred manifested is all but incredible. Yet it was already in their hearts. They had been condemned where they thought to have been judges. False religion (Pharisees) and worldliness (Herodians) are united in their hatred of the spirit and work of Christ, because they are both exposed by him. - M.

I. THE SABBATH MAY BE OBSERVED TO THE LETTER WHILE BROKEN IN THE SPIRIT. Here were men watching to see whether a man would dare to do a loving deed! The letter, which can never be more than the expression of the spirit, must be kept at all costs - except that of the literalists. There are pedants who will quarrel with a great writer because he departs from the "rules of grammar," forgetting that grammar is but a collection of observations of the best that has been written. So there are ritualists who will slander a good man because he neglects rites for the sake of going to the root of all rites.

II. CENSORIOUSNESS THE CERTAIN SYMPTOM OF SELF-DISCONTENT. Why do we want to find fault with others? Because we are not satisfied with ourselves. We must either feed on a good conscience or on the semblance of it. And it seems that we are better than others whenever we can put them in an unfavourable light.

III. EMULATION AND ENVY ARE NEAR AKIN. We are jealous of great successes. Jealousy is natural enough. It depends on the will whether the effects be good or evil on ourselves. A noble deed! let me seek to imitate it and share the blessedness of it: this is good. A noble deed! let me extinguish the author of it, who shames me: this of the devil, devilish; of hell, hellish. The ideal Christian and the ideal Pharisee are in eternal opposition. Goodness produces one of two effects in us - we long to embrace it and possess it, or to kill

I. THE NATURE OF THE DISEASE. It was a case of severe paralysis of the hand - the right hand, as St. Luke, with a physician's accuracy, informs us. The sinews were shrunken, and the hand shrivelled and dried up. And yet we owe to St. Mark's great particularity in narration and minuteness of detail a piece of information that one might rather have expected from the professional skill of "the beloved physician," Luke. St. Luke, as well as St. Matthew, uses an adjective (ξηρὰ, equivalent to dry) to describe, in a general way, the state of the diseased member; but St. Mark employs the participle of the perfect passive (ἐξηραμμένην, equivalent to having been dried up), which furnishes a hint as to the origin of the ailment. While from the expression of the former two evangelists we might conclude that the ailment was congenital - that the man was born with it; we are enabled, by the term made use of in the Gospel before us, to correct that conclusion, and to trace this defect of the hand as the result of disease or of accident.

II. VARIETY OF DISEASES. The multitude of "ills that flesh is heir to" is truly wonderful; the variety of diseases that afflict poor frail humanity is astonishing. Whatever be the place of our abode, or wherever we travel, we find our fellow-creatures subject to weakness, pains, physical defects, wasting all sense, pining sickness, and bodily ailments, too many and too various to enumerate. No continent, no island, no zone of earth, is exempt. The greatest salubrity of climate, though it may somewhat diminish the number, does not do away with cases of the kind. Though our lot be cast amid the mildness of Southern climes, or under the clear bright sky of Eastern lands; though our dwelling-place be -

"Far from the winters of the West,
By every breeze and season blest;"

still we find ourselves within the reach of those infirmities that seem the common of man. We cannot read far in the Gospels, or trace the ministry of our Lord to much length, until we find him surrounded by and ministering to whole troops of invalids and impotent folk.

III. SOURCE OF ALL DISEASES. If there were no sin there would be no sorrow, and if there were no sin there would be no sickness. The effects of sin extend to both body and soul. Sin has brought disease as well as death into the world, as we read, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." As death has thus passed upon all men, so disease, more or less aggravated, at one time or other, has become the lot of all; for what are pain and disease and sickness but forerunners, remote it may be, of death, and forfeitures of sin? The original punitive sentence was not Moth tumath," Thou shalt be put to death," that is, immediately or instantaneously; but Moth tamuth, "Thou shalt die," namely, by a process now commenced, and, though slow, yet sure; for sin has planted the germ of death in the system. It is as though, simultaneously with the breath of life, the process of decay and death began, part after part wasting away in consequence of disease or in the so-called course of nature, till the vital spark at last becomes extinct, and "the dust returns to the earth as it was." A heathen poet preserves the remnant of an old tradition, which, like many of the traditions of heathenism, is evidently a dispersed and distorted ray from the light of revelation. He tells us that a crowd of wasting diseases invaded this earth's inhabitants in consequence of crime; while a Christian poet speaks of that lazar-house which sin has erected on our earth, "wherein are laid numbers of all diseased, all maladies,.. and where dire are the tossings, deep the groans." But for transgression manhood would have remained in all its original health and vigor and perfection, like "Adam, the goodliest man of men since born his sons;" and womanhood would have retained all the primitive grace and loveliness and beauty that bloomed in "the fairest of her daughters, Eve."

IV. TIME AND PLACE OF THE CURE. The time was the sabbath day; and this was one of the seven miracles which our Lord performed on the sabbath. Of these St. Mark records three - the cure of the demoniac at Capernaum, the cure of fever in the case of Peter's mother-in-law, and the cure of the withered hand; the former two recorded in the first chapter of this Gospel, and the last in the passage under consideration. Two more of the sabbath-day miracles are recorded by St. Luke - the cure of the woman afflicted with the spirit of infirmity, and also of the man who had the disease of dropsy; the former in the thirteenth and the latter in the fourteenth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel. Besides these, two more are recorded by St. John - the recovery of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, and the restoration of sight to the man born blind; the former in the fifth and the latter in the ninth chapter of St. John's Gospel. Our Lord had vindicated his disciples for plucking the cars of corn on the sabbath; he had now to vindicate himself for the miracle of healing, which he was about to perform also on the sabbath. The place where he was going to perform this miracle was the synagogue.

V. PERSONS PRESENT AT THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CURE, This is a most important item in the narrative, and a most important element in the transaction. There was a multitude present, and that multitude consisted of foes as well as friends. It could not, therefore, be said that the thing was done in a corner, or that it was done only in the presence of friends, with whom collusion or connivance might possibly be suspected. The persons, then, in whose presence this cure was effected were the worshippers on that sabbath day in the synagogue - a goodly number, no doubt, comprehending not only those who assembled ordinarily for the sabbath service, but many more drawn together by the rumors about the great Miracle-worker and in expectation of some manifestation of his wonder-working power. But besides these ordinary worshippers and these curiosity-mongers, as perhaps we may designate them, there were others - the scribes and Pharisees, as we learn from St. Luke - whose motive was malignancy, and whose business on that occasion was espionage. They kept watching our Lord closely and intently (παρετήρουν) to see if he should heal on the sabbath; not in admiration of his wondrous power, nor in gratitude for his marvellous goodness, but in order to find some ground of accusation against him.

VI. OBJECTION TO THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CURE ON THE SABBATH. In pursuance of their plan, they anticipated our Lord, as we learn from St. Matthew, with the question, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?" Our Lord, in reply, as we are informed in the same Gospel, appealed to their feelings of humanity and to the exercise of mercy which men usually extend even to a dumb animal - a sheep, which, if it fall into a pit on the sabbath, is laid hold of and lifted out. The superiority of a man to a sheep justifies a still greater exercise of mercy, even on the sabbath. But to their captious and ensnaring question he made further answer, replying, as was his wont, by a counter-question, "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath day, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?" The alternative here is between doing good and doing evil, or, putting an extreme case, between saving a life and destroying it (ἀπολέσαι in St. Luke). We may observe, in passing, that the received text, which reads τι in this passage of St. Luke's Gospel, admits one or other of the two following renderings, according to the punctuation: either

(1) "I will ask you, further, What is allowable on the sabbath - to do good or to do evil?" or

(2) "I will ask you, further, a certain thing: Is it allowable on the sabbath to do good or to do evil?" The first is favored by being nearly the same as the Peshito-Syriac, which is to the effect, "I will ask you what is it allowable to do on the sabbath? What is good or what is bad?" But the critical editors, Lachmann, Tisehendorf, and Tregelles, read εἰ, and the latter two have the present of the verb, viz. ἐπερωτῶ. Of course the translation of the text thus constituted is, "I ask you, further, if it is allowable on the sabbath to do good or to do evil - to save a life or to destroy?" With this the Vulgate coincides, as follows: - Interrogo yes, si licet sabbatis benefacere an male: animam salvam facere, an perdere? This was a home-thrust to these deceitful, wicked men who, while he was preparing to restore a human being to the full enjoyment of life in the unimpeded and unimpaired use of all his members, were murderously plotting the destruction of the great Physician's own life. No wonder they were silenced, as St. Mark tells us, for they must have been conscience-stricken, at least in some measure. At all events, they were confuted and confounded, but not converted, though they maintained a stolid, sullen silence. The question of our Lord left them in a dilemma. They could not deny that it was disallowable to do evil on any day, still more on the sabbath, for the holiness of the day aggravated the guilt; and yet they were seeking means of inflicting the greatest evil - even the destruction of life. They could not deny that it was allowable to do good on any day, especially on the sabbath; for the good deed, if not enhanced by, was fully in keeping with, the goodness of the day on which it was done. They found themselves shut up to the inevitable conclusion that it was not unlawful to do good on the sabbath day. And so our Lord turns to the performance of that good act on which he had determined, but which they in heart disallowed, notwithstanding their enforced silence or their seeming to give consent.

VII. MODE OF PREPARATION FOR THE CURE. He commanded the man who had his hand withered to stand forth. This was a somewhat trying ordeal for that poor disabled man. Standing forward, he became the gazing-stock of all eyes. He thereby made himself and his peculiar defect conspicuous. He thus practically confessed his helplessness and eagerness for relief. There he stood, an object of heartless curiosity to some, an object of contempt to others; the scrutinizing looks of some, the scowling glances of others, were fixed upon him. Few like to be thus looked out of countenance. Besides, in addition to all this, he was publicly expressing confidence in the ability of the Physician, and so exposing himself to like condemnation. And then there was the contingency of failure. What of that? The man must have had some, yea, much, moral courage to brave all this. Thus it is with all who will come to Christ with earnestness of spirit and manfully confess him. False shame must be laid aside. The scowl of enemies, perhaps the sneer of friends, the scorn of the world, may be calculated on and contemned; much must be done and dared in this direction. Yet the true confessor will not shrink from all this, and more. His spirit is -

"I'm not ashamed to own my Lord
Or to defend his cause,
Maintain the glory of his cross,
And honor all his laws."

VIII. OUR LORD'S LOOK WHEN PROCEEDING TO PERFORM THE CURE. The man was now standing forth in the midst, with the eyes of all present fastened on him. Our Lord, before actually speaking the word of healing power, looked round upon the persons present - upon all of them, as St. Luke informs us. There was deep meaning in that look. The expression of that look needed an interpreter, and so St. Mark tells us that the feelings which that intent and earnest look into every man's thee gave expression to were twofold - there was anger and there was grief at the same time. This at, get was righteous indignation; as the apostle says, "Be angry and sin not." This anger was incurred by the wicked malevolence which the Saviour, in his omniscience, read in the dark hearts of those dark-visaged men; for, as St. Luke reminds us, "he knew their thoughts," or rather their reasonings. But there was grief as well.

1. Though the compound verb συλλυπούμενος is interpreted by some as identical with the simple form, yet the prepositional element cannot be thus overlooked, but must add somewhat to the meaning of the whole.

2. This additional significancy, however., may be variously understood. The preposition σύν may mean

(1) that he grieved with and so within himself - in his own spirit; or

(2) that his grief was simultaneous with his anger and accompanied it; or

(3) that, angry though he was, he grieved nevertheless or sympathized with them. The ground of this complex feeling was the hardness of their hearts. The root-word denotes a kind of stone, then a chalkstone, also a callus, or substance exuding from fractured bones and joining their extremities; and the derivative noun, which occurs here, is the process of reuniting by a callus, then hardening, hardness, callousness; while the verb signifies to petrify, harden, or make callous. This hard-heartedness is thus a gradual, not an instantaneous, formation. It is a process which may commence with some small omission or trifling commission; but in either case it continues unless checked by grace - the once soft becoming hard, and the hard yet harder, till it is consummated in fearful obduracy of heart or complete callousness of the moral nature.

IX. THE CURE PERFORMED. "Stretch forth thy hand!" is the command; and as the aorist imperative, used here, generally denotes a speedy execution of the order given, like o phrase, "Have it done!" the command amounted to "Stretch forth thy hand at once!" How unreasonable this command, at the first blush of the matter, appears! Many a time the attempt had been made, but in vain; many a time before he had tried to stretch it out, but that withered hand had refused obedience to the volitions of the will. Was not the Saviour's command, then, strange and unnatural in bidding him extend a hand that had long lost the proper power of motion; a hand crippled and contracted in every joint, shrunken and shrivelled in every part - in a word, completely lifeless and motionless? And yet this man did not cavil nor question; he did not doubt nor delay. Soon as the mandate came he made the effort; soon as the command was uttered, hard as it must have seemed, he essayed compliance; and no sooner is compliance attempted than the cure is effected, Divine, power accompanying the command, or rather both acting with simultaneous effect. Thus his word was a word of power, as we read, "He sent his word and healed them." And now the tendons are unbound, the nerves act, the muscles are suppled, the vital fluid flows once more along the reopened channel. Thus it was brought back again to what it once was; in power, appearance, and use it was restored to its original condition, whole and sound.

X. CONSEQUENT ON THE CURE WAS AN UNNATURAL, COALITION. The enemies were filled with folly, wicked and senseless folly (ἀνοίας), but not madness, as it is generally understood, for that would properly be μανίας. They felt humiliated in the presence of so many people. Their pride was humbled, for they were silenced; their logic was shown to be shallow, for with them "to do or not to do" - that was the question; but our Lord showed them that" to do good or not to do good, while not to do good was tantamount to doing evil," was in reality the question; and so they were put to shame. They were disappointed, moreover, for they were deprived of any ground whereon to found an accusation, because, in the mode of effecting the cure, there had been no touch, no contact of any kind, no external means used - nothing but a word, so that even the letter of the Law had been in no way infringed. In their desperation they communed one with another, held a council, or, as St. Mark informs us more explicitly, "took or made counsel with the Herodians." Misfortune, according to an old saw, brings men into acquaintance with strange associates, and never more so than on this occasion. In theology the Herodians, as far as they held any theological opinions, fraternized with the Sadducees, the latitudinarians of that day; in politics they were adherents of Herod Antipas, and so advocates of the Roman domination. To both these the Pharisees were diametrically opposed. Yet now they enter into an unholy alliance with those who were at once their political opponents and religious antagonists. Nor was this the only time that extremes met and leagued themselves against Christ and his cause. Herod and Pilate mutually sacrificed their feelings of hostility, and confederated against the Lord and his Anointed. It has been thought strange that Luke, who from his acquaintance with Manaen, the foster-brother of Herod the Tetrarch, had special facilities for knowledge of the Herods, their family relations, and friends, omits this alliance of the Herodians with the Pharisees; while it has been surmised that, from that very acquaintance, sprang a delicacy of feeling that made the evangelist loth to record their hostility to Christ.


1. The first lesson we learn here is the multitude of witnesses that are watching the movements of the disciples of Christ; for as it was with the Master so is it with ourselves. The eye of God is upon us, according to the language of ancient piety, "Thou God seest us;" the eyes of angels are upon us to aid us with their blessed and beneficent ministries; the eyes of good men are upon us to cheer us onward and help us forward; the eyes of bad men are upon us to mark our halting and take advantage of our errors; the eyes of Satan and his servants - evil angels as well as evil men - are upon us to entrap us by their machinations and gloat over our fall. How vigilant, then, must we be, watching and praying that we fall not into, nor succumb to, temptation!

2. In every case of spiritual withering we know the Physician to whom we must apply. Has our faith been withering, or has it lost aught of its freshness? we pray him to help our unbelief and increase our faith. Has our love been withering and languishing? we must seek from him a renewal of the love of our espousals, and meditate on him till in our hearts there is rekindled a flame of heavenly love to him who first loved us. Is our zeal for the Divine glory, or our activity in the Divine service, withering and decaying? then we must seek grace to repent and do our first works, stretching out at Christ's command the withered hand to Christian work, whether it be the resumption of neglected duty, or the rendering of needful help, or relieving the wants of the indigent, or wiping away the tears of the sorrowing, or usefulness of whatever kind in our day and generation, or honest endeavors to leave the world better than we found it.

3. It is well worthy of notice that if we are doing no good we are doing evil; nay, if we are doing nothing, we are doing evil; still more, if we are not engaged at least in helping to save, we are guilty of abetting, if not actually causing destruction. Let us, then, be "not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord."

4. The mercifulness of the Saviour is an encouragement to faith and obedience. With his anger against sin was mingled grief for sinners' hardness of heart. Many a tear he shed for perishing souls in the days of his flesh. He dropped a tear at the grave of a beloved friend - only dropped a silent tear (ἐδάκρυσεν); but over the impenitent inhabitants of a doomed city his eyes brimmed over with tears and he wept aloud, for we there read ἔκλαυσεν. In this restoration of the withered hand we have evidence of the Saviour's gracious disposition, a warrant to take him at his word, and a guarantee that when he gives a precept he will grant power for its performance.

5. Divine power was here displayed in human weakness. The sinner has a warrant to believe, and in responding to that warrant he realizes Divine help; in his willingness to obey he experiences Divine power; in his earnest entreating Christ for strength to believe, he is actually and already exercising a reliance on Christ for salvation. Divine power harmonized with the faith of this afflicted man, and the Saviour's strength made itself manifest in his obedience. And yet faith lays claim to no inherent power; it is, on the contrary, human weakness laying hold of Divine strength. Its potency is derived entirely from that on which it rests; believing the Word of God, trusting in the Son of God, relying on aid from the Spirit of God, it surmounts every obstacle, overcomes every difficulty, and triumphs over every enemy. It is a principle that develops most wonderful potencies for good; in its exercise we cress the borderland that lies between the humanly impossible and heavenly possibilities; for "what is the victory that overcometh the world? Even our faith." - J.J.G.

The cure of the man with a withered hand was more obviously a supernatural work than sudden recovery from a fever, so that we need not wonder at the excitement it aroused. But it was only an example of many similar works, and as such we propose to consider it.


1. It was a removal of bodily infirmity. Although the Son of God came from heaven to do a spiritual work, much of the time of his earthly ministry was spent in curing physical disorders. We might have supposed that, coming from a painless and sorrowless world he would have had sparse sympathy with such suffering; that he would have exhorted to fortitude and self-control, and expectation of a time when pain would be no more. It was not so, however. He sympathized with all sufferers, and, although he had before him a stupendous spiritual work, he by no means confined himself to it. Though sometimes he had "no leisure so much as to eat," he found time to heal many bodily diseases; and he did this without hurrying over it as if it were an inferior work, or as if it were necessitated by the hardness of the human heart; but he did it lovingly and constantly, as being an essential part of his mission. In some respects, no doubt, this was a lower work than preaching. The body is inferior to the soul, as the tent is to its inhabitant. The effects of cure were only transient, for none were promised exemption in the future from disease or death. Yet these lower and temporary blessings were generously bestowed by One who habitually stood in the light of eternity. Point out the ministry of mercy which the Church has yet to do, in Christ's name, for suffering humanity.

2. It was a miracle with a moral purpose. The supernatural works of Christ were not mainly intended to excite attention. When he was asked "for a sign" with that object, he resolutely refused it. Had this been his purpose, he would have flung snowy Herman into the depths of the sea, instead of doing the kind of work which is more slowly done by human physicians. He had a better purpose than this. He healed disease because, as the Conqueror of sin, he would point out and abolish some of its effects. He rescued a man, if only for a time, from the evil that harassed him, to show that he was his Redeemer. And besides this, he appeared as the Representative of God, and therefore did what he is ever doing in more gradual methods. A modern writer has wisely said, "This, I think, is the true nature of miracles; they are an epitome of God's processes in nature, beheld in connection with their source." We are apt to forget God in the processes through which he ordinarily works, and this forgetfulness could not be better checked than by the miracles in which Christ did directly what is usually done indirectly. For example, when we eat our daily bread, we know all that man has done with the corn since the harvest, and seldom think of God who gave life to the seed, strength to the husbandman, and nutriment to the ground. But if we saw the processes condensed into one Divine act, as the multitude did on the hillside, when Jesus created bread, there would be a recognition of God which would afterwards find expression in the more ordinary events we saw. So with the healing of the diseased. Every such miracle revealed God as the Dispenser of health and the Giver of all blessings.

3. It was a miracle having special significance for the spectators. By means of it Christ taught more clearly the nature and design of the sabbath day. His foes had followed him from Jerusalem, with the resolute determination to destroy his influence and, if possible, to compass his death. Already they had detected his disciples in the violation of a rabbinical rule by rubbing corn in their hands on the sacred day. And the Lord had at once thrown over his followers the shield of his authority, as an Achilles would have done over the wounded Greeks, and had roundly declared that the "Son of man was Lord even of the sabbath day." They hoped now that he would publicly commit himself by some action in harmony with this declaration, and that so prejudice might be raised against his heresy. Show how bravely, wisely, and victoriously he met this, and taught for all generations that "it is lawful to do well on the sabbath day."


1. Neglecting opportunities for doing good is really doing evil. Jesus Christ meant, by the alternative he put in the fourth verse, that if he did not do the good he was able to do for this poor sufferer, he did him a wrong. This is universally true. If at the judgment seat any appear who have done nothing for others and for their Lord, they will not be able to say, "We have done no harm!" for they have injured themselves and others by neglect. The "wicked and slothful servant" was not condemned because he had done harm with his wealth and talent, but because he had done no good with them, having digged in the earth and hid his lord's money.

2. Loving help is better than outward ritual. The religious leaders of our Lord's day thought it of vital importance that the law of the Jewish sabbath - "Thou shalt do no manner of work" - should be observed with scrupulous exactness. But on that holy day Christ freely cured disease, and so taught the people the meaning of Jehovah's words, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." We are bound so to use our sacred day, associating acts of love and mercy with the services which sanctify its hours.

3. Fear of personal consequences should never hinder the true servant of God. What our Lord did on this occasion so aroused anger that we read in St. Luke's Gospel, "They were filled with madness;" and "straightway they took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him." Foreseeing this, he did not hesitate for a moment. May the fear of God in us also cast out all fear of man! - A.R.

There is much silence that proceeds from the Spirit of God, but there is also a devilish silence, says Quesnel; and it is not difficult to pronounce upon the character of this.

I. WHAT WAS INTENDED BY IT. It was evasive. Christ had propounded a dilemma which those who watched him dared not answer, since, had they done so, they would either have compromised themselves or committed themselves to approval of his action. It was doubtless intended also to suggest that the problem was too difficult for them to solve, at any rate without due consideration.

II. WHAT IT SHOWED. There was no concealing from his eyes its real meaning, which he at once denounced. The circumstances of it and the exposure it received made it evident that it was due:

1. To unwillingness to be convinced. The state called "hardness of heart" it is not easy to resolve into all its elements, but this is undoubtedly the chief one. These men had come into the synagogue with sinister designs against Christ, and so strong was their prejudice that they refused to assent to the most cogent evidence. The language used by their intended Victim conveys the impression that this "hardening" was in process whilst the scene lasted. It is impossible to dissociate religious opinion from character. Prejudice and malice incapacitate the mind for the reception of truth. Here the most cogent evidence was resisted; for they evidently expected that he would heal the man, and yet were unwilling to attach its due weight to the miracle as a proof of Christ's Divine mission. How much of modern scepticism is to be attributed to similar causes it is impossible to say; but that a large proportion of it is to be so explained cannot be doubted. The hesitation to reply is the more noticeable in this instance as the question is one turning, not upon material evidence, but upon moral considerations.

2. To lack of sympathy. The condition of the sufferer did not move them to compassion, even in the house of God. A touchstone of the religious professions of men may still be found in the pool the suffering, etc.

3. To dishonesty and cowardice. They knew how the question ought to have been answered, but they feared the consequences. The question as to killing alarmed their own guilty consciences, for they knew that they had come thither not to worship but to compass the destruction of a fellow-creature. There is still a great deal of suppressed religious conviction amongst men; how are we to interpret it? When moral obligations are evaded, and scepticism is made an excuse for uncertainty of conduct and laxity of life, we are justified in attributing such behavior to the same principles. There are circumstances that demand candour and outspokenness, and in which silence is dishonorable; we ought "to have the courage of our convictions:" occasions when it is wrong to be silent; when religious zeal is made a cloak for murder, cruelty, injustice, and licentiousness; when the difficulty of theological problems is made an excuse for compromise, or inaction, or moral indifference; when, in the face of the clearest evidence, a man says he "does not know."


1. The anger of Christ. His look must have searched their hearts and abashed them. There would be in it something of the awfulness of the judgment day. This moral indignation, in which there is surely an element of contempt, is still the sentence upon all similar conduct.

2. Consciousness of guilt. They were self-convicted, but the condemnation of one so pure and loving would seal their sense of unworthiness and dishonor.

3. Exposure. No one in that crowd was deceived as to their real motive. The same law still prevails; the moral obliquity which refuses to pronounce upon great questions of duty and righteousness will sooner or later be made evident to others. Just as there are circumstances which precipitate opinion, so there are circumstances in every life which call for decided action, and reveal the manner in which one has dealt with one's convictions. At such junctures the man who has been true to his best lights and sincere in following out his convictions, will be honest, fearless, chivalrous; the man who has not been truly in earnest, or disinterested in his attachment to truth, will be seen to shuffle, to shirk responsibility, and to shrink from sacrifice; or, worse still, he will yield to the lusts and tendencies of his baser nature, and act with unscrupulousness, inhumanity, and godlessness. It is the law that opinions determine character; and that, in the course of life, character must inevitably make itself known. - M.




Mark 3:5 (first part)
Describe the scene in the synagogue; the wickedness of the plot formed by the Pharisees; the compassion of our Lord, breaking through it as a mighty tide over a flimsy barrier; the nobility of his teaching concerning the right use of the sabbath; the healing of the man with the withered hand, etc. Our text graphically describes the feeling with which our Lord regarded his adversaries, and this deserves earnest consideration. At first the bold declaration, "He looked round about on them with anger," startles us; for it seems in contradiction to his meekness and patience, which were perfect. But the explanation follows, "Being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." This shows the nature of his feeling. It reminds us of another occasion (Luke 13:34), when he spoke of Jerusalem in a tone of reproachful indignation; but at once added the gentle words, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings!" On both occasions there was a blending of feelings which too often appear to us contradictory and incompatible. But it is possible to be "angry and sin not." Christ looked on the Pharisees, and was indignant at their hypocrisy and unscrupulous hatred; but at once the feeling softened into pity as he thought of the insidious process of "hardening," which (as the Greek implies) was still going on, to end in hopeless callousness. With him warning was mingled with weeping; as his disciple Paul afterwards spoke with tears of those who were "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18). In this, as in all things else, Christ has left us an example; therefore we will endeavor first to -


1. Indignation against sin. We are constantly coming in contact with the faults and sins of men. Our newspapers contain accounts of murders and cruelties, of thefts and treasons. Overreaching and fraud meet us in business; slander and enmity lurk in society. Sensibility to such sins is not only not wrong, it is right and Christlike, and will become more keen as we grow in likeness to our Lord. It is an evil day for a man when he becomes callous even to those wickednesses which will never affect him personally; for this is distinctly contrary to the feeling which moved the Saviour to effect the world's redemption. As his disciples, we must never be good-naturedly easy about sin; we must not put on an air of worldly indifference; we must not attempt to hush feeling to rest, as if men were committed by a resistless fate to do "all these abominations" (Jeremiah 7:10). The presence and prevalence of sin should stir within us strong moral indignation.

2. Indignation tending to pity. Anger should be swallowed up in grief. Indignation against wrong-doing, whether it affects ourselves or not, must not make us forget the deepest commiseration for the wrongdoer. Instead of this, too often, proud of our own virtue, we stand on our small moral pedestal, and look with scorn on those below it. Respected and honored ourselves, with our robes to outward appearance unstained, we gather them about us, and sweep past some fallen brother or sister, and say, "Come not near unto me; for I am holier than thou!" The evil effects of this are manifold. We may drive others into deeper sin, because despair takes the place of hope in them; and we weaken ourselves in the service of our Lord. We can never benefit one whom we despise, or over whose fall we secretly exult; for nothing but love can so grasp the sinner as to lift him out of the horrible pit. Nor is it enough that we are indignant and angry with sin, so. that as passionate parents or denunciatory preachers we administer hasty reproof or indiscriminate punishment. Our faults will never conquer the faults of others. We must seek to deal with others as our Lord did. He loved the sinner, even when he hated the sin. His "gentleness hath made us great."

II. INCULCATION OF THE DUTIES HERE SUGGESTED. Let us point out a few considerations which may help us to cultivate the temper of mind we have discussed.

1. Remember what sin is and what sin has done. It caused the loss of Paradise; it brought about the sickness and sorrows we suffer; it made our work hard and unproductive; it created discord between man and his fellow, between man and his God; it seemed so woeful in itself and its results, to him who knows all things, that the Son of God gave himself as a sacrifice to save us from its power; it is so stupendous in its nature and awful in its issues that it is not a subject for selfish irritation, but one respecting which pity should blend with indignation. He who has done you a wanton wrong has injured himself far more than he can injure you. Therefore, beware of peevish anger and sinful revenge, remembering the words of the Master, "Blessed are the meek,.. the merciful,.. the peacemakers,.. the persecuted for righteousness' sake."

2. Reflect on what sin might have done for you. How far character and reputation are affected by circumstances we cannot tell. But if we all have the same passions and evil propensities, our moral victory or defeat may depend largely on the degree of temptation which is permitted to assail us. We cherish a vindictive feeling against one who has offended his country's laws, but possibly our own criminality might have been as great but for the good providence of God. Certain classes of sin are so harshly and indiscriminately condemned that she who commits them is only left to plunge more deeply into sin and misery. But perhaps temptations were great, and home defences were few and frail, and the first wrong step was taken ignorantly; and then there seemed no going back. The story of the weeping penitent at our Saviour's feet is a rebuke to the want of pitifulness shown too often by the Christian Church.

3. See the nobility of the feeling here portrayed. To look with scorn, or with indifference, or with pleasure on sin, indicates a very low state of moral feeling. To burst forth with indignation against it is higher, but it is a sign of the youth of one's virtue, the manhood of which is seen in Jesus Christ. Forbearance and gentleness are among the higher Christian graces. We expect them of the cultured nation rather than of a savage horde, of a mature man than of a half-disciplined child. "He who ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a city." To control angry feeling within ourselves is the best means of helping us to control the evil deeds of others in our home and in the world. - A.R.

Mark 3:5 (latter part)
There was no kind of pain which Jesus could not relieve, no kind of grief he could not assuage. Those who were regarded as unclean were welcomed, and those whom none could cure he healed. Like the heavenly Father, of whom he was "the express Image," he was "kind to the unthankful and to the unworthy." We will regard the restoration of the man with the withered hand to health and soundness as a typical example of what our gracious Lord is ever doing. It reminds us of the following truths respecting him: -

I. OUR LORD GIVES STRENGTH FOR DAILY LABOUR. The apocryphal "Gospel according to the Hebrews" says that this sufferer was a mason by trade, and represents him as beseeching the Saviour to heal him in order that he might no longer be compelled to beg his daily bread. Be this as it may, he presented a piteous spectacle, for his limb was wasted, all power in it was gone as completely as if death had seized it, and he was without hope of cure. It was no small blessing to have that limb made in an instant "whole as the other;" for henceforth honest industry was possible. We too may thank God if what we have has been sweetened by the toil which has made it our own. He gives us power to get wealth. It is his kindly providence which saves us from eating the bitter bread of charity and dependence.

II. THE LORD GIVES STRENGTH FOR CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Until we feel his touch and bear his voice, we are towards religious work what this man was towards daily work. Many in our congregations in this sense have their hand withered. Some cannot put forth their hand to give to the poor, to minister to the sick, to lead others to the Saviour, to "subscribe with their hands to the Lord," or even to lay hold on salvation. Their hand is withered. This paralysis or incapacity has its source in sin, in the selfishness which lives without love, in the pride which refuses to alter old habits, in the avarice which will hoard all it grasps, in the distrust of God that will make no venture. Only when God reveals the sin, and by his grace destroys it, can such be fit to serve him. But if Christ's voice is heard, there will come the stirring of new strength, the uprising of a new purpose in life, and the question will rise to heaven, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

III. THE LORD OFTEN EFFECTS THIS IN HIS OWN HOUSE. As once Jesus was found in the synagogue, so now he is often found in the assembly of his people. After his resurrection he appeared amongst the praying disciples, and it was on those who had assembled together with one accord for prayer that the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. How often since, in our congregations, the power of the Lord has been present to heal us! Sin-laden souls have been relieved; the perplexed have been guided aright; those morally weak have renewed their strength by waiting upon God; hungry souls have been satisfied; and those dead in trespasses and sins have been quickened to new life. Therefore, let us go to his house constantly, reverently, expectantly, and he will bless us "above all that we ask or think."

IV. THE LORD CONNECTS HIS HIGHER BLESSINGS WITH PROMPT AND FEARLESS OBEDIENCE TO HIS WORD. Directly Jesus saw the man with the withered hand, he said, "Stand forth!" It was a simple command, but not easy under the circumstances to obey. Jesus was a comparative stranger; the position of a crippled man, who was made the gazing-stock of a congregation, would be painful; and the Pharisees might be angered by obedience. But on the man's part there was no hesitation. To the voice of authority he yielded at once, perhaps not without the stirring of new hope in his heart. This first act of obedience made the second more easy. After a few words to the Pharisees, our Lord spoke to him again, saying, "Stretch forth thy hand!" He might have urged that it was impossible for him to do that, and that the attempt would only cover him with ridicule. But faith was growing fast and courage with it. He made the effort, and with the effort came the strength; believing that through Christ he could do it, he did it, and his band was restored" whole as the other." Many fail now through their want of this obedience of faith. They get no blessing because they neglect to obey the first command that comes to them. They want the assurance of salvation, the certain hope of heaven, and wonder that it does not come, though they have not obeyed the command. "Bow down in penitential prayer," or "give up the sin you love." Because they do not "stand forth in the midst," they do not hear the command, "Stretch forth thy hand!" Be true to the impulse God gives, and then "to him that hath, to him shall be given yet more abundantly." In that synagogue Christ was both a Stone of stumbling and a sure Foundation, over which some stumbled and others rose to higher things. We too may leave his presence, like the Pharisees, hardened, or like this man who, believing and obeying, became ready for the work God gave him to do. Which shall it be? - A.R.

In the calm and successful prosecution of his work, Jesus has excited various feelings in the minds of the different classes around him. He has wrought many miracles - all of them miracles of mercy; almost all, so far as recorded, miracles of healing. Of necessity his presence is hailed by the throngs of needy and suffering ones, and "his name is as ointment poured forth" to the multitudes who have proved his rower to heal. These cannot be restrained from publishing his fame abroad, though he has begged them to be silent, for he sees but too plainly the hindrance to his usefulness which a blaze of popularity would cause. In the course of his teaching he has made the Pharisees to blush more than once; and the popular movement which he seems likely to excite has stirred up the fears or the jealousies of the court party - "the Herodians," who join their own political antagonists in their opposition to him, and they together plot his destruction. His relatives, "friends," including the highly honored one, "his mother, and his brethren," are excited with fear that "he is beside himself," for he allows not himself time to "so much as eat bread." "Scribes from Jerusalem," learned in the Law, the trained expounders of its sacred truths, and the authoritative adjudicators in matters of dispute, pass their judgment and verdict in explanation of the astounding facts which they cannot or dare not deny. "He is possessed," they say, "by the very "prince of the devils." He is the tool, the agent of Beelzebub himself, and 'by the prince of the devils casteth he out the devils.'" This is truly a most ingenious though the most wicked of all explanations; a very blasphemy, ascribing the work of "the Holy Spirit" to "an unclean spirit," and placing Jesus in the lowest category of all - lower than the lowest. It affirms him to be the agent of the arch-demon, working his behests, the servant of the devil of devils. And if possession by an evil spirit is the consequence and punishment of evil work, as was the current opinion, he is surely the worst of the bad. All this needs adjustment. The anger of some, the timidity, the fears, the indiscreet zeal, the error, the false views, and the wickedness of others, must all be corrected. For this purpose he, "with his disciples," withdraws "to the sea," where, "because of the crowd, lest they should throng him," he orders that in future "a little boat should wait on him;" by which means he can escape the press, and either teach from the boat or sail away for rest and quiet. At eventide "he goeth up into the mountain," where he continues "all night in prayer to God;" needful in the midst of so much pressure and excitement, and most fitting in anticipation of the great work of the morrow. Then, when the morning breaks, he calls his disciples to him, from whom he chooses twelve, "that they might be with him," for his own comfort and for purposes of training for future service in his kingdom, "and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have authority to cast out devils, and to heal all manner of disease, and all manner of sickness." These "he named apostles," and "appointed," and "sent forth," and "charged them." Then, with awful withering words, he silences the scribes, first by argument, showing that on their own ground the divided kingdom "hath an end;" then by pointing to the "eternal sin" which he committeth who thus "shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit," and who "hath never forgiveness." And now, turning to his anxious relatives, he asks and answers the question, "Who is my mother and my brethren?" Breaking loose from the bonds of mere natural relationship, he declares that he holds the closest alliance with "whosoever shall do the will of God." From all which every true disciple treading in his Master's steps, and hearkening to his Master's teaching, may learn:

1. The wisdom of frequent withdrawal from the excitements of life into calm, quieting intercourse with God in prayer, to the cooling contemplation of the Divine works, and the humbling communion with his own soul.

2. The sacredness of holy companionship; and, if he is called to teach great truths, the wisdom of gathering around him a few sympathetic spirits, and sharing with them his work and honor for the general good.

3. The necessity for keeping his mind sensitively alive to the teachings of the Holy Spirit, lest, resisting, he grieve him, and quench the only light by which the path of life may be found.

4. To learn the terrible peril to which he exposes himself who "puts darkness for light."

5. And joyfully to see the high calling which is of God, the close alliance with the Lord Christ which is secured to him who keeps the commandments of God, concerning whom the Lord says, "The same is my brother, and sister, and mother." - G.

I. ITS SINCERITY. We see many coming to Christ who thought they could get an immediate good from him. Others kept aloof who doubted what good could come, what evil might come, from the intercourse. The devils, whether for good or evil, "rush to Jesus." Whenever there is such a "rush," something significant is stirring.

II. ITS IRRESISTIBLE CHARACTER. There are men, there are movements, which are advertised by the evil they elicit from the latent depths of the heart. Observe the man who is hated, and by whom; observe the man who is loved, and by whom. Note the center of attraction, and for what sort of people; the center of repulsion, and what sort of people; and you have a clue to important truths. Christ is illustrated by all these rules. Who were they who approached him in love then? who now? What were the instincts arrayed against him - then and now? - J.

Mark 3:7-12. Parallel passage: Matthew 12:15-21

I. THE POPULARITY OF JESUS. It was ever increasing, as is proved by this passage. A great multitude followed him from Galilee in the north; from Judaea and its capital in a central position; and from Idumaea in the far south, situated as it was between Judaea, Arabia, and Egypt; then from Peraea, east of the Jordan; the people of Tyre and Sidon also in the north-west; - all these, attracted by the fame of what Jesus was doing, flocked unto him. So great were the multitude and pressure that he directed his disciples to procure a little boat to keep close to him in order to escape the crowding (διὰ τὸν ὄχλον) and consequent confusion.

II. His power to heal. This appears to be as yet the main attraction. The miracles of healing were abundant, so much so that the afflicted sufferers actually fell against him (ἐπιπίπτειν), that by the contact their plagues might be removed. Unclean spirits also, wherever they saw him, kept falling down before him, crying out, "Thou art the of God."

III. PECULIARITY OF THE SYRIAC VERSION IN THIS PLACE. It strangely combines the two last classes in its rendering, namely, "Those that had plagues of unclean spirits, as often as they saw him, kept falling down before him." Our Lord, however, invariably reprobated and rejected their testimony, as if there were something insidious in it or injurious to his cause.

IV. THE PHYSICAL HEALTH RESTORED TO SO MANY AFFLICTED BODIES WAS A GUARANTEE OF SPIRITUAL HEALTH FOR THE SOUL. In all the ages, and in all the annals of medical science, and in all the countries of the world, we have account of one Physician, and only one, who was able to lay his hand on the aching head and diseased heart of suffering humanity, bringing immediate cure and effectual relief. No malady could resist his healing power, no sickness withstand his touch, and no illness remain incurable once he but spoke the word. No disease, however deep-seated in the system, or deadly in its nature, or inveterate from long duration, could baffle his skill or defy his power. Whether it was palsy, or dropsy, or asthma, or convulsions, or ulceration, or bloody issue, or fever, or even consumption, or, what was still worse, leprosy itself, - whatever the form of disease might be, he cured it. Persons labouring under organic defects - the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the lame - were brought to him, and he removed all those defects. Mental ailments also, as lunacy and demoniacal possession, all were relieved by him. Sometimes it was a word, sometimes a touch, again some external appliance, not as a remedy but to act as a conductor, or to show a connection instituted between the operator and the patient, but, whatever was the plan adopted, the power never failed to produce the desired effect. Now, whatever he did in this way to the body is proof positive of his ability and willingness to do the same and more for the soul. We may be diseased with sin so as to be loathsome in our own eyes and morally infectious to our neighbors and acquaintances; we may be leprous with sin so as to be cut off from the fellowship of the saints and the communion of the holy; we may be under the ban of man and the curse of heaven; yet if we approach this great Physician of soul as well as body, confiding in his power and trusting in his mercy, we shall obtain, and that without fail, healing and health for our diseased spirits and sin-sick souls. Thousands alive this day can testify from actual happy experience to the healing power of Jesus' word, the cleansing efficacy of his blood, and the renewing, purifying, and sanctifying influences of his Spirit. Millions this day in the realms of bliss above are enjoying the health and the happiness, the brightness and the beauty, the purity and perfection of that upper sanctuary, though on earth the diseases of their souls had been of the most desperate character - utterly incurable had it not been for the mercy and grace of this great Physician. And he is still the same - "the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever," and able as ever to "save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."

V. A RECONCILIATION. It is thought by some that a discrepancy exists between the fourth verse of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and the seventeenth verse of the eighth chapter of St. Matthew. But if we take the first clause of each verse as referring to bodily diseases, and the second clause to the diseases of the mind or soul, we shall have an instructive harmony in place of an insuperable difficulty or seeming discrepancy. The verbs will then be most suitable and appropriate: the nasa of the Hebrew, being general in its meaning, to take up in any way, or to take up in order to take away, will correspond in its generality of signification to ἔλαβε, to take in any way; while saval, for which ἐβάστασε of St. Matthew is an exact equivalent, is to bear as a burden. "Thus," says Archbishop Magee, in his invaluable work on the Atonement, "are Isaiah and Matthew perfectly reconciled; the first clause in each relating to diseases removed, and the second to sufferings endured. Thus too there is a close correlation between the removal of the diseases of the body and the expiation of the sins of our souls. - J.J.G.


1. It was formally commenced in retirement. We may suppose a season of devotion. The absence of public excitement or external interference was evidently desired.

2. The utmost freedom existed on both sides. He called "whom he himself would: and they went unto him? There was no coercion. The highest principles and emotions were addressed. On the one hand, the teaching and the work of the Master were not dominated by the influence now associated with him; nor, on the other, was their service other than the fret of enthusiasm, intelligent conviction, and willing sympathy.

II. REPUTATION WAS RECEIVED FROM CHRIST BY HIS SERVANTS, NOT CONFERRED BY THEM. The names are all of men in humble life, with no previous distinction of shy kind. They were names common enough in Palestine. But their connection with Christ has immortalized them. How many have come to the Saviour in similar circumstances, and have received the reflected renown of his name! He makes the best out of the poor materials of human nature, and bestows what human nature in its greatest circumstances and moods could never of itself have produced. Men are honored in being made the servants of Christ.

III. THE APOSTLES WERE TO BE REPRESENTATIVE IN OFFICE AND CHARACTER FOR ALL TIME. As his first disciples, and because of the marked variety and force of their individual natures as influenced by the gospel and developed in Christ's service; their names have wrought themselves into the very texture of the gospel, and we have received it with the impress of their varied natures and habits of thought. "He sent them forth to preach, and to have authority to cast out devils" - a fundamental work. Therefore are they called "the foundation of the apostles and prophets," of whom Jesus is the Corner-stone. In serving Christ they laid the world and the ages under inestimable obligation. - M.

Our Lord was fulfilling the prophecy Simeon had uttered concerning him. From the cradle to the cross he was "set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel,... that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." As a new element introduced into a chemical solution will detect and separate the elements already there, so did Christ appear in the moral world. With growing distinctness his foes and friends became separate communities. "He called unto him" those who were ready for service, while those who were hostile became more pronounced in their hatred. The Pharisaic party, which began by the denial of his authority, tried next to disparage his character, and finally plotted his destruction. It is the tendency of sin thus to go onward toward deeper guilt. He who "stands in the way of sinners" at last "sits in the seat of the scornful." So unscrupulous had the Pharisees become that (ver. 6) they even took counsel with the Herodians to destroy him. Professedly patriotic and orthodox, they united with the friends of the usurper; and (as so often since) priests and tyrants combined against the Christ. See how Christ met this hostility. He might have overwhelmed his foes by superhuman power, but he resolutely refused to use force against them (Matthew 4:8-10; Matthew 26:53, 54). He might have defied them, and so hastened the crisis which ultimately came; but "his hour had not yet come," for he had a ministry yet to fulfill. Hence he gave himself up to more private work, avoiding perils, although he never feared them, and labouring amongst the poor and obscure. Around him he gathered a few faithful ones, "that they might be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach." This text gives us some thoughts.

I. ON PREPARATION FOR SERVICE. See how our Lord prepared himself and his disciples. "He goeth up into a mountain" - an expression which in the Gospels implies the withdrawal of our Lord from the people for the purpose of prayer. This preceded all his great deeds and sufferings, as was exemplified in the temptation and in the agony. It was fitting that the disciples should be appointed in a place of prayer. Apart from the world and near to God, we are ready to hear our Master's words and receive his commission. From the height of communion with God we should come down to our work (Isaiah 52:7). His requirement of spiritual fitness for spiritual work is shown by his constant refusal of the testimony of demons (ver. 12): "He straitly charged them that they should not make him known." This verse, immediately preceding our text, makes a suggestive contrast with it. He recoiled from an ambiguous confession. As the Holy One, he would not suffer the unclean to bear witness to him. The testimony was true, but the spirit that gave it was evil. These disciples were "ordained," or more correctly (Revised Version) "appointed," that they might be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach. The former was the preparation for the latter. Only those who are in communion with Jesus can truly bear witness for him to the world.

II. ON ADVANTAGE IN FELLOWSHIP. The Lord himself cared for the sympathy and co-operation of others. Even in his direst agony he would not be without it (Mark 14:34). Much more was it necessary for his disciples to be associated in a common brotherhood; the beauty of which appears again and again to those who study the Acts and the Epistles. In the fellowship of the Church, one supplements the weakness of another; numbers increase enthusiasm and afford hope to the timid; intercourse with others removes one-sidedness of character, etc. See the teaching of St. Paul about the "body of Christ," and "the temple of the Holy Spirit," in which Christians are living stones, mutually dependent, and all resting on Christ.

III. ON DIVERSITIES AMONG DISCIPLES. Jesus chose "twelve" for special work - a number probably selected as a reminder that they were primarily commissioned to be ambassadors to the twelve tribes, and as a type of the perfection of the redeemed Church (Revelation 7.). But even in that comparatively small company, what diversities of gifts! Some of them are indicated even in the brief list of their names given here by St. Mark. We see the Rock-man, Peter; "the beloved disciple," John; the fiery "sons of thunder;" the guileless Nathanael; the zealot Simon; and the traitor Judas. Each had his special gift and sphere. And still there are "diversities of gifts" amongst the Lord's disciples.

IV. ON POSSIBILITIES OF PERIL. Judas Iscariot lived with Jesus, was called by him, possessed miraculous gifts, preached the gospel to others; but he died a traitor and a suicide. To fill a spiritual office, and yet to be careless of our own spiritual life, is fatal. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." - A.R.

I. POPULARIZERS OF GREAT DOCTRINES ARE NECESSARY in every branch of science, art, literature, religion. Where would the sublime doctrine we call the gospel have been, as an influence, had there not been found men to make it "current coin"?

II. SECOND-HAND INSTRUMENTALITY PLAYS A LARGE PART IS THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. Few are the leaders or generals, many the officers, multitudinous the rank and file; but every soldier who is in living contact with the Leader's spirit may and will work marvels.

III. FEEBLENESS BECOMES STRENGTH WHEN INSPIRED BY ORIGINAL FORCE. These were humble men, yet their names live. They were reflections of Christ, as he was the Reflection of the power and love of God.

IV. THERE IS A MORAL MIXTURE IN EVERY RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT. A Judas among the apostles. Something of a Judas even in every apostle's heart. Light contends with darkness in the twilight before each great historical dawn. The characters of great religious reformers have often been mixed and dubious. There is a traitor in every camp, a doubtful element in every good man's life. - J.

I. THE CHOICE AND ITS OBJECT. The Saviour ascends the mountain that was near at hand, probably Karun Hattin, "and calls to him whom he wished." At once they went off away (ἀπό), leaving other things, and turning to him as their sole object. Of these he appointed, or ordained - though the original word is more simple, viz. "he made " - twelve for a threefold purpose:

(1) to "be with him," to keep him company, assisting him and sympathizing with him;

(2) to be his messengers to men, heralding the good news of salvation; and

(3) to alleviate miraculously human misery - curing diseases and expelling demons.

II. THE LIST OF NAMES. The order and meaning of the names require only a few remarks. The twelve are distributed into three classes. Simon, the Hearer, whom our Lord surnamed the Rock-man, heads the first class; next to him were James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, both of whom were surnamed Boanerges, "Sons of Thunder," that is, bene (oa equivalent to e) regesh; and Andrew. The second class is headed by Philip; then comes Bartholomew, which means the son of Tolmai, the word being a patronymic - in all probability the person meant was Nathanael, the proper name of the same; also Matthew and Thomas. The third class begins with James the son of Alphaeus; then Judas, surnamed Thaddseus, or Lebbseus, the Courageous; and Simon the Kananite, that is, the Zealot, not a Canaanite; while Judas Iscariot, that is, the man of Kerioth, the traitor, is the last in every list. - J.J.G.


(1) to want of sympathy with him in his higher aims; and

(2) consequent failure of spiritual perception.

II. BY CHARGING HIM WITH MADNESS. They had so little of the spirit of self-denial in themselves that they could not understand enthusiasm which would not admit of his attending to his own wants, "so much as to eat bread."

1. They feared also the consequences which might arise from the presence of his enemies. The scribes were there "from Jerusalem," on the alert to find accusation against him; and they must have been observed.

2. But by this charge they discredited the character of his ministry. Who should be supposed to know whether he was sane or not, if not his own family? In attributing to maniacy the Divine works and words of Christ, they did him and all who might through him have life and peace, a cruel, irreparable wrong. So Paul was charged with being beside himself; and all who for Christ's sake try to live above the maxims and aims of the world will meet with similar judgment. The blow thus struck is not at an individual, but at the spiritual prospects and hopes of a whole race.


1. A sin of presumption. The judgment was hasty and mistaken; the action was unjustifiable, both foolish and wicked.

2. Enmity to God. - M.

There were various opinions amongst the multitude. They cannot be indifferent to the work and teaching of Christ. "Some believed, and some believed not." Of those who did not believe all were in opposition to him. This circumstance was -




I. THE CHARGE AGAINST JESUS. He holds to Beelzebub, and by the chief of demons casts out demons.

1. It was absurd; but absurd arguments readily satisfy passion and hate and those who have no care for the truth. They accused the Saviour, in short, of a self-contradiction in thought and action, which was a moral impossibility.

2. It was wicked. It had the worst element of the lie in it - it denied the truth within them.

II. THE WORST DEGREE OF SIN. Sin has its scale, its climax. There are sins of instinct and of passion and of ignorance. When there is little light to be guided by there is little light to sin against. The next step in sin is where there is deliberation before the wrong is done. Last and worst is where not only the deliberate judgment is gone against, but the attempt is made to deny the principle of judgment in the soul itself. The hands of the watch move backwards; the lamp flags with the very abundance of oil; the man's soul dies. Over against the words "Repent! be forgiven!" stand these, "Irreclaimable! unforgivable!" - J.


1. The connection. Between the appointment of the apostles and the transactions here narrated several important matters interven

The spirit of Christ's answer to this malicious attack is calm, fearless, and full of light. He meets the charge with convincing and irrefutable logic.

I. THE DEFENCE. There are two elements in his argument:

1. A demonstration. It is the familiar reductio ad absurdum, such as one might use with a schoolboy. It is so simple and trenchant that it straightway becomes an attack of the most powerful kind. He treats them as children in knowledge, and convicts them at the same time of diabolical malice.

2. An inference. Here the advantage is pushed beyond the point expected. He is not satisfied with a mere disclaimer; he comes to a further and higher deduction. If it was true that he did not cast out Satan by Satan, then it must also be true that he cast out Satan in spite of the latter; and that could only mean one thing. Satan, "the strong man," must have been bound by the Son of man, else he would not suffer himself to be so "spoiled." This is at once an assurance full of comfort to his friends and a warning to his enemies.


1. The solidarity of evil.

2. The irreconcileableness of the kingdoms of light and darkness. - M.

I. AN ACTUAL OFFENCE. It is not mentioned again in the Gospel, but the warning was called forth by the actual transgression. There is no mere theorizing about it therefore. It is an exposure and denunciation. This gives us an idea of the fearful unbelief and bitter hatred of those who opposed him. The manifestation of light and love only strengthened the antagonism of some. They consciously sinned against the light.


1. Bemuse of the majesty of the crime. It identifies the Representative and Son of God with the devil - the best with the worst.

2. the nature of the spiritual state induced. When a man deliberately falsifies his spiritual intuitions, and corrupts his conscience so that good is considered evil, there is no hope for him. Such a condition can only be the result of long-continued opposition to God and determined hatred of his character. The means of salvation are thereby robbed of their possibility to save.

III. THE LIKELIHOOD OF ITS BEING REPEATED. As it is an extreme and final degree of sin, there is little danger of its being committed without full consciousness and many previous warnings.

1. It is therefore, a priori, improbable in any. Yet as increasing light and grace tend to throw into stronger opposition the spirit of evil, it must be regarded as:

2. A possibility of every sinner. Necessity for self-examination and continual recourse to the cleansing and illuminating power of Christ. - M.

The annoyance and hindrance of a moment are turned to eternal gain to the cause of truth.

I. FAMILY INFLUENCES MAY INJURE SPIRITUAL USEFULNESS. They are powerful either way. They operate subtly and constantly. A tendency to narrowness in the family tie, which requires to be checked. Much of this influence which is adverse to Christian life is unconsciously so. Yet the intensest forms of hatred to truth and goodness are exhibited within the family relation. Hence the necessity for clear forcible realization of the distinction between lower and higher obligations. The child of God will have recourse to constant prayer for help and guidance, and for the conversion of relatives.

II. THERE ARE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE NATURAL MUST YIELD TO THE SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP. This is so whenever they conflict, or when, both being of Divine obligation, the later is manifestly more immediately impressed upon the conscience, and more evidently calculated for the good of men and the glory of God.


1. An invitation to all.

2. An encouragement and inspiration to real disciples.

3. A forecast of the communion of saints. - M.

I. FIRST THAT WHICH IS NATURAL, AFTERWARDS THAT WHICH IS SPIRITUAL. This is one order. Our spiritual being is built up on a natural basis. Slowly the bud of the higher being unfolds from the plant of earthly root. Through the home to the Church; by the love of mother and brother and sister, to the love of God and of all.

II. FIRST THE SPIRITUAL, AFTERWARDS THE NATURAL. This is the order in another way. The end of our being is in the spiritual; this is its dignity, its reflection of the Divine. It claims the first thought, other things being equal. When friends stand in the way of duty, between us and the light of truth, we must be true to the higher self. It may seem a stern rule, until we find that every low affection we renounced for the higher is given hack to us bathed in a new glory. - J.

I. NO SLIGHT INTENDED. The crowd that sat around prevented his relatives reaching him; they therefore sent a message, to which his reply cannot with any propriety be twisted into an expression of contempt. His obedience to his parents in the humble home at Nazareth during the years of youth, and his tender solicitude for his apparently widowed mother when, as he hung on the cross, he commended her to the care of the beloved disciple, preclude the possibility of such a meaning.

II. HEAVENLY KINSHIP. He looked round in a circle; this expression of the look, like that of the sitting posture of the multitude, implies the report of an eye-witness. Looking round about him and directly into the face of every faithful follower sitting there, he announced a higher and holier relationship than that formed by an earthly tie; he acquainted them with the existence of kinship near and dear as that which unites the nearest and dearest of human kindred. The Church is Christ's family, and to every true member of that family he is bound by the tenderest bonds of love. What a privilege to be thus closely united to and tenderly loved by Christ!

III. CONDITION OF THIS RELATIONSHIP. It is not the possession of varied knowledge of God's will and works and ways, though that is important; nor is it the possession of faith, though that is the root; nor is it the acceptance of Christ in the exercise of faith, though that is indispensable to salvation; but it is a more practical condition, and one more easily known and more readily discernible; - it is doing the will of God.

IV. THE MEASURE OF ENDEARMENT BELONGING TO THIS KINSHIP. The Saviour makes his natural affections the measure of his spiritual friendship. When we are enjoined to love our neighbor as ourselves, it does not mean that we should love ourselves less, but our neighbor more; so here, he does not love his mother and brothers and sisters less, but his true disciples more. The poorest and meanest as well as the richest may attain to this honor and share this love. We may obtain in this way a name better than that of sons and daughters; we may be honored with that new, best name of love.

"Behold th' amazing gift of love
The Father hath bestow'd
On us, the sinful sons of men,
To call us some of God." J.J.G.


1. In laying down the condition of Divine relationship, Christ does not absolutely displace human relationships. It would have been hard for him so to do, since men were being addressed, and the relationships sustained by them would depend upon the religious sanction they might possess for the measure of honor and faithful observance they would receive. That the terms of human relationship were still employed showed that an analogy at least existed.

2. The terms denoting the distinctions of natural relationships are used in speaking of the heavenly. The "brother "and "sister" and "mother," therefore, express a real distinction in the heavenly family. And there are differences of mutual service and affection which must exist within the common "bond of charity," even as on earth. In the case of those who believe in Christ, then, the beautiful variation which God has created in the affection of the domestic circle will have a use and fitness in fulfilling the duties and realizing the ideal of the Divine life. The latter has its sphere for the sisterliness, the brotherliness, etc., even as the human life; and these are modes through which the Divine love will express itself. Indeed, it may be said that the human affections of father, mother, etc., do not fully manifest or realize themselves in the merely human life; it is the Divine life in which the ideal of each is rendered possible.


1. The affections characteristic of human family will spring from a spiritual principle and express Divine love. "The will of God," or "the will of the Father," will take the place of blind instinct or selfish gratification. Thus springing from a new source they will be transformed, purified, and freed from limitation and defect. "The will of God" will be the law according to which they will express themselves; but as that will has been interpreted as salvation and universal benevolence, so the distinctions of human affection will be brought into play in furthering the redemptive scheme of the Father amongst his sinful children; and through them phases of the Divine love will be realized that would otherwise find no expression. They will thus, also, be universalized and directed into channels of service and helpfulness.

2. The Divine relationship is therefore based upon a new nature. It is only those who are born of the Spirit who can do the will of God. It is the life of the Spirit in them that changes and adapts them for the unselfish affections of the family of God.

3. The Divine relationship is a moral possibility of every one. Every woman may become a sister, a mother, of Christ; event man his brother. - M.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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