Bible Study: Mark 3

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Image by Ben White. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.

Last edited on 13/Jan/2021

Bible Study: Mark Chapter 3 (English Standard Version)

A Man with a Withered Hand (Mark 3:1–6)

1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked round at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Commentary

Here we see that Jesus has entered another synagogue as he did each Sabbath (Luke 4:16), but this time the Pharisees are actually watching him to see if he would heal on the Sabbath or not. They did not pay attention to him when he said that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of humanity; they just saw it as another law that they had to follow (Mark 2:27). It seems also that they did not care at all about the man with the withered hand; their main goal was finding fault with the sinless Son of God, just like Satan when he was tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 1:12–13Matthew 4:1–11). However, no matter how hard anyone in history has tried, no one has managed to find fault in Jesus.

After telling the man with the withered hand to come to him, Jesus said: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” At this point the Jews in the synagogue were silent probably because they were afraid. They knew that there were no laws against helping someone on the Sabbath, but they were afraid that by siding with Jesus they would be betraying the Jewish community. Jesus looked at them with anger because he was grieved at their lack of compassion, desire for the truth, and understanding of God’s Word. Here we see an example of Jesus’ righteous and holy anger. Anger is not always sinful, provided that it is carried out for the right reasons. The Pharisees and religious leaders had turned the Sabbath into a burden for the people instead of a day of peace. Jesus restored his hand immediately after no one could answer him, yet by doing this good deed, the Pharisees and Herodians wanted to end his life.

A Great Crowd Follows Jesus (Mark 3:7–12)

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

Commentary

Once again, people from all over the surrounding regions flock to Jesus, just like at Peter’s mother-in-law’s house (Mark 1:29–34), and at his own home (Mark 2:1–2). The amount of people was so great that Jesus’ disciples had to prepare a boat for him so that he wouldn’t be crushed, and this was because he healed even more crowds of people. What a compassionate Saviour Jesus is, to sacrifice his time, energy, and comfort, to heal these total strangers in multitudes, and furthermore, to lay down his life for the ungodly (all people) on the cross and take it back up again for our justification (John 10:14–17Romans 4:24–25). People only had to touch Jesus to be healed. The demons recognised that Jesus was divine just by seeing him, because the fullness of deity dwells in him (Colossians 2:9), and because of the power he possessed like no other prophet or man of God in history—the power to subject all that he created to himself (Philippians 3:20–21). As we have noted before, Jesus did not want anyone to know his true identity at this point because his time to be crucified and resurrected had not yet come.

The Twelve Apostles (Mark 3:13–21)

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Commentary

Now Jesus chose his twelve disciples, whom he also called apostles, which means “messengers” or “someone who is sent”. The apostles were Jesus’ closest followers throughout his ministry. Jesus will later send out the twelve two by two to the nearby villages to preach repentance, to cast out demons, and to heal the sick (Mark 6:7–13). Later they will become witnesses to his resurrection to the ends of the earth and leaders of the New Testament church (Acts 1:6–11Acts 15:2–6, 22–29). Although they behaved immaturely and said foolish things at times, they actually turned into brave, noble, compassionate, humble men, who were fearless proclaimers of the gospel message even unto death, thanks to the example of their Master. Jesus didn’t choose his disciples based on their potential, usefulness, or worth. He chose them simply out of love (John 15:16). In the new world (heaven on earth), the twelve apostles (except for Judas the traitor, who was replaced by Matthias) will sit on twelve tribes, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:27–28).

Upon returning home, there were so many people gathered to him because they requested his healing gifts, that he couldn’t even eat. Even his own family betrayed him by telling others that he was mad. Jesus’ ministry was not an easy one; before he ascended to the right hand of the Father, he had to go through much suffering. This is the same for all Christians on our journey to heaven, as Peter explained (1 Peter 5:8–10). But the present suffering is unworthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to all those who love Jesus Christ (Romans 8:18).

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:22–30)

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Commentary

In response to the scribes’ blasphemous claims that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, Jesus replied by pointing out their obvious flaw: if Beelzebul really did possess him, then why is he commanding Jesus to fight against him and his own kingdom? Satan cannot fight against himself, otherwise he could not stand; neither could his kingdom stand if he was constantly against himself. In verse 27, his small parable about plundering a strong man’s house tells us that Jesus is stronger than Satan, because he is able to bind him and plunder his house and rescue everyone who is afflicted by him and his demons. The apostles were able to cast out demons only because he gave them the authority to do so (Luke 9:1–2); Jesus alone is stronger than Satan, and has emerged victorious over him (1 John 3:8), and is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him (Hebrews 7:23–27).

The next thing he says has been a very difficult concept for many Christians to grasp. Jesus said that all sins can be forgiven, but “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”. How can God not forgive one sin over all others, and how can you know if you’ve committed it? This can cause a lot of people to worry over this, but let’s examine this issue. This sin is directly associated with seeing Jesus perform clear signs and miracles and then to attribute his power to Beelzebul instead of the Holy Spirit (see verse 30); it is linked to rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony and works completely. The hearts of the scribes were so hardened by their sins, so resistant to the Holy Spirit’s works (compare this with Acts 7:51), that they refused to open their eyes to the truth, even though Jesus—who is the truth—was standing right before them, casting out demons by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28). Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is hardening your heart so much to the point where you never accept Jesus for who he truly is till the day you die, in spite of the Holy Spirit clearly bearing witness to him in the world (John 15:26).

If you worry that you’ve committed this sin, then this means that you have not committed it, because no one guilty of committing the eternal sin would care about it; it means that the Holy Spirit is working on your heart in some way. Paul tells us that no one can say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit and that at the same time no one can say Jesus is accursed in the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Holy Spirit is only given to those who are saved Christians (Acts 2:38Ephesians 1:13–14). If you can confess that Jesus is Lord, truly believe this, and love him, then you can be sure that you have the Holy Spirit in you, and that he guarantees your salvation—the forgiveness of all your sins.

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers (Mark 3:31–35)

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Commentary

Now Jesus’ mother and brothers, who had just claimed that he was insane, were outside his house looking for him. His own family still did not understand who he truly was and why he was sent to earth. After someone told Jesus this, he said concerning those sitting around him, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” This is a significant, timeless truth. Family members are the closest and most loved people in our lives—here Jesus said that we are members of his family if we do the will of God and listen to him. His family is the church, all those who are baptised believers and have received the Holy Spirit of adoption (1 Corinthians 12:12–13Romans 8:14–17). This passage tells us that Christianity is a religion where we have a personal relationship with Jesus, our Saviour and God. Furthermore, it tells us that Jesus accepts and treats all strangers (all people) who come to him in faith as dearly loved friends, even with the same importance and care as his own precious sisters and brothers, no matter who we are. Not only that, but it tells us that he openly invites everyone to be this. We can all have loving, eternal fellowship with him. We can all be his followers and do the will of God. There is no exclusion in being a part of Jesus’ family (Galatians 3:28).

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