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Mark 3

Scripture: Mark 3:1-35

Overview:

  • Sabbath showdown! Jesus is in the synagog and points out a man with a shriveled hand and asks the Pharisees if he can do good on the Sabbath or not
  • They don’t have an answer for him
  • Jesus is P.O.’d and heals the man’s hand
  • The Pharisees are P.O.’d and decide to get together with the Herodians to plot a way to kill Jesus
  • Jesus becomes so popular he has to get in a boat to avoid the crowds crowding him
  • Up on the side of a mountain Jesus appoints his Twelve Disciples to preach and drive out demons
  • Later, as Jesus and the disciples are working through lunch, Jesus’ family comes to take him home citing that he’s now gone cray cray
  • Meanwhile, the teachers of the law (down from Jerusalem) accuse Jesus of being possessed by Satan
  • Jesus responds by asking them how a kingdom divided can stand against itself
  • He also tells them that you have to be stronger than a strong man (Satan) to plunder his house
  • Jesus also lets them know that confusing God’s work with Satan’s work is pretty much the worst thing you can do, ever, for all time
  • When Jesus’ family gets there Jesus points out that he’s already among his family–those who are doing God’s will

Historical Context:

Herodians:

The Herodians were a sect of the Jews who favored the kingship of Herod (and by proxy, the Roman occupation). Normally they were enemies of the conservative and nationalistic Pharisees.

12 Disciples

Listing of disciples in the Gospels and Acts. In red are the names listed in a different order, or with a different name.

Mark Matthew Luke Acts
  1. Peter
  2. James
  3. John
  4. Andrew
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Matthew
  8. Thomas
  9. James, son of Alphaeus
  10. Thaddaeus
  11. Simon the Zealot*
  12. Judas Iscariot
  1. Peter
  2. Andrew
  3. James
  4. John
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Thomas
  8. Matthew
  9. James, son of Alphaeus
  10. Thaddaeus
  11. Simon the Zealot
  12. Judas Iscariot
  1. Peter
  2. Andrew
  3. James
  4. John
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Matthew
  8. Thomas
  9. James, son of Alphaeus
  10. Simon the Zealot
  11. Judas, son of James
  12. Judas Iscariot
  1. Peter
  2. Andrew
  3. James
  4. John
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Matthew
  8. Thomas
  9. James, son of Alphaeus
  10. Simon the Zealot
  11. Judas, son of James
  12. Judas Iscariot

* The Greek text of Mark calls Simon the “Cananean” rather than “Zealot.” Mark, whose Gospel was written to a Roman audience, may not wanted to use the politically divisive word “zealot,” which referred to a Jewish anti-Roman guerrilla movement.

Jesus’ chosen twelve disciples were from several different classes and competing political groups. Normally Simon, a member of a nationalistic group which advocated the violent overthrow of Roman authority, and Levi, a tax collector working for the Roman Empire, would not have been in the same room with each other. (Bible.org)

“Iscariot” has two possible derivations: (1) man of Kerioth in Judah or (2) “dagger man” or assassin, which would mean he also was a zealot, like Simon. (Bible.org)

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (The Unforgivable Sin)

When Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, he is responding to the accusation by the teachers of the law that he has the spirit of Satan inside him rather than the spirit of God. It is the sin of reading the pure and holy actions of Jesus Christ as satanic, the sin of viewing black as white and white as black, of making wickedness righteous and righteousness wicked that God will not forgive. (Coffman)

The unpardonable sin is not a rejection by God because of some single act or word, but the continual, ongoing rejection of God in Christ by willful unbelief. (Bible.org)

Observations:

  • The rabbis had a highly developed Oral Tradition (Talmud) which interpreted the Mosaic Law. They made rigid pronouncements on what could legally be done or not be done on the Sabbath. One could stabilize an injured person in an emergency, but could not improve his condition. Once again, Jesus shows them that they cherished their traditions above human needs. (Bible.org)
  • The phrase “his hand was completely restored” (i.e., restored to its original state) implies that the withered hand was an accident, not a birth defect.
  • “One of the remarkable aspects of the story of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath is that, quite literally, Jesus does nothing. That is to say, he performs no action whatever. He does not touch the man, lay hands upon him, seize him by the hand, or raise him up… Jesus simply issues two verbal orders: the man is to stand up in the sight of the congregation and to stretch forth his hand. On doing that, the man finds his hand healed.” (Meier)
  • The lakeshore stands as a contrast to the synagog. It is spacious, open and free of rules. (France)
  • The crowds “pushing forward to touch him” is literally translated as “falling against him.” (Bible.org)
  • The mountain where Jesus calls his disciples is likely the elevation some five miles west of Galilee, called Mount Hatten, where it is also supposed that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Luke adds the significant detail that Christ prayed all night before appointing the Twelve (Coffman)
  • Boanerges is a word is made up of two Hebrew words (benē reghesh), signifying sons of thunder; meaning that they, on some accounts. resembled thunder. Some think that this is because they would later ask Jesus to call down fire on a Samaritan town. Some think it was related to their brash nature.  Note how Mark translates the Aramaic name for his Gentile (probably Roman) readers. (Barnes)
  • Jesus family came to get him because they thought he was delirious or deranged. This was reasonable from their point of view because until now Jesus had lived among them as a carpenter; poor, and unknown; and that now, at thirty years of age, he had abandoned his common employment, spent much time in the deserts, denied himself the common comforts of life, and set up a claim to be the Messiah, who was expected by all the people to come with great pomp and splendor. (Barnes)
  • It is notable that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him, even up to a few months prior to his death. (John 7:5), (Coffman)
  • Note how when the Jewish leaders couldn’t challenge Jesus’ power they attacked the source of His authority.
  • The name Beelzebul was not a common name for Satan in Judaism. It is used only a few times in the Old Testament. Jesus uses it as synonymous with Satan
  • Mark combines the story of Jesus’ family coming to take him home and the accusation of the teachers of the law that he was possessed by Satan. In Luke, these accounts are separated by a few chapters (family in 8:19 and teachers of the law in 11:14), and in Matthew they are sequential (teachers of the law 12:22, family 12:46), not interwoven as Mark tells the story.

Discussion:

  • “The ability to do good imposes an obligation to do it.” (Cotton Mather) Jesus frames his question about healing on the Sabbath in the context of having the ability to help and choosing whether or not to use it. What areas do we have the ability to help and have chosen not to? Why not? What self-imposed rules limit us?
  • Is your church family (“spiritual family”) more important than your blood relatives?
  • What do you think Jesus means by blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Why do you think this sin in unforgivable?
  • Matthew and Luke record the two stories of (1) Jesus family coming to take him home and (2) the accusation by the teachers of the law that Jesus was working for Satan as two separate events. What point do you think Mark was making by “dovetailing” the two stories together?

References:

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