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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Mark 3

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Twelve Chosen to Follow Jesus

A. Jesus: hated, adored, and followed.

1. (Mar 3:1-6) The Lord of the Sabbath heals on the Sabbath.

And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

a. A man was there who had a withered hand: “The man’s hand was withered, but God’s mercy had still preserved to him the use of his feet: he uses them to bring him to the public worship of God, and Jesus meets and heals him there. How true is the proverb – It is never so all with us, but it might be much worse!” (Clarke)

b. They watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath: The critics of Jesus expected Him to heal this man with the withered hand. By their expectation, they admitted that Jesus had the power of God to work miracles. Knowing this, they watched Him closely... so that they might accuse Him. They knew what Jesus could do, yet their knowledge didn’t draw them to Jesus. It was as if a man could fly, but the authorities wanted to know if he had a pilot’s license.

i. The religious leaders watched Jesus closely but with no heart of love for Him. They knew about Jesus, but they did not know Him.

ii. They also knew Jesus would do something when He saw this man in need. In this sense, these critics had more faith than many of us, because we sometimes doubt that Jesus wants to meet the needs of others.

c. Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? In His question to the religious leaders, Jesus emphasized the truth about the Sabbath: there is never a wrong day to do something truly good.

i. According to their Sabbath traditions, if you cut your finger, you could stop the bleeding – but you could not put ointment on the cut. You could stop it from getting worse, but you weren’t allowed to make it better.

d. He had looked around them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts: This is one of the few places where Jesus is described as having anger, and He was angry at the hardness of men’s hearts.

i. Jesus was angry because this was a perfect opportunity for these critics of His to change their minds about Him and their traditions. But they refused to change their minds, and rejected Jesus instead. In this we can see that Jesus deliberately used this occasion to provoke a response. Jesus could have done this the next day. Jesus could have done it privately. But He chose to do it at this time and place.

e. Stretch out your hand: In this, Jesus commanded the man with the withered hand to do something impossible – to move his paralyzed hand. But as the man put forth effort, God did the rest. God never commands us without enabling us.

i. “This man might have reasoned thus: ‘Lord, my hand is withered; how then can I stretch it out? Make it whole first, and afterwards I will do as thou commandest.’ This may appear reasonable, but in his case it would have been foolishness. At the command of the Lord he made the effort, and in making it the cure was effected!” (Clarke)

f. The Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him: Jesus did nothing but a wonderful miracle. In response, two parties of former enemies (the Pharisees and the Herodians) agreed together in one cause: to destroy Jesus.

i. “The Herodians were not a religious party; they were a group of Jews who were sympathetic to King Herod and supported his rule.” (Wiersbe)

2. (Mar 3:7-12) Multitudes come to Jesus.

But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.

a. Jerusalem... Idumea... beyond the Jordan... Tyre and Sidon: The crowds came to Jesus near the Sea of Galilee from distant places. Yet it seems that this crowd was attracted to Jesus more because of His miraculous works than because of His message (when they heard how many things He was doing).

i. It is wonderful for people to be attracted to Jesus. But if their focus is on what He can do for them instead of Who He is, they will not follow Him for long.

b. Fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God”: “The demons addressed Jesus as the divine Son of God in a futile attempt to render him harmless. These cries of recognition were designed to control him and strip him of his power, in accordance with the conception that knowledge of the precise name or quality of a person confers mastery over him.” (Lane)

3. (Mar 3:13-15) Jesus chooses the twelve.

And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:

a. And He went up on the mountain: At this time Jesus was at a critical point in His ministry. Responding to the opposition, He spent a whole night in prayer (Luke 6:12) and chose 12 disciples.

· He had offended the traditions of the religious leadership, and they plotted His destruction.
· Great crowds followed Him, but they were not interested in spiritual things and could be quickly turned against Jesus.
· His response to all of this was to pray and choose leaders to train.

b. Then He appointed twelve: In one sense, there was nothing in Jesus’ three years of ministry before the cross more important than this. These were the men who would carry on what He started; without them the work of Jesus would never extend throughout the whole world. Therefore, He made the choice with God’s wisdom: He called to Him those He Himself wanted.

c. He called to Him: A disciple was a student, but not in a classroom and lecture sense. A disciple learned by being with and hearing from his master. A disciple was an apprentice and learned from the master firsthand.

d. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him: He appointed these from among His larger circle of followers, and He appointed them that they might be with Him. The first job of the disciples was simply to be with Jesus, to learn from being around Him. Then, in a secondary sense He chose them that He might send them out to preach.

i. A preacher will only be as useful to Jesus to the extent that He has “been with” Jesus. There is little done for eternal good by those who preach without having a real, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

ii. “A disciple was a learner, a student, but in the first century a student did not simply study a subject; he followed a teacher. There is an element of personal attachment in ‘disciple’ that is lacking in ‘student.'” (Morris)

e. He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: When someone has been with Jesus, and is sent out to serve Him, they can expect that Jesus will give them the power to serve Him, including the power to see miraculous works (heal sicknesses and to cast our demons) done in their midst.

i. “The business of a ministers of Christ is, 1st. To preach the Gospel. 2nd. To be the physician of souls. And 3rd. To wage war with the devil, and destroy his kingdom.” (Clarke)

4. (Mar 3:16-19) The twelve disciples listed.

Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house.

a. Peter; James... John: We do not know very much about these 12 men. Of Peter, James, John, and Judas we know something about. But of the other eight, we know only their names. Their fame is reserved for heaven, where their names are on the 12 foundations of God’s heavenly city (Revelation 21:14).

i. The Bible values fame, but fame in heaven. For the most part, this group was not “famous” in the sense that we think of fame in the Twentieth Century. We must learn to value and respect heaven’s fame, not modern fame.

b. There are many interesting connections with this group. There are brothers (James and John, Peter andAndrew); business associates (Peter, James, and John were all fishermen); political opponents (Matthew, the Roman-collaborating tax collector, and Simon, the Roman-hating zealot); and one who would betray Jesus (Judas Iscariot).

i. Mark gives a “note for the Gentiles” by translating Boanerges – which means Sons of Thunder and is perhaps a reference to the fiery disposition of James and John (as they are displayed in Luke 9:54).

ii. Canaanite has nothing to do with geography. It is the Hebrew word for “zealous,” identifying Simon as a member of the radical Zealot party.

iii. “Judas’s surname of Iscariot probably indicates that he was a man from Kerioth: he thus seems to have been the only Judean among the twelve.” (Geldenhuys)

iv. It seems that the names of the 12 disciples are usually arranged in pairs. “Since Jesus sent His Apostles out two by two, this was a logical way to list them.” (Wiersbe)

· Peter and Andrew
· James and John
· Philip and Bartholomew (also called Nathanael in John 1:45)
· Thomas (his name means “twin”) and Matthew (Levi)
· James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus (also called Judas, son of James in John 14:22)
· Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot

c. And Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him: The choice of Judas was just as important as the choice of any of the other disciples, but many people wonder why Jesus choose Judas.

· It wasn’t because Jesus didn’t know how he would turn out. Jesus told His disciples that He chose them, and knew one of them was a devil.
· It wasn’t because He had no others to choose. He could raise up followers from stones, so He could easily have found someone else.
· It wasn’t because He wanted a scandalous person, or a “bad boy” – we read of no scandal surrounding Judas during Jesus’ ministry. The other disciples did far more stupid things during their three years with Jesus.

i. A man once asked a theologian, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple?” The teacher replied, “I don’t know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose me?”

B. Jesus answers accusations.

1. (Mar 3:20-21) An accusation from His own family.

Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

a. So that they could not so much as eat bread: The idea is that the huge crowds so pressed upon Jesus and the disciples that they did not have the time or the space to eat.

b. His own people: This refers to Jesus’ family and close friends. Since Jesus grew up in Galilee and practiced His ministry there, many knew Him before this time of wide popularity.

c. He is out of His mind: There was at least some reason why some from His own people thought that Jesus was out of His mind.

· He left a prosperous business to become an itinerant preacher.
· The religious and political leaders plotted to murder Him, but He did not back down (Mark 3:6). They were afraid for Jesus’ sake.
· Huge crowds began to follow Jesus, and they knew how such fame and attention and celebrity could go to someone’s head (Mark 3:7-8).
· He showed spiritual power and ministry He had never really shown earlier in His life (Mark 3:9-11). Was something very wrong?
· He picked such an unlikely group of disciples that His judgment could fairly be questioned (Mark 3:13-19).
· But there was one last straw: the pressures of this incredible ministry made Him miss regular mealtimes (they could not so much as eat bread).

i. Jesus constantly faced the rejection of the religious and political leaders of the day, and in a way their hatred of Jesus made sense – He actually threatened their status quo. Undoubtedly, it was far more painful and challenging for Jesus to deal with the way His own people rejected Him. It isn’t easy to be profoundly misunderstood as you try to walk with God. “When the Lord said ‘a man’s enemies will be those in his own home’ (see Matthew 10:36), He may well have been speaking from bitter experience.” (Cole)

ii. The brothers of Jesus didn’t believe in Him until after His resurrection, and during His earthly ministry they prodded Him to prove Himself (John 7:3-5).

2. (Mar 3:22) An accusation from the religious leaders.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.”

a. The scribes who came down from Jerusalem: This was an official delegation of experts from Jerusalem coming to Galilee to observe and assess the ministry of Jesus. The opinion of these scribes carried a lot of weight with many people.

i. “It is possible that they were official emissaries from the Great Sanhedrin who came to examine Jesus’ miracles and to determine whether Capernaum should be declared a ‘seduced city,’ the prey of an apostate preacher.” (Lane)

b. He has Beelzebub: Actually, they accused Jesus of being possessed by Satan. “He hath Beelzebub, implying that Beelzebub hath Him, using Him as his agent. The expression points to something more than an alliance [but] to possession, and than on a grand scale.” (Expositor’s)

i. They wouldn’t say that Jesus was possessed by just any demon, but by Satan himself. This was “an involuntary compliment to the exceptional power and greatness of Jesus.” (Expositor’s)

ii. This wasn’t the only time Jesus was insulted like this.

· “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” (John 10:20)
· “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48)
· “We were not born of fornication.” (John 8:41)
· “A glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Luke 7:34)
· “You have a demon.” (John 7:20)

c. By the ruler of demons He casts out demons: Luke 11:14 tells us this accusation came in response to a dramatic demonic deliverance. The religious leaders attributed this working of Jesus to Satan (Beelzebub).

i. His own people misunderstood Jesus, but the scribes who came down from Jerusalem viciously and cynically attacked Jesus. Because of their official position, this was the first step in the plot to destroy Jesus referred to in Mark 3:6. Before they could destroy Him, they had to first discredit Jesus in the eyes of the multitude.

d. Beelzebub: This name clearly refers to Satan, but it is a difficult name to analyze. It may have been coined because it sounds similar to the Hebrew phrase for “Lord of the Flies.”

i. “It is supposed that this idol was the same with Baalzebub, the god fly, worshipped at Ekron... who had his name changed afterwards by the Jews to Baal zebul, the dung god, a title of utmost contempt.” (Clarke)

3. (Mar 3:23-27) Jesus answers those who attributed His work to Satan.

So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.”

a. How can Satan cast out Satan? Jesus showed that if He were an agent of Satan and was working against Satan, then surely Satan’s kingdom was in a civil war and would not stand. Jesus said this to show that Satan would not work against himself.

b. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods: With this Jesus answered the charge that He was in league with the Devil. He said, “I’m not under Satan. Instead, I am proving that I am stronger than he is.”

c. Unless he first binds the strong man: In this parable Satan is the strong man who guards what belongs to him. Jesus’ ministry was defeating this strong man, both in the case of casting the demon out of the man who was mute and in the broader sense.

d. Then he will plunder his house: Jesus looked at every life delivered from Satan’s domination and said, “I’m plundering the kingdom of Satan one life at a time.” There is nothing in our life that must stay under Satan’s domination. The one who binds the strong man and will plunder his house is our risen Lord.

4. (Mar 3:28-30) Jesus warns the religious leaders about the unforgivable sin.

“Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”; because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

a. He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness: This blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is serious indeed. The person guilty of this sin is subject to eternal condemnation. In other Gospels (such as in Luke 12:10), this sin is described as “unforgivable.”

b. Because they said, He has an unclean spirit: These religious leaders were in danger of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit because they looked at the perfectly good and wonderful work of God in Jesus and officially pronounced it the evil of Satan. This pointed to a settled rejection of heart against Jesus – possible evidence of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

i. “Notice that these men had not yet committed the unpardonable sin... Otherwise Jesus would never have warned them. By his own words, there is no use warning a man who has committed the unpardonable sin; he is beyond help.” (Steadman)

c. He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness: Many people wonder what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is, and some wonder if they have committed this sin. The warning of Jesus makes us recognize the terrible danger of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and our need to avoid this sin at all cost. At the same time, we guard our hearts against the unwarranted accusation of this sin.

i. We understand what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is by first understanding what the ministry of the Holy Spirit is all about. Regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8), and that He will testify of Me (John 15:26).

ii. Therefore, when we persistently reject the work the Holy Spirit wants to do in us and when we have a continued, settled rejection of what He wants to tell us about Jesus, then we blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

iii. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven – not because it is a sin “too big” for God to forgive, but because it is an attitude of heart that cares nothing for God’s forgiveness. It never has forgiveness because it never wants forgiveness God’s way.

iv. “These words were never intended to torment anxious souls honestly desiring to know Christ, but they stand out as a blazing beacon warning of the danger of persisting in the rejection of the Spirit’s testimony of Christ, until the seared conscience no longer responds to the gospel message.” (Ironside)

5. (Mar 3:31-35) Jesus describes His true family relationships.

Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

a. His brothers and His mother: Perhaps these relatives of Jesus sent to Him to carry out the plan described in Mark 3:21, to lay hold of Him, thinking that Jesus was out of His mind.

b. Who is My mother, or My brothers? We might have expected that Jesus’ family would have special privileges before Him. It almost surprises us that they do not. Yet the brothers of Jesus never seemed to be supportive of His ministry before His death and resurrection (John 7:5).

i. Brothers: Jesus plainly had brothers. The Roman Catholic idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary is in contradiction to the plain meaning of the Bible. In fact, many reliable manuscripts add and Your sisters to Your mothers and Your brothers. “According to a reading in several MSS., these included sisters among those present.” (Expositor’s)

c. Whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother: Mark 3 ends with a huge contrast. There are religious leaders in danger of damnation and an invitation to be part of Jesus’ family.

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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