Mark 3

Mark 3  •  26 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Although Mark leads us into the same main thought as Matthew, closing with Israel at the end of this chapter as Matthew at the end of the twelfth, and then in each the Sower, yet there is a great difference besides the leaving out the birth, and the like. There is no dispensational development. It is historical, to the same effect of what was then taking place, but no developed principles of relationship, nor what will be true in the last days. You have no Kingdom, as it is now developed, after the parable of the Sower, but we have Christ personally active at the beginning, and, at the end, the harvest. Meanwhile it grows up, as though He knew not how. You have the simple fact that externally it would grow to a great power in the earth. It is much more historical. We have the facts as they then occurred, with their then bearing on His rejection, and Israel's state.
-2-6. On this rejection, He asserts Himself, and in grace proves Himself Lord of the very seal and sign of their covenant- the sabbath; but earthly rest, when Israel knew not its God even in mercy, there was none. But mercy was taking its place, and would have its way. The Lord was angry, being grieved, but acts now in defiance of all this in their synagogue. It is in the synagogue, He does not shrink from the public avowal of the character in which He had come, and His rejection of their notion of iniquity. Yet, it was done in grace, and an act of grace. He puts the case plainly before them, makes the man stand forth for the solemn adjudication, and manifestation of the character of their God, as in question between them. It was not enjoining strict silence now-they were silent-and He shows publicly the power in which He acted. Would God do good on their sabbath in a world of sin and ruin, or let the ruin stay when He could righteously hinder or remove it? All the man did was to stretch out his hand-often they had done infinitely more-then the instant act of beneficence meets it, and it is publicly healed before them all. God in power, as Christ in service, proved them wrong publicly. But now, as before they rejected, they show their hatred and enmity in their conviction-they would not do good, but they would be active to do evil-not " save on the sabbath," but hold a council on the sabbath how they might destroy Him. And the openest enemies could take counsel together for that-union in opposition to Christ is a well-known truth in Scripture.
-7-12. His character was now fully displayed, His ministry exercised and put in question before man, and man's judgment passed on it, i.e., indeed his own, of enmity against the presence of God in grace come in power for his own mercy. But there was an evil will, hatred against the Lord. Man had rejected Him-His character was settled in the world, publicly settled among the leaders. They had been put upon their trial. They might carry on their schemes in private, for the thing was completely concluded and decided, but their plan was to get rid of Him, as a public nuisance to them-they could not bear His presence. The Lord might order His preservation as His Servant whom He upheld, His Elect in whom His soul delighted, He might exercise the glory of His divine power in ministry, but, as between Him and the body, their position was settled, and the Lord so acted. He departed with His disciples (so Paul we find acting)-they, as His slayers and enemies, pursued theirs, keeping up the credit of their own system, but withal really bent upon getting rid of Him. But while He went away with His disciples, this did not arrest His career of good. There might be trial as between Him and them, which had ceased, but the service to which God pointed His heart and love in doing good, was still all before Him, just because of these things. He pursued it because it was the expression of God's heart to man's need, and displayed God, even His Father. The rest seceded into their own place, left behind, and took their own character; that was all (so must it ever be expected). Divine glory went on on its own errand-all this was behind. He had nothing to do with their consultations, but He pursued His own course clear from them. He went to the sea with His disciples, and a "great multitude " followed Him from Galilee, from Judaea, from Jerusalem, Mumma, beyond Jordan, and Tire and Sidon, so that a little ship was His only resource. So much for the mere hindrance of human opposition or malice until God's time was come for greater things! The demons, in like manner, were forced to own His glory when they saw Him, but He would not allow them to tell who He was, leaving it to the testimony of grace, so that it should be real acknowledgment, as of God by grace.
-13-21. Thus laboring, after the public manifestation of the nation's enmity against Him, the Lord now withal takes a public open part in using all formal means for gathering. He calls whom He would, and they came to Him. Such was His power also in this service of ministry-divine power, it was not of man. This was done apart; He went up to the mountain, and called them to Him. It was not for the multitude, but done separately, as in intercourse with the Father, or from it at least-not displaying it to the world but acting efficaciously in Himself. It was entirely between Him and them, calling to Him whom He would, whom He should send from Himself to stand, as sent by Him, before the world, or rather the Jewish people, but before men-first to preach, then to heal, and cast out devils. Of these, in the same sovereignty directed by the ministry of Christ, Peter, James and John held the most distinguished place, each according to his known qualifications, known and thoroughly appreciated by the Lord (though even these, when a further ministry came out, though they seemed to be pillars, made no difference at all-God accepteth no man's person-they added actually nothing. But now the Lord was acting within the Jewish range, though rejected by the rulers and apostates-the nominally righteous, and the lovers of worldly authority), the rest also in their order. This done, the Lord returns to the house. He is now thoroughly and publicly embarked in blessing to Judaism, but in a thoroughly independent mission and calling. He had been rejected and refused by the rulers and religion of the nation, and He must act for Himself; a separate and independent part of which, as its independency, was seen, so the consequences were soon felt or supposed-thus, not only preaching and doing miracles, but sending chosen servants to preach and call men to the same truths which He came to present in His Person, and to teach. This gave it a clear character everywhere, for it was an active step, testifying that all were wrong, and that they must look to Him. On this (and it is no wonder, if one sees the principles they acted on, and He acted on) His friends pronounced Him mad, so that they went out to get hold of Him. And thus called out by the multitudes, which thus roused by their jealousy, the scribes blaspheme, the active enmity of Satan, hopeless where mercy, active mercy comes, is drawn out to discredit what He would do, from feeling what He was doing, though by a charge which contradicted itself and condemned them. Where truth is active in mercy (therefore supposing and charging sin in all) Satan's constant hostility is to be looked for.
-22. His friends might preserve their natural character, and think Him mad, but Jerusalem, the people who had the character of the Lord's people nominally (" who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie ") and as nominally nearest the Lord, really the highest in pride, and furthest from Him, more immediate instruments of Satan, and more deadlily opposed to, because their real character proved by, the presence of righteous grace. So it always is, and hence ecclesiastical wickedness is always much the worst. Others may follow, be open rebels, perhaps be swallowed up, but the gainsaying is the "gainsaying of Kore." Ahithophel is the subject of David's complaint in the Spirit, more than Absalom (see Psalms); and this we have to note. His friends might think it folly, these men knew it was not-they must call it wickedness, and ascribe it to Satan to conceal their own. The scribes, the instructed Jews, who came down from Jerusalem said blasphemously, "He hath Beelzebub." But what meekness, calmness, yet what simple, and clear, unequivocal judgment from God! As wickedness proceeds by the rejection of God, the word of God proceeds in judgment. All is in testimony; therefore the power is viewed as of the Spirit, and the judgment is pronounced on their blasphemy of it. Christ was as a Servant, the Holy Ghost as the power, for He ministered by it, as He plainly testifies. So they-" He casteth out "-it is not "It is all false, he is not the Christ, crucify the Son of man," or "Who is he," but " He casteth out devils by Beelzebub." The act of power is recognized, Jesus here was but a Man, and God is blasphemed in His own act of power, for power was admitted in the Person of the Holy Ghost in Jesus come to manifest power in grace against Satan (for Christ came to suffer) to deliver man by destroying the works of the devil, in this wonderful conflict in man's nature against Him; Heb. 2:1414Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (Hebrews 2:14). For though the Son worked, yet was He only known such by the Holy Ghost, unless one special revelation to Peter, and the Holy Ghost in this sense not yet given; and though the Father that dwelt in Jesus did the works, yet He could not be known but by the Son. These blessed relationships in the divine nature were yet hidden, at least almost completely so to man, and Jesus therefore stood before them as a Man, as Messiah, saying He was the Son of God. But they owned the Spirit, as doing wonderful things aforetime, as a power working in and by Man; this then was veritable blasphemy of God in His known, and even, I may say, national operations, and now in special mercy, and in Him who was working, in the full manifestation of it, for the very wants of burdened Israel, His dear people. How hard is the human heart! What a picture when under Satan! That Spirit had spoken by prophets, had wrought by Moses, for He had put His Spirit within, and had shown many mercies and benevolences, but now He did what He had not done before, for it was in the Person of the Son. The Son of man forgave sins, and cast out devils; the first they disowned and slighted, and the last, which they could not deny-awful word! they ascribed to Satan himself. There was no remedy, or judgment alone remedied this evil. "In danger of judgment "-then would be known in power, not merely by the Spirit, who that Son of man was, the Son of God. They might talk of Beelzebub, to meet the prejudices, and weaken His influence among the people, and account for what they could not deny, but there it was. The Lord, while they threw it on the natural prejudice against this god of the Philistines-the Lord took it up on their real condition with God, and asks: "How can Satan cast out Satan? " It was making Satan good, and not ascribing, when clear good was done, that good to God. This was the fullest and clearest blasphemy, and willful though blind; for the act of beneficent Satan-chasing power was admitted, and confessed. But these scribes from Jerusalem were to teach the people; but there was no reproach, but an exhibition of the folly on their own statement, and the judgment on the blasphemy-man's folly, on his own reasoning. The blasphemy was Satan's, of which, for his own interest, man became the creature and slave. They said He was destroying Satan's power who was doing that. Alas! for man. When Adam sinned he was disobedient and seduced. Satan manifested the character against him which these now manifested against the Second, and when that Second was exercising the full divine energy of the Spirit to cast Satan out. There was no forgiveness. Now the Holy Ghost is the Servant rather, and the circumstances are different. Christ is above the reproach, save in His servants and people. If it were not Satan against himself, then it was a stronger than he.
"But verily I say"-here was the judgment pronounced. It was not ignorance of His Person, but calling the Spirit that was in Him Beelzebub, which was the evil. This point is not then a question of His Person, but of the recognizable power in which He wrought, and it was nearer their conscience, in outward acts of beneficent, Satan-destroying power, to recognize the Spirit than the Son or the Father. These were brought out in the subsequent dispensation-there the irreclaimable state was apostasy, not the irremediable sin, blasphemy, though that might come in as a consequence too. The consummating sin of a dispensation is always sin against that of which it has the light, not merely evil practice, though that leads to it, nor obscurity as to a hope leading to another, as the proposal of the Son of man here, although that proved darkness, nor the ignorance that He was the Son of God, which supposed fresh revelation and showed their blindness. Though these things alone could remedy the state of things, and in the communication of the Father's name gathered a people, the consummating sin was the denial and rejection of the light they had, in ascribing to evil a power and working which, in their own dispensation, they ought to have recognized. And this is applicable to the present dispensation; the Father and the Son are revealed- denying them is an Antichrist, and wherever the liberty of the Holy Ghost to act in what He gives, without further authority, in grace is hindered or opposed it seems to me the principle is there, though perhaps restrained and not bearing all its fruit. There may be many other things evil, but not to this. Things which could alone remedy, which may not exist or be received, hopes which could alone recall, or the rejection of which showed the ruined state of the Church, but did not constitute this opposition of apostasy to the glory of Christ in the dispensation, and therefore did not constitute its fatal and final sin. We may assist the ruin practically, as in Heb. 6, but it is denying the Father and the Son which constitutes its public actual manifestation.
-31, 35. In this the Lord clearly passes, on what we have seen (verse 30), to the rejection and refusal of all His natural ties-the cessation of them, that is, to the Jewish people, and the assumption of those who did the will of God, His disciples, into the place of this relationship; this, even while the multitude were all around Him before He went away. It was a testimony also to them, now plainly, openly given, and given on ground which reached the conscience of the lowest (quad nota), when, if listened to, it would in grace bring him on to full principles and their understanding. " For whosoever shall do the will of God "-His disciples, soon they would be there. He might plainly state the great principle of apostasy in the clearest light, but He would, in the rejection of all formal connection with the place where it was found, use the first principle for the simple ones that would draw them out of it. His mother and His brethren were not only a type, though they were that, of the Jewish people, but the principle-it was knowing Israel after the flesh, Christ after the flesh-all this had failed, had apostatized in Jerusalem; the power presented in witness to it had been ascribed to Beelzebub-for Satan will give his own name to the Lord to drive men from Him. Further, this was no particular affection for such or such disciple, though this might exist, but He looked round about them in a circle who sat around Him, and said: Whosoever hears me, and so does the will of God.
This chapter closes the general presentation of Christ in this Gospel (as in Matt. 12). We have then the general idea of the Word (as in Matt. 13) and the personal work of Christ at the beginning and end-seed time and harvest-and the general public display and diffusion of Christianity; but all in parables expounded to the disciples, for it was the new things of the Kingdom. He seemed asleep while it was going on, but He was in the ship with His own, and commands the waves. Chapter 5 gives the delivered Remnant, (to become a witness) the Jews, and the world-their relative positions. Then, called to hinder the death of Judaism, faith gets the blessing by the way, but He has to raise from the dead, though kept and owned as alive in a certain sense-has no honor, and can do little in His own country, sends the closing message, and the false king beheads His forerunner. But He is the Jehovah of Psa. 132 in Israel, and full administrative power in Man in His power, dismisses Israel, goes up for intercession, rejoins the disciples, and there is a calm, and the world now receives Him. In chapter 7 Israel is morally judged, man's heart shown, but He reaches out to the Gentiles where there is faith, Israel being owned, but cannot deny what God is in grace for any, if faith reaches to it-a beautiful witness and picture-(this truth came in not in quite so lovely a way- title more than goodness-at once in Matt. 8) but He does open the deaf ear and loose the tongue of Israel, but He takes him now aside out of the multitude. It was grace but not a direct testimony to them. Then you get the seven loaves- divine perfection with Israel in itself, not human administration; the disciples even only get their eyes gradually open; the blind man, too, here was taken out of the town. This closed His association with Israel. They had many opinions-He, the Cross (the living God and the Church have no place here) and so His must follow. The glory of the Kingdom is shown to them in connection with it, but it was not to be told till He was risen from among the dead. Rising "from" the dead is distinctive here.
In Christ we have not merely miracles as proof of personal power, but the setting aside evil, universally healing all that were oppressed of the devil, universal setting aside of his power, and his goods seized. Next, they were miracles of deliverance- the power of God. Next, He can give this power. This is met by the spirit of the world; His friends think Him mad- for the unclean spirits who bound man's heart did not-and in the ecclesiastical body wicked malicious opposition-they preferred attributing good to Satan and throwing the people into his hands, to owning Him. Lastly, He rejects connection with Israel, or any, as to the flesh, owning only moral subjection to God.
I do not know how far the beginning of Mark is made clear, as a whole, in the Synopsis, but I give it here with a view to resting somewhat on a particular part of it. Up to chapter 3: 13, we have a picture of the Lord's ministry after the introductory matter. The details thus: John's preparatory ministry with water-Christ to baptize with the Holy Ghost; chap. 1:1-8. Christ associates Himself with the Remnant being baptized, is anointed and sealed with the Holy Ghost, and owned of the Father; then meets the adversary who held man captive, is tempted in the wilderness with wild beasts (not Adam's place), served by angels (verse 9). Thus (chap. 5:13) all prepared, and John cast into prison, He begins His ministry, preaches the Kingdom of God at hand, and repentance, gathers round Himself persons who leave all to be with Him. His doctrine with authority-with power, for the demons own Him and are driven out. Next, He heals the diseases of man himself, brought in by sin-it is not exceptional or occasional, the crowds came and were healed. He retires and prays. All men seek Him, but He came not to have crowds, but to accomplish His service-He must go to other cities to preach, He is sent for that. He goes, doing it round the country. Next, He shows that He is Jehovah in the midst of Israel, in mercy- the leprosy, which none but Jehovah healed, and which, if one touched a leper, made him who touched him unclean, He not only can but wills to heal and touches the leper, undefiled but driving away defilement in a grace which the defilement of man did not drive away, but draw. It was in Israel-for by their pronouncing on the leper, the priests were witnesses to themselves, that the power of Him who could heal the leprosy was there in Israel; chap. 1:14-45. But grace took a more positively developed character. He forgives sins (and proves, according to the government of God in Israel, He can, by healing the paralytic; see Exodus 15: 36, and Psa. 103:33Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; (Psalm 103:3)), He receives sinners, and even makes an Apostle of one; came to call them, as a Physician to the sick, not the righteous.
But further, as to His ministry, the disciples cannot fast while the Bridegroom of Israel is there-besides He cannot put the new power into the old vessels of ordinances. The sabbath tells the same story. To an outcast David, and surely an outcast Messiah, where was a Jewish covenant of rest? Freedom was there-all should be for Him. Besides the sabbath was for man, the Son of man, the Heir of all man's rights and blessings from God, and therefore Lord of it. The scene in the synagogue tells the same story as to doing good. How clearly this tells all the characters of His ministry! The Pharisees and the Herodians seek to kill Him, but the crowds from all parts follow Him, so as that He should have a little ship to wait on Him, for He had healed, and the unclean spirits were forced to own Him. He forbids their telling it. This closes the characterizing His ministry and service.
Two points I would yet remark; first, the Lord so far from distress or uncertainty in His place with and relationship to God, not only sees the heaven opened, but has the direct witness of the Father, besides the descent of the Holy Ghost, to His relationship with Him, and delight in Him. This was the position in which in the course of His ministry Jesus was certainly set by God, not one of distress, anguish, indignation and anger. This is not true as of God, most surely not as of unbelief in Jesus. He did come into the later state when the hour of the power of darkness came first, and of wrath in substitution afterward, but His living place of service on earth was in conscious favor, revealed by God the Father Himself, and sealed by the Holy Ghost. That He may have at any time anticipated another state is quite true.
Further, Satan attacks Him, as he attacked Adam. This is true, but, led of the Spirit, He freely offers Himself to the attack, as He did to His final suffering from God's hand as a sacrifice on the Cross.
Note, this chapter which closes the relationship of Christ with Israel as in ministry to win the nation, unites the choice of the Apostles with the rejection of the nation. Chapter 4 presents the connection of the responsibility of those who heard with the propagation and witness of what they heard, at the judgment of God which referred to it-that the Lord seemed to let all grow up as it might, but He only watched the time of harvest, and then acted again Himself immediately- lastly, that we are in the same barque with Jesus, foundering in the storm, though He seems to sleep, and as to perfect peace care is out of the question. Chapter 5, I judge, in this respect gives more details on the breaking up of the connection of the Lord with Israel, and its true character on its renewal-a Remnant, under the power of the enemy, healed-Himself expelled, and the healed left behind Him as a testimony. Satan hurries Israel, unclean, to ruin. The child whom He goes to heal, has really to be brought to life, though the Lord looks on it as only asleep. On the way faith, in the woman, heals-a principle which lets in Gentile, Jew, or any.
In following merely the dispensational bearing of these passages, we have the Lord scarce received, as being the carpenter's Son, in His own country, and thereupon He sends out the testimony of His disciples, urgent on the cities of Israel, bringing judgment, if rejected, worse than Sodom. Then the sin of doubting Israel summed up by the violence of Herod against the witness of the Lord as far as it had gone. So that Jesus and His are in the desert, but, the people thronging in their need, He shows His Jehovah power of blessing to the people's need, and, dismissing the multitude, He goes apart to pray (on high) and returns to His disciples walking on the sea. They perceive, and are alarmed, but He gets into the ship, and all was calm, and they astounded, though the previous testimony ought to have sufficed to make Him known. He then brings blessing with Him when He arrives. This all gives us His rejoining the Jews in the latter day. Peter's walking on the sea to meet Him is, on the other hand, going forth to meet Him before He enters the ship. In chapter 7 the moral part of this question is raised, and the pretention of what man was contrasted with the reality of what God was. The heart of man being contrasted with his outward religion which set God's word aside, and then the most distant, dispensationally, from God—a cursed Canaanite, of unrepentant Tire—if there was that faith which knew how to count on what was in God's heart, overleaped all dispensation, had all it could wish according to the power in Christ only. The heart was reduced fully to recognize not only its need but what it was. After this He opens the deaf ears, returning, I apprehend, to Israel according to the grace in which He had visited (but now unstopping the deaf ears) not at Jerusalem, the rejected nation, but in Galilee, where in outcast Israel the light shone in the trouble and darkness; Isa. 8 and 9.
After the miracle of the seven loaves and the four thousand—proof of His abiding love and care for the poor of the flock—and the obstinate and stupid unbelief of the rulers and leaders of the nation, it seems to me that the condition and unbelief of the disciples comes on the scene. Do you not see, though having eyes? When He did open eyes, it was sometimes only as trees walking, that men saw. He instructs them in His sufferings, and Peter rebukes Him (for He spake it openly, and what was prudence, when things were so?). But the Lord presses the Cross, and confession of the Son of man, in the face of that generation, and then shows the glory. Then the rising "from the dead " (not " of the ") puzzles the disciples. The Lord continues to open the real state of things to them as to Elias and John the baptist for example, and the unbelief of the disciples again meets Him, and the question of faith in the people, in whose unbelief as to full power the disciples are here involved, is plainly put. The power of Satan was there, and of old, and the power of the Lord now come in grace, and the man says, " If thou canst... have compassion "—for indeed the unbelief of the disciples ministered to that of the poor man. The Lord, in a few plain words, declares the question of power lies in that of faith. The " if thou canst " is " if thou canst believe." " Have you power to believe? " But indeed nearness to God was needed for power. The Lord again presses His rejection on His disciples—this was His ministry, as it were, now. They dispute for greatness. He presses (touchingly identifying Himself with them) lowliness, and the rejection of His name, but anything done for His name to them, done to Him. The spirit of a true disciple is then further and fully developed in lowliness, self-judgment, in hatred of sin at all cost, a judgment would try all—the severe energy of grace be found in every true sacrifice to God (devoted person)—this they were to have in themselves. If THEY had not, where was good to be found? With each other, gentleness and peace.
On the whole, the disciples even had not the faith which made available His then manifestation of power. The nation therewith rejected Him. They must therefore take part with Him in that rejection—reject and cut off everything which put a stumbling block in the way, and manifest the energy of grace in self-sacrifice, for the energy of divine judgment would apply to everything. Hence, again and again, in all this part of Mark, He insists on His sufferings and rejection as a central point in all their position, and the implicit reception of the Kingdom as a little child. All these chapters are exceedingly important for the dispositions of relationship.