The Man With the Shriveled Hand (3:1-12)
(Matthew 12:9-16; Luke 6:6-11, 17-19)
1-3 On another Sabbath day, Jesus encountered a man with a shriveled hand. According to Jewish tradition,24 it was lawful only to save life on the Sabbath. All other works of healing had to wait until the next day. Therefore, the Jews waited to see what Jesus would do. According to the Jewish law, it was a serious crime to break the Sabbath law; the punishment for doing so was death (Exodus 31:14-17).
4 The Jews perverted the purpose and meaning of the Sabbath. If a sheep fell into a pit, they would have pulled it out on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:11-12). Why, then, would they not show mercy to a man on the Sabbath? A man is of much more value than a sheep!
God established the Sabbath for man’s benefit. Therefore, men should do good on the Sabbath. They should help their neighbor in need. Jesus was ready to do good to the man with the shriveled hand on the Sabbath. But on that same Sabbath day, the Jews were plotting to kill Him (verse 6). “Which work is suitable on the Sabbath” Jesus asked them. “Your work, or mine?” The Jews could not answer (see John 5:810 and comment).
5-6 Jesus healed the man’s hand. He had put the Pharisees and other Jews to shame by exposing their hypocrisy and lack of love. In their minds, He had broken the Sabbath law. They could no longer endure this healer and teacher from Nazareth. He had blasphemed against God (Mark 2:5-7). He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15-16). Not only that, He was becoming famous; all the people were following after Him. The Pharisees were afraid they would lose their own prestige and authority in the eyes of the people. Therefore, they joined with the Herodians25 and plotted to kill Him (see John 5:16-17).
7-12 Jesus and His disciples withdrew … to the lake, that is, the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:16). Jesus did not stay in the place where men plotted to kill Him. He did not look for danger unnecessarily. He still had much preaching to do; His time to die had not yet come.
The crowds came from all over Israel and from Tyre and Sidon in southern Lebanon26 to hear Jesus and to be healed. The people pushed forward in order to touch even the edge of His cloak and thereby be healed (Mark 6:56). They pushed forward so vigorously that Jesus had to have a small boat ready so that He could escape from the press of people. Perhaps He also preached from the boat to people standing on the shore (see Mark 4:1).
Those possessed with demons fell down before Jesus. As is mentioned also in Mark 1:24-25,34, the demons recognized Jesus but He forbade them to tell who He was. Jesus did not seek to have His name spread about. He was not looking for fame or the praise of men. His only purpose was to preach the good news and to show men and women the way to salvation (see Matthew 4:23-25; 12:17-19; Mark 1:34; 5:43 and comments).
The Appointing of the Twelve Apostles (3:13-19)
(Matthew 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16)
13 According to Luke 6:12, Jesus spent all night in prayer before choosing the remainder of His disciples. These were the men who would establish His church after His death. These were the men who would do even greater works than He had done (John 14:12). From now on, Jesus’ main work would be to teach and train these twelve disciples. Jesus couldn’t preach to the whole world Himself, but twelve men could. And these twelve men would each train other men. Thus the number of disciples would be multiplied. It is in this way that the church has grown and has now been established in nearly every country of the world.
Jesus called to him those he wanted. The choice and the call were His. But they came to him. They answered, “Yes, I will come.” They obeyed Christ’s call.
14-15 Jesus called His twelve disciples APOSTLES —that is, men who were “sent” or “driven” by Jesus’ Spirit, the Holy Spirit. He called them to be with him, to learn by His example, to share in His ministry. He gave them His authority to preach in His name, to heal every disease and every sickness (Matthew 10:1), and to drive out demons in His name. Demons are Satan’s evil spirits, Satan’s soldiers. Thus, one of the main responsibilities of the twelve new apostles was to fight and overcome the power of Satan and his demons.
16-19 Simon (Peter), James, John, Andrew, and Matthew (Levi) have already been mentioned in Mark 1:16,19; 2:14. The first meeting of Philip with Jesus is described in John 1:43. Bartholomew may be the same as Nathanael mentioned in John 1:45-50. James son of Alphaeus may be the brother of Levi, who is also called the son of Alphaeus in Mark 2:14. Thaddaeus is the same as Judas son of James mentioned in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13. Judas Iscariot, that is, the “man of Kerioth,” was the only one who was not from Galilee. He was the one who later betrayed Jesus.
Jesus and Beelzebub (3:20-30)
(Matthew 12:22-32; Luke 11:14-23; 12:10)
20-21 When Jesus’ family heard of His activities, they thought He was out of his mind, because He never allowed proper time to eat and sleep. He was always preaching and healing. Therefore, they came to take charge of him (see verses 31-34).
22 AccordingtoMatthew12:22-23, Jesus at that same time cured a demon-possessed man, whom the demon had rendered blind and dumb. The people were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”—that is, the Messiah.27 But the Pharisees denied that Christ was the “Son of David” whom the Jews had been waiting for. They said that His power came not from God but from Satan. They accused Jesus Himself of being demon-possessed (John 10:19-20). They said that He was possessed by Beelzebub, that is, by Satan. They said that He cast out demon’s by Satan’s power. (Another similar incident is described in Matthew 9:32-34.)
Notice that the teachers of the law and the Pharisees couldn’t deny Jesus’ power; it was evident to all. So they tried to discredit His power by saying it came from Satan.
23-26 But Jesus showed that this was impossible. Why would the prince of demons—that is, Satan—cast out his own demons? If he did that, his kingdom, or his house, would be divided against itself and, as a result, would quickly be destroyed. But Satan’s kingdom is not yet destroyed. Satan and his demons are still working hard and with great power. Therefore, it cannot be by Satan’s power that Jesus cast out demons.
According to Matthew 12:27-28 and Luke 11:19-20, Jesus at this time reminded the Pharisees that their own sons—that is, their disciples—also cast out demons using God’s name. Why, then, when Jesus did the same thing, did the Pharisees say that He was doing it by Satan’s power? The accusation of the Pharisees was false. Demons can only be driven out by the finger of God (Luke 11:20), that is, by the Spirit of God. The casting out of demons was a sign that the kingdom of God had indeed come to earth (see Mark 1:15) and that the final battle against the kingdom of Satan had begun.
27 To free the demon-possessed—that is, those under bondage to Satan—Christ had to enter the strong man’s house (Satan’s house) and bind Satan. Each time Christ drove out a demon, he first bound Satan. Yet Christ did not completely defeat Satan while He was here on earth. Only at the end of the world will Satan finally be completely destroyed (Revelation 20:10).
In another way, not only the demon-possessed, but all unbelieving men are in bondage to Satan. This world is Satan’s kingdom. Whenever a person hears the call of Jesus and believes in Him, he is set free from Satan’s kingdom and enters the kingdom of God.
Both Matthew and Luke here add a saying of Jesus: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters”28 (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23). In the warfare with Satan and his evil spirits, one cannot remain neutral. Men are either on Satan’s side or on Christ’s side; there is no middle ground. Those who do not take Christ’s side are automatically on Satan’s side. They may think that they haven’t taken a side, but, in fact, they are serving Satan. There are only two kingdoms: God’s kingdom (that is, Christ’s kingdom) and Satan’s kingdom. Every person is in one kingdom or the other.
He … who does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30). Christ came to gather a harvest of men. If we do not help in this, we are, in fact, hindering. It is not enough that we merely do no harm; we must do good.
28-30 The Pharisees had said that Jesus was working by the power of Satan. But, in fact, Jesus was working by the power of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Thus the Pharisees were calling the Holy Spirit “Satan”! This is why Jesus gave this warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Jesus says here that all the sins and blasphemies of men, even words spoken against the Son of Man (Matthew 12:32) will be forgiven, if one repents. Only one sin cannot be forgiven, that is, blasphemy against the Spirit (Matthew 12:31).
What is blasphemy against the Spirit? It is persistent rejection of God’s Spirit. God calls us through His Spirit. When we reject and abuse His Spirit, God has no other way of calling us further. We cut ourselves off from the mercy and forgiveness of God. Man can only know God through the Holy Spirit. Man can only repent and receive forgiveness through the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. The Holy Spirit is like a bridge between us and God. If we destroy the bridge, our hope of salvation, our hope of entering the kingdom of God, will be lost.
Some Christians worry and ask, “Have I committed this unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Have I lost my salvation?” But they do not need to fear. Anyone who worries about this has certainly not committed this sin.29
The person who has blasphemed the Holy Spirit doesn’t worry about it. He doesn’t care about God. His heart is hardened. He refuses to repent. He knowingly lives in opposition to God.
Therefore, when we fall into sin, let us be quick to repent. Let us keep our hearts open to God. Because if we deliberately keep turning from God, in the end He will turn from us. Let that situation never happen.
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers (3:31-35)
(Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 8:19-21)
31-32 Then Jesus’ family arrived where He was teaching (see verse 21). Mark mentions here Jesus’ brothers. Some Christians think that these were not true brothers of Jesus. They believe that Mary had no other children besides Jesus. But according to an ordinary understanding of these verses, Mark is talking here about Jesus’ younger brothers, sons of Mary and Joseph. However, only Jesus was born by the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 1:18,24-25; Mark 6:3; Luke 2:7).
33-35 When Jesus heard that His family had arrived, He asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (verse 33). By this He did not mean to dishonor His own family. He was simply teaching that while our fleshly family is very important, our spiritual family is even more important. Those who believe in Christ and obey God’s will are of one spiritual family, children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ and of each other. This spiritual family will last for all eternity. We must be closer to our believing brothers and sisters than to our own unbelieving fleshly family. We must always put Christ and His church above our own father and mother, brothers and sisters (see Matthew 10:37).