You Can Provide Clean Water to Persecuted Christians

Mark 3 Study Notes


3:1-2 The synagogue that Jesus entered . . . again was probably the one in Capernaum. To accuse is a legal term for bringing a charge against someone (cp. 15:3-4). The Pharisees are almost certainly the ones who were watching him closely (v. 6). To see whether he would heal indicates they did not question Jesus’s ability to heal. They only wanted to know whether he would dare to do so on the Sabbath. Only life-saving medical treatment and preventive medical measures were regarded as legal on the Sabbath.

3:3-4 Stand before us indicates that Jesus was about to heal the man (1:31; 2:9,11-12; 5:41; 10:49). Is it lawful recalls the previous exchange (2:24,26).

3:5 The reason for Jesus’s emotion was the hardness of their hearts, an expression describing willful rejection of God’s truth. Mark used this phrase twice of the disciples (6:52; 8:17).

3:6 Only Mark mentions the Herodians here (cp. Mt 12:14; Lk 6:11). They are also mentioned in Mk 12:13 and Mt 22:16, and possibly alluded to in Mk 8:15. The Herodians were Jewish supporters of Herod the Great and his family, here specifically Herod Antipas of Galilee. The Herodians are allied with the Pharisees in the NT, which is ironic because the Herodians supported Hellenism (Greek influence), while the Pharisees opposed it. The linking of these groups indicates that opposition to Jesus involved the unlikely unification of diverse political and religious factions.

3:7-8 Galilee and Judea, including Jerusalem, were Jewish areas. Idumea was the OT Edomite area south of Judea in the Negev. Its population was mixed Jewish-Gentile. Beyond the Jordan refers to the Jewish area of Perea, east of the Jordan River. Tyre and Sidon were in the old Phoenician area north of Galilee and were largely Gentile, but they included a Jewish presence. The phrase large crowd emphasizes the large area over which Jesus’s fame had spread.

3:9-10 Jesus had healed many. Therefore, those who were afflicted with diseases sought to touch him. Mark describes one such encounter in 5:24-34.

3:11-12 On you are the Son of God, compare 1:1,11,24. To this point in Mark, only the Father and the unclean spirits fully understood Jesus’s identity. Not to make him known recalls 1:25,34,44.

3:13-15 The mountain here is not identified. Jesus spent the night praying (Lk 6:12). Summoned those he wanted seems to indicate more than just the twelve disciples (cp. Lk 6:13). The number twelve recalls the twelve tribes of Israel (cp. Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30). The purpose clauses identify the apostles’ functions: They were to be with him and learn his message, to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons.

3:16-17 Verses 16-19 identify the Twelve men whom Jesus appointed as apostles. The NT contains three other such lists (Mt 10:2-4; Lk 6:14-16; Ac 1:13), and these contain variations in names and order. Peter is first in all lists. Only Mark says that Jesus nicknamed James and John the Sons of Thunder, possibly because of their temperament (Lk 9:54). Peter, James, and John made up Jesus’s inner circle (Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33).

3:18-19 On Andrew, Peter’s brother, see note at 1:16-18. Philip is not mentioned again in Mark. Bartholomew may be Nathaniel (Jn 1:45-46) otherwise he is not mentioned in the Gospels again. Matthew is mentioned only here in Mark, but he is the same person as Levi the tax collector (2:14; Mt 9:9; 10:3). Thomas appears in Jn 11:16; 20:24. James the son of Alphaeus is not mentioned again. He is distinguished from James who was the son of Zebedee. Thaddaeus is not mentioned again in the NT and is not in Luke’s lists (Lk 6:14-16; Ac 1:13). Possibly he is the same as “Judas the son of James” (Lk 6:16; Ac 1:13). Simon the Zealot (cp. Lk 6:15) is literally “Simon the Cananean,” an Aramean rendering of “zealous” and not an indication that he was a Canaanite. The term was used of religious and political zealots but here likely refers to Simon’s piety (cp. Ac 21:20; 22:3; Gl 1:14) and distinguishes him from Simon Peter. Nothing more is said about him in the NT. Judas Iscariot appears last in each list. “Judas” is the Greek form of “Judah.” “Iscariot” probably indicates that he hailed from Kerioth and thus may identify him as the only Judean among the group.

3:20-21 To this point Mark has not mentioned Jesus’s family, and after this extended section they are mentioned only in 6:3. After introducing them in 3:21, Mark picks them up again in vv. 31-35. To restrain him is the same verb used for “arrest” in 6:17; 12:12; 14:1,44. Mark hinted that Jesus’s family tried to do what the Jewish authorities sought to do. Neither Matthew nor Luke mention that Jesus’s family thought he was out of his mind (cp. Ps 69:8).


Greek pronunciation [ah PAHSS tah lahss]
CSB translation apostle
Uses in Mark’s Gospel 2
Uses in the NT 80
Focus passage Mark 3:14

The Greek noun apostolos comes from the common verb apostello and literally means “one sent forth with a message.” The noun did not attain the significance of being sent with authority until its adoption by Jesus and the NT writers. The original twelve disciples were chosen and named apostles by Jesus (Mt 10:2; Mk 3:14; Lk 6:13); they were trained by him (see Ac 1:15-26) and were invested with his authority to lead the church to accomplish the task he gave it (Mt 28:18-20). Apostles had to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’s resurrection (Ac 1:22; 1Co 9:1; 15:8-9). Together with prophets, apostles were foundational for the early church (Eph 2:20), particularly in being responsible for giving divine revelation to God’s people (Eph 3:5). Only fifteen people are clearly referred to as apostles in the NT: the original Twelve, Matthias (Ac 1:26), Paul, and Barnabas (Ac 14:14).

3:22 Between the introduction of Jesus’s family (v. 21) and discussing their actions (vv. 31-35), Mark places an incident with the scribes (v. 22) and two parabolic sayings (vv. 23-26,27-30). The description of the scribes as those who had come down from Jerusalem indicates they were an official delegation (cp. 7:1). They were saying that he was possessed by Beelzebul (see notes at Mt 12:24; Lk 11:14-16) and drives out demons by the ruler of the demons (see note at Mt 9:34). The scribes and Pharisees did not deny Jesus’s power; instead, they attributed his power to Satan (Mk 1:13; cp. Mt 10:25; 12:24,27; Lk 11:15,18-19).

3:23-27 This is the first mention of parables in Mark, though Jesus had already used them (2:17,21-22). A parable is an analogy or comparison that includes proverbial sayings, allegories, or narrative. Jesus used parables to reject the scribes’ logic of 3:22. Neither a kingdom nor a house is strengthened by internal divisions. Attacks on Satan’s kingdom came not from within but from God’s kingdom. In Jesus’s reference to external attack on a strong man’s house and tying him up, Satan was the strong man (v. 27; cp. Is 49:24-26; Rv 20:1-3).

3:28-30 Truly I tell you is a declaration of Jesus’s authority to declare truth. This is the first time it appears in Mark (8:12; 9:1,41; 10:15,29; 11:23; 13:30; 14:25,30). All sins that people commit, including blasphemies (see note at 2:6-7), can be forgiven—except whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit. This person never has forgiveness, and is guilty of an eternal sin (a sin with eternal consequences). Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is attributing Jesus’s works to Satan, claiming that Jesus was empowered by evil.

3:31-35 This completes the account begun in vv. 20-21. Mark did not name Jesus’s mother, his brothers, or his sisters (cp. 6:3). Possibly Joseph was dead by now. The phrases standing outside and sent word indicate there was no direct contact between Jesus and his family, only messages exchanged. Whoever signifies that being part of Jesus’s most significant family, his spiritual family, is a possibility for all people.