Mark 3 Commentary

Mark 3:1-2

“For the Jews in the time of Jesus, the Sabbath was more than just a matter of obedience to rules.  Sabbath observance was regarded as a way to honor the holiness of Yahweh (Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15).  It also marked the joyful entry into sacred time, the time of the beginning before human work.  The Sabbath ‘was a sanctuary in time.’   It was also regarded as a sign of Israel’s sanctification among all the nations.  Its observance made Israel distinct as a nation, bolstered Jewish identity over against others, and served as a bulwark against assimilation to pagan culture.  For Jews in the Diaspora, keeping the Sabbath was a profession of faith, a national identity marker.”[1]

“The real danger of rigid legalism is that it can delude one into thinking that God is satisfied when one is a stickler for religious details, even if one is merciless to others…Devotion to principle can outweigh concern for individuals and can become deadly in more ways than one, as the ensuing plot against Jesus reveals.  Pascal said, ‘Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.’”[2]

Mark 3:11-12

“We must ask, ‘Why did Jesus so sternly bid them to remain silent?’ The reason was very simple and very compelling. Jesus was the Messiah, God’s anointed king; but his idea of Messiahship was quite different from the popular idea. He saw in Messiahship a way of service, of sacrifice and of love with a cross at the end of it. The popular idea of the Messiah was of a conquering king who, with his mighty armies, would blast the Romans and lead the Jews to world power. Therefore, if a rumour were to go out that the Messiah had arrived, the inevitable consequence would be rebellions and uprisings, especially in Galilee where the people were ever ready to follow a nationalist leader.  Jesus thought of Messiahship in terms of love; the people thought of Messiahship in terms of Jewish nationalism. Therefore, before there could be any proclamation of his Messiahship, Jesus had to educate the people into the true idea of what it meant. At this stage nothing but harm and trouble and disaster could come from the proclamation that the Messiah had arrived. It would have issued in nothing but useless war and bloodshed. First of all men had to learn the true conception of what the Messiah was; a premature announcement such as this could have wrecked Jesus’ whole mission.”[3]

Mark 3:13-15

“The huge multitude is thinned as Jesus invites “those he wanted” to come with him.  This call creates a distinction between those who follow after him desperately seeking healing, those who are only caught up in the spectacle of these strange events, and those who are summoned to follow after him as disciples with a particular task.  Jesus “appointed twelve” out of this group who came to him.”[4]

Mark 3:14

“Mark stresses the disciples’ task of being “with [Jesus]”.  What does ‘being with’ Jesus entail? “Most important, it denotes the Twelve as the witnesses to his ministry, who have learned from him and are, qualified to pass on and authenticate the traditions about him…The task of being with Jesus is one that is harder than it might first appear.  The Twelve will have to learn that there is a difference between hanging around with Jesus and truly being with him.  The latter means that they must follow wherever he leads and share the toil of the ministry, the harassment of the crowds, and the same bitter draught of suffering.”[5]

Mark 3:14-15

“The list of the Twelve does not include “Levi, the son of Alphaeus” but does identify a second James as “son of Alphaeus”.  The epithet may have moved from one individual to the other.  A simpler explanation for the divergence in the two names would be to assume that both variants had become attached to traditional accounts of the calling of disciples prior to Mark’s use of these stories.”[6]

“Their companionship with him is to lead to service that benefits others.  They are not merely on the receiving end of this outbreak of power but are to become channels by which it touches others.”[7]

Mark 3:16-19

“The list of the names of the Twelve gives us scant clues as to their status, background, or religious training, but Jesus gives the first three striking nicknames.  Simon is given the name Peter (petros, meaning ‘rock’), and James and John, formerly introduced as the sons of Zebedee, are called the ‘Sons of Thunder.’  One can only speculate what occasioned these names or what they reveal about these men – their character, their faith, or their future roles? Judas comes last in the list and is identified as the betrayer, a name that the church, not Jesus bestowed on him.

“The Twelve are not called to sainthood or to sit on thrones, nor are they presented as ideal disciples, who serve as models for the readers.  The performance of these twelve men in Mark makes it clear that humans, being what they are, are free to make their own choices and frequently fail in their partnership with God.”[8]

Mark 3:21

“Jesus’ family intrudes to round him up, not to rally around him.  They are intent on silencing him, presumably to squelch any further unwanted attention from the populace or the authorities.  They may be spurred by the noble but misguided desire to protect him from danger or, less nobly, to salvage the family reputation.”[9]

Mark 3:22

BEELZEBUL* Epithet meaning “lord of the flies” or “lord of the manure pile,” referring to Satan. It was used against Jesus by his enemies (Mt 10:25, kjv “Beelzebub”; 12:24; Lk 11:15). See Baal-zebub.  Tyndale Bible Dictionary

Mark 3:22-27

“The parable is an allegory.  The strong one is Satan.  His house is his domain, the present world, which he seeks to hold secure.  His vessels are those hapless victims whom he has taken captive.  The stronger one is Jesus, who has come from God, invaded Satan’s stronghold, and bound him.”[10]

Mark 3:28-30

“This passage of the ‘unpardonable’ sin has caused much talk in the church and many to be paralyzed with fear that he might have committed it.  However, the problem is that Christians frequently seize on the negative aspect of this saying – one is ‘guilty of an eternal sin’ – and neglect the positive statement – ‘all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.’  The KJV translation, ‘is in danger of eternal damnation’ (3:29), certainly grabs one’s attention.  Since this passage has caused so many such unnecessary anguish, one wisely stresses that the love, grace, and patience of God are never exhausted by our abundant sinfulness.  “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).  The gospel proclaims that God forgives what may seem to us to be unforgivable.”[11]

“We must begin by remembering that Jesus could not have used the phrase the Holy Spirit in the full Christian sense of the term.  The Spirit in all his fullness did not come to men until Jesus had returned to his glory.  Jesus must have used the term in the Jewish sense of the term.  Now in Jewish thought the Holy Spirit had two great functions.  First he revealed God’s truth to men; second, he enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it.  If he lives in the dark long enough he will lose the ability to see.  If he stays in bed long enough he will lose the power to walk.  If he refuses to do any serious study he will lose the power to study.  And if a man refuses the guidance of God’s Spirit often enough he will become in the end incapable of recognizing that truth when he sees it.  Consider the effect of Jesus on a man.  The very first effect is to make him see his own utter unworthiness in comparison with the beauty and the loveliness of the life of Jesus.  The result of that sense of unworthiness and the result of that stabbed heart is a heartfelt penitence, and penitence is the only condition of forgiveness.  But, if a man has got himself into such a state, by repeated refusals to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, that he cannot see anything lovely in Jesus at all, then the sight of Jesus will not give him any sense of sin; because he has no sense of sin he cannot be penitent, and because he is not penitent he cannot be forgiven.”[12]

“Their sin is that, in the presence of God’s grace in action, they have not only rejected it but ascribed it to the devil.  They are set on calling the Spirit’s work the activity of Satan.  It may be that Jesus means that they have not yet reached this point of no return, and that he is warning them against hardening their current attitude into a permanent stance.  There is no forgiveness here because such an attitude is incapable of seeking it.”[13]

“If one understands the so-called unforgivable sin as deliberately scorning the power and forgiveness of God, one can perhaps help those in the church who become worried, or even terror-stricken, that they have committed some sin that is unpardonable.  That they even worry about it provides proof that they have not committed such a sin.”[14]

“[O]ne can perhaps suggest a simpler solution to this problematic text.  In reading the passage literally, we fail to understand Jesus’ use of hyperbole to underscore that rejecting or obstructing the work of the Holy Spirit is a terrible sin.  McNeile explains that serious (or defiant) sin was often spoken of as ‘unpardonable’ in the Old Testament (Num. 15:30-31, 1 Sam. 3:14, Isa. 22:14) and comments, ‘If the Lord spoke as a Jew to Jews and used the type of expression current in His day, and derived from the Old Testament, He meant, and would be understood to mean, no more than that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, by whose power He worked, was a terrible sin, – more terrible than blasphemy against man.”[15]

Mark 3:31-32

“Reference to Jesus’ brothers has caused embarrassment to those in the church who feel it inappropriate for the virgin Mother of the Savior.  ‘Cousins’ or ‘children of Joseph by another marriage’ have been suggested, but this is a most unnatural way of reading the text.  Mark means natural brother to Jesus, born by Mary.  The general absence of reference to Joseph suggests that he was by now dead.

“A more difficult problem is how Mary who, according to the stories in early chapters of Luke and Matthew, had gone through such unforgettable experiences, should now be with those trying to take him home.  Such difficulties, however, arise only if one is determined not to let her be what she probably was, a simple Hebrew maid ‘engraced’ by God.  How could she understand all that was involved?  Why should she not have shared the view of those around her about who Jesus was, and be equally upset at the unexpected turn of events, with such crowds and teaching and healing and exorcisms, and the pretentious claims implied – and occasionally blurted out at the height of excitement or controversy – about who he was?  How could she have known that he would be in opposition, as it seemed clear he now was, to the religious leaders of the day whom she regarded with deep respect and awe?  This attitude, of itself, neither detracts from the authenticity of belief in a virgin birth, nor shows Mary as in any sense unworthy or out of character in her behavior.  Many mothers can no doubt identify with her, if at a lesser level, in the anxiety and disappointment when a son’s life does not go as expected.”[16]

“Just as the teachers of the law were blatantly hindering the work of God, the blood family of Jesus, though with best of intentions, came to him and tried to hinder him from doing the work of God.  Blasphemy against the Spirit is not just slandering the Spirit of God, which is easy to recognize; it also includes attempts to subvert the work of the Spirit of God, which is not so easy to recognize.  The reason it is harder to detect is because those who may be guilty of it are those closest to Jesus and those who have convinced themselves that they are acting with the best of intentions.”[17]

Mark 3:33-35

“What follows must have been almost crushing for her [Mary].  The crowd seems to take the side of Jesus’ family, and the implication is that Jesus will either go out to them or make room for them to come in (v.32).  In effect Jesus, as so often, in the words of T.W. Manson, stood normal human values on their heads.  A new situation has developed.  Stronger ties even than blood are now being forged.  In the perspective of the kingdom ‘the family’ consists of whoever does God’s will.  This is not a teaching to be cold to parents. But it is a warning that even so deep, precious, and basic a relationship as that of human family is superseded by the fellowship of the new family of God, which will continue into eternity.”[18]

“Jesus’ re-definition of the family may create problems for many individuals instead of providing answers.  The commitment to do the will of God may force some to make a wrenching choice between their biological family and God.”[19]


[1] NIV Application Commentary (Mark, p. 115)

[2] Garland, David E., The NIV Application Commentary: Mark, p. 116

[3] The Gospel of Mark. 2000 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

[4] David E. Garland, Mark (NIVAC; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1996), p.128.

[5] D. Garland, p.129.

[6] Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark (NIBC: Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), p.562.

[7] D. Garland, p.129.

[8] D. Garland, p.137-38.

[9] D. Garland, p.130.

[10] D. Garland, p.135.

[11] NIV Application Commentary, p.136

[12] Barclay, William.  The Gospel of Mark, p.79-80

[13] English, Donald.  Bible Speaks Today: Mark, p.89

[14] NIV Application Commentary, p.136

[15] McNeile, Alan Hugh.  The Gospel According to St. Matthew, p.179

[16] English, Donald.  Bible Speaks Today: Mark, p.90

[17] NIV Application Commentary, p.137

[18] English, Donald.  Bible Speaks Today: Mark, p.90

[19] NIV Application Commentary, p.146

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One Response to “Mark 3 Commentary”

  1. dannyorozco says:

    Hi Tina!

    We pull our commentary from several resources, but yes you are correct the the website is not very user friendly when it comes to looking up old content.

    The best way for you to find the commentary on Mark would be if you scroll down on the right side and look for posts in February, March, April & May 2010. Most of it will be in March and April 2010.

    I hope that helps!

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