(Verses 1-6) Healing the Man With The Withered Hand
The parallel account is in Matthew 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11. We can see that this was a witch hunt from the beginning; the Pharisees were out to get Jesus. In verse 4, Jesus asks them if it is lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm; on another occasion Jesus asked them if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:11-12). He knew what they were thinking, that they were out to get him, and he looked around at them with anger because their hearts were so hard; he was upset because they just didn’t get it, that he came to show us a better way, to love our neighbor as ourselves. They couldn’t wait to jump on him for “breaking the Sabbath.” Jesus broke the letter of the law all the time and there’s one reason, and that is compassion. He healed the paralyzed man and forgave his sins (Mark 2:1-12); he broke the law of fellowshipping with sinners so he could care for Levi (Mark 2:13-17); and he broke the Sabbath by healing the man with the withered hand.
From “Legalism vs. Faith,” “Under the Pharisees’ version of the law, holiness came from doing less and less. The more one avoided, the more holiness one had. Even good works had limitations: not on the Sabbath, not to lepers, not to Samaritans, not with sinners, not if it meant eating with Gentiles.” They kept the letter of the law, yet no other group of people was condemned by Jesus more than them because they made the commandments of God of none effect by their tradition (Matthew 15:6) and taught for doctrine the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9). They had a form of godliness but denied its power to transform them (2 Timothy 3:5).
We all know the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), but what made this Samaritan good? It was his compassion; he put aside the letter of the law and replaced it with the spirit of the law. The priest and the Levite are like the Pharisees in this story; they wanted nothing to do with the “unclean” because they would be “defiled.” But what the Good Samaritan did, and what the priest and Levite failed to do, is what made the Samaritan good, and what made the Pharisees unclean. Jesus used the example of the sheep that fell into a pit, to tell us that the only limitation to our good works is our ability to do them Jesus tells us that it is always lawful to do good, and Paul tells us that we are to do good to all men as we have opportunity. There is no law against the fruits of the spirit. Our good deeds must be done in obedience to the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor (Mark 12:31).” In regards to being on a witch hunt, that’s a bad mindset to have as well, watching like a hawk to see if someone “screws up,” in our own opinion. Unfortunately, that sometimes happens even in the community of believers. It is interesting how Paul speaks of the Pharisees as being blameless, yet before his conversion, he was a nasty person. It’s very sad but even today we see it sometimes in the brotherhood where some of the most venomous, scariest, dangerous, and destructive people are the ones who claim to be brothers and sisters. Jesus quotes from Isaiah in speaking of these people: “[God] hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, not understand with their heart, and be converted, that I should heal them (Isaiah 6:10).”
The Sabbath was a day of rest, and Jesus used this one for healing; the greater Sabbath day to come will be a day of rest and healing for the world (Psalm 72; Isaiah 65:17-25).
(Verses 7-12) Large Crowds
Imagine having so many people following you that you have to stand in a boat out in the water and speak to the people that way just so you can have some space. People crowded around him so they could touch him and be healed like the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48). Mark goes on to say that as many as touched him were made whole. Luke says that the unclean spirits knew that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God (Luke 4:41);” that’s how powerful he was. Jesus was a popular guy, although many times for the wrong reasons, whether it was the Pharisees or the people who just wanted him to do a miracle for them. Matthew says Jesus sometimes charged them that they should not make him known in order to fulfill the words of Isaiah: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust (Isaiah 42:1-4).”
(Verses 13-19) The Twelve Apostles
This is obviously where Jesus chooses his twelve apostles. As for the twelve he chose, we know that one of them, Judas, was a traitor (Luke 22:3-6), another one, Peter, denied Jesus three times (John 18:13-27), another one, Matthew, was a tax collector (Matthew 9:9-13), and two others, James and John, wanted to rain fire on people who wouldn’t listen to them (Luke 9:51-56), and Jesus even gave them a nickname (Mark 3:17). Three of them went on to write parts of our Bibles. They were sinners just like any of us; that’s an interesting thing about our Bible; it’s not written by perfect people. Someone on a facebook group recently asked why Jesus never wrote a book of the Bible. To me, the answer was that people may hold it as being the most important book, and maybe disregard the others, since they were all written by sinners. This is an important thing to keep in mind, is that Jesus does not call perfect people; obviously there’s no such thing anyway. I read something online that said, “Noah got drunk (Genesis 9:21), Sarah was impatient (Genesis 16:1-6), Jacob was a cheater (Genesis 27:18-23), Miriam was a gossip (Numbers 12:1-2), Gideon was insecure (Judges 6:13-40), David had an affair (2 Samuel 11:2-4), Elijah was moody (1 Kings 19:10), Jonah ran from God (Jonah 1:3), Martha was a worrier (Luke 10:40-41), Peter had a temper (Matthew 26:74), Thomas was a doubter (John 20:24-29), Paul was a murderer (Acts 8:1),” and so on; the lesson being that God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.
Jesus’ selections are interesting, but it says they were all in one accord (Acts 2:1). How many of us would choose these twelve people, this group of misfits? It’s interesting when you look around at your brothers and sisters and you see that we all do come from different backgrounds; that we’re not carbon copies of one another, and that’s a good thing. I think one reason Jesus chose these twelve because of the differences in types and personalities. It’s the same way with us, and by God’s grace, if we get into the Kingdom, our different types will be used for whichever people we reign over, we’ll be a good fit for them.
(Verses 20-30) Casting Out Unclean Spirits
Jesus’ own family didn’t believe that he was the Messiah, even though Mary had been told about him by an angel.
The scribes agreed and said Jesus had an unclean spirit, which is interesting, because earlier in the chapter, he was casting out unclean spirits. Jesus then talks logic to them, asking how an unclean spirit could cast out itself. The quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War when he was trying to get the North and South together as one nation again; many don’t know where he actually got that quote from. But he’s right; a house divided will certainly fall.
Jesus then goes on to talk about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. I had wondered for a while as to what exactly was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but we know from the text that it is a big deal. Jesus says anything else can be forgiven, and we know God is willing to remove our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and that he is able to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24), but this one is unforgivable. I don’t think it means just saying something; I feel like it is defined in verse 30: “Because they said he hath an unclean spirit:” they denied the power of the Holy Spirit and called it unclean.
(Verses 31-35) Jesus’ Brethren
In this last part, Jesus shows us that his family is so much bigger than just the people we may know or be related to. Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is his brother, sister, and mother. The Psalmist writes: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1)!” Malachi says, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name (Malachi 3:16).” It’s recorded in Acts that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).” Jesus’ brothers and sisters are those who love God and each other; when you love someone, you want what is best for them. If you love your brother or sister, you will do what is best for them. If you love God, you will do what pleases him. And those are the people who are going to be in the Kingdom, the ones who do the will of God. A brother told me many times that at the Judgment Seat, when the sheep and goats have been divided to the right hand or the left, that the people on both sides will be surprised to be there (Matthew 25:31-46). Obviously it’s by his grace that we will be there anyway, but whether we’re counted as brothers or sisters in Jesus’ sight will be based on whether we’ve done what God has commanded. Solomon tells us, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).” The Lord wants us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We cannot earn a place in the Kingdom, but that’s what God asks of us and he has promised that the righteous will be rewarded (Psalm 58:11). He wants his people to humble themselves and pray and seek his face and turn from their wicked ways, because he will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal them (2 Chronicles 7:14). Jesus says to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself, that if you do this, you will live (Luke 10:28). But we know that to do that by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God is not a one-time thing that we can cross off a checklist. It’s something we have to do every day, because it is what Jesus did every day. He always did the right thing, when he was tempted, and even on the cross when he could have gotten himself down or yelled insults at the people who were crucifying him (Matthew 27:39-44). He was very merciful even to the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). And when he returns, he will love to show mercy to his followers; if he allows us entrance into his Kingdom, he will not do it grudgingly; he will love for us to be there. He was also very humble; the Son of God once told someone, “Don’t call me good; there is none good but God (Mark 10:18).” In this one chapter, we’ve seen a few different aspects of Jesus; we’ve seen him heal someone, preach, choose twelve faithful followers, warn a few people about questioning his Father’s holiness, and remind us of what is required of us. Every Sunday, we come here to think about this man, who he was, what he has done for us by sacrificing himself for the remission of our sins, who he is now as our mediator in heaven, what is he doing for us now, and who he will be in the future; he is coming to rule the world in righteousness and truth.