Mark 3

The Word Made Fresh

1He went into the synagogue on another occasion and saw a man there whose hand was lifeless. 2He was being watched by those who wanted to bring a charge against him, to see whether he would cure the man on the Sabbath. 3Jesus summoned the man to him. 4Then he said to those watching. “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they wouldn’t respond. 5He looked at them angrily, grieved at their hardness of heart. He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” The man tried, and his hand was healed! 6The Pharisees left the synagogue and began to make plans with the Herodians to do away with Jesus.

7Jesus and his disciples went out to the seaside with a huge crowd of people from Galilee following him because they had heard about all the things he was doing. 8They came from everywhere – Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and even from the area around Tyre and Sidon. 9Jesus told his disciples to get a boat ready for him so the crowd wouldn’t trample him. 10He had healed many of them, and everyone who was suffering from any kind of malady pressed against the crowd to get close enough to touch him. 11Whenever anyone possessed by a troubling spirit saw him they would fall down in front of him, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” 12But he ordered them not to reveal his true identity.

13Then Jesus went up into the hills and summoned the men he wanted. When they had gathered, 14he chose twelve whom he called his apostles who were to join him and whom he could send out to proclaim his message. 15He gave them the authority to cast out demons. 16These are the twelve he chose: Simon (whom he called Peter); 17James the son of Zebedee and his brother John (he called them Boanerges, “Sons of Thunder”); 18Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Then he returned home, 20and the crowds gathered again, so that they couldn’t even eat. 21When his family heard what was happening they came to warn him because people were saying, “He has gone completely insane.” 22The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem declared, “He is being influenced by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. That’s how he can cast out demons.”

23So, Jesus summoned them and spoke to them in parables. He said, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24Any kingdom divided against itself will fall. 25And if a family is divided against itself, it won’t survive, either. 26If Satan is against himself he won’t survive because he will be divided. His end will overtake him. 27And no one can break into a strong man’s house to steal his property unless they first tie up the strong man; then they can plunder his house.

28“The truth is that people will be forgiven their sins and their blasphemies, 29but if anyone utters blasphemies against the Holy Spirit, they will never be forgiven. They are eternally guilty of a sin.” 30He said this to counter their claim that he was demon-possessed.

31Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came. They called him and waited outside. 32Jesus was surrounded by a crowd of people and they told him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.”

33Jesus said, “Who are my mother and my brothers? 34He looked around at those who were with him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother.”


1-6: (See Matthew 12:9-14) Confrontations in Capernaum continue with another healing incident, this time in the synagogue, a significant escalation in the conflict with religious authorities. This time they think he has gone too far, and the Pharisees, determined to shut him up, join forces with the Herodians. We suspect the Herodians were a small Jewish sect somehow connected with the country’s ruling family. It is significant that Pharisees would see Jesus as a big enough threat that they would choose such bedfellows.

7-12: At this point Mark presents a summary statement of Jesus’ ministry to show how his fame is spreading. The demon-possessed insist on calling him the Son of God, and Mark makes a point of Jesus insisting that they not spread that word around.

13-19: (See Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:14-16) Mark’s list of disciples is identical to Matthew’s, though not in exactly the same order. Luke’s list differs only in that there is Judas son of James in lieu of Thaddaeus. The gospel writers (except John, who does not list the disciples) seem to think it is important to draw a connection between the beginnings of the Church (twelve disciples) and the beginnings of Israel (twelve tribes).

20-27: The opposition to Jesus grows. His fame is spreading, and people are wondering about him. Some of them speculate that he is insane, alarming his family who react predictably. Their attempt to restrain him is described in verses 31-35. The scribes are meaner, telling people Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, a popular part of the religious ideas of the time. Jesus refutes them with impeccable logic. He has been plundering the devil’s “property,” so it must be the case that he has somehow restrained the devil rather than being in cahoots with him.

28-30: The saying about sinning against the Holy Spirit (see also Matthew 12:32, Luke 12:10) has invited much speculation through the centuries. What exactly is the “unforgivable sin”? Mark offers a very simple explanation: the scribes say that Jesus has an unclean spirit when instead he has the Holy Spirit. The blasphemy that cannot be forgiven is to claim the Holy Spirit is an unclean spirit.

31-35: Read this paragraph as a continuation of the preceding scene. His family, who had set out in verse 21, finally arrives. It is his mother and brothers. Mark doesn’t say Jesus refused to see them. He simply reports that their arrival gives Jesus the occasion to make the point that faith and obedience form a familial bond between Jesus and future believers.


God’s will is always questioned by those who don’t belong to or believe in God. When we’re not sure about the divine will, prayer is the vehicle for connecting with God. Prayer should always be the vehicle for placing us in an attitude of listening for the still, small voice within.