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Barclay's Daily Study Bible Daily Study Bible
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Mark 3". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ dsb/ mark-3.html. 1956-1959.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Mark 3". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://studylight.org/
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THE CLASH OF IDEAS ( Mark 3:1-6 )
3:1-6 Jesus went into the synagogue again; and there was a man there who had a hand which had withered; and they were watching him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath day, so that, if he did, they might be able to formulate a charge against him. He said to the man who had the withered hand, "Stand up and come out in to the middle of the congregation." He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day? Or to do evil? To save a life? Or to kill it?" But they remained silent. He looked round on them with anger, for he was grieved at the obtuseness of their hearts. He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand!" He stretched it out; and his hand was restored. The Pharisees immediately went out and began to concoct a plot with Herod's entourage against Jesus, with a view to killing him.
This is a crucial incident in the life of Jesus. It was already clear that he and the orthodox leaders of the Jews were quite at variance. For him to go back into the synagogue at all was a brave thing to do. It was the act of a man who refused to seek safety and who was determined to look a dangerous situation in the face. In the synagogue there was a deputation from the Sanhedrin. No one could miss them, for, in the synagogue, the front seats were the seats of honour and they were sitting there. It was the duty of the Sanhedrin to deal with anyone who was likely to mislead the people and seduce them from the right way; and that is precisely what this deputation conceived of themselves as doing. The last thing they were there to do was to worship and to learn; they were there to scrutinize Jesus' every action.
In the synagogue there was a man with a paralysed hand. The Greek word means that he had not been born that way but that some illness had taken the strength from him. The gospel according to the Hebrews, a gospel which is lost except for a few fragments, tells us that the man was a stone mason and that he besought Jesus to help him, for his livelihood was in his hands and he was ashamed to beg. If Jesus had been a cautious, prudent person he would have conveniently arranged not to see the man, for he knew that to heal him was asking for trouble.
It was the Sabbath day; all work was forbidden and to heal was to work. The Jewish law was definite and detailed about this. Medical attention could be given only if a life was in danger. To take some examples--a woman in childbirth might be helped on the Sabbath; an infection of the throat might be treated; if a wall fell on anyone, enough might be cleared away to see whether he was dead or alive; if he was alive he might be helped, if he was dead the body must be left until the next day. A fracture could not be attended to. Cold water might not be poured on a sprained hand or foot. A cut finger might be bandaged with a plain bandage but not with ointment. That is to say, at the most an injury could be kept from getting worse; it must not be made better.
It is extraordinarily difficult for us to grasp this. The best way in which we can see the strict orthodox view of the Sabbath is to remember that a strict Jew would not even defend his life on the Sabbath. In the wars of the Maccabees, when resistance broke out, some of the Jewish rebels took refuge in caves. The Syrian soldiers pursued them. Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that they gave them the chance to surrender and they would not, so "they fought against them on the Sabbath day, and they burned them as they were in caves, without resistance and without so much as stopping up the entrances of the caves. They refused to defend themselves on that day because they were not willing to break in upon the honour they owed to the Sabbath, even in such distress; for our law requires that we rest on that day." When Pompey, the Roman general, was besieging Jerusalem, the defenders took refuge in the Temple precincts. Pompey proceeded to build a mound which would overtop them and from which he might bombard them. He, knew the beliefs of the Jews and he built on the Sabbath day, and the Jews lifted not one hand to defend themselves or to hinder the building, although they knew that by their Sabbath inactivity they were signing their own death warrant. The Romans, who had compulsory military service, had in the end to exempt the Jews from army service because no strict Jew would fight on the Sabbath. The orthodox Jewish attitude to the Sabbath was completely rigid and unbending.
Jesus knew that. This man's life was not in the least danger. Physically he would be no worse off if he were left until to-morrow. For Jesus this was a test case, and he met it fairly and squarely. He told the man to rise and to come out of his place and stand where everyone could see him. There were probably two reasons for that. Very likely Jesus wished to make one last effort to waken sympathy for the stricken man by showing everyone his wretchedness. Quite certainly Jesus wished to take the step he was going to take in such a way that no one could possibly fail to see it.
He asked the experts in the law two questions. Is it lawful to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath day? He put them in a dilemma. They were bound to admit that it was lawful to do good; and it was a good thing he proposed to do. They were bound to deny that it was lawful to do evil; and, yet, surely it was an evil thing to leave a man in wretchedness when it was possible to help him. Then he asked, Is it lawful to save a life or to kill it? Here he was driving the thing home. He was taking steps to save this wretched man's life; they were thinking out methods of killing himself. On any reckoning it was surely a better thing to be thinking about helping a man than it was to be thinking of killing a man. No wonder they had nothing to say!
Then Jesus with a word of power healed the man; and the Pharisees went out and tried to hatch a plot with the Herodians to kill him. This shows the lengths to which the Pharisees would go. No Pharisee would normally have anything to do with a Gentile or a man who did not keep the law; such people were unclean. The Herodians were the court entourage of Herod; they were continually coming into contact with Romans. For all normal purposes the Pharisees would have considered them unclean; but now they were prepared to enter into what was for them an unholy alliance. In their hearts there was a hate which would stop at nothing.
This passage is fundamental because it shows the clash of two ideas of religion.
(i) To the Pharisee religion was ritual; it meant obeying certain rules and regulations. Jesus broke these regulations and they were genuinely convinced that he was a bad man. It is like the man who believes that religion consists in going to church, reading the Bible, saying grace at meals, having family worship, and carrying out all the external acts which are looked on as religious, and who yet never put himself out to do anything for anyone, who has no sense of sympathy, no desire to sacrifice, who is serene in his rigid orthodoxy, and deaf to the call of need and blind to the tears of the world.
(ii) To Jesus religion was service. It was love of God and love of men. Ritual was irrelevant compared with love in action.
"Our Friend, our Brother, and our Lord,
What may Thy service be?
Nor name, nor form, nor ritual word,
But simply following Thee."
To Jesus the most important thing in the world was not the correct performance of a ritual, but the spontaneous answer to the cry of human need.
IN THE MIDST OF THE CROWDS ( Mark 3:7-12 )
3:7-12 So Jesus withdrew to the lakeside with his disciples, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; and from Judaea and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea and from the Transjordan country, and from the territory round Tyre and Sidon, there came to him a great crowd of people, for they were hearing about what great things he was doing. He told his disciples to have a boat ready waiting for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he healed many, and the result was that all who were suffering from the scourges of disease rushed upon him to touch him. And as often as unclean spirits saw him, they kept flinging themselves down before him and shouting, "You are the Son of God." Many times he sternly forbade them to make him known.
Unless Jesus wished to be involved in a head-on collision with the authorities he had to leave the synagogues. It was not that he withdrew through fear; it was not the retreat of a man who feared to face the consequences. But his hour was not yet come. There was much that he had still to do and say before the time of final conflict.
So he left the synagogues and went out to the lakeside and the open sky. Even there the crowds flocked to him from far afield. From all over Galilee they came; many made the hundred-mile journey from Jerusalem in Judaea to see him and to listen to him. Idumaea was the ancient realm of Edom, away in the deep south, between the southern borders of Palestine and Arabia. From the east side of Jordan they came; and even from foreign territory, for people came from the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, which lie on the Mediterranean coast, northwest of Galilee.
So large were the crowds that it became dangerous and a boat had to be kept ready, just off the shore, in case he might be overwhelmed with the crushing of the mob. His cures brought him into even greater danger; for the sick people did not even wait for him to touch them; they rushed to touch him.
At this time he was faced with one special problem, the problem of those who were possessed by demons. Let us remember that, whatever our belief about demons may be, these people were convinced they were possessed by an alien and an evil power external to themselves. They called Jesus the Son of God. What did they mean by that? They certainly did not use the term in what we might call a philosophical or a theological sense. In the ancient world Son of God was by no means an uncommon title. The kings of Egypt were said to be the sons of Ra, their god. From Augustus onwards many of the Roman Emperors were described on inscriptions as sons of God.
The Old Testament has four ways in which it uses this term. (i) The angels are the sons of God. The old story in Genesis 6:2, says that the sons of God saw the daughters of men and were fatally attracted to them. Job 1:6, tells of the day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord. It was a regular title for the angels. (ii) The nation of Israel is the son of God. God called his son out of Egypt ( Hosea 11:1). In Exodus 4:22, God says of the nation, "Israel is my first-born son," (iii) The king of the nation is the son of God. In 2 Samuel 7:14, the promise to the king is, "I will be his father, and he shall be my son." (iv) In the later books, which were written between the Testaments, the good man is the son of God. In Sir_4:10 , the promise to the man who is kind to the fatherless is,
"So shalt thou be a son of the Most High,
And he shall love thee more than thy mother doth."
In all these cases the term son describes someone who is specially near and close to God. We get a parallel to this which shows something of its meaning in the New Testament. Paul calls Timothy his son ( 1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:18). Timothy was no blood relation to Paul at all, but there was no one, as Paul says ( Php_2:19-22 ), who knew his mind so well. Peter calls Mark his son ( 1 Peter 5:13), because there was no one who could interpret his mind so well. When we meet this title in the simplicity of the gospel story we are not to think in terms of philosophy or theology or of the doctrine of the Trinity; we are to think of it as expressing the fact that Jesus' relationship to God was so close that no other word could describe it. Now these demon-possessed men felt that in them there was an independent evil spirit; they somehow felt that in Jesus was one near and kin to God; they felt that in the presence of this nearness to God the demons could not live and therefore they were afraid.
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.
THE CHOSEN COMPANY ( Mark 3:13-19 )
3:13-19 Jesus went up into the mountain and invited to his service the men of his choice; and he appointed twelve that they might be with him, and that he might send them out to act as his heralds, and to have power to cast out demons. He chose Simon, and to him he gave the name of Peter; he chose James, Zebedee's son, and John, James' brother, and to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder; he chose Andrew and Philip and Bartholomew and Matthew and Thomas, and James, Alphaeus' son, and Thaddeus and Simon, the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
Jesus had come to a very important moment in his life and work. He had emerged with his message; he had chosen his method; he had gone throughout Galilee preaching and healing. By this time he had made a very considerable impact on the public mind. Now he had to face two very practical problems. First, he had to find some way of making his message permanent if anything happened to him, and that something would happen he did not doubt. Second, he had to find some way of disseminating his message, and in an age when there was no such thing as a printed book or newspaper, and no way of reaching large numbers of people at the one time, that was no easy task. There was only one way to solve these two problems: he had to choose certain men on whose hearts and lives he could write his message and who would go out from his presence to carry that message abroad. Here we see him doing exactly that.
It is significant that Christianity began with a group. The Christian faith is something which from the beginning had to be discovered and lived out in a fellowship. The whole essence of the way of the Pharisees was that it separated men from their fellows; the very name Pharisee means the separated one; the whole essence of Christianity was that it bound men to their fellows, and presented them with the task of living with each other and for each other.
Further, Christianity began with a very mixed group. In it the two extremes met. Matthew was a tax-collector and, therefore, an outcast; he was a renegade and a traitor to his fellow countrymen. Simon the Cananaean is correctly called by Luke, Simon the Zealot; and the Zealots were a band of fiery, violent nationalists who were pledged even to murder and assassination to clear their country of the foreign yoke. The man who was lost to patriotism and the fanatical patriot came together in that group, and no doubt between them there were all kinds of backgrounds and opinions. Christianity began by insisting that the most diverse people should live together and by enabling them to do so, because they were all living with Jesus.
Judging them by worldly standards the men Jesus chose had no special qualifications at all. They were not wealthy; they had no special social position; they had no special education--they were not trained theologians; they were not high-ranking churchmen and ecclesiastics; they were twelve ordinary men. But they had two special qualifications. First, they had felt the magnetic attraction of Jesus. There was something about him that made them wish to take him as their Master. And second, they had the courage to show that they were on his side. Make no mistake, that did require courage. Here was Jesus calmly crashing through the rules and regulations; here was Jesus heading for an inevitable collision with the orthodox leaders; here was Jesus already branded as a sinner and labelled as a heretic; and yet they had the courage to attach themselves to him. No band of men ever staked everything on such a forlorn hope as these Galilaeans, and no band of men ever did it with more open eyes. These twelve had all kinds of faults, but whatever else could be said about them, they loved Jesus and they were not afraid to tell the world that they loved him--and that is being a Christian.
Jesus called them to him for two purposes. First, he called them to be with him. He called them to be his steady and consistent companions. Others might come and go; the crowd might be there one day and away the next; others might be fluctuating and spasmodic in their attachment to him, but these twelve were to identify their lives with his life and live with him all the time. Second, he called them to send them out. He wanted them to be his representatives. He wanted them to tell others about him. They themselves had been won in order to win others.
For their task Jesus equipped them with two things. First, he gave them a message. They were to be his heralds. A wise man said that no one has any right to be a teacher unless he has a teaching of his own to offer, or the teaching of another that with all the passion of his heart he wishes to propagate. Men will always listen to the man with a message. Jesus gave these friends of his something to say. Second, he gave them a power. They were also to cast out demons. Because they companied with him something of his power was on their lives.
If we would learn what discipleship is we will do well to think again of these first disciples.
THE VERDICT OF HIS OWN ( Mark 3:20-21 )
3:20-21 Jesus went into a house; and once again so dense a crowd collected that they could not even eat bread. When his own people heard What was going on, they went out to restrain him, for they said, "He has taken leave of his senses."
Sometimes a man drops a remark which cannot be interpreted otherwise than as the product of bitter experience. Once when Jesus was enumerating the things which a man might have to face for following him, he said, "A man's foes will be those of his own household." ( Matthew 10:36.) His own family had come to the conclusion that he had taken leave of his senses and that it was time he was taken home. Let us see if we can understand what made them feel like that.
(i) Jesus had left home and the carpenter's business at Nazareth. No doubt it was a flourishing business from which he could at least have made a living; and quite suddenly he had flung the whole thing up and gone out to be a wandering preacher. No sensible man, they must have been thinking, would throw up a business where the money came in every week to become a vagrant who had not any place to lay his head.
(ii) Jesus was obviously on the way to a head-on collision with the orthodox leaders of his day. There are certain people who can do a man a great deal of harm, people on whose right side it is better to keep, people whose opposition can be very dangerous. No sensible man, they must have been thinking, would ever get up against the powers that be, because he would know that in any collision with them he would be bound to come off second best. No one could take on the Scribes and the Pharisees and the orthodox leaders and hope to get away with it.
(iii) Jesus had newly started a little society of his own--and a very queer society it was. There were some fishermen; there was a reformed tax-collector; there was a fanatical nationalist. They were not the kind of people whom any ambitious man would particularly want to know. They certainly were not the kind of people who would be any good to a man who was set on a career. No sensible man, they must have been thinking, would pick a crowd of friends like that. They were definitely not the kind of people a prudent man would want to get mixed up with.
By his actions Jesus had made it clear that the three laws by which men tend to organize their lives meant nothing to him.
(i) He had thrown away security. The one thing that most people in this world want more than anything else is just that. They want above all things a job and a position which are secure, and where there are as few material and financial risks as possible.
(ii) He had thrown away safety. Most people tend at all times to play safe. They are more concerned with the safety of any course of action than with its moral quality, its rightness or its wrongness. A course of action which involves risk is something from which they instinctively shrink.
(iii) He had shown himself utterly indifferent to the verdict of society. He had shown that he did not much care what men said about him. In point of fact, as H. G. Wells said, for most people "the voice of their neighbours is louder than the voice of God." "What will people say?" is one of the first questions that most of us are in the habit of asking.
What appalled Jesus' friends was the risks that he was taking, risks which, as they thought, no sensible man would take.
When John Bunyan was in prison he was quite frankly afraid. "My imprisonment," he thought, "might end on the gallows for ought that I could tell." He did not like the thought of being hanged. Then came the day when he was ashamed of being afraid. "Methought I was ashamed to die with a pale face and tottering knees for such a cause as this." So finally he came to a conclusion as he thought of himself climbing up the ladder to the scaffold: "Wherefore, thought I, I am for going on and venturing my eternal state with Christ whether I have comfort here or no; if God doth not come in, thought I, I will leap off the ladder even blindfold into eternity, sink or swim, come heaven, come hell; Lord Jesus, if thou wilt catch me, do: if not, I will venture for thy name." That is precisely what Jesus was willing to do. I will venture for thy name. That was the essence of the life of Jesus, and that--not safety and security--should be the motto of the Christian man and the mainspring of the Christian life.
ALLIANCE OR CONQUEST? ( Mark 3:22-27 )
3:22-27 The experts in the law from Jerusalem came down. They said, "He has Beelzebub on his side." They said, "It is by the ruler of the demons that he casts out the demons." Jesus called them and spoke to them by way of analogy. "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan had risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand--he is finished. No one can go into the house of a strong man and plunder his gear unless he first binds the strong man--then he will plunder his house."
The orthodox officials never questioned Jesus' power to exorcise demons. They did not need to, for exorcism was a common phenomenon then, as it still is, in the East. What they did say was that Jesus' power was due to the fact that he was in league with the king of the demons, that, as one commentator puts it, "it was by the great demon he cast out the little demons." People have always believed in "black magic," and that is what they claimed Jesus was practising.
Jesus had no difficulty in exploding that argument. The essence of exorcism has always been that the exorcist calls to his aid some stronger power to drive out the weaker demon. So Jesus says: "Just think! If there is internal dissension in a kingdom, that kingdom cannot last. If there are quarrels in a house, that house will not endure long. If Satan is actually making war with his own demons then he is finished as an effective power, because civil war has begun in the kingdom of Satan." "Put it another way," Jesus said. "Suppose you want to rob a strong man. You have no hope of doing so until you have got the strong man under subjection. Once you have got him tied up you can plunder his goods--but not until then." The defeat of the demons did not show that Jesus was in alliance with Satan; it showed that Satan's defences had been breached; a stronger name had arrived; the conquest of Satan had begun. Two things emerge here.
(i) Jesus accepts life as a struggle between the power of evil and the power of God. He did not waste his time in speculations about problems to which there is no answer. He did not stop to argue about where evil came from; but he did deal with it most effectively. One of the odd things is that we spend a good deal of time discussing the origin of evil; but we spend less time working out practical methods of tackling the problem. Someone put it this way--suppose a man wakes up to find his house on fire, he does not sit down in a chair and embark upon the reading of a treatise entitled "The Origin of Fires in Private Houses." He grabs such defences as he can muster and deals with the fire. Jesus saw the essential struggle between good and evil which is at the heart of life and raging in the world. He did not speculate about it; he dealt with it and gave to others the power to overcome evil and do the right.
(ii) Jesus regarded the defeat of disease as part of the conquest of Satan. This is an essential part of Jesus' thought. He desired, and was able, to save men's bodies as well as men's souls. The doctor and the scientist who meet the challenge of disease are sharing in the defeat of Satan as much as the preacher of the word. The doctor and the minister are not doing different work but the same work. They are not rivals but allies in God's warfare against the power of evil.
THE SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS ( Mark 3:28-30 )
3:28-30 "This is the truth I tell you--all sins will be forgiven to the sons of men--I mean all the insulting things that they say; but whoever insults the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven for ever but he has made himself guilty of the sin that not even eternity can wipe out." This he said because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."
If we are to understand what this terrible saying means we must first understand the circumstances in which it was said. It was said by Jesus when the Scribes and Pharisees had declared that the cures he wrought were wrought not by the power of God, but by the power of the devil. These men had been able to look at the incarnate love of God and to think it the incarnate power of Satan.
We must begin by remembering that Jesus could not have used the phrase the Holy Spirit in the fun Christian sense of the term. The Spirit in all his fullness did not come to men until Jesus had returned to his glory. It was not until Pentecost that there came to men the supreme experience of the Holy Spirit. 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. That will give us the key to this passage.
(i) The Holy Spirit enabled men to recognize God's truth when it entered their lives. But if a man refuses to exercise any God-given faculty he will in the end lose 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. Evil to him becomes good and good evil. He can look on the goodness of God and call it the evil of Satan.
(ii) Why should such a sin have no forgiveness? H. B. Swete says, "To identify the source of good with the impersonation of evil implies a moral wreck for which the Incarnation itself provides no remedy." A. J. Rawlinson calls it "essential wickedness," as if here we see the quintessence of all evil. Bengel said that all other sins are human but this sin is Satanic. Why should all this be so?
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. "Depart from me," said Peter, "for I am a sinful man." ( Luke 5:8.) When Tokichi Ishii first read the story of the Gospel he said, "I stopped. I was stabbed to the heart as if pierced by a five-inch nail. Shall I call it the love of Christ? Shall I call it his compassion? I do not know what to call it. I only know that I believed and my hardness of heart was changed." The first reaction was that he was stabbed to the heart. 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.
One of the Lucifer legends tells how one day a priest noticed in his congregation a magnificently handsome young man. After the service the young man stayed for confession. He confessed so many and such terrible sins that the priest's hair stood on end. "You must have lived long to have done all that," the priest said. "My name is Lucifer and I fell from heaven at the beginning of time," said the young man. "Even so," said the priest, "say that you are sorry, say that you repent and even you can be forgiven." The young man looked at the priest for a moment and then turned and strode away. He would not and could not say it; and therefore he had to go on still desolate and still damned.
There is only one condition of forgiveness and that is penitence. So long as a man sees loveliness in Christ, so long as he hates his sin even if he cannot leave it, even if he is in the mud and the mire, he can still be forgiven. But if a man, by repeated refusals of God's guidance, has lost the ability to recognize goodness when he sees it, if he has got his moral values inverted until evil to him is good and good to him is evil, then, even when he is confronted by Jesus, he is conscious of no sin; he cannot repent and therefore he can never be forgiven. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit.
THE CONDITIONS OF KINSHIP ( Mark 3:31-35 )
3:31-35 His mother and his brothers came. They stood outside and sent someone in with a message to him. The crowd were sitting round him. "Look!" they said, "your mother and your brothers are outside inquiring for you." "Who" he answered, "is my mother and my brothers?" He looked round those who were sitting in a circle round about him. "Look!" he said, "my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will, he is my brother, my sister and my mother."
Here Jesus lays down the conditions of true kinship. It is not solely a matter of flesh and blood. It can happen that a man is really nearer to someone who is no blood relation to him at all than he is to those who are bound to him by the closest ties of kin and blood. Wherein lies this true kinship?
(i) True kinship lies in a common experience, especially when it is an experience where two people have really come through things together. It has been said that two people really become friends when they are able to say to each other, "Do you remember?" and then to go on and talk about the things they have come through together. Someone once met an old negro woman. An acquaintance of hers had died. "You will be sorry," he said, "that Mrs. So-and-so is dead." "Yes," she said but without showing any great grief. "I saw you just last week," he said, "laughing and talking with each other. You must have been great friends." "Yes," she said, "I was friendly with her. I used to laugh with her; but to be real friends folk have got to weep together." That is profoundly true. The basis of true kinship lies in a common experience, and Christians have the common experience of being forgiven sinners.
(ii) True kinship lies in a common interest. A. M. Chirgwin tells us a very interesting thing in The Bible in World Evangelism. One of the greatest difficulties that colporteurs and distributors of the Scriptures have is not so much to sell their books as to keep people reading them. He goes on, "A colporteur in pre-Communist China had for years been in the habit of going from shop to shop and house to house. But he was often disappointed because many of his new Bible readers lost their zeal, until he hit upon the plan of putting them in touch with one another and forming them into a worshipping group which in time became a duly organized Church." Only when these isolated units became part of a group which was bound together by a common interest did real kinship come into being. Christians have that common interest because they are all people who desire to know more about Jesus Christ.
(iii) True kinship lies in a common obedience. The disciples were a very mixed group. All kinds of beliefs and opinions were mixed up among them. A tax-collector like Matthew and a fanatical nationalist like Simon the Zealot ought to have hated each other like poison and no doubt at one time did. But they were bound together because both had accepted Jesus Christ as Master and Lord. Any platoon of soldiers will be made up of men from different backgrounds and from different walks of life and holding very different opinions; yet, if they are long enough together, they will be welded into a band of comrades because of the common obedience which they all share. Men can become friends of each other when they share a common master. Men can love each other only when they all love Jesus Christ.
(iv) True kinship lies in a common goat There is nothing for binding men together like a common aim. Here there is a great lesson for the church. A. M. Chirgwin, talking of renewed interest in the Bible, asks, does this "point to the possibility of a new approach to the ecumenical problem based on biblical rather than on ecclesiastical considerations?" The churches will never draw together so long as they argue about the ordination of their ministers, the form of church government, the administration of the sacraments and all the rest of it. The one thing on which they can all come together is the fact that all of them are seeking to win men for Jesus Christ. If kinship comes from a common goal then Christians above all men possess its secret, for all are seeking to know Christ better and to bring others within his Kingdom. Wherever else we differ, on that we can agree.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)