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Mark 3:1-12

I have been reading ahead in the Gospel of Mark. One of the things that I have noticed is that this book records a lot of the events during Jesus’ ministry as opposed to what He taught. That got me thinking. Why was this gospel written? My first thought is that Mark was trying to show people who Jesus is by showing what He did. Perhaps that is why there are more events than teaching in this gospel account.

In this chapter, Mark records five of those events during the ministry of Jesus:

1. The healing of the man with a withered hand.
2. The healing of the multitudes.
3. The appointing of the twelve disciples.
4. The accusation that Jesus was controlled by the devil.
5. The definition of Jesus’ real family.

Today, we will be looking at the first two events. But as we look at them, let’s try to understand what Mark is telling us about Jesus and how that will make a difference in our lives.

  1. Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6).

    At the end of chapter two, Jesus announced that He was Lord of the Sabbath. As God, He determined what was allowed to be done on the Sabbath day. And He determined that it was okay for David to eat the week-old shewbread when he was in need and that it was okay for his poor disciples to eat heads of grain from a field on the Sabbath day.

    No doubt the religious leaders were displeased by this. Who was this upstart? He was only 30 years old and acted like He was the authority. Their rabbis had written many rules that had been added to God’s commandments about resting on the Sabbath. Apparently, people were not allowed to be healed on the Sabbath unless it was a life-or-death situation. These extra rules had become overly important to the zealous Pharisees. So they began watching Jesus trying to see if He would break one of the extra rules their rabbis had prescribed.

    What does it say?

    One Sabbath day, Jesus entered a synagogue. It just so happened that a man with a withered hand was present. The Pharisees were so concerned with Jesus breaking their extra rules on the Sabbath that they were unconcerned with this man’s physical problem. All they wanted to do was accuse Jesus and get Him in trouble. But Jesus had a better idea.

    He called the man with the withered hand to step forward. The man did. Then Jesus addressed the religious leaders with a question. Is it lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath day? Is it lawful to save a life or kill on the Sabbath day? What Jesus was asking in general applied specifically to whether He should heal this man on the Sabbath day. Was that okay according to their extra add-on rules? But the religious leaders were unwilling to answer His question.

    This made Jesus become angry.1 He was grieved that their hearts were so hard that they were more interested with obeying man-made rules than with seeing a man healed. Despite their hard heartedness, Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand. As he did so, his withered hand was healed completely. “His ability to heal the man’s hand by the exercise of His will was proof that Jesus was more than a mere man.”2 Jesus is both man and God. But, as you might have guessed, the Pharisees didn’t recognize this and weren’t pleased with what He did. Instead of praising God, they left the meeting to plot with the Herodians to destroy Jesus.

    What does it mean?

    Jesus wanted people to understand the real purpose of the law.

    To the Pharisees who were present these laws were the only thing that mattered. Obeying their man-made laws was the only way to prove that they were good, Jewish people. In their minds, keeping the laws was the most important thing to do. And these rules became such a focus that they didn’t even consider why God made the laws.

    Jesus’ question should have pierced their hearts and helped them to understand the real reason for the law. God didn’t give the commandment about the Sabbath day to hurt people; it was given to help them. Think about the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:8-11). God told the Israelites to keep the Sabbath day holy by not working. They, their children, their servants, and their cattle were to rest from work on that day. God showed the importance of weekly rest by creating the world in six days and then resting on the seventh.

    Back to the story. When Jesus asked the religious leaders if it was lawful to do good or evil or to save a life or kill, He was trying to get them to think. They were thinking that healing on the Sabbath day was breaking the law. But was it? No, it was doing good on that day. Jesus wasn’t causing this man to break God’s commandment by being healed on that Sabbath day. God’s purpose for that day of rest was never to burden people but to help them.

    Some people are more focused on rules than God.

    Obeying God’s command is an important part of a believer’s life. When you realize the reason for God’s commands, it takes away the burden of obeying them. But there are some people who are so focused on the rules that they miss the reason for them. The Pharisees were such a group. They were so focused on the obedience part, that they missed the point of the law itself.

    Instead of seeing the blessing of having a day of rest, they were busy making sure people were compliant. How many steps had they taken that day? Had they done anything that looked like work? Were they properly resting? Were they at the synagogue that day? This focus took away the blessing of having a day of rest and caused them to be a burden to everyone they interacted with. This was not what God intended at all.

    How does it apply?

    Whenever this topic is discussed, it is easy to make an improper application. So, let’s be careful that we don’t miss what we need to think about.

    Are you obeying God’s commands?

    If you are not careful, you might look at this event and think that God doesn’t care about rules. That is not true. If you think about it, the laws in the Old Testament were given by God for the good of people. Jesus was not telling people to disregard God’s laws. He was simply telling them to understand the goodness of God by protecting them with those laws.

    If you have become lax toward obeying God’s laws, don’t take this passage out of context and feel good about your disobedience. Look at God’s laws and obey them with an understanding that God has your good in mind by giving these laws to you.

    Have you missed the point?

    On the other hand, you may be a very fervent believer who tries to obey all of God’s laws. As you seek to obey them, consider whether you have missed the point of God’s commandments. Have you become so focused on obeying them that you no longer do them for the right reasons? Is your purpose to please the Lord or to be right? Is your purpose to limit others or to take advantage of the protection God gives in them? Are you focused on doing good for the right reasons?

    I would imagine that what Jesus said to the stubborn Pharisees has made you think yourself. Perhaps God’s Holy Spirit has convicted you about something you have done or have not been doing. Whatever the case, it is important to respond correctly to the convicting of the Spirit. Take a moment to respond to God right when the Spirit speaks to you.

  2. Jesus healed many others (Mark 3:7-12).

    What does it say?

    Jesus and his disciples left the area to go to the sea. But they weren’t able to be alone because people from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east side of the Jordan River, Tyre, and Sidon came in a huge group to see him. They had heard about what he had been doing.

    What had He been doing? So far, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has (1) taken over John the Baptist’s ministry and preached about repentance, (2) called some disciples, (3) cast out a demon, (4) healed Peter’ mother-in-law from her fever, (5) healed people after the Sabbath, (6) preached in many synagogues in Galilee, (7) healed a leper, (8) forgiven and healed a paralyzed man, (9) called a tax collector to be his disciple, (10) eaten with tax collectors and sinners, (11) answered a question about fasting, (12) proclaimed Himself Lord of the Sabbath, and (13) healed a man with a withered hand. No wonder the crowds came to see Jesus!

    But this multitude was overly eager to see Jesus. They were so eager that Jesus told His disciples to get a small boat ready for him to get in so as to keep from being crushed by the crowds. Many people were healed by Jesus and many more pushed to get close enough to touch Him. He also dealt with people who were demon possessed. As He dealt with them, the demon would cause the person to fall down before Jesus and declare that Jesus was the Son of God. But Jesus told them not to make His identity known.

    What does it mean?

    There were many needy people in this area of the world.

    At the beginning of the first century, there were many people who were afflicted by health issues. So far we have seen leprosy, fevers, paralysis, and a withered hand. As we continue our study of Mark, we will see more people who needed Jesus’ help. The other thing we see is the amount of demon possessions. Satan and his demons were actively harming the people who lived there.

    This raises another question: Why were there so many sick and demon-possessed people? Wasn’t this the land in which God had promised to bless the Jewish people? Didn’t He tell them that they would be protected from diseases if they loved and obeyed Him?

    Exodus 15:26 – “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

    What had happened to the people whom God had promised to protect from diseases? These people had rejected their God and turned against Him. Because of this, they were experiencing what it was like to live without God’s blessing and protection.

    It was not yet time to reveal His identity.

    When the demons announced that Jesus was the Son of God, they were not wrong. But their intent was not good. It was not in God’s plan to reveal Who Jesus was at that time. They were not trying to help but were actually hindering God’s plan. And if you think about it, why would Jesus want a demon announcing His identity? “He did not want the recognition of His true nature to be associated with the impure and malevolent testimony of demons. He wanted men to realize His true identity through His words and works.”3

    How does it apply?

    As you look around our country, you might be deceived as to its condition. Americans have wealth, peace, and relatively good health, right? Compared to the rest of the world, we have it pretty good. While the comparison is true, there are still a lot of needy people around us. There are people all around who are poor, sick, addicted, and afflicted by Satan. During Jesus’ ministry, He reached out to these people and helped them. While we do not have the ability to heal them as Jesus did, we do have the ability to love, help, pray for, and tell them about Jesus.

    If you think about it, we have what they actually need. They want an end of suffering and that may be what God will do for them at some point. But ultimately what they need is Jesus. Only He can meet their innermost need. Like all of us, they are sinners who have broken God’s laws. They are under the curse of sin and need God’s forgiveness. They can only get things right with God if they repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus. But how will they know about their need and the solution unless someone tells them. Will you?


Today, we have considered two events in the early ministry of Jesus. The first involved Him healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day. We learned from this that God wants our obedience but also our understanding. He holds us back from things that will harm us and wants our good. But if we are not careful, we may focus on the rules instead of God’s good intentions. The second event involved Him healing people in a great multitude from many cities. We learned that there were many needs that needed addressed. If we open our eyes, we will see that things are the same here today. God has placed us here in a needy community that needs to hear about their great need and His great love.

What has God spoken to you about today? Do you need to adjust your focus to God’s intentions? Do you need to adjust your focus to see the needs around you? Or maybe you need to repent of your sin and place your faith in Jesus today. Whatever the case, I encourage you to talk to the Lord and get things right. Then with a new focus, seek to do His will in the world around you.


1 Hiebert 86. “The aorist tense implies that the look of anger was momentary, but grieved is present tense, picturing a prolonged feeling of grief or distress at such men.”
2 Hiebert 87.
3 Hiebert 92.


Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.