Mark 3 Bible Study
Section 1 Doing Good on the Sabbath
Mark chapter 2 ends with a story about the Pharisees challenging Jesus about his actions on the Sabbath. Mark 3 begins with a story with very similar themes.
Read Mark 3:1-6
Question: What is it that angers & upsets Jesus in this passage?
In verse 5, Jesus is described as angered and grieved. Note, anger and sadness are not sinful emotions. Jesus felt those emotions too. It is the hardness of the Pharisees hearts that is causing Jesus to feel this way. The Pharisees care more about observing Jewish traditions about the Sabbath (there is no Old Testament Law against healing someone on the Sabbath, but Jewish scholars had decided that healing was considered work), rather than loving and caring for a man in pain.
Question: When you think about the suffering or need of others, would you describe your heart as hard like the Pharisees or grieved like Jesus?
Ther’s no doubt that the point of this passage is to emphasize Jesus love and care for someone who needed healing, in comparison to the hardness of Pharisees who were more interested in following traditions and man-made rules. However, since Jesus has now challenged the Pharisees understanding of the Sabbath on two occasions, it’s worth thinking about the role of Sabbath in the life of Christians.
Question: Should Christians observe the Sabbath?
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD you God commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work. This is the fourth commandment in the Ten Commandments.
On the one hand, Christians are not under the law, meaning they are not ruled by the Old Testament commandments and salvation is certainly not obtained by obeying the commandments. On the other hand, the other nine commandments are all repeated in the New Testament and are excellent guidelines for what righteous Christian behavior should look like. We should not make idols, we should not murder, we should honour our parents etc. Does that mean we should also make the Sabbath day holy?
Read Colossians 2:16-17 & Romans 14:1-6
The first thing to say is that there are very, very few Christians who observe the Sabbath as commanded in the Old Testament, because the Sabbath was a Saturday. Sunday for Jews was the first day of the working week. Christians in the Early Church (described in Acts, e.g. Acts 20:7) started gathering on Sundays to break bread together, because it was the day Jesus rose from the dead! This tradition has continued since. Please know it is a tradition, not a Biblical command for Churches to have services on Sundays. However, it is also a wonderful opportunity we have in this country to devote Sundays to the Lord, celebrating throughout the day Jesus resurrection from the dead. One way to celebrate Jesus resurrection is to follow his example in Mark 3 and do good to others on Sunday.
The second thing to say is that Colossians 2 clearly teaches that the Sabbath is in the same category as food laws and festivals in the Old Testament. These were shadows that pointed to Christ and no longer need to be observed. The Sabbath is a shadow of Christ in the sense that Jews rested on the Sabbath and all who have believed in Christ have also entered into spiritual rest. There is no need to work for their salvation, since it has been given to them by God!
The third thing to say is that Romans 14 clearly teaches we should honour and respect Christians who choose to observe a Sabbath. Though this is not necessary and we should never force someone to rest on Sunday, if a Christian chooses to observe a day like that we should respect that.
Fourthly, the Bible does encourage Christians to rest. The model of creation where God created for six days and rested on day seven is a healthy model for human beings. No human being can go on working all the time without resting. If you are unable to rest on a Sunday because of your job (or because you’re part of a church plant and have quite a lot of responsibility on a Sunday to work), find another time in the week to rest. God doesn’t need you to work 24/7!
Section 2 Appointing the Apostles
Read Mark 3:7-19
Verses 7-12 summarise the early part of Jesus ministry in Mark’s Gospel. He is doing amazing miracles, healing many and driving out demons. Despite telling the Spirits not to make him known, crowds and crowds of people are gathering to him. There are so many he’s worried about being crushed (verse 9).
In this environment, Jesus withdrew from the crowds and climbed a mountain. Luke 6:12-13 tells us he actually did this to pray and he stayed up the mountain all night praying. Then he calls to himself the men he wishes to appoint.
Question: Why did Jesus appoint 12 apostles?
Read Matthew 19:28 Jesus speaking to the Apostles
There appears biblically to be some association between 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles of Jesus and a sense in which the 12 apostles (Matthias instead of Judas presumably) will reign over the 12 tribes of Israel. So, there’s certainly a link here with the Old Testament. It’s also true that Jesus wanted to particularly teach and disciple 12 men over the course of his ministry to lead the Church once he’s gone. There’s value in choosing a particular group of people to invest heavily in, rather than trying to invest in hundreds of followers. Finally, it’s astonishing to think that Jesus chose Judas, knowing he would betray him.
Section 3 Jesus is possessed or out of his mind?
Read Mark 3:20-35
Question: How does Jesus respond to claims by the scribes that he is possessed by Beelzebub and he is giving him power to drive out demons?
He rightly tells them that it is nonsense to think that Beelzebub would oppose his own side. Why would a demon drive out other demons? The Pharisees accusations expose their desperation to undermine Jesus, to win back the crowds. It also exposes how poorly their understanding of good and evil truly is. They are calling the work of perfect Jesus, evil. His love and care and healings are considered evil things.
Question: What does it mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?
To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to ascribe good work of the Holy Spirit to evil. In particular, the Holy Spirit testifies to us about the identity of Jesus Christ as Lord, Saviour and Messiah. So, to describe the Holy Spirit’s testimony about Jesus as Satanic, is to reject the Gospel and therefore face eternal judgement. No Christian should panic that they have committed an unforgivable sin though. If someone, full of contrition confesses sin and asks for forgiveness from Christ, they are not blaspheming the Spirit, but submitting to his witness in their hearts. The eternal sin Jesus describes is to flagrantly and willfully reject the Holy Spirit (and the Gospel) without repentance.
Question: Is Jesus anti-family?
When Jesus seemingly ignores his blood relatives in verses 33-34, it feels a little like he is anti-family. However, this cannot be true. It was God himself who created husbands and wives and marriage as the appropriate place to bear children. The command throughout the Old Testament was for human beings to multiply and bear children. So, God throughout scripture is very pro-family. What Jesus is doing in verses 33-35 is expanding our understanding of family. Our spiritual family is the Church all who do the will of God. This family is actually more wonderfully and more intimately connected through spiritual union in the body of Christ, than a blood family. This does not mean people should neglect their blood relatives. We are told explicitly that we must provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). But, it does mean we should think as the Church as our true family, caring for one another. For people living in Non-Christian families there will be times when you will have to choose to spend time with your Church family, as opposed to your blood family. Some are even outcast from their blood family for choosing to follow Christ. Such people should rejoice that they have a far larger and more wonderful family in Christ, than outside of Christ. Those who enjoy Christian family life at home should guard against the idol of family. When your family becomes more important to you than Jesus, then your family has been made into your idol and your whole family will suffer. Families who often miss church for more family time on a Sunday, who consistently fail to obey Biblical commands for hospitality (for example) in order to protect their family and parents who do not teach their children the things of God in favour of just enjoying time together are all guilty of idolizing their families.