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The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 3

Analysis and Commentary

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Jesus Arguing with the Pharisees

Jesus Arguing with the Pharisees

In the third chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees continue as he heals people and violates religious rules. He also calls his twelve apostles and gives them specific authority to heal people and drive out demons. We also learn something of what Jesus thinks about families.

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath, Pharisees Complain (Mark 3:1-6)
Jesus' violations of Sabbath laws continue in this story of how he healed a man's hand in a synagogue. Why was Jesus in this synagogue on this day - to preach, to heal, or just as an average person attending worship services? There's no way to tell. He does, however, defend his actions on the Sabbath in a manner similar to his earlier argument: the Sabbath exists for humanity, not vice-versa, and so when human needs become critical, it is acceptable to violate traditional Sabbath laws.

Jesus Draws Crowds for Healing (Mark 3:7-12)
Jesus moves on to the sea of Galilee where people from all over come to hear him speak and/or be healed (that isn't explained). So many show up that Jesus needs a ship waiting for a quick getaway, just in case the crowd overwhelms them. References to the growing crowds that seek out Jesus are designed to point to both his great power in deed (healing) as well as his power in word (as a charismatic speaker).

Jesus Calls the Twelve Apostles (Mark 3:13-19)
At this point Jesus officially gathers together his apostles, at least according to the biblical texts. Stories indicate that many people followed Jesus around, but these are the only ones whom Jesus is recorded as specifically designating as being special. The fact that he picks twelve, rather than ten or fifteen, is a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel.

Was Jesus Crazy? The Unforgivable Sin (Mark 3:20-30)
Here again Jesus is portrayed as preaching and, perhaps, healing. His exact activities are not made explicit, but it's clear that Jesus just keeps getting more and more popular. What isn't as clear is the source of popularity. Healing would be a natural source, but Jesus doesn't heal everyone. An entertaining preacher is still popular today, but so far Jesus' message has been depicted as very simple - hardly the sort of thing that would get a crowd going.

Jesus' Family Values (Mark 3:31-35)
In these verses we encounter Jesus' mother and his brothers. This is a curious inclusion because most Christians today take the perpetual virginity of Mary as a given, which means that Jesus would not have had any siblings at all. His mother isn't named as Mary at this point, which is also interesting. What does Jesus do when she comes to talk to him? He rejects her!

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