At the end of the last chapter, our Lord explained to the Jews that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Still, however, they were not convinced by what He had said; for they were bitterly set against Him (verses 1-6). Even when they personally witnessed the Savior performing an act of mercy for the man with a withered hand, they were only intent on using the miracle of love as an accusation against Him, since He had done it on the Sabbath. By way of a question, Christ pointed out to them that it is perfectly lawful to save lives and do acts of charity on the Sabbath; but they did not care. Their hearts were hardened (verse 5).
The Pharisees, we are told in verse 6, took counsel with the Herodians to destroy Jesus; therefore, He withdrew with His disciples to the seaside (verses 7-12). His work on earth was not yet done; and until the proper time for His departure out of the world had arrived, He used precautions to avoid danger – thereby setting us an example of not risking our lives or our means of usefulness, by any unnecessary exposure to danger.
In verses 13-19, we have an account of the first appointment of Jesus’ Gospel-ministers. These twelve men were highly honored indeed in being called to such close attendance upon their Lord, and to be the instruments of making known to others the glad tidings of His having come to save the world. And those who are now admitted into the sacred ministry of the Church have, in some degree, the same honorable calling. They are (or ought to be) men who live in close communion with Christ, by faith; and it is their privilege if they have no other earthly vocation than to preach the Gospel. It is true that they cannot heal the sick in the same sense as the Apostles did; but by leading others to Christ, and by showing tender kindness, they may take from suffering more than half its bitterness. And although they cannot cast out devils in their own strength; yet in the strength of the Lord, they may be permitted to cast out Satan from the hearts of many where his hateful power has caused the bitterest sufferings.
It is no uncommon thing for worldly people to to condemn those as crazy, who are very zealous in their Master’s work. But even of our Lord, it was said that He was “beside himself.” Why? Because He neglected His own ease and comfort to attend to the pressing needs of a multitude (verses 20-21). Therefore, we may be content to be reckoned as crazy or insane if we are zealously moved in the cause of truth and holiness. Let us pray that we may be delivered from the blinding influence of self-love, and from the power of a worldly spirit. If we desire to be followers of Christ, we must not allow ourselves to listen to the kind but unwise advice of those friends who wish to persuade us that we do not think enough about ourselves; or that we sacrifice too much of our time, strength, or money in laboring for others. We might well reply that we are only imitating our Lord and His disciples, who were so busily engaged in the service of those who were in need “that they could not so much as eat bread.” We may be sure that those who zealously labor for the everlasting good of their fellow human beings, out of a desire to faithfully follow Christ, will never find cause for regret. But what shall we say of those who waste their health and strength – and even endanger their lives – in the eager desire for earthly wealth or carnal pleasures? Certainly life is too precious to be thus worn out, and these persons will bewail their folly through all eternity.
Some of the scribes who had seen our Lord casting out devils chose to say that He was helped in that miraculous work by the devil (verses 22-30). They knew that the power which Jesus exercised was beyond the power of man, but they were still determined to not acknowledge the power of God; therefore, they said, “By the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.” This was a willful rejection of the truth, because they must have known that Satan could not cast out Satan; for no one fights against himself. To resist the truth is to sin against the Holy Spirit, which can never be forgiven. Why? Because truth is taught to us by the Holy Spirit; and if His power is willfully resisted, we shall surely be led to believe the most fatal lies to our own self-destruction – and then the door of hope shall be shut.
We are told in verse 21 that the friends of Jesus “went out to lay hold on him; for they said, He is beside himself.” And we may suppose that when His mother and brethren came to call Him away from the multitude (verses 31-35), it was probably with the intention of stopping Him in what He was doing. From this ill-timed interference of His earthly parent, to whom He was obedient and submissive on all proper occasions; our Lord took occasion to speak a word of the greatest possible encouragement to all who are making it the first business of their lives to do the will of God. Says He, “Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
What wonderful consolation is contained in those words! Every true fol-lower of the Lord Jesus finds that his or her pathway is often very rough and thorny. There are infirmities and corruptions to combat in the heart; there is a world lying in sin to travel through; and there is an enemy to resist, who is walk-ing about seeking whom he may devour! Surely each one of God’s people needs comfort; and they will find it in the assurance that the Son of God beholds him or her with all the tenderness which can be felt for one’s nearest family member!
Lord Jesus, we give thanks for the precious assurance that You are not ashamed to call us – Your people – Your own brothers and sisters! Amen.
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