What does Mark 3:4 mean?
ESV: And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.
NIV: Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent.
NASB: And He *said to them, 'Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?' But they kept silent.
CSB: Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil, to save life or to kill? " But they were silent.
NLT: Then he turned to his critics and asked, 'Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?' But they wouldn’t answer him.
KJV: And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
Verse Commentary:
This verse reveals a potent use of logic which we can almost pity the Pharisees for experiencing. After God gave Moses the written Law defining how Israel was to interact with God, scribes developed a huge catalogue of oral laws meant to further define what it meant to obey God. The Sabbath is an extremely important sign that the nation of Israelites is following God. For the Pharisees, their additional, strict rules are meant to prevent anyone from coming close to disrespecting God's holy day.

But Jesus challenges the Pharisees' supposed piety. He reminds them the Sabbath is intended for good, not just for personal discipline. Yes, selfish or pointless work is forbidden on the Sabbath, but what about work that directly and significantly benefits someone else? What if it blesses? Surely the sacred rest of the Sabbath would be honored by providing even more rest for an injured man. The Pharisees already understand this, to a point. Their law allows a farmer to untie a donkey and lead him to water (Luke 13:15) or rescue a sheep (Matthew 12:11) on the Sabbath. And the oral law permits a Jew to save someone's life. But their traditions and hard hearts have buried the spirit of the Sabbath under manmade rules.

Jesus exposes their narrow thinking, trying to draw them into a larger view. Is the Sabbath meant for good or harm? The good is healing a man, but by forbidding healing the Pharisees choose harm—in three different ways. They remain silent instead of expressing what they think to be true, they refuse to allow that healing the man may be permitted, and they choose to "kill" by conspiring with the Herodians to destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6).

Logically, then, aren't the Pharisees the ones truly profaning the Sabbath by their attitudes? The silence of these men suggests that Jesus' point is hard to deny, even if they don't accept it.
Verse Context:
Mark 3:1–6 relates a story of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Continuing from chapter 2, this passage is usually grouped as the last of five events which show Jesus' authority. This incident specifically reinforces His lordship over the Sabbath. At the same time, this event can also be considered the first of five stories about the different reactions people have to Jesus' early ministry, seen in chapter 3. Since the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the Pharisees' antagonism has slowly grown. Now, Jesus' provocative actions push the religious teachers over the edge, and the Pharisees ally with the Herodians to plot Jesus' destruction. Matthew 12:9–14 and Luke 6:6–11 record parallel accounts of these events.
Chapter Summary:
The bulk of chapter 3 deals with how different people react to Jesus' teaching and His assumption of authority. The Pharisees' confusion transitions into plotting. The crowds that continually follow Jesus for healing become more frenetic and dangerous. Jesus' own family, afraid for His sanity, try to pull Him away. But true followers also show themselves. Twelve join together to become a core group, while a slightly bigger crowd, more interested in Jesus' teaching than miracles, earn the honor of being called His true family.
Chapter Context:
Mark chapter 3 continues in the same pattern as chapter 2, describing various teaching and healing encounters from the life of Jesus. These events are used to explain Jesus' overall message and demonstrate His power. They also serve to show how different people react to His teachings. Chapter 4 will focus more on Jesus' parables.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
Accessed 4/18/2024 6:39:16 PM
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