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Verses 1-5

Mark 3:1-5. He entered again into the synagogue Luke says, On another sabbath. The synagogue seems not to have been at Capernaum, but in some city which lay in his way as he went through Galilee. And there was a man which had a withered hand His hand was not only withered, but contracted, as appears from Mark 3:5. See the notes on Matthew 12:10-13. And they The scribes and Pharisees, watched him These men, being ever unfriendly to the Saviour, carefully attended to every thing he said and did, with an expectation of finding some matter of blame in him, by which they might blast his reputation with the people. Their pride, anger, and shame, after being so often put to silence, began now to ripen into malice. Luke observes, He knew their thoughts, their malicious designs. We may therefore see, in this instance, the greatness of our blessed Lord’s courage, who resolutely performed the benevolent action he had undertaken, notwithstanding he knew it would expose him to the fiercest resentment of these wicked men. And said to the man, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. He ordered him to stand forth and show himself to the congregation, that the sight of his distress might move them to pity him; and that they might be the more sensibly struck with the miracle, when they observed the wasted hand restored to perfect soundness in an instant. Then Jesus said, Is it lawful to do good, &c. That he might expose the malice and superstition of these scribes and Pharisees, he appealed to the dictates of their own minds, whether it was not more lawful to do good on the sabbath days, than to do evil; to save life, than to kill. He meant, more lawful for him to save men’s lives, than for them to plot his death without the least provocation. But it is justly observed here by Dr. Campbell, that in the style of Scripture, the mere negation of any thing is often expressed by the affirmation of the contrary. Thus, Luke 14:26, not to love, or even to love less, is called, to hate; Matthew 11:25. not to reveal, is to hide; and here, not to do good, when we can, is to do evil; not to save, is to kill. From this, and many other passages of the New Testament, it may be justly deduced, as a standing principle of Christian ethics, that not to do the good which we have the opportunity and power to do, is, in a certain degree, the same as to do the contrary evil; and not to prevent mischief, when we can, the same as to commit it. Thus, also, Dr. Whitby: “Hence, it seems to follow, that he who doth not do good to his neighbour when he can, doth evil to him; it being a want of charity, and therefore evil, to neglect any opportunity of doing good, or showing kindness to any man in misery; and that not to preserve his life when it is in danger, is to transgress that precept which saith, Thou shalt not kill.” Our Lord’s words contained a severe, but just rebuke, which in the present circumstances must have been sensibly felt. Yet these men, pretending not to understand his meaning, held their peace Being confounded, though not convinced, therefore he answered them with an argument which the dulness of stupidity could not possibly overlook, nor the peevishness of cavilling gainsay: What man that shall have one sheep, &c. See on Matthew 12:11. Having uttered these convincing arguments and cutting reproofs, he looked round about on them, (Luke, on them all,) with anger, grieved at the hardness of their hearts Showing at once his indignation at their wickedness, and his grief for their impenitence. See on Matthew as above. He knew his arguments did not prevail with them, because they were resisting the convictions of their own minds; and was both angry at their obstinacy, and grieved on account of the consequences of it; showing these just affections of his righteous spirit by his looks, that if possible an impression might be made either on them or on the spectators. He might in this, likewise, propose to teach us the just regulation of the passions and affections of our nature, which are not sinful in themselves, otherwise he who was without sin could not have been subject to them. The evil of them lies in their being excited by wrong objects, or by right objects in an improper degree. Thus Dr. Whitby:

“Hence we learn that anger is not always sinful; this passion being found in him in whom was no sin. But then it must be noted, that anger is not properly defined by philosophers, ορεξις αντιλυπησεως , a desire of revenge, or, of causing grief, to him who hath provoked or hath grieved us; for this desire of revenge is always evil; and though our Saviour was angry with the Pharisees for the hardness of their hearts, yet had he no desire to revenge this sin upon them, but had a great compassion for them, and desire to remove this evil.” Mr. Scott, who quotes a part of the above note properly adds, “Our Lord’s anger was not only not sinful, but it was a holy indignation, a perfectly right state of heart, and the want of it would have been a sinful defect. It would show a want of filial respect and affection for a son to hear, without emotion, his father’s character unjustly aspersed. Would it not, then, be a want of due reverence for God, to hear his name blasphemed, without feeling and expressing an indignant disapprobation? Vengeance belongs to the ruler exclusively; and he may grieve at the necessity imposed on him of thus expressing his disapprobation of crimes; but it is his duty. Eli ought to have shown anger as well as grief when informed of the vile conduct of his sons; and to have expressed it by severe coercive measures. Thus parents and masters, as well as magistrates, may sin, in not feeling and expressing just displeasure against those under their care: and anger is only sinful when it springs from selfishness and malevolence; when causeless, or above the cause; and when expressed by unhallowed words and actions.”

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