Mark 3:4
And he said to 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.
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3:1-5 This man's case was piteous; he had a withered hand, which disabled him from working for his living; and those that are so, are the most proper objects of charity. Let those be helped that cannot help themselves. But stubborn infidels, when they can say nothing against the truth, yet will not yield. We hear what is said amiss, and see what is done amiss; but Christ looks at the root of bitterness in the heart, the blindness and hardness of that, and is grieved. Let hard-hearted sinners tremble to think of the anger with which he will look upon them shortly, when the day of his wrath comes. The great healing day now is the sabbath, and the healing place the house of prayer; but the healing power is of Christ. The gospel command is like that recorded here: though our hands are withered, yet, if we will not stretch them out, it is our own fault that we are not healed. But if we are healed, Christ, his power and grace, must have all the glory.Or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? - It seems to have been a maxim with the Jews that not to do good when we have an opportunity is to do evil; not to save life is to kill or to be guilty of murder. If a man has an opportunity of saving a man's life when he is in danger, and does not do it, he is evidently guilty of his death. On this principle our Saviour puts this question to the Jews - whether it was better for him, having the power to heal this man, to do it, or to suffer him to remain in this suffering condition; and he illustrates it by an example, showing that in a manner of much less importance - that respecting their cattle - they would do on the Sabbath just as "he" would if he should heal this man. The same remark may apply to all opportunities of doing good. "The ability to do good imposes an obligation to do it" (Cotton Mather) He that has the means of feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and instructing the ignorant, and sending the gospel to the destitute, and that does it not, is guilty, for he is practically doing evil; he is suffering evils to exist which he might remove. So the wicked will be condemned in the day of judgment because "they did it not," Matthew 25:45. If this is true, what an obligation rests upon the rich to do good!CHAPTER 3

Mr 3:1-12. The Healing of a Withered Hand on the Sabbath Day, and Retirement of Jesus to Avoid Danger. ( = Mt 12:9-21; Lu 6:6-11).

See on [1411]Mt 12:9-21.

See Poole on "Mark 3:1" And he saith unto them,.... Either to the whole multitude, to all the assembly in the synagogue; and so the Persic version renders it, "again he said to the multitude"; or rather, to the Scribes and Pharisees, who were watching him, and had put a question to him, which he answers by another:

is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil, to save life, or to kill? The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions read, or "to destroy", as in Luke 6:9, To do evil, kill, or destroy, are not lawful at any time; and to do good, and to save life, must be right at all times: our Lord has a particular view to the Scribes and Pharisees, and the question is put home to their own consciences; whose hearts and thoughts, designs and views, were all open to Christ; and who were now watching to do evil to him, and even to destroy and take away his life: for the violation of the sabbath was death by the law, and this was what they sought to accuse him of: now he puts the question to them, and makes them judges which must appear most right and just in the sight of God and men, for him to heal this poor man of his withered hand, though on the sabbath day; which would be doing a good and beneficent action to him, whereby his life would be saved, and preserved with comfort and usefulness, and he would be in a capacity of getting his livelihood; or for them to cherish an evil intention against him, to seek to bring mischief on him; and not only destroy his character and usefulness as much as in them lay, but even take away his very life also: he leaves it with them to consider of which was most agreeable to the law of God, the nature of a sabbath, and the good of mankind;

but they held their peace; or "were silent", not being able to return an answer, but what must have been in his favour, and to their own confusion, and therefore chose to say nothing.

And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save {b} life, or to kill? But they held their peace.

(b) He uses here the figure of speech called synecdoche, for this type of saying, to save the life, is the same as saying to save the man.

Mark 3:4. ἀγαθὸν ποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι, either: to do good or evil to one, or to do the morally good or evil. Recent commentators favour the latter as essential to the cogency of Christ’s argument. But the former seems more consonant to the situation. It was a question of performing an act of healing. Christ assumes that the ethically good coincides with the humane (Sabbath made for man). Therein essentially lay the difference between Him and the Pharisees, in whose theory and practice religious duty and benevolence, the divine and the human, were divorced. To do good or to do evil, these the only alternatives: to omit to do good in your power is to do evil; not to save life when you can is to destroy it.—ἐσιώπων, they were silent, sullenly, but also in sheer helplessness. What could they reply to a question which looked at the subject from a wholly different point of view, the ethical, from the legal one they were accustomed to? There was nothing in common between them and Jesus.4. But they held their peace] St Mark alone mentions this striking circumstance, as also what we read in the next verse, that “He looked round about on them with anger.”Mark 3:4. , or) Not to save is to destroy. The opposition between the two words is immediate and direct. To save life refers to the whole man; to do good, to a part; and so in the respectively antithetic words—ψυχὴν, life) of man; and therefore also a man’s hand,—ἐσιώπων, they were silent); Luke 14:3.—ἡσύχασάν, They had nothing to say.
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