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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, February 16, 2003

"But they held their peace" (Mark 3:4).

My wife and I have been in the city of Capernaum twice. It is located on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. To this day you can go to Capernaum and see Peter's house and the synagogue spoken of in Mark 3:1. Jesus entered into that synagogue and "there was a man there which had a withered hand." The Greek word for "withered" means to dry out, to become dried or shrivelled. The perfect tense of this verb shows a present state, resulting from action. Dr. A. T. Robertson says that this tense shows "that it was not congenital, but the result of injury by accident or disease" (Word Pictures in the New Testament,Broadman, 1930, volume I, p. 275).

The Pharisees were there. "And they watched him - pareteroun. The imperfect tense means that they were watching on the sidelines, slyly" (ibid.).

Luke uses the middle voice…to accent their personal interest in the proceedings. It was the sabbath day, and in the synagogue, and they were ready to catch him in the act if he should dare to violate their rules as he had done in the wheat fields on the previous sabbath (ibid.).

Then verse two says, "they watched him…that they might accuse him." Luke puts it, "That they might find an accusation against him" (Luke 6:7). These were the same Pharisees who accused Him a week earlier of violating the Sabbath by plucking grain. They had made their minds up to accuse Him again. They were out to get Him.

Ellicott points out that they followed the man with the shrivelled hand because they "expected our Lord to heal the man thus afflicted…and that they had resolved, if He did so heal, to make it the ground of a definite accusation before the local tribunal" (Charles John Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Zondervan, 1954 reprint, volume VI, p. 70).

Then Jesus spoke to the man with the shrivelled hand. He said, "Come forward." He told the man to step into the center of the room for all to see.

It was a bold defiance of Christ's spying enemies. Wycliff rightly puts it: 'They aspieden him.' They [spied] on Jesus. One can see the commotion among the long-bearded [Pharisees] at this daring act of Jesus (Robertson, op. cit.)

"Stand forth - Come forward."

"And he saith unto them [the Pharisees], Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?" (Mark 3:4).

Christ argued that having the ability to do good and refusing to do it is evil. "Not to heal this man would have been evil" (Ryrie Study Bible, note on Mark 3:4).

Dr. John R. Rice said,

Jesus called the man out to 'stand forth in the midst' and healed him as publicly as possible (Luke 6:8). Jesus must be accepted as the Lord and Master, greater than all their traditions, greater even than the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law…

Do not think these Pharisees were [good people]. Notice that they had no regard for the man with the withered hand, thinking less of him than of a sheep (vs. 11-12). They were not really sincere in their devotion to the Mosaic Law. Rather, they liked their own interpretation of it, and the authority which they had in interpreting the law.

Verse [six] shows the Pharisees' intense personal hate against Jesus…Many people care more for their particular doctrinal interpretation than they do for humanity or for Christ Himself.

The healing Jesus did was really 'lawful,' fulfilling the real spirit of all the Mosaic Law (Matthew 12:12, 'Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days'). It is always 'lawful to do well.' It was the deliberate purpose of the Pharisees already to kill Jesus (Dr. John R. Rice, Commentary on Matthew: The King of the Jews, Sword of the Lord, 1980, pp. 178-179).

Notice verse six:

"And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him" (Mark 3:6).

The Pharisees were the Orthodox Jews of that day. The Herodians were political people, who backed King Herod. Both the religious and political people wanted to destroy Jesus! Why? For healing a crippled man's hand! It seems astonishingly narrow-minded and evil when we read it on the pages of the Bible. And yet their rejection of Jesus is not really much different from yours, is it?

"He is despised and rejected of men…and we hid as it were our faces from him" (Isaiah 53:3).

Don't you do that? Haven't you rejected Jesus - just as these Pharisees rejected Him? How is your heart different from theirs? Oh, I know you are not in a leadership position, as they were. But in the position you are in, your heart rejects Him just as they did. I can't see any difference between your heart and theirs.

And Christ asked them that question, in verse four. Please look at it. Notice the last five words of verse four,

"But they held their peace" (Mark 3:4).

"But they kept silent," as the New King James translates it in modern English. "But they kept silent." He asked them a question, "But they kept silent." The Greek word is imperfect active - "they kept on being silent," you might say.

"But they held their peace" (Mark 3:4).

They were silent, and they kept on being silent. Christ asked them a question, and they kept on being silent.

Matthew Henry tells us that this unwillingness to answer is a sign of obstinate rebellion. He says:

Those are obstinate indeed in their infidelity [unbelief], who, when they can say nothing against a truth, will say nothing to it; and when they cannot resist, yet will not yield (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible,Hendrickson, 1996 reprint, volume V, p. 376).

Henry correctly says that their refusal to answer was a sign of stubborn, obstinate rebellion.

Now, how does that apply to you? I will draw three applications from our text:

"But they held their peace" (Mark 3:4).

"But they kept silent."

I. First, obstinate, silent rebellion is manifested
in a refusal to answer parents.

Please turn to Proverbs, chapter thirty, verse eleven:

"There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness" (Proverbs 30:11-12).

One of the ways that children rebel against their parents is by talking back. But usually this is uncommon in Christian homes because they are more authoritarian than the secularized homes in our culture today. A far more common way to rebel, for children from strong Christian homes, is not to say anything. We used to say they "clam up." They close their mouths like a clam closes its shell. But it's really just as rebellious for kids to "clam up" as it is for them to talk back.

The Pharisees kept silent because they were rebellious against Christ! "They held their peace," not because they were good, but because they were rebellious!

This phrase, "they held their peace," appears three times in the King James Bible. Each time it shows us something about rebellion.

First, look at our text, in Mark 3:4-5, beginning with the last five words of verse four:

"But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts…" (Mark 3:4-5).

The first thing that "clamming up" against your parents shows is that your heart is hard. The harder your heart is the less you will say. You clench your teeth in silent, hard-hearted rebellion.

Second, look at Mark, chapter nine, verse thirty-three:

"And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace:for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest" (Mark 9:33-34).

Christ knew perfectly well what they had discussed on the road, as you can tell from His answer in the following verses. But why did they keep silence when He asked them about it? The answer is simple - they were ashamed of themselves.

Often young people are ashamed, as well as rebellious, like the Disciples. There is shame mixed with rebellion. It's like you're saying to yourself, "I know I'm wrong, and I don't want to talk about it!" Guilt and rebellion are mixed together - so you refuse to speak.

But there is a third place where this phrase occurs. Please turn to Luke 14:3,

"And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things" (Luke 14:3-6).

They remained silent because they "could not answer him." They simply had no answer!

Often young people do not answer their parents for these same three reasons:

(1) They are hard-hearted in their rebellion.

(2) They are ashamed of themselves.

(3) They simply don't have any answer when they are confronted with the truth.

"But they held their peace" (Mark 3:4).

They kept silent.

II. Secondly, obstinate, silent rebellion is manifested
in a refusal to answer church leaders.

When the pastor, deacon, or some other church leader asks you a question about the state of your soul, you often "clam up" like you do with your parents. Isn't that true? But it is a terrible mistake. It can hinder you from obtaining true conversion.

The Bible teaches that God has put these leaders in the local church for "the perfecting of the saints…for the edifying of the body of Christ" (cf. Ephesians 4:8-13). These leaders in the church have a duty to speak to you concerning salvation. The Bible says, "They watch for your souls [they watch out for your souls]" (Hebrews 13:17). Dr. Ryrie says that these are "church leaders" ( Ryrie Study Bible, note on Hebrews 13:17). The church leaders are watching out for your soul! They are watching over you. "They must give account" to God for watching over you (Hebrews 13:17).

I am giving you in modern English the words of the Puritan author Richard Baxter on this subject:

Another thing that God uses to bring about conversion is listening seriously to those God sent to teach us. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night for counsel, because he knew that Christ was a teacher sent from God. And Jesus gave him advice concerning the new birth… The eunuch asked Philip to teach him (Acts 8:31). Paul asked Ananias, and Cornelius asked Peter… The Jews who were pricked in the heart asked Peter and the rest of the Apostles what they should do (Acts 2:37). The jailor asked Paul and Silas what he should do to be saved (Acts 16:30). If unconverted sinners would follow these examples, and go to the preacher for direction regarding their salvation, and decide to do exactly what the preacher says, conversions would not be so rare, and so many mistakes would not be made. But most persons are so careless that they feel no need to go to the preacher. Others are so proud that they will not humble themselves to do it. Others think they already know what the preacher will say, and so they do not ask for his counsel. Thus Satan keeps people from salvation by keeping them from their preachers, from this means of grace (Richard Baxter, in A Puritan Speaks to Our Dying Nation, Hearthstone, 2002, pp. 96-97).

But if you "clam up" and refuse to answer the preacher, or deacon, or other church leader, then you lose the opportunity of hearing his wise thoughts that will guide you toward salvation in Christ.

This is a terrible mistake. It is the very same mistake that those Pharisees made in our text. When Christ asked them a question,

"They held their peace" (Mark 3:4).

They kept silent. And it destroyed their chance of being saved. Nicodemus seems likely to have been saved. And it was because Nicodemus was not like these other Pharisees. He answered Christ - and entered into a serious discussion with Christ about his salvation (ref. John 3:1-21). The eunuch in Acts, chapter 8, answered Philip's questions, and then listened carefully to Philip's answers. He was soon converted, and "went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39). I beg you tonight to be as wise as Nicodemus and that eunuch! When you are in a counselling session with us about your salvation, answer our questions and listen to our advice. We are here to help you. We are your friends. We want to give you good, sound advice about your conversion, so that you can escape "everlasting burnings." Do not, I beg you, follow the rebellious example of those Pharisees who "held their peace" - these rebellious men who kept silent when they were asked good questions by the Saviour! Please, my lost friend, do not follow their bad example! Open your heart and tell us the truth, and we will do you good. We will say what you need to hear. We will answer your questions. We will point you to Christ. Your belly will be filled with meat, and your soul will be satisfied with the Saviour's love!

But, one more time, I must come back to our text:

"They held their peace" (Mark 3:4).

They kept silent.

III. Thirdly, obstinate, silent rebellion leads to damnation in Hell.

Please turn in your Bible to Matthew, chapter twenty-two, verse eleven:

"And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:11-13).

I think this man had gotten into such a habit of sullenly remaining silent that he kept on in his rebellious silence - even in the presence of the King, Himself. The response of the King was swift and deadly:

"Cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13).

What a terrible day you face at the Last Judgment if you go on in rebellious silence. If you go on like those Pharisees who "held their peace," who remained silent when questioned by Christ! You may think it is smart to be silent. You may think you are showing your independence and strength. The Pharisees undoubtedly thought the same thing. But by remaining silent, they doomed their souls.

Oh, go not with those men into the dark dungeons of Hell! Flee from the wrath and judgment of God. Put away your rebellion and pride and sullen, silent defiance. Let us guide you to Christ. Let us point you to Him as Evangelist pointed Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, like Christ pointed Nicodemus, like Philip pointed the eunuch.

Oh, hear us! Oh, pay attention to us! Oh, give us your ear - and your answers faithfully. Flee from judgment. Come to Christ. Be washed clean by His Blood.

I am bound for the promised land, I am bound for the promised land.
Oh, who will come and go with me, I am bound for the promised land.
     ("On Jordan's Stormy Banks" by Samuel Stennett, 1727-1795).


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 3:1-5.

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"On Jordan's Stormy Banks" (by Samuel Stennett, 1727-1795).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"But they held their peace" (Mark 3:4).

(Luke 6:7; Mark 3:6; Isaiah 53:3)

I.   Obstinate, silent rebellion is manifested in a refusal to answer
parents, Proverbs 30:11-12; Mark 3:4-5; Mark 9:33-34;
Luke 14:3-6.

II.  Obstinate, silent rebellion is manifested in a refusal to answer
church leaders, Ephesians 4:8-13; Hebrews 13:17; John 3:1-21;
Acts 8:39.

III. Obstinate, silent rebellion leads to damnation in Hell,
Matthew 22:13.

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