Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Eleven
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 15, 2018
We are coming back to Mark’s account of the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself being the good news - the gospel. Mark’s record of Jesus’ teaching, ministry, and work on the cross. What that means for us. Which really is good news.
Would you please stand with me as we come before God’s word together and follow along as I read for us the passage from Mark that we are focusing on this morning. Mark 3:20-35.
Then He went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, “He is out of His mind.”
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons He casts out the demons.”
And He called them to Him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.
But no one can enter a strongman’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him. And a crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.”
And He answered them, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”
And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Looking at how Mark records what’s happening here - what we have is like a sandwich made up of two events - one inside the other - that Mark is putting together to help us understand what Mark wants us to get about Jesus.
The top slice of bread is the first part of what’s happening with Jesus and His family. What’s between the slices is what’s happening with Jesus and the Scribes. Then the bottom slice is again what’s happening with Jesus and His family - part two.
That’s the outline of what we’re looking at this morning - along with what God would have us process and apply to our lives.
The top slice is Jesus and His Family - verses 20 and 21.
Mark records that Jesus goes home. And again there’s a crowd.
Jesus has gone viral. Jesus groupies from any place there’s any place to be from - north, south, east, west - the paparazzi are following Jesus - traveling great distances to hear Jesus - to watch Jesus perform miracles - exorcisms - maybe to get healed by Jesus.
As we’ve been studying Mark’s gospel - Mark has been helping us to understand that the crowd is there not necessarily because of what Jesus offers - the good news of God’s kingdom come and the need to follow Jesus. But they’re there because of the show and getting their immediate needs met.
Jesus is calling people to follow Him and He’s not talking about social media. He’s talking about literally following Him and the crowd isn’t getting it.
Mark records that Jesus goes home. Which wasn’t where He grew up. The Greek has the idea that He went into a house. Which was probably in Capernaum - the fishing town on the Sea of Galilee - what was Jesus’ home base of operation in the area. Jesus goes into His home base of operations - probably with His inner circle of disciples - and they can’t even enjoy a meal together without interruption. Someone’s laying on the doorbell.
The term in Greek has the idea of what a family would do for a someone in the family who no longer had the ability - mentally or physically - someone who no longer had the ability to take care of themselves. We step in to help them. Maybe legally. Maybe by with health care decisions. Maybe with assistance in living.
Jesus’ family thought He’d lost it mentally. So they came to take control of Him - to help Him because they thought He’d gone nuts.
Which - thinking through their response to Jesus - that response by Jesus’ family is pretty strange. Kind of not what we’d expect.
Luke records that Mary was told flat out by the angel Gabriel that the baby she was going to conceive, bear, and give birth to was by an act of God. Jesus is the Son of God - the long waited for Messiah. Matthew records that Joseph had the same basic explanation given to him. One would assume that that information would have been shared by Mary - by Joseph - they would have shared that with Jesus’ siblings.
Imagine growing up and being reminded by your parents that your brother is God - totally perfect. “Why can’t you be more like Jesus?”
Or growing up - the dangers of ticking Jesus off. “James, I wouldn’t mess with Jesus’ stuff.” Zizzzt. Poof. “Oh, that’s not good.”
So we’d assume that Jesus’ family would have had an idea of Who or what Jesus is - His ministry and message. So what’s up with the reaction? It’s pretty obvious that even Jesus’ family wasn’t processing Jesus.
Ultimately we don’t know why that was.
In fairness to Jesus’ family, where Jesus is at had all the trappings of some kind of “He thinks He’s God” - Messiah personality cult. Not too much different than what we’d see today with some religious leader going off the deep end.
Jesus gathering around Himself the outcasts and disenfranchised of society. People who are selling their possessions - leaving their occupations and homes and families to follow Jesus at His Capernaum Compound - this headquarters that Jesus has set-up away from the scrutiny of Jerusalem. His headquarters away from the center of all things cultural and religious in Israel. Jesus Who’s challenging the norms of religion and culture and calling Himself the ultimate authority.
Despite what the family may have heard from Joseph Sr. - who’s probably dead at this point - and Mary who’s come with them - maybe the family had a different understanding of what kind of Messiah they should be expecting. Lot’s of people had that issue with Jesus. Maybe they figured Jesus really was loosing it - somehow getting away from His divine mission.
So, while we may not know for sure “why” the reaction from Jesus’ family - we can for sure see that for reasons that are - bottom line - all about them - they’re not on the same page following Jesus - His message and ministry.
Verses 22 to 30 are the filling between the slices of the sandwich - chicken, lettuce, and tomato - not bacon. What’s happening with Jesus and the Scribes.
Filler which is Mark using a real time event - Jesus interacting with the Scribes - to help us understand what’s going on at the heart level with those who are misunderstanding Jesus - namely the Scribes - and Jesus’ family - and a whole lot of the crowd that’s gathered at the house - and maybe even us.
The Scribes were experts in Jewish religious law that had come up from Jerusalem - the capital - the center of everything Jewish - religion - politics - culture - they’d come up to Capernaum to check out Jesus.
Imagine the weightiness of that. Lawyers skilled in religious law - experts in all matters of Jewish custom and religion - coming from the socio/religious/political capital of the nation to check out Jesus. Can we say powerful and influential?
Accusation being: Jesus - casting out demons - healing people - all that is by the power of Beelzebul.
Let’s make sure we’re together on who Beelzebul is and what exactly the Scribes are accusing Jesus of.
Beelzebul was a Philistine god. The name is a combination of “Baal” - sound familiar? Baal gets mentioned all over Scripture and not in a good way. “Baal” meaning “lord” or “master” - and “zebul” meaning “of the height” or “of the house.” House specifically meaning the town of Ekron - which was town west of Jerusalem - where Beelzebul was the main god being worshipped. In a sense, the lord of the house - god #1.
Early Jewish literature plays on that name so it comes out as “Baalzebub” meaning “Lord of the flies” - which was a put down - an insult. Basically insinuating that Baalzebub is the Lord of garbage.
Related to that and more the point - Baalzebub was seen as the god of death and decay. Meaning something dead and decaying that flies would be flying around. Which is probably why here the Scribes are connecting Beelzebul and Jesus.
Little bit of helpful back fill. Why the connection.
The book of 2 Kings tells us that - back in the mid-800’s BC - when Ahaziah - who was one of Israel’s kings - when Ahaziah fell through the latticework of an upstairs room of his palace - as he’s laying there thinking he’s going to die - King Ahaziah sends messengers to Ekron - Philistine town where Beelzebul is the “lord of the house” #1 worshipped god - King Ahaziah sends messengers to Ekron to ask the god Baalzebub - Lord of decay and death - if he’s going to recover or die. Think becoming dead and decaying.
But before the messengers get to Ekron - the prophet Elijah cuts the messengers off and sends them back to King Ahaziah - with a rebuke from God for King Ahaziah - who ultimately dies of his injuries because - we’re told in 2 Kings - because King Ahaziah didn’t acknowledge the God of Israel and by faith seek after the God of Israel for his healing. (2 Kings 1:2ff)
The Scribes are drawing on all that back fill to make their accusation. Jesus - like Ahaziah - is calling on Beelzebul - the god of death and decay - to do all these healings and casting outs - Jesus working in that realm of death and decay. And Jesus is going to suffer the same fate as Ahaziah who’s faith wasn’t in the God of Israel.
Even more bottom line blunt - with no room for misinterpretation - they accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons - meaning Satan himself.
“Were saying” - verse 22 - in Greek is in the imperfect tense - meaning it’s ongoing - repeated over and over.
The Scribes arrive - decked out in all their religious Scribal clothing - coming with all the authority of an official delegation from Jerusalem - and while they may not have seen Jesus’ ministry firsthand or said it directly to Jesus - they’ve already been saying it publicly.
Tweeting and posting moves public opinion. Who really cares about the truth.
They’ve already made public their forgone condemning accusation and verdict on Jesus: It’s not just that Jesus is misguided in His faith. Jesus is in operating under the authority and power of Satan himself.
In response - knowing what’s being put out there about Him - verse 23 - Jesus asks the question: “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Put another way: “What you all are accusing Me of is totally illogical.”
To make His point - Jesus responds with three “if” statements and three images to prove that there’s no way He could cast out demons by the authority and power of Satan. It’s just messed up to think that.
Image number one: A kingdom divided against itself won’t last. Kingdom meaning… kingdom. No kingdom at war with itself is going to last.
Think about our Civil War. Brothers and colleagues and friends and families on both sides fighting to the death against each other. Life long friends trying to kill each other. Totally messed up. Without President Lincoln our nation would have ceased to exist as the United States.
Image number two: A house divided against itself won’t stand. A house refers to a people - or the property or reputation or respect or position of a family in the community - the legacy of a family.
For example - Scripture talks about the “household of Jacob” which refers to all things Jacob. His immediate family - his possessions - his family’s reputation in the community - His descendants.
If the members of a family are against each other then that family as a family and all that that represents is going to go away pretty fast.
Satan is evil not stupid.
Satan sending his demons out into the world to reek havoc in the hearts and lives of mankind - destroying them body and soul - little by little. And then, Satan supplying the power needed to shamefully defeat and cast out his own obedient servants. That would be the end of Satan’s kingdom of evil. If Satan really is opposing himself then his end has come.
But what’s obvious from Jesus’ encounters with the demons was that their end had not yet come. The demons are obviously alive and kicking. Satan is still working hard at pushing back at God. The accusation is illogical - at the very least - based on the reality of what’s visibly happening.
Jesus - image number three - ties all that into Satan himself - the “strong man” in verse 27.
Satan’s household of sin and evil - of demons and possession and oppression - of bondage and slavery - of deception and disease and decay and death. More to Jesus’ point are those who are held captive by Satan in all of that. Satan’s goods.
No one can enter into Satan’s realm and plunder and pillage his goods unless they’re able to bind - a word in Greek that has the idea of binding them in chains - no one can carry off what the strong man Satan possesses unless he is more powerful - unless he’s capable of binding the strong man - meaning Satan.
Three “ifs” and images - emphasis being that Jesus isn’t in league with Satan - operating under Satan’s power and authority - but the total complete opposite of that. That Jesus - with divine power and authority - is incomparably and infinitely more powerful and completely and forever able to and will bind Satan and plunder Satan’s goods.
Jesus’ statement in verses 28 to 30 is Jesus’ push back warning for those who continue in their opposition to God - to Jesus.
“Truly” meaning this is an absolutely essential bottom line - base your life on this - unchangeable truth that counts for now and eternity.
“All” in Greek means… “all.” There is no part of all that isn’t included in all.
Whatever horrible sin that’s worse than any other sin that anyone else has ever been able to come up with or commit - that we alone are guilty of that makes us worse than any other sinner and we may feel makes us beyond God’s ability to forgive - there is no sin that will not be forgiven. There is no sin that is beyond forgiveness. All sins will be forgiven.
“But” - in contrast - and this is the statement that has messed up a lot of people - but - in contrast there is one sin that never has forgiveness: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That one sin goes with the guilty person with them into the grave and into eternity.
Which makes total sense and should be a huge relief for us if we understand what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is.
What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Blasphemy by definition is slander - contempt - arrogant opposition.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is when someone has that attitude of arrogant defiance as they respond to the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible tells us that Jesus in His ministry here on earth is always doing the work of God the Father by the power and guidance of the God the Holy Spirit. Meaning that to oppose Jesus - God the Son - is to oppose God - God the Father - and to oppose God the Holy Spirit.
So to say - verse 30 - that Jesus is operating by the power and guidance of an unclean spirit - a demon - even the prince of demons - Beelzebul - Satan himself - is to claim that the works of Jesus are the works of Satan. To claim that the works of God are actually the works of Satan.
That claim reveals a heart entrenched in arrogant - defiant - opposition to God the Holy Spirit empowering and guiding Jesus according to the will of God the Father. Willful blindness to Jesus and what Jesus is all about. A stubborn resistance to Jesus which eventually leads to treating Him as the ultimate evil in our lives. Blasphemy against the God Holy Spirit.
God will forgive blasphemy. If He doesn’t we’re all in trouble. Right?
“All” sins - all meaning all - meaning all sins can be forgiven even blasphemy - if we acknowledge it as sin and ask for forgiveness.
“But” - sin becomes unpardonable when the guilty one rejects the path that leads to pardon - continues in arrogant defiance - and refuses to bow in submission to God. If we haven’t come to God for forgiveness there is no measure of forgiveness - pardoning - that can be applied to our lives.
If we go to our grave without repentance from our sin - without turning from our sin to God in faith Who by grace saves us through Christ’s work on the cross - our guilt will follow us to our graves and into judgment and eternal punishment.
Jesus’ push back - verses 28 to 30 - Jesus’ warning is Jesus calling out the Scribes because they’re acting against God. Their accusations against Jesus reveal their blasphemy - their entrenched arrogant defiance against God and what God the Holy Spirit is doing through Jesus.
The tragic irony is that they’re guilty of what they’re accusing Jesus of. Their blasphemy reveals that they themselves are operating under the authority and power of Beelzebul - Satan himself.
Verses 31 to 35 bring us back to the bottom slice of Mark’s sandwich which is Jesus and His family - part two.
Having that ominous warning ringing in our minds Mark shifts back to Jesus’ family who’ve traveled to Capernaum to “take control” of Jesus who - for their own self-focused reasons - they’re accusing Jesus of having lost it mentally and spiritually. Jesus not being on the same page with God.
Which is sobering. What Mark is getting at is that blasphemy - arrogant defiance of God is a heart level attitude that’s not only something that’s coming from the Scribes - but the point of the filling - verses 22-30 - the Jesus and the Scribes event - is to help us to understand that that attitude of arrogant defiance is something being shown to us by Jesus’ family. People we would least expect to see it coming from.
They may not have gone to the point of blasphemy like the Scribes. But they’re coming dangerously close to it. As they’re focusing on themselves and their understanding of God and making their accusations against Jesus they’re heading down that path.
When Jesus’ family arrives they encounter a scene that’s something that we’ve seen before. Pun intended.
The crowd is so large that they can’t get to Jesus. So they pass a message forward through the crowd. “Tell Jesus His family is here and they want Him to go home with them NOW.”
Imagine the scene as that message gets passed forward. Heads turning. Anticipation of what Jesus will do.
Middle Eastern culture being what it is family relationships are of overarching significant importance. Natural and lasting bonds that are forged through generations by blood, by upbringing, by shared experiences of joy and sorrow.
That are foundational to everything else. Shame and honor and respect and reputation in the community.
Jesus’ Who’s never anti-family. Who’s spoken and lived respectfully of family. Who’s living in a culture that is hugely respectful of family relationships - Jesus should go with them.
But Jesus does the unexpected. He gets His family’s message. Then He turns to the crowd and asks a rhetorical question intended to make a point. “Who are My mother and My brothers?”
Answer: “Here - you all - those who do the will of God are My mother and My brothers!” Point being: His disciples - those who live in obedience to God - those are Jesus’ family.
Let’s be clear. Jesus isn’t slamming His family. But He’s making a point. Family is huge. Obeying God is huger - hugest.
There are at least three important realities in Jesus’ answer that are important for us to hang on to for ourselves.
First - in Jesus’ answer there’s a Challenge.
Jesus is challenging His natural family to think real carefully about their relationship with Him and what that’s going to look like going forward. Blood lines are huge. But no ties of natural affection should take precedence over our commitment to God and what He desires to do in our lives.
Then Jesus is challenging His disciples. Jesus is saying to them, “Is your relationship with Me natural or spiritual?” Is your relationship with Me based on some connection by birth and upbringing or some kind of community connection or is it based on your personal knowledge of Who I am and your personal commitment to Me?
That is challenging for us. Why are we here? Why have we come to Jesus? Is it because of Jesus - Who He is - His message and ministry - what He desires for you? Or is it something else?
Then - second, in Jesus’ answer there’s an Invitation.
An invitation - insight - into the costliness of obedience. Jesus calling His disciples to put the Kingdom of God first in their lives - even ahead of their families - their culture - their nation. Above and beyond their self-focused understanding of God and how God does things.
It’s an invitation to follow Jesus down a path of obedience that Jesus was already walking. Jesus Who’d left home and His family for the sake of the gospel. Precious and valuable things to Him that He choose that those things would not come between Him and obeying the will of God for His life. A path of obedience that led Jesus through controversy and conflict. That eventually would lead Jesus to the cross.
Jesus is inviting His disciples to follow Him. As He invites us.
Are we willing to follow Jesus - being obedient to God - wherever and whenever and whatever God may have for us?
The third reality in Jesus’ answer is Encouragement.
Jesus looking at the people surrounding Him - those who do the will of the Father are His family - His brothers and sisters. Those whom Jesus regarded as His family.
Which is an astounding reality for us to hold on to. Being in Christ - the astounding privilege of being identified with Jesus and His family as we choose to follow Him in obeying God.
Because of who we are in Christ we have a relationship with those who were with Jesus on that day - a family relationship with our in Christ siblings around the world today - a unique and intimate fellowship with each other even here - and we have an intimate fellowship with our Father now as we follow Jesus through life. And when we follow Jesus through life doing the will of God - in whatever God has for us in that life - even suffering - what’s ahead is being with Jesus in all of His glory. Fellow inheritors of the unimaginable riches of heaven.
Processing all that…
What Mark is giving us here in this account is a reality check for how we’re really doing life with God.
Maybe we’re like the crowd - coming for the spectacle - getting caught up in the activity and pretense of a religious experience - but not really coming for what God really wants to do in our lives. A worship gathering becomes something we attend not something we participate in. Could be true of our own times of prayer and Bible reading. We’re there physically - mentally - but we’re not engaged with God at the heart level.
Or maybe we’re like the Scribes accusing Jesus - accusing others of the sins and issues of our own lives - rather than letting God deal with those issues. We know this. It’s way too easy for us to point out where other people fall short rather than to deal with our own issues. Just saying.
Or maybe we’re like Jesus’ family - coming to Jesus with the expectation of Jesus following us - wanting Jesus to fit our agenda - to lead us through life our way - not His. To join us and bless us as we work our way through life.
Maybe at some point we’re all of those. Because it’s too easy to move sideways through life - not really maturing spiritually - not really experiencing all of what God wills for us in life - because we’ve come to Jesus without the expectation of actually following Him. Of letting Him really do business with what needs to be dealt with in our lives.
Mark’s reality check is sobering. If we’re coming to Jesus with any other motivation than seeking to totally obey God - being totally submission to God for what He wills for our lives - then we’re playing into Satan’s plan for our life rather than God’s.
Two takeaways. Putting all that into our day-to-day life.
First: We need to Get Real.
Who’s kidding who? We’re all flawed and messed up by sin people. We all struggle with hang-ups and issues and weaknesses and failures and addictions and on and on - what all is fueled by our depravity and sin.
If the deep heart level issues in our lives aren’t being dealt with by God - freely by God as God chooses to deal with those issues - then those issues are going to keep coming back to bite us - to reek havoc in our lives - and to bite others - to reek havoc in their lives - in our marriages and families and the church and the places we do life - because that’s Satan’s game plan for our lives.
Deep down we know that because we experience the weakness and failure of all that. Maybe even guilt and depression and anger. Just saying.
So we need to get real and be honest with ourselves and with God. At some point we need to stop making excuses for all that - to come clean about what we struggle with - and choose to let God deal with it without putting limitations on God for however He wants to deal with us.
Second - we need to Live Real.
Which can be really scary. Especially if we’ve been messed up by people we’ve trusted or should have been able to trust. People who said they loved us, didn’t - or at least they only loved us for their own selfish reasons.
Living Real can be scary if our trust or love meter is broken.
Repentance is rejecting and turning from what is not of God in our lives and turning to God - surrendering all of that and all of who we are to God - by faith trusting God to do with us whatever God chooses to do with us.
Which is scary. Because - for us - there is a huge unknown in that.
Beloved of God - joint heirs of God’s eternal - we even get a foretaste of that now - God’s eternal riches and blessings.
All of which God offers to us because even while we’re totally messed up - God demonstrates His undeserved and beyond understanding love towards us - through the sacrificial work of His Son Jesus - bearing all our sins and dying in our place - on the cross.
God demonstrating that He is “all in” with us committed to loving us to be the amazing people He has created us to be and that He is totally “all in” worthy of our trust.
To live real is to choose - moment by moment - as we go through the reality of our lives - to let God deal with our stuff however God desires to lovingly deal with our stuff.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.