Review and Reflect: Mark 3:20-35

First, read Mark 3:20-35.

Jesus and his followers go back home. It’s likely that they went back to Simon’s house in the town of Capernaum. They settle in and get ready to eat for what appears to be the first time in quite a while, and again the crowd finds him. His family has heard about what is going on, and they come to get him because he they believe him to be “out of his mind”, it says in verse 21. Remember how Jesus’s reputation has spread all over the region so that, now, even his family back home has heard about all that Jesus is doing and saying. No doubt they have also heard about the problems he is causing with the authorities and how if he’s not careful he’s going to get himself killed. His family comes to get him, to take him back home so he will stop causing such problems. It’s clear that his family didn’t understand his message or what he was doing. The only way they can respond to what Jesus has been saying and doing, and the reputation that he is gaining, seems to be to think that Jesus is delusional. They may have had intentions that were good. It’s likely that they were concerned for Jesus safety or possibly just the reputation of their family. Never mind that his followers, and crowds of people seem to think Jesus is a miracle worker, a healer, or a great teacher, his family thinks he’s nuts. But, there is something worse than being thought of as delusional…

Verse 22 says that some Scribes have come down from Jerusalem. These weren’t the local Scribes who have questioned Jesus before; these were the big wigs from Jerusalem. Apparently news of this Jesus fellow has reached the seat of religious authority in Jerusalem so they send an envoy of their best Scribes to confront him. Because they believe Jesus to be teaching false doctrine, they believe he cannot be a messenger from God. That means the miracles that coincide with his teaching can’t be empowered by God, but they happen from some source of power. What else can they logically conclude than that Jesus is performing these great signs by the power of Satan himself?

So his family thinks he is delusional, and the religious authorities think he is demonic. Jesus responds to these two accusations. First, he responds to being accused of being in league with Beelzebul. Beelzebul was a pagan god and in this context the name is used to refer to Satan. Jesus addresses the Scribes with a question, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” He says in verse 25, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. In other words, if he was satanic, Satan would be waging war against his own army, and this is not a military strategy that will bring victory. You don’t win a battle by taking out your own soldiers. Then, as part of his argument, in verse 27, Jesus tells them this odd illustration about a “strong man” being bound. The “strong man” in the parable is Satan (Here is a good example of allegorical interpretation!). Jesus has already overcome Satan’s temptation in the wilderness for 40 days in chapter 1, but soon the time will come when Satan will accomplish his greatest achievement, killing the Son of God. Even then, though, Jesus will overcome and rise from the dead proving again that his authority is superior to even Satan’s. Though evil accomplish its greatest feat, God will still triumph. The “goods” that Jesus will plunder will be the people of God who are bound to death and Satan’s power. No longer will death reign over humanity because those who are in Jesus will not be bound by it. Jesus will overcome Satan and reclaim from him what rightfully belongs to him. Remember how Jesus has been teaching that God’s Kingdom has come? When this happens, Satan’s Kingdom is overwhelmed. As you might expect, Jesus brings this idea from the OT. There is a passage in Isaiah 49:24-25 that talks about God rescuing his children who are the prey of a tyrant. Understanding Isaiah 49 in its context helps us to read Mark 3:27. In Is. 49 God says that he will personally rescue those who have been taken captive by the tyrant of Babylon who relocated God’s people in the early 6th Century BC. God says he will take back the captive and rescue the prey. God says he will personally end their exile. This is a similar story to Mark 3. The “Goods” of the strong man must be God’s people who have remained under Satan’s power, just like the “prey” of Is 49 are children under the tyrant, who Jesus says is Satan. The point of this Parable that Jesus tells is that rather than working for Satan, like the Scribes accuse, he is undermining Satanic authority and robbing him of it. In each interaction with a demon Jesus is “Binding” or opposing Satanic authority. He is casting out demons and setting people free from the demonic oppression. This should be understood in the context of the Scribes accusing Jesus of being empowered by Satan. Some have interpreted this as a way to pray, that when we are asking God for a victory, we should ask him to “Bind Satan”. In this context, what is meant by binding is that Jesus is overcoming Satanic authority. So if we are praying for Jesus to “bind” Satan, we are praying for him to overcome his authority, which he has already done on the cross and through the resurrection. So, if you are feeling like you being oppressed by the demonic, you don’t need to ask God to bind Satan. What you need to do is understand Jesus’ authority over your life, and walk in faith and obedience. Without a doubt there is more to the trials and struggles of our lives than what we see. Demonic activity and influence is at play around us. But we don’t need to fear or worry about this. We need to walk under Jesus’ authority by walking in obedience and repentance. So, I wouldn’t recommend you criticize anyone who prays that God would “Bind Satan”, but I would recommend, you know understand what you are praying, and if you want to pray that way, at least know why. Jesus is arguing with Scribes here, and he tells them a parable which is kind of a mix between a story and a riddle. He tells them with this story about the “strong man” that he is overthrowing Satan in order to establish the Kingdom of God. This is what makes the accusation of the Scribes blasphemous. He is establishing God’s Kingdom, and they accuse him of establishing Satan’s Kingdom.

Then, as if understanding verse 27 wasn’t difficult enough, Jesus speaks of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit being an eternal sin in verses 28-30. We talked about this passage in small group a few weeks ago after it was brought up. Some people believe that this passage means there is a sin that you might commit that God won’t forgive you. This isn’t what the passage says though. I think it helps if you look at verse 30 first – the reason Jesus says this is because they were accusing him of being demon possessed. They were attributing the work of God to Satan. They said Jesus was demon possessed. No one who believes this belongs to the people of God. Remember Jesus says Belief and repentance are the way we are supposed to respond to the Gospel, and these people respond by unbelief and accusation. Verse 28 says every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven except for the sin of believing that Jesus was not empowered by the Holy Spirit, but by demonic spirits. This also doesn’t mean that if at one point in your life you believed this, you cannot be forgiven. It means that if you remain in this belief, you cannot be forgiven. An example of this would be for us to consider the Apostle Paul who persecuted followers of Jesus then ended up following Jesus himself. It’s helpful to understand that Jesus is speaking to the Scribes particularly, who were making this claim. So, you don’t have to worry about unknowingly committing a sin that will cause you to get rejected from heaven. This passage doesn’t mean that, it means that you cannot believe Jesus worked in the power of Satan and be accepted by God. If you used to believe that, but you have repented of that, then you don’t remain under that curse.

After Jesus finishes this discussion with the Scribes, his family comes back into the picture.Verse 31 says that they called for him. Jesus then addresses the crowd saying, “Who are my mother and brothers?” In verse 35 Jesus answers his question before the crowd, “Whoever does the will of God is my mother, brother, and sister”. What is will of God? It’s what we have been saying: believe and repent. To believe the Good news that Jesus fulfills God’s promises and brings God’s kingdom to earth and to repent and align your life with his! This is what the crowd needed to do to move from curiosity to faith, from spectator to belonging. He uses his families’ actions to teach this crowd that has gathered, that they must believe and repent, not simply like Jesus or be enamored with his miraculous signs. This statement Jesus makes in verse 35 is a further description of who the true people of God are. They are those who do God’s will. The Pharisees and Scribes thought they were doing God’s will, but in reality they opposed it. And, they thought their religious observance made them God’s people, but in rejecting Jesus they reject God and show that they are outside of God’s true people and God’s true family. Again there is this division between those who belong to God’s true people and those who do not. The issue that divides them is their response to Jesus’s message: belief and repentance or accusation. Notice, how Jesus’ family stands outside when the call for him in verse 30 while his disciples are inside the house. Later, some of Jesus’ family comes to believe in him, but at this point in the story his family thought he was a lunatic.

The Scribes thought he was a demon possessed liar. There are not too many other options for us to have today in our response to Jesus. Some believe that he is a myth or a legend. But the historical record, the testimony of Christians from that day to this one, and other things argues against this. Like his family at this point in the story, some people think Jesus was simply a lunatic that persuaded many people to follow him. But he didn’t teach like a lunatic. His teaching is among the most profound in history. He engaged in thoughtful debate with some of the great minds in his community. The authorities would not have felt threatened by someone who was insane, but they were very concerned with Jesus’ authority and ability. This is not the sign of a crazy person. The religious leaders believed he was a false teacher, or a liar. He can’t be a great moral teacher and a liar. If his teachings are great, then he can’t be a liar. He opposed them to the point of death and then so did his followers. People don’t allow themselves to be killed for something they know to be a lie, yet Jesus continues in his teaching even though they brought him death.

So what is our response to Jesus? He is not a legend or a lunatic or a liar. We know Jesus to be the Lord. He was everything he said he was. He fulfilled promises and brought God’s Kingly authority to earth. If he is the Lord, we can’t ignore him or pretend like what he did and what he said has no impact or relevance to our lives today. He says his true family, the family of God, are those who do God’s will. Will you follow Jesus with your whole life and do God’s will? Or will you reject him and follow your own will? The choice is yours. Following Jesus isn’t something you need to be convinced of, its something you must decide to do, you must believe that he is everything he says he is. This will leave no part of our life untouched by God. What is your response today? Will you believe and repent, aligning your life with God. Our will you accuse him of being something other than who he says he is?

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