“Curiouser and Curiouser”

Mark 3:20-35

Parallel Texts: Matthew 12:22-37, 46-50; Luke 11:14-23; 8:19-21

After Jesus appoints the Twelve, things start to become strange; something isn’t quite right in this story.

Jesus and the disciples are in a house, and the crowd pushes in, there are so many people, Jesus and His party can’t finish their meal. Jesus’ Mother and brothers hear He is there and set out to “take charge” of Him, for they are sure He’s crazy. His family might have something in common with my family… but this isn’t the picture most of us expect to hear at this point; Jesus out of His mind? Why right now, He’s a rock star! (figuratively speaking)

But wait, there’s more!

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

Mark 3:22

You know, these guys really should have though about what they said before they said it…

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

Mark 3:23-29

This is a masterpiece, a classic of rhetorical discourse, a thing of utter beauty.

Borrowing from this paragraph, Abraham Lincoln crafted his most important speech, the one that lost him the senate in 1858, but won him the White House in 1860. Lincoln isn’t the only one who has ripped this little bit or oratory off in the centuries since.  Not only did Jesus annihilate their accusation, not only did He crush their credibility with  those they spewed this foolishness to, He showed them that they would spend their future in very warm climes.

He also has taught us that we should avoid attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the work of the devil. Mark makes this clear in the next verse, pointing out that these guys had claimed Jesus was possessed by an impure spirit.

There is one more odd thing in this story. Remember, Jesus’ family was on their way to “take charge” of Him… well they’ve arrived. They send someone inside to tell Jesus they were outside, and Jesus doesn’t come running:

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:33-35

This is a tough few verses, but we should understand this concept. I don’t think it would be fair to say that Jesus didn’t love His earthly family; Jesus loves everyone and died for all of us, so great is His love. Yet at that moment, well-meaning as His family was, they were working against God’s will. In Christ, we are God’s sons and daughters, we are Jesus’ brothers and sisters, members of the family. Outside of this context, we place ourselves in opposition to Him; not good.

We know that this changed, and His family came to become His followers, so this isn’t like what He told those teachers of the Law earlier, but it is something we should be aware of and guard against.

Well, for me anyway, this has been an odd passage, as though there is more going on that would have met the eye on that occasion. Monday we’ll be moving into chapter four, and a more  familiar view of Jesus teaching.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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14 Responses to “Curiouser and Curiouser”

  1. mamasongs says:

    Don its a bitter pill to swallow when He does not get up and go to His earthly family…. But only at first. When we realize He needed to teach that All who love Him are His family it is a precious piece of information for us. And one Im sure His family came to understand.
    Great post.
    Katie 🌻🌻

  2. Mommyx2 says:

    I enjoy following your blog, as a new-again Christian, yearning for perspectives on the Bible that I haven’t first seen. And in this post, I love that you said that there may be more happening than what meets the eye. Some passages I read, I try so hard to take it at face-value, and find a face-valued meaning, but sometimes, my thoughts run deeper than the print and I can’t help but question what else is happening that we can’t read about.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I think that’s very insightful, because in the gospels, as in certain other places, we’re looking at the physical side of a spiritual battle. You can’t always “prove” it in the academic sense, but it’s there nevertheless, and in this text, it’s more apparent than in most others… something weird is going on

  3. Tom says:

    Jesus always kept His priorities straight–God first, others second, self last. The world sees that as wrong saying it should be: self first, family second, others third and God last (if at all). When seeing things as God does, it is easy to see why Jesus spoke and acted as He did. Great post.

  4. paulfg says:

    Don, there are conversations I have wherein there is a disagreement. And the playback goes something like this: But you said … No wahat I meant was … But what yuou said was … Well youmay have heard that but what I said was … We call them the “I said You said” arguments – totaly pointless.

    I wonder sometimes if we fall into that way of thinking with these bible “transcripts” of Jesus’ conversations – not. Becsuse I can think of occasions when I have referred to a close friend(s) as “family” without them ever thinking I had divorced my “real family”. The punchline survives a retelling or two – the rest fades.

    Literal or conext – matters not. I know He loves me!! Wahoo!! 🙂

  5. photojaq says:

    Indeed, very curious happenings. I just read Acts 1 this morning in my march through the New Testament, and Luke mentions that Mary, Jesus’ mother, and his brothers were there too in the upper room waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, God’s promise. Now this COULD mean his disciples, but I believe it also includes his half siblings. If anything will cause a person to be a believer, it is the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead… not to speak of His ascension up into the clouds on His way to heaven, which they just witnessed.

  6. Elaine says:

    Interesting post to read. Until recently I was unaware of this portion about His earthly family. I was quite surprised to read it!

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