Very Strange

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 thought 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. Next time we’ll be moving into chapter four, and a more  familiar view of Jesus teaching.

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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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7 Responses to Very Strange

  1. wanderlustwarjie says:

    Hi Don Merritt,

    This is the first time I read your post and to be honest, I’m really impressed by the revelations you got from God there!

    I really love how Jesus answered those trap questions from the teachers of the law.

    However, there’s something that boggles my mind here. In Mark 3:22, you’ve somewhat mentioned that those mockers are blaspheming the Holy Spirit when they said this. The answer may be obvious but does that mean the Holy Spirit was already at work even Jesus was still in earth?

    Also, the way I understand it is that the teachers are mocking Jesus’ power source. So it means mocking or belittling Jesus’ powers is a form of blasphemy on the Holy Spirit as well, isn’t it?

    Appreciate your response.

    God bless always.

    ~ Warjie

    • Don Merritt says:

      Hi Warjie!

      You ask two great questions:

      “However, there’s something that boggles my mind here. In Mark 3:22, you’ve somewhat mentioned that those mockers are blaspheming the Holy Spirit when they said this. The answer may be obvious but does that mean the Holy Spirit was already at work even Jesus was still in earth?”

      I’d love to take credit for that kind of insight, but it was I who said that, it was Jesus who said very directly in 3:29:

      ” but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.””

      So, yes, the Holy Spirit was active in Jesus’ day, but then the Holy Spirit has always been there, and was first mentioned in Genesis 1:1.

      “Also, the way I understand it is that the teachers are mocking Jesus’ power source. So it means mocking or belittling Jesus’ powers is a form of blasphemy on the Holy Spirit as well, isn’t it?”

      Father, Son and Spirit are One. I think it is safe to assert that it is entirely consistent with Scripture to say that to mock or belittle one is to mock or belittle ALL.

      I hope that helps Warjie, thanks for asking!@

      Don

      • wanderlustwarjie says:

        Thanks Don! Follow up question: So if someone (who doesn’t believe in Jesus yet) blasphemes Jesus/Father/Holy Spirit, does that mean he cannot be saved anymore OR he can be saved but not be forgiven?

        Obviously, grace will come to this scene but I just want to know your thoughts on this.

        • Don Merritt says:

          Well Warjie, the answer to your questions is really quite simple: Neither.

          Go back and look at the verses; to whom is Jesus speaking, to whom is Jesus giving this warning? He was speaking to the people who were entrusted with the very Word of God, the teachers of the law. They were not ignorant of what they were speaking of, they were not “innocents” by any standard; they knew what they were doing and they knew what they were talking about, and they deliberately misrepresented the situation to maintain their own status in the community.

          Jesus did not deliver this warning to the people who did not hold such positions of respect and authority, for they did not have such knowledge.

          Those of whom you speak are not the equivalent to the teachers of the law, nor are they in a covenant relationship with God already; they are incapable of knowingly blaspheming the Holy Spirit; in most cases, they wouldn’t understand the term. Thus, this injunction wouldn’t apply to them for they are not able to knowingly commit such an act. That is where grace comes into this picture…

  2. Kitsy says:

    Truly enjoyed your piece and the conversation that followed; I was sorry it ended. You enlightened me and I agree with you. Earlier this week, I tried to explain to a young Christian blogger who is struggling with his faith. I posited that the authors of the Bible did not have the knowledge of science and the universe that we have, that they were “ignorant.” Were they lying about creation? No. Is the Bible the Word of God? Yes. Does science wipe out the truth of scripture? Not at all. The authors of the Bible wrote what had been revealed to them and one thing I like about the Episcopal way of looking at knowledge of the divine is that God reveals Himself to each person as that person is capable of understanding Him. Because of that, we are not in a position to judge, much less condemn, others for their beliefs…their understandings; Enlighten them, possibly. Be kind and attempt to reveal truth as you understand it, possibly. But there is still a lot we don’t know about God. And as we learn more about the universe and science, the more we know about God.

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