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.”
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.”
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.”
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.