Mark’s gospel has a sense of urgency about it. What we’ll discover as we move along is that Mark is eager to have his readers make an intentional decision about who Jesus actually is. It does this in various ways, but today we’re invited to consider who’s in and who’s out of the community of God.
As we look at this passage, what we’ll see is that the community of God, centered on Jesus, will both surprise us and radically redefine our closest relationships. Mark wants us to be surprised and convicted by this community, and he wants to heighten our sense of urgency by recognizing that there is an inside and outside to the people of God. We’re going to be surprised at how those lines are drawn.
So I’d love for you to follow along with me this morning, we’re in Mark 3:20-35. If you’ve got a Bible or a Bible app on your phone, by all means, please pull it up, follow along with me.
Insiders on the Outside
What we see here in chapter three is that Jesus is being followed around Galilee by these huge crowds; they’re attracted to his healing and his preaching ministry, they’re coming from Judea and beyond, to see and to hear this dynamic teacher. In the first part of chapter three, we see that Jesus has selected 12 apostles, and we hear the purpose of these men: they are to be sent out, to preach and to have authority to cast out demons. Essentially, they’re being sent out to do the things that Jesus was doing, and to do them under his authority.
So I want you to picture the scene as we get to verse 20: Jesus and his closest friends have returned home to the house where they were staying in Copernicus, and the Galilean crowds have found them and the house is full, and the yard is full, and there’s people looking in the window and people on the roof, they all want to see this Jesus, they want to catch a glimpse of him and hear his teaching.
Once we get to our passage, what we see is that there’s actually an inside and and outside to this community. There’s the people who are there on the inside who are surrounding Jesus. Then there’s two surprising groups of people who, by all accounts, would be assumed to be on this inside part, but who are actually on the outside: Jesus’s family–his mother, and his brothers– and the scribes from Jerusalem. These religious leaders are very powerful men in the faith. We see his family and these scribes are actually on the outside.
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.”
So first, we see Jesus’s family. They catch word of what Jesus is doing and teaching, and they’re worried. They hear about his teaching and his healing, and they think he’s crazy. All of this teaching and casting out demons. This man has lost his mind, we have to go get him. Why are they concerned? Out of love for their son? Their brother?
Yes, probably. There’s certainly an element of that. But the other element here is their own reputation in the community. This is a society that’s built on shame and honor, and it would be a shame to the family to have a brother out there acting like Jesus is acting–a detriment to their status for their business, a shame on his mother. We can’t have that. So they go to get him and bring him home to Nazareth.
The second group we see outside of this community of Jesus-followers are scribes from Jerusalem, along with the Pharisees. They represent the religious elite and powerful in Jesus’s day. They have heard, even in Jerusalem, the upper echelons of the Jewish faith and leadership, they’ve heard of this itinerant Rabbi and Galilean, and they’ve come out to the country. I don’t believe they care to hear what Jesus has to say, or to consider who he is. I think they’ve already decided. Instead, they’ve come out to stir up trouble and doubt. Why? Well, they’re concerned about their own power. They’re concerned about their own authority, and how quickly these things can be taken from them with this popular upstart preacher.
The Challenge from the Scribes
So they come out to spread rumor and innuendo, to cast doubts in the minds of Jesus’s followers, and to break this thing up before it gets too big. They’re threatened. So the scribes challenge Jesus. First, they begin to stir up rumors.
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.”
They accuse Jesus of being possessed by Satan, and by Satan’s power, Jesus is casting out Satan’s demons. Jesus says, that doesn’t make any sense. He debunks this claim immediately. How can Satan cast out Satan, right? If the 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. Satan cannot cast out his own demons; your wrong.
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 Jesus is not content simply to debunk them. He’s not content simply to show that they’re wrong and move on. He, he proceeds to challenge, to challenge the very assumptions that would bring them out to see him in the first place. You see these crowd, these scribes were assuming their status in God’s kingdom, their status as a member of God’s chosen people. Surely the scribes from Jerusalem, of all people, would be in the kingdom, right?
Jesus’s response is actually that they, along with everyone else in this world, are actually bound to the house of Satan himself.
But no one can enter a strong man’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.”
You see what Jesus is doing here. Here’s the the implication that Jesus is making: just as someone has come to bind up the strongman and to plunder the goods from his house, someone has come to bind up and to plunder the people that are under his power and his control. The reality is that this world that Jesus comes into is under the power and control of Satan himself and that Jesus has bound Satan. He’s bound the strong man, and he’s plundering the men and the women from their bondage. He’s bringing them into the kingdom of God, because they’re not already there. Those who are in, those whose bondage has been broken, those are the ones whose sins are forgiven.