What has profoundly changed in these Gentile partakers of the promise found in Christ that Paul is addressing in Ephesians?
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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.
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.
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.
Friends, this is not a matter of righteous living. It’s not a matter of religious piety or personal holiness. These things cannot break the bonds of sin and death and Satan. Only the Son of God himself, the suffering King, can bind Satan and can free and forgive the people of God.
But Jesus goes on to say, and this is where he gets the Pharisees with a dagger, he says there are some who will not be forgiven; there’s an unforgivable sin, called blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In other words, Jesus is saying, if you call the work of the Holy Spirit the work of Satan, you are blaspheming against the Spirit. You’re saying that God’s good work is evil. And Jesus said, that is an unforgivable sin.
“But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
They, the scribes, said the Spirit of God working in Jesus was Satan; and that’s blasphemy. Surprise, the scribes are outside.
Now a quick aside. Some of you might be wondering, I hope I haven’t done that, am I blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? This is not something you do and then you’re like, oh, nuts, it’s too late. It doesn’t work like that. This is a sin committed out of a stone-cold, hard heart. This is a sign of the status of your heart, a heart that is so cold and so hard that it cannot receive the work of God. If you’re asking, have I done that, then? The answer is, no. Your heart is obviously warm enough to be concerned about that, warm enough to be willing to repent and come back to Christ, and so no, that doesn’t apply to you. But that’s what’s happening here with the scribes. Those who are thought to be inside are outside. So the first challenge came from the scribes.
The second challenge very quickly comes from Jesus’s ethnic, biological family. They hear about what’s happening, they decide to go, and now here in verse 31 they’ve arrived at this house with Jesus in the middle and lots of people there around him.
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Again, this is quite surprising. Even today, we place a high value on family. But how much more so in Jesus’s day; your biological family was so important. And we have a commandment about this, right? Honor your father and mother. If we’re going to understand this passage, we have to realize Jesus is not trying to debunk that. He’s not trying to undermine that commandment.
However, he is interested in redefining who our closest family actually is, and it’s not our flesh and blood. It’s the community of God. It’s the people of God– those are our closest family. Yes, you can still have a high value on family, but our ultimate family is the family of God. That’s a hard thing to come to terms with, but here we have Jesus saying, “Who are my mother and brother?”, and he points to, his people. He says, these, these, God’s family, are my mother and my brothers. Now, thankfully, Jesus’s family came into God’s family, right? Mary was standing there at the cross weeping for her son, as he suffered. James was the pillar of the Jerusalem church. In the book of Acts, they came into the family of God, but the family of God ultimately is those who do the will of God.
Mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, just like the charge to the 12 apostles earlier in this chapter, go out and preach and heal, go out and do the will of God, because you are the family of God, you are the people of God. S
So again, we are surprised the family of Jesus is outside of his community of faith. They’re outside because they’re not doing the will of God. So what are you going to do with this?
Well, I think we need to recognize that there is an inside and outside, and that’s kind of uncomfortable for us. We don’t like those sorts of boundaries. But there’s the kingdom of God and those who are in it, and those who are outside of it in the kingdom of this world. Hopefully, this reality will well up in us some urgency about our relationship with Jesus. If you’re sitting here thinking, Oh, I know four or five people who are outside, I hope they can come in, you’re missing the point– it’s about you.
Where do you stand when these surprising lines are drawn? Most of us like to think we’re going to be sitting in the house with Jesus, or at least we’re in the yard or hanging off the roof. We’re trying to peek in the window. We come to church, right, we read our Bibles, we do the right things, we hang out with the right people. So many of us stand on the correct and proper side of our cultural battle. We fight the virtuous fight, and we’re going to be surprised when we realize that the boundaries that we think are important, the boundaries that we think define inside and outside are overturned by Jesus.
Reality is, many of us are embarrassed by Jesus in some form or another. We’re embarrassed by that challenging sexual ethic that he holds us to. We’re embarrassed by his concern for the vulnerable, the unborn, the handicapped, the poor, and the destitute. There are causes that can be hard to deal with, that can be embarrassing.
And some of us might be challenged or threatened. Our way of life might be threatened by Jesus. This whole thing about the first shall be last and the last shall be first, or the idea that we’re supposed to seek forgiveness and not revenge, pursuing peace and not violence. Those are challenging, and they can be threatening to our way of life. All of us in many ways are on the outside and I do believe we might be surprised at who’s on the inside.
But here’s the glory of the gospel: all of us are invited to come in. All of us are invited to have our sins forgiven, our blasphemies forgiven. All of us are invited to have our embarrassment and our fear cleansed. It’s my prayer, as we consider Mark’s gospel, as we consider the work of Jesus, as we consider his death and resurrection and the forgiveness of our sins, we might accept that invitation in; that we might be welcomed by Christ into His kingdom, that we might not worry so much about the boundaries that are being drawn and instead, that we might focus on faithfulness to Christ; that we might know the glory and the love of Jesus through his death and his resurrection. Let us pray.
What bears my weight? What can free the Christian to listen carefully, to think critically, to ask the hard questions that might require a lot of putting-back-together later?