STUDY SIX: MARK 3:7 – 35

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013


In Mark 3:7-34 we read of reports of Jesus’ interactions or relationships with various people and beings. The Pharisees have determined to kill him [3:6]. Knowing this [Matthew 12:15], Jesus left the synagogue and the presence of the religious leaders, and moved out to the lakeside.

 

A. THE CROWDS – Mark 3:7-12

Task #1: Read Mark 3:7-12. Answer these questions:

[1] Where did all the people come from?


[2] Why did they come?


[3] How did Jesus cope with these huge crowds?


[4] What did Jesus do for them?


[5] How did evil spirits react to Jesus?


[6] How did Jesus deal with that?

 

Mark reports that people were coming from all parts of Israel and even beyond the borders of Israel to see and hear Jesus:

Galilee – the northern region where Jesus grew up. Because of their diverse ancestry people from this region were looked down upon by Jews from the south. The initial crowds that followed Jesus out to the lakeside teaching venue were Galileans.

Judea – probably here a reference to Palestine. [The Greeks and Romans used ‘Judea’ to refer to Palestine, Galilee and Samaria.]

Jerusalem – the Holy City, and the centre of Jewish worship.

Idumea – the area south of Judea/Palestine. Originally the land of Edom, this area had been inhabited by Jews for more than 100 years before Christ.

‘The regions across the Jordan’ – the trans-Jordan region, where the Jewish religion was less strictly practised.

‘around Tyre and Sidon’ – both of these towns were on the Mediterranean coast in the Roman province of Syria.

 

B. THE DISCIPLES – Mark 3:13-19

Mark’s account of the appointment of the twelve disciples is very brief. [For detail read Matthew 10.] Mark tells us:

Jesus designated the twelve ‘apostles’ – this simply means ‘sent ones’.
He appointed them to be with him and to send them out to preach.
He gave them authority to drive out demons.
The names of the twelve.

Task #2: What do you know about these disciples?

List what you know about each of the twelve disciples. Some of them are well known. Some of them occur only in this and parallel lists, and served Jesus Christ unmentioned.

Simon Peter:


Andrew:

James:

John:


Philip:

Bartholomew:

Matthew [Levi]:

Thomas:

James [son of Alphaeus]:

Thaddaeus [sometimes called Judas]:

Simon the Zealot:

Judas Iscariot:


The silence of the scripture about some of these disciples should encourage those of us who work quietly and unrecognized for Christ and his kingdom. Not everyone is called to a prominent and public ministry. Not everyone is called, as some of these were, to be used by God in recording his self-revelation as Scripture.

As we look at this list and note the inclusion of Judas, the betrayer, we can only marvel at the grace of Christ, who here empowered and sent even this traitor, this unbeliever, out on mission. We can only marvel also that Christ, until the last night, gave away not one hint that this man was a false follower, unmoved by the truth, unmoved by constant exposure to his word.


C. JESUS MISUNDERSTOOD – Mark 3:20-30

From reference to ‘Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him’ Mark moves on to others whose response to Jesus Christ was inappropriate. The setting has changed from the lakeside to a house.

Task #3: Read Mark 3:20-22. Answer these questions:

[1] What did Jesus’ family think about him?

[2] What conclusion did the teachers of the law make about Jesus and his power?


C.1 His family thought he had lost his mind – 3:20-21
Mark informs us that when Jesus’ family saw the size of the crowds he was attracting they came to the illogical conclusion that he was ‘out of his mind’ and came to ‘take charge of him’. In other words, they came to get him and lock him up, out of the public arena. It would appear that his popularity, and possibly some of the things he was saying and claiming for himself, were causing them embarrassment.

 

C.2 The teachers of the law thought he was possessed by Satan – 3:22,30
With equally illogical thinking the teachers of the law concluded that Jesus was possessed by Satan [Beelzebub – the prince of demons], and that he drove out demons by Satan’s power.

Other New Testament references to Beelzebub are Matthew 10:25; 12:24-28; Luke 11:15-20.

Other reports of people accusing Jesus to be demon possessed are in John 7:20, 8:48-52 and 10:20-21.

 

Task #4: Personal application. Read Matthew 10:21-42.

In Mark 3:20-22 we have seen Jesus Christ, the perfect human and the perfect communicator, misunderstood and wrongly accused by family and religious leaders. In Matthew 10:21-42 Jesus made it clear to his disciples that this same misunderstanding and accusation would be experienced by those who align themselves with him and his kingdom. This is both a word of warning and a word of comfort.

[1] In what ways is it a warning to you?

[2] In what ways is it a word of comfort to you?

 

C.3 Jesus’ response – 3:23-29
Because people were saying that he had an evil spirit [verse 30] Jesus told two mini-parables and made one direct statement:

C.3.1 Mini-parable #1 – a divided house or kingdom cannot stand – 3:23-26:
Jesus pointed out the foolishness of the suggestion that he drove out demons by the power of Satan – a house or a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. It is illogical to suggest that Satan is driving out Satan. So it is illogical to suggest that Jesus is driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons.

 

C.3.2 Mini-parable #2 – tying up the strong man – 3:27
In order to enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions one must first tie up the strong man. By this parable Jesus teaches that he, in driving out demons, is entering the ‘strong man’s’ house, over-powering the strong man, and carrying off his possessions. In the parallel account in Luke 11:14-22 Jesus teaches that he himself is the ‘stronger’ one who over-powers Satan, the strong one. In driving out demons Jesus demonstrated his superior power and authority. He, Jesus, disempowers Satan, and rescues those whom Satan held captive.

 

C.3.3 The one unforgivable sin – 3:28-29
It is in this context of wrongful accusation that Jesus makes his statement about the one unforgivable blasphemy. Verse 30 explains that he made this statement ‘because they were saying “He has an evil spirit”’.

The assumptions behind this accusation, and the implications of this accusation are:

The power of God is being called the power of Satan.
The Spirit of God, whom Jesus possessed in fullest measure [John 3:34; Colossians 1:19], and by whom he drove out demons [Matthew 12:28], is being misrepresented as an evil spirit.
God is being confused with Satan.
Jesus is seen as just a man, doing this miraculous thing by the power of Satan.
Jesus is not recognized as God.

In other words these teachers of the law who are in the presence of Jesus Christ are in the very presence of God, witnessing the power of God, and they acknowledge neither God nor his power. So corrupt is their knowledge of God that they deliberately confuse him with Satan. In such a condition there can be no forgiveness because there is no real recognition of God or knowledge of God.

Here as Jesus drives out demons, the Spirit of God is at work. Here Jesus exercises his divine power and authority over Satan and his minions.  And the teachers of the law, who rigorously studied and taught the Scriptures but were seriously ignorant of God, call it the work of Satan.

This ‘eternal sin’ or ‘unforgivable sin’ is this deliberate rejection of God, despite possession of the truth about God and the evidence of his existence and nature. This is ‘the sin that leads to death’ of which John wrote in 1John 5:16].

As long as we reject God we will not, and we cannot, be forgiven.

 


C.3.4 Further on the ‘unforgivable sin’
This appendix addresses a contemporary issue related to the ‘unforgivable sin’.

Historically in the Roman Catholic Church, and for the last half century in Protestant Christianity, there has been a focus on the miraculous and the expectation of miracles. In this context a significant number of Christians have been and are hesitant to question the integrity of these miracles because of a fear of speaking against the Holy Spirit and thus, as they see it, committing this ‘unforgivable sin’.

It is important to have a biblical perspective in this matter:

[1] It is obvious from the Bible that there are false miracles:

Matthew 7:22-23: ‘Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!”’

Matthew 24:24: ‘For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.’

Revelation 13:13: ‘And he (the beast) performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.’

 

[2] It is also obvious in the Bible that we are commanded to exercise discernment so that we will not be deceived by false teachers, false prophets, and their false, deceptive miracles:

Matthew 7:15: ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.’

Matthew 24:4: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you.’

2Corinthians 11:13: ‘For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.’

1John 4:1: ‘Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.’

[For a detailed listing of the New Testament commands about how to deal with false teaching go here: http://www.godswordforyou.com/how-to/deal-with-false-teaching/292-obey-the-biblical-commands ]

 

[3] From the above it is clear that just because a miracles occurs it does not mean that God did it, nor does it mean that the miracle worker is a genuine believer.

 

[4] From the above it is also clear that it is our responsibility as believers to deliberately assess all teaching we hear and anything miraculous we observe and to judge whether or not it is in line with the truth. Indeed if we fail to do so we are being disobedient to Christ and to the Scripture.

 

[5] In Mark 3 Jesus’ statement about the unforgivable sin was spoken to the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem, men who knew the Old Testament Scriptures more than any other men. It was not spoken to his relatives who in their ignorance assumed he was out of his mind. It was spoken to learned men, men who claimed to know God. These men observed the work of God in and through Jesus Christ and called it the work of Satan. Local associates of these men had already questioned the authority of Jesus [2:6], and the actions of Jesus [2:16]. Some had already determined to kill him [3:6]. These are the men who later deliberately set traps for Jesus in a bid to discredit him and validate their rejection of him [John 8:3]. These are the men whom Jesus said do not enter the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 21:13] and were children of hell [Matthew 21:15], and against whom all the woes of Matthew 21 were pronounced.

Let us be assured: unless we identify with them in their rejection of Jesus Christ, their opposition to Jesus Christ, and their stubborn refusal to acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ, we are not committing this ‘unforgivable sin’.

 


D. THE SPIRITUAL FAMILY OF JESUS – Mark 3:31-35

The family of Jesus, having heard news of his doings, and having set out to get him and take him home, thinking he was out of his mind [3:20,21], finally arrive and stand outside the house where Jesus was surrounded by a crowd people. They sent someone in to tell him they were there looking for him.

Jesus’ response to the message from his mother and brothers was to look at those seated in a circle around him and to say:

‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’ [3:34,35]

About this amazing statement we can make a number of comments:

These people are those who have chosen to listen to Jesus’ teaching. They are not the crowd milling around. They are sitting in a circle around Jesus, from which we can assume that he is teaching them.

Jesus makes it clear that it is the will of God the Father that people should listen to and believe his teaching:

John 5:24: ‘whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’

John 6:29: ‘the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent’.

John 7:16,17: ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.’

John 8:31: ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

John 8:37,43,46,47: ‘Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. …Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say …If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.’

John 14:24: ‘He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me.’

Jesus knows the hearts of all people. It is within his power to discern where there is genuine hearing, genuine faith, and where there is not [read John 2:23-25].

The teachers of the law are rejecting his word. His physical family at this point of time, are rejecting his word. In rejecting his word they are not doing God’s will. In contrast, those sitting in that circle around him inside the house are sitting there because they are receptive to his word, and, Jesus knows, believing. These genuine hearers, these in whom his word has generated genuine faith, these are doing the will of God. These are his mother, his brother, his sister. These are the family of God.