Mark 3:20-35

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds – March 1, 2012)

 

We began looking in our last session at the third major section of Mark’s Gospel is from 3:7 – 6:6a.  In this section we have a summary Jesus’ later ministry in the area of Galilee.  In this larger section are six major movements:

1.      An introductory summary of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (3:7-12)

2.      The choosing of the twelve (3:13-19)

3.      Scandalous accusations from His own family and from the scribes from Jerusalem (3:20-35)

4.      Parables about the Kingdom of God (4:1-34)

5.      A series of miracles demonstrating His power (4:35-5:43)

6.      Rejection by the people of His hometown of Nazareth (6:1-6a)

Last week we focused on the first two of these movements.  This week we are going to focus on the third in remainder of chapter 3. 

 

In Mark 3:20-35, two accusations are leveled against Jesus, one by members of His own family and one by the scribes from Jerusalem.  I want to point out something about the structure of this passage before we look at the content of the passage.  This section has a “sandwich” structure in which the account concerning Jesus’ family (vv. 20-21, 31-35) is divided by the Beelzebub accusation (vv. 22-30). This deliberate literary device is used several times by Mark (cf. 5:21-43; 6:7-31; 11:12-26; 14:1-11, 27-52) for different reasons. Here Mark pointed out a parallel in the charges made against Jesus (cf. 3:21 and 30) but at the same time made a distinction between general opposition to Jesus and a distortion of the Holy Spirit’s work through Him.[1]

 

Scandalous accusations from His own family and from the scribes from Jerusalem (3:20-25)

 

VERSES 20-21 – AN ACCUSATION BY THE FAMILY OF JESUS (These verses are unique to Mark’s Gospel)

 

Verse 20 sets the stage for this incident.  “And He came home, and the multitude gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.”

 

“…home…” – A reference to His house in Capernaum (see Mark 2:1)

 

“…the multitude gathered again…” – Apparently when “He went up to the mountain” in verse 13, the great multitudes that had been following Him dispersed.  But now that word spread that He was back in Capernaum, the crowd began to gather again.

 

“…could not even eat a meal…” – Apparently the demands of the crowd were so pressing that Jesus and His disciples could not even find time to provide the most basic of needs for themselves, much less time for leisure or rest.  This was what concerned His family so much. Jesus always had time for needy people. He gave Himself to them.[2]

 

Verse 21 is one of the most amazing statements in Scripture.  And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, 'He has lost His senses.'"  Let’s look at it phrase by phrase.

 

“His own people" – Literally the text says “those with Him”…but that phrase was a commonly used Greek idiom meaning kinsmen.  And Mark makes it clear in light of what is said in next paragraph about Mary, His mother, and His brothers, this is obviously reference to His family...

 

"to take custody"The verb is krateō (κρατεω) “to get possession of, to become master of, to take hold of, to seize.” They were intending to take Him by force and against His will.[3]   

 

"He has lost His senses" - This means they thought He was out of His mind...or as we would say, He was crazy.  Amazingly, His own family came to take Jesus by force because they concluded He was mentally unstable!  There is a sense in which it is not too difficult to see why they reached that conclusion:

·         Jesus had left the safety and security of home to become itinerant preacher...before began His public ministry had been running a carpenter's shop in Nazareth...apparently by this time Joseph, His earthly father had died...as the eldest son, Jesus was responsible for taking care of the family...certainly didn't abandon His family...no doubt they were being cared for...but they couldn't understand how a sane man would walk away from a good business which provided a steady income to become what one writer describes as "a vagrant who had not any place to lay his head." [Barclay, p.71] 

·         Jesus had challenged and angered to the most powerful religious leaders in the land...it was a conflict, which from a human point of view He had no possibility of winning...no person who was thinking clearly, they must have reasoned, would put himself in such a situation...

·         Jesus had surrounded Himself with a ragtag band of disciples...by any standard of measurement was a strange group...in this group were, among other things, fishermen, a tax collector, a terrorist, a doubter, and a traitor...

·         Jesus was so pressured by the multitudes was in danger of being crushed and didn't even have time eat normal meal ...in a culture were meals were rituals and food was highly valued such a situation appeared to them insane...

·         And on top of all that He was making claims about  His identity and relationship with God which they could not comprehend...

It is little wonder they were questioning His sanity...out of love they came to get Him, rescue Him from what they viewed as His self-delusions, and take Him to the safety of home...while they meant well, they were obviously wrong...

 

Now, how in the world does all that apply to our lives today?...what is the lesson in this for us...I think it is this: While few people in our world today would accuse Jesus of being mentally unstable, many people hold a view of Him which, if they would follow it to its logical end, would lead them to that conclusion...have you ever heard someone say, "I don't believe Jesus was God, but I do accept Him as a good man and moral teacher."...now think through the logic of that kind of thinking—

·         It is obvious from Scripture Jesus claimed to be God...He said things like "I and the Father are one....if you've seen Me you've seen the Father..."...He allowed Thomas to worship Him and say to Him, "My Lord and My God" without rebuke ...the record clearly indicates Jesus claimed to be God...

·         Certainly someone who was "a good man and moral teacher" would not intentionally misrepresent his identity... therefore, that leaves only the option that Jesus was self-deluded...He thought He was God, but really wasn't...as one writer put it, that would make Him "the world's greatest egomaniac" and He would have to be a lunatic to make such a claim...[Harbour, Brian's Lines, Vol.10, No.2,  p.14]  

·         Thus if we assert Jesus was just a good man and moral teacher, but not who He claimed to be, are taking essentially the same position His relatives took in this passage when they said, "He has lost His senses."  That's a point C.S. Lewis made in his classic book Mere Christianity..."I'm trying to prevent anyone from saying the really silly thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.'  That's the one thing we mustn't say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn't be a great moral teacher.  He'd either be a lunatic--on the level of the man who says he's a poached egg--or else he'd be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But don't let us come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He hasn't left that open to us.  He didn't intend to."

 

VERSES 22-30 – AN ACCUSATION BY THE SCRIBES FROM JERUSALEM

 

The other scandalous accusation made about Jesus in this passage was held by the scribes of the Pharisees...the religious lawyers of first century Judaism ...it wasn't nearly as charitable as the view put forth by Jesus' family ...at least the motives of Jesus' family members were pure...they obviously loved Him...they cared for Him...and they came to get Him because they thought He was a victim of His own self-delusions...on the other hand, the motive of the scribes was just the opposite...they hated Jesus...they were insanely jealous of Him...they wanted Him done away with...and they felt any means, any tactic which resulted in His demise was justifiable...

 

Therefore, the scribes accused Jesus of deliberately lying about His identity…look at what they said about Him in v.22..."He is possessed by Beelzebul.  He casts out the demons by the ruler of demons."...now that is an extremely serious charge... "Beelzebul" is another name for Satan or the devil...the name is Canaanite in origin and literally means "lord of the high places" or "lord of the house"...Jesus picks up on this meaning in the little parable about the strong man's house in v.27... 

 

Now think about what these people were saying about Jesus... in effect they said, "You claim to have come from God.  You claim to be doing God's work.  But you are lying.  You are not from God, you're from the devil.  You are not doing God's work, you're an agent of Satan." 

 

Jesus responded to that accusation in three ways:

·         He said that charge was illogical (vv.23-26)...Why would Satan be fighting against Himself? It made absolutely no sense to say Jesus was casting Satan out of people by the power of Satan...that was an absurd accusation...

·         He said His power was greater than that of Satan.  (v. 27) That's point of the little parable in v.27 about plundering the house of a strong man...Beelzebul, the lord of the house, was being overcome by a stronger power...

·         He warned them about the eternal consequences of failing to recognize His true identity (vv.28-30) That's the only sin which cannot be forgiven... I want to make two brief statements about the verse 29 which says, "...but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin."...want make two quick comments about that statement....

o   That statement needs to be understood within context of this larger passage...that Jesus was doing amazing, supernatural things the Jewish leaders could not deny...instead of denying His works, they questioned the power behind His works...they looked at obvious work of God and attributed it to Satan...through Jesus, using Holy Spirit as communicating agent, God was revealing Himself to the world... these people looked directly at the revelation of God and rejected it...that's the unpardonable sin...rejecting God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ…

o   The reason that is unpardonable is self-evident...to say a person who rejects Jesus will not be forgiven is like saying a person who refused liquids will die of thirst...food/starvation...breath/ asphyxiation...rejecting Jesus is rejecting our only avenue for forgiveness....as Scripture says, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we might be saved."...to reject Jesus means to die in our sins and that results in eternal separation from God...

 

What can we learn from all that?  Here are three quick points of application: 

·         It is a logical absurdity to say that Jesus lied about His identity....just think what that would mean....if Jesus lied the lives of most of the great leaders of our world would have been built on a lie...if Jesus lied civilization as we know it, at least in the western world, rests on a great sham...if Jesus lied the millions and millions of people who have claimed a relationship with the Living Lord would either be lying or deluded...if Jesus lied about His identity, He would have been nothing other than the greatest imposter of all times... Philip Schaff, the well-known historian, points out the absurdity of saying Jesus lied about His identity this way:  "The hypothesis of imposture is so revolting to moral as well as common sense, that its mere statement is its condemnation.  How in the name of logic, common sense, and experience, could an imposter -- that is a deceitful, selfish, depraved man - have invented, and consistently maintained from beginning to end, the purest and noblest character known in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality?"...it is a logical absurdity to say Jesus lied about who He was...

·         Jesus has done something for us that we could not do for ourselves...in that parable in v.27 the "strong man" is Satan...the strong man's "property" represents the helpless people in bondage to Satan because of their sin...Jesus said He had the power to overcome Satan, loosen His grip on us, and set us free...that's the message of the entire NT... we were dead in our sins...we were trapped...there was no way out...Jesus came to pay the price for our sins through His sacrificial death on the cross and break the power of Satan over us...in book of Colossians Apostle Paul uses similar analogy...says we were taken captive by a hostile power...held hostage in the kingdom of darkness...but Jesus came, defeated the evil power and transferred us to His kingdom of light and life...

·         God would much rather forgive us than condemn us...the statement about the unpardonable sin in vv.28-29 is much more statement of hope than it is of warning...forms single sentence in the text and should be taken together...v.28 reminds us of the abundance of God's forgiveness..."all sins...and whatever blasphemies..."...reminder of the marvelous scope of God's forgiveness...v.29 says only way not be forgiven is to reject God's offer of forgiveness in Jesus...the biblical picture of God is that He is loving, kind, compassionate, forgiving not wishing that any would perish but that all would turn to Him in repentance...

 

VERSES 31-35 - Verse 31 is the only mention of Mary in the Gospel of Mark. After all, who cares about the mother of a servant! Our Lord was not rude to His family; He simply used their concern as an opportunity to explain what it means to belong to the family of God. God’s children are closer to Jesus than even His own earthly family, for we are “bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh” (see Eph. 5:30).[4]



[1] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 3:16–19). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (44). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[3] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Mk 3:21). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (111). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

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