ARE YOU FAMILY?
The scene is Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin, the supreme court of Israel has convened. This august body of the 70 leading elders of Israel has assembled to discuss the key issues facing their nation.
Caiaphas, the high priest and president of the Sanhedrin asks the scribe, “What is the next order of business?”
It concerns a young Galilean carpenter who has left his workshop and begun a ministry of preaching and teaching and healing.
“He is reported to have the complete sanction of John the Baptist.”
“He has gathered several disciples together.”
“The leader of the synagogue at Nazareth says that He disrupted a recent service by His teachings.”
“We have a complaint against this man from the Galilean Physicians Association - they report that He is hurting their business.”
“There is even a civil suit of a man wanting a refund from a mortician.”
“Who is this man?” asks Caiaphas.
“His name is Jesus.”
Upon hearing the name, one of the more distinguished members of the Sanhedrin raises his head with a start. He closes his eyes and remembers a moonlight meeting, but no one notices that the mind of Nicodemus is wandering to a midnight conversation and a troubling dialogue.
“What is to be done about this man?”
“I move that a delegation be sent to observe Him and determine if there is any warrant to these charges.”
AN IRREVERENT ACCUSATION
And He came home, and the multitude gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.
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.”
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” (Mark 3:20-22).
The religious officials in Jerusalem had already sent a delegation to Galilee to keep tabs on Jesus. This Jerusalem delegation was made up of scribes. These were the intellectuals of the day. It was their duty to make copies of the Scriptures. They knew the word of God inside and out. They could tell you how many Hebrew letters there were on any given page of the Bible.
They have been watching Jesus for some time now. They had heard of this man who taught with authority and not like the scribes (Mark 1:22). They had heard of His ministry of healing and casting out demons. They had been present when the paralytic was healed (Mark 2:6). And now they have a problem. They cannot deny that miraculous power has been at work.
People who have been lame are throwing away their crutches. People who have been deaf can now hear a pin drop. See-eye dogs are being put out of work. People are asking for refunds from funeral homes.
The scribes can't laugh off that kind of power. They cannot deny that the supernatural is taking place. And so they have one of two options:
1. They can accept Him as Messiah, believing His message and repenting of their sins and trusting in Him alone for salvation.
2. Or they can reject Him, looking for an alternate explanation.
Why do they choose the latter? It is because they have a vested interest in unbelief. That is always the reason that people choose to reject Christ. Let's face it, Jesus has a way of changing a person's life. And if you choose not to have your life changed by Him, then you have to reject Him. To do that takes effort. It takes effort because there is something compellingly attractive about Him. And so, you begin to look for rationalizations of why you should not follow Him.
These scribes did that. They could not deny that there was real spiritual power in their midst. And so, they came up with an alternate explanation. They attributed the power of Jesus to Satan.
“He is possessed by Beelzebul!”
The name “Beelzebub” refers to an old Canaanite deity. “Baal” is the Canaanite word for “lord.” “Zebub” was a reference to “flies.” He was known as Baal-zebub, the “Lord of the Flies” in 2 Kings 1:2-6. He was the god of diseases.
The Jews had taken this name and changed it to Baal-zebel which meant “Lord of the Dung.” It was a term of derision. And they eventually came to use it as a title for Satan.
Do you see what they are doing? They are pointing to Jesus and they are saying, “He is Satan in the flesh! He is only able to cure diseases because he is the demon of diseases!”
They have seen the power of God’s Holy Spirit at work and they deliberately and knowingly reject that Spirit.
A REASONED DEFENSE
And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!
“But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.” (Mark 3:23-27).
Jesus now makes His defense. The defense of Jesus is given in three parts.
1. The Devil is Defeated (3:23).
The scribes have already conceded this point. They could not deny the obvious outward miraculous power that Jesus manifested. Satan has plainly been cast out.
2. Division is Destructive (3:23-26).
When there is civil war in a nation, that nation does not prosper. When a husband and wife set themselves against one another, it is not long before their marriage begins to collapse.
By the way, the same is true of the church. The quickest way to destroy the church is to allow division to exist in our midst.
Now we come to the application. Jesus has been casting out demons. He has been in a war against Satan. If he is fighting Satan, then He is obviously not on Satan's side and not receiving His power from Satan.
3. Delegation is Limited (3:27).
You cannot delegate more than you already have. Satan cannot delegate more power than he already has. If the power that is being used against Satan is greater that what Satan has himself, then he cannot be the source of that power.
This is illustrated by a strong man who is about to be robbed. If you want to rob a strong man, you do not go into his house and ask him to help you. He will throw you out on your ear. You must first tie him up.
Here is what Jesus is saying. He has been tying up Satan. He has been robbing the kingdom of Satan. We all once were the property of Satan. We used to belong to his kingdom.
For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. (Colossians 1:13).
When we came to Christ, we were taken from Satan's domain. We have now become a prized possession of the Son.
Jesus is still in the business of tying up Satan. Every time that you see a man or a woman turn from their sin and come to Christ, you are seeing an example of Satan being bound.
AN IRRERPAIRABLE TRANSGRESSION
“Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” - 30 Because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:28-30).
Now Jesus turns from His own defense to speak about those who have just accused Him. They have just accused Him of performing miracles by the power of Satan. They have witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit and they said, “That is Satan!” They pointed to the Holy Spirit and said, “Unholy and unclean!”
Jesus calls this blasphemy. The word blasphemy is a compound word made from the Greek words “to speak” (phemi) and “to hurt” (blapto). It describes the act of speaking of someone in a hurtful way.
Blasphemy is the opposite of praise and worship. Praise is to speak good of someone. Worship is to assign worth to someone. Blasphemy is to speak evil and to attempt to take worth away from one that is deserving of such. Blasphemy is speaking evil against God. This is a serious sin. In the Old Testament, it called for the death of the offender.
Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. (Leviticus 24:16).
Blasphemy was a serious crime. It was a capital offense. And yet, even blasphemy can be forgiven.
The Apostle Paul confessed to having been “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Timothy 1:13). But he was shown mercy.
We have a God who forgives. Forgiveness is a crucified Messiah praying to His Father that those who had pounded the nails into His flesh would not be held accountable. This is why Jesus came. He came to die and by His death purchase forgiveness for every man. He is able to forgive every manner of evil - except one.
“But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29).
It is the Spirit that draws you to Christ. It is the Spirit that regenerates you - that brings new life to you. It is the Spirit that opens your eyes so that you can see Jesus.
Blasphemy against the Spirit is to speak against the work of the Spirit and to resist Him in such a way that you can no longer hear His voice calling you to repentance.
Every once in a while, I meet someone who is worried that they have committed the unpardonable sin. I have news for you. If you are worried about it and wish that you could repent of it, then you haven't committed it.
It is like the man who went to the doctor and said that he had a horrible disease. The doctor said, "Nonsense! If you had that disease, you wouldn't know it because there are no visible symptoms." The man replied, "That's how I know I've got it. I feel wonderful!"
If you had committed the unpardonable sin, then you would not be concerned with rejecting the Spirit.
The scribes had been given all of the evidence. They had seen the miracles. They had heard the teachings. And they still rejected Christ. They rejected the very One in whom it was necessary to believe in order to receive forgiveness. As a result, there remained no possibility of forgiveness.
The same is true today. You have been exposed to the truth of the gospel today. You have been offered eternal life through faith in the Son of God. If your final conclusion is that this is not the truth and that you will have no part in it, then you are unredeemable.
A RELATIONAL REQUEST
And His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him, and called Him.
And a multitude was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”
And answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”
And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold, My mother and My brothers!
“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35).
As we come to this paragraph, it seems at first glance to have no bearing on what has come before.
Jesus has just accused the Jerusalem Delegation of committing an unpardonable sin. They have rejected Him and they in turn have been rejected by Him. Now the family of Jesus arrives on the scene. They haven't come to hear Him preach or to see the miracles. They have come to talk to Him. They have heard of His sudden rise to popularity and they have concluded that He has lost contact with reality and they have come to take Him into custody. This is seen back in verse 21.
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.” (Mark 3:21).
Do you see that phrase “His own people”? It is literally, “those from His side.” This was a common figure of speech in the Septuagint to refer to someone's family.
“His own people” in verse 21 were very likely “His mother and His brothers” of verse 31. The passage is chiastic in its format.
His own people: “He has lost His senses”
Jesus: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”
Scribes: “He is possessed by Beelzebul”
Jesus: “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”
You see, the brothers of Jesus didn't believe in Him (John 7:5). They had grown up with Him and had lived with Him for many years and they did not believe that He was the Messiah of Israel.
That is amazing. I can understand the scribes from Jerusalem hearing and not understanding, but his own brothers?
There is a lesson here. Sometimes there is a correlation between proximity and distortion. People who grow up in a religious home often have a harder time coming to know the Lord because they are too close to the subject. They never really come face to face with their need.
I grew up in a religious home. We went to church every Sunday morning and Sunday night and Wednesday night. My brothers and I were made to read the Bible every night and we hated every minute of it. I went for years without any reality of God in my life until I moved away from the Lord and from the church in a period of real rebellion. It was then, for the first time, that I began to be really aware of my need.
Jesus is going to remove Himself from His family. They are seeking to approach Him on the basis of their physical relationship. He will not allow it. He is establishing a new relationship - one based on faith and obedience to Him.
You may have been watching the scribes commit the unpardonable sin and thinking to yourself, "I was raised as a Christian and I would never do a thing like that." But having Christian parents and being raised in a Christian family is no guarantee of forgiveness. It doesn't matter that you were brought up in Sunday School or that your name is on a church role or that you sing Christian songs or eat Christian cookies.
You must enter into a family relationship with the Heavenly Father. It is an eternal family. It is bound together with a bond that makes earthly families distant by comparison. And there is room in that family for you.
Jesus told a story once of a teenage boy who decided that life at home was too slow and monotonous. He wanted to live life in the fast lane. So with his pockets full of inheritance money, he set out to find the big time. What he found instead were hangovers, fair-weather friends, and ultimately an unemployment line. In the end he had nothing. A homeless bum.
Finally swallowing his pride, he began the long walk back home; all the while rehearsing the speech that he would give to his father.
He never used it. Just as he rounded the corner, his father, who had been waiting at the gate, saw him and ran to meet him. The boy's apologies were muffled by the father's words of forgiveness. The boy fell into his father's open arms.
Those arms were never opened so wide as when they were nailed to a Roman cross. One arm reached back through history to all those who had gone before. The other arm reached forward, even to where you sit today. His arms are still open. A hen gathering her chicks. An embrace for a lost child. They are open for you.