Mark 3:20-35 — Believe The Right Things About Jesus

by Nate Holdridge

The Scene (20-22)

Intense Popularity

Mark sets up our next scene by pointing out two separate groups, Jesus’ family and the scribes. But before looking at each group and their response to Christ, Mark is clear to point out why both of them reacted to Jesus at this time. The crowds.

Jesus had gone back to his new home in Capernaum, likely Peter’s house, and the crowd gathered again (20). Again, just to remind you, Mark does not think highly of the crowds. They disrupted Jesus’ ability to teach and minister openly. They drove him out into the wilderness areas. He even had to get an escape boat ready because they pressed upon him (3:9). They are problematic because they are usually drawn to Jesus for the wrong reasons. They love the miracles, but not the message.

And, here, the crowd is presented as an incessant group with nonstop needs. Jesus and his disciples did not even have time to eat (20). Their margin for prayer, or fellowship, or rest was spoken for by the masses.

His Family’s Response

Mark says that when Jesus’ family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind” (21). Some of your translations say it was Jesus’ own people who made this statement (NASB, NKJV). The reason for the various renderings is that Mark used Greek words that meant Jesus’ own heard it. We know he’s talking about people, but what people?

But it’s later in the passage we learn it was Jesus’ own family. Eventually, his mother and his brothers will show up and try to remove him from the crowd (31). So it can be safely said that it was his family who were repulsed when they saw the massive crowds, the fact he wasn’t eating, and the hostility of the religious leaders. They concluded, at least temporarily, that Jesus was out of his mind (21). They won’t always feel this way, and eventually, they’ll believe and become pillars in the church, but on this day, they thought Jesus was crazy.

The Scribes’ Response

But it isn’t just the family of Jesus who object to his popularity but also the scribes (22). And not just any scribes, but those who came down from Jerusalem (22). They could not deny that Jesus had power. They all saw his miracles. They watched him deliver the demonized. People who were previously mad under demonic influence were being made whole by Jesus. No one could deny his power.

And the scribes felt they needed to explain that power somehow. So they came up with a wild accusation. They said Jesus himself was possessed by Beelzebul, casting out demons by the prince of demons (22). What does this accusation mean? And who is Beelzebul?

The title Beelzebul either means “lord of the flies” or “lord of the house or dwelling.” It is a difficult title to pin down due to various historical spellings and usages in their day. What is clear, however, is that by Jesus’ time, the title had been ascribed to Satan. So, to put it bluntly, they claimed Jesus was teaching, healing, and delivering the demonized by Satan’s power.

Believing The Wrong Things About Jesus

So there you have it. Jesus’ family thinks he’s out of his mind. The scribes think he’s empowered by Satan. And Mark will use the episode to demonstrate how wrong both camps are about Jesus. They believe the wrong things about him, and, as a result, are tragically outside looking in. They aren’t able to partake, at least at this moment, in Jesus’ kingdom, because their perspective about him is incorrect.

So how should we use the passage that follows? We should use it to discover true things about Jesus so that we can believe them, and find ourselves inside his program. The idea is simple: if you believe the right things about Jesus, you’ll experience his power. So let’s believe the right things about Jesus. Let me show you three things, starting with the next movement.


23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables [short proverbial sayings, not stories], “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 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 is coming to an end.

A Question

First, Jesus asked a straightforward question: How can Satan cast out Satan (23)? Why would Satan be the one to destroy Satan’s work? He came to steal, kill, and destroy. He is the great deceiver of the nations. He has been lying from the beginning. And Jesus came along doing the exact opposite of Satan in every way. He didn’t bind people but freed them. He didn’t destroy people but made them whole. He didn’t lie to them but spoke the truth. He didn’t hate people but loved them. Everything Jesus did was casting out Satan (23). Obviously, he was at odds with Satan’s influence.

Parable 1 & 2 — A Kingdom And A House

And to make this point, Jesus told three short parables or short proverbial sayings (23). The first two are similar. In the first, a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (24). In the second, a house divided against itself is not able to stand (25). Both ideas are political in nature.

A divided kingdom is at war with itself. Israel’s history had a clear and unfortunate example of this type of civil war after Solomon’s death when the northern tribes rejected Solomon’s son and started their own new nation. A divided house implies the division of not just any home, but of a royal family. Again, this kind of royal division was not uncommon on the pages of Israel’s history.

Jesus’ point with these first two parables was to illustrate that Satan’s kingdom was not collapsing because of internal division. There was no civil war in Satan’s ranks.

But why was Satan’s kingdom collapsing? I mean, that’s what they were witnessing. They were watching people go from darkness to light, from death to life, and from brokenness to wholeness. How could it all be explained? For that, we must turn to Jesus’ last parable.

27 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.

Parable 3 — A Strong Man

After debunking the scribes’ claim that Jesus was somehow working for Satan, Jesus gave his own explanation for the fall of Satan’s kingdom. In this parable, there is a strong man with a house (27). No one can go in to plunder his goods (27). He’s too strong.

But there is one way to plunder his goods. Someone stronger has to first bind the strong man (27). Once he’s bound, his goods can be plundered (27).

Someone Stronger

What does Jesus mean with this parable? It’s simple. I’m sure you’ve already gotten the point. Satan is like a strong man with a house full of goods. The goods in his house are human beings who he has deceived, bound in sin, and held captive.

But Jesus is stronger than Satan! He came and began binding Satan so that he could plunder Satan’s house. He is setting people free!

What does this teach us about Jesus? I mean, if they were wrong about Jesus, and thus outside his program, what should we believe about Jesus? What is the right way to think of him?

1. Jesus Is An Invading Force (23-27)

It is just so obvious to the reader of Mark’s gospel, and we’re not even that far into the book! Jesus came and immediately began confronting the brokenness and disrepair Satan had caused. He restored broken lives. He undid what Satan had done. He helped people.

And this is how Jesus sees himself. Satan has a kingdom. Satan has a house. And Jesus came to attack and dismantle it. Ultimately, he did this while dying on the cross. There, he disarmed Satan. And, one day, we will see the ultimate disarmament of Satan’s forces when they are thrown into the lake of fire Jesus prepared from them.

But the foretaste of Jesus as an invading force has already happened in Mark.

You

And many of you know about this from personal experience. You were lost, now you’re found. You were blind, now you see. You were dead, and now you’re alive. Jesus has done great things for you. Like a foreign invader, he came into your life, destroyed Satan’s grip on your soul, and set you free.

I’ve often told the story of my own life, how, as a teenager, I was slowly giving Satan control of my life. But the conviction of the Spirit and the love of God would not let me go. And, one night, it happened just like Jesus said. Like an invading force, he came in, bound the strong man, and rescued me. He delivered me by his power and grace. He called me and chose me. In a sense, Jesus plundered me out of the house of Satan.

Our Joshua

But, as much as we rejoice that Jesus has delivered us, we should still see him as an invading force. In other words, even after we are born again, we should still envision Jesus as working hard to destroy Satan’s stronghold in our lives. He wants to continually deliver us.

Remember when Jesus was born? The angel said to Joseph, regarding Mary:

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, ESV)

Why is Jesus’ name connected to the fact he would save his people from their sins? Well, Jesus is merely a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “God saves.”

Because of this, the original Joshua is a great example. He led Israel into the promised land and won victories over various foreign powers that were ripe for God’s judgment. In a similar way, our Joshua, Jesus, comes along and leads us into victory over various sins in our lives.

Personally, I believe this is one of the major opportunities in our current time. It’s a season where Jesus can grow us as we allow him access into our lives. I know many people are downplaying the idea that anything productive or good or growth-oriented can occur right now. I’ve read of some who’ve said it’s wrong to even talk about personal growth right now. I have even seen some excuse overeating, intoxication, and the consumption of illicit online material as a way to decompress during this season.

No! Instead, see Jesus as an invading force who wants to set you free. He wants to use this time to shape and transform his people. Let’s allow him room to do so.

So that’s our first big truth about Jesus — he is an invading force. Let’s see what else he has to say.


28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Radical Forgiveness

Now, immediately when we read this passage, most spiritually sensitive believers will sit up straight begin listening more intently. I mean, Jesus talks here about a sin that never has forgivenessan eternal sin (29). Some have called it the “unpardonable sin.”

We don’t want anyone, ourselves included, to commit this particular sin! Whatever it is, we want to avoid it! And, over the years, many have taught about this potential sin in such an ominous and frightening way. So there is a bit of a dark cloud surrounding this little portion of Scripture.

But, before working on our interpretation of this blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, we should notice the more hopeful notes with which Jesus introduced the doctrine (29). He said all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter (28). In other words, before we take note of the warning, we must observe the blessing. In fact, we cannot understand the warning unless we comprehend the blessing. Jesus came to earth to die for the sin of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

What grace! In Jesus, all sins you’ve ever committed can be forgiven. As we’ll see in a moment, Jesus isn’t saying he forces everyone to accept his forgiveness. There is a sin that keeps someone outside of Christ’s forgiveness, but he came to forgive all sin from the children of man. Before receiving Jesus’ warning to the scribes, we should celebrate the grace.

Blasphemy Of The Holy Spirit Defined

To understand the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, one must look at the context surrounding Jesus’ statement. The scribes knew Jesus was doing amazing things. The scribes said Jesus did those things by the power of Satan or Beelzebul. They said he had an unclean spirit. This is why Jesus talked about the danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Notice how Mark says it: “For they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit’ (30).

In other words, the scribes were in danger of this sin. Jesus had been baptized in the Jordan River by John, and there the Holy Spirit came upon him. The Spirit of God was empowering Jesus’ work and ministry. But they said Jesus was fueled by Satan. The things the Spirit was doing, they said Beelzebul was doing! And Jesus was warning them: You are coming dangerously close to blaspheming the Spirit, and for that there is no forgiveness!

So the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a position which states that Jesus did not live, work, or die according to the Spirit of God’s power. In other words, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were not divinely fueled or empowered. He is not from the God of the Bible but must be explained in some other way. To blaspheme the Spirit is to reject who Jesus says he is.

Furthermore, since it seems the scribes were only in danger of committing this sin but had not yet gone all the way there, it seems the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a finalized position to which a person commits. It is not a random action, but a persistent and immovable attitude. The heart becomes so hard; there is no way they can shift. To them, Jesus is not from God. Nothing can move them.

Now, I should mention that many sensitive believers have wondered if they have somehow, someway, at some time committed this sin. But the nature of the sin is such that if you are worried you’ve committed it, you most surely haven’t. Perhaps at some point you were well on your way to committing it, much like these scribes, but the mere desire to believe in Jesus is an indicator you are not guilty of this sin.

In a way, this is nothing new for the Christian. The gospel is there. It is preached. And we have to believe it to be saved. But if we say it is not a divine message, not from God, then we cannot tap into the forgiveness Christ brought. It is disobedience to the gospel that condemns someone (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). We cannot reject the Spirit’s work and witness through Jesus and be saved. It cannot happen. You must believe in Jesus.

All that said, what should we learn of Jesus here? Considering what they wouldn’t confess about him, what should we confess?

2. Jesus Came In The Spirit’s Power (28-30)

You see, these religious leaders doubted Jesus’ power. They thought it demonic, not divine. Therefore, believers should be on the opposite end of the spectrum. We should confess that Jesus came in the Spirit’s power. We should celebrate his ability and grace and might.

This, of course, means we believe in the gospel message, but perhaps it means more. Perhaps believing Jesus was empowered by the Spirit means we should hold his work in the highest regard. And maybe there are times when we inadvertently downplay his work. We aren’t committing the blasphemy of the Spirit in those moments — it’s not a wholesale rejection of Jesus — but the downplaying of his power and work in our lives.

One Way We Discredit Jesus’ Work

One major way believers discredit Jesus’ work when they refuse to believe they are new in Christ. The Bible says:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

But many believers walk around as if this isn’t so. They do not do what Paul said to do when he said:

…You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11, ESV)

Instead, they see themselves as an old creation, unable to live in the newness of life Jesus provides. You must escape this way of thinking. You are new in him! Rather than walk around thinking you are unforgiven and unable to overcome, reconfess the power of Christ. He is strong. He is good. And does not mess up. When he got ahold of your life, he was doing a great work. You are a new creation in him. Stop believing you are destined to failure, the same old sins for the rest of your life, or hurting others. You aren’t. Jesus has a new plan for you.

So that’s our second big truth about Jesus — he came in the Spirit’s power. That was how he addressed the scribes. Remember, though, this passage started with his family growing suspicious of his ways. Let’s conclude by seeing how that episode ends.


31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mother And Brothers

At the beginning of our story, Jesus’ family had decided he was out of his mind (3:21). Maybe you can relate. Maybe your family thinks your belief in Jesus is nuts. If so, you’re in good company with Jesus.

So Jesus’ family shows up. Mary is there. Jesus’ brothers are there. Joseph isn’t mentioned. He never is during Jesus’ adult life, one of a handful of clues which lead many scholars to suspect he has already died. But, there is the family. They send for Jesus. The messenger said, “Your mother and brother are outside, seeking you” (32). Cryptically, Jesus responded, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (33).

Family Redefined

Then Jesus looked about at those who sat around him, and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (34-35).

This is meant to be shocking. Mark’s gospel is full of outsider/insider language. Some are in. Some are out. And, right now, during this episode, the holy family is out. And the people sitting around listening to Jesus are in. Crazy.

What do we learn of Jesus here?

3. Jesus Made A New Family (31-35)

Biology vs. Allegiance

All this was a major shift in God’s program. From the moment sin entered the world, God began promising someone who would destroy Satan, crushing the serpent under his feet. He would descend from Eve. He would descend from Seth. He would descend from Noah. He would descend from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He would descend from David. In other words, the Christ-Messiah-Savior’s biological roots mattered. He had to have the right lineage, the right genealogy.

But now that Jesus has arrived, he blows up that model. He has come. So now he makes a new family. He still has plans for Israel. But here he looks around at people he’s not biologically related to and says they are his family. They are doing the will of God as they sit and learn from him, and he considers them his brothers and sisters and mothers (35).

Not By Works, But Grace

This is not Jesus’ way of saying you can earn your position in his family by doing good works, by the way. When he says, “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother,” he is pointing to the evidence his family members show that they’re in his family (35). In other words, when you are regenerated by the Spirit, brought into Christ’s family, one of the things you will want to do is obey Jesus. It’s evidence you belong to him. As you walk with him, the fruit of the Spirit will develop in your life:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV)

You Are Part Of His New Family

But, by his blood, Jesus made a new family. He created in himself one new humanity (Ephesians 2:15, my paraphrase). If you belong to Jesus, you belong to Jesus’ family. You are in. You belong.

So:

  • Jesus is an invading force.
  • Jesus came in the Spirit’s power.
  • Jesus made a new family.

Concluding Applications

1. What weaknesses have uniquely popped up in your life during this season?

2. What area sin are you tempted to think Jesus can’t help you overcome?

3. How valuable is your spiritual family, especially compared to your biological family?

4. What does hearing and then obeying Jesus look like in your life?

5. How do some of the elements of the Calvary Challenge give Jesus tools to work in your life?

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