His Brothers and Sisters
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
- John 1:10-13 NKJV
Jesus and His disciples go into a house, and the multitude comes together again and the house becomes so full, so packed with people, that they could not even eat bread.
When Jesus’ mother and brothers hear about this they come immediately to rescue Jesus. They thought Jesus was out of His mind. Clearly He needed help.
Meanwhile, in the house, Jesus is accused by some scribes who came from Jerusalem to be possessed by a demon.
Jesus had been busy, I can imagine Him being tired. Too busy to even grab a bite to eat. Healing, teaching, casting out demons, helping everyone who comes to Him for help. Yet His family thinks He is crazy, and the teachers of the law say He is possessed.
Have you ever been misunderstood?
Have you ever gotten in trouble for helping someone?
Have you ever been misunderstood by those who should know better?
Jesus can relate to you.
He was having a rough day.
The Gospel According to Mark
The Gospel According to Mark is believed by many to have been written before Matthew, Luke, or John. It has been called a Passion story (Jesus’ suffering and death) with an extended introduction.
Mark seems to emphasize suffering, not only Jesus’ suffering but also the sufferings that His followers would face.
Mark is the shortest of the Gospels found in our Bible and is often described as a simple or even simplistic account of the story of Jesus. A paper published in the Journal of The American Academy of Religion concluded that the author of Mark was a clumsy writer unworthy of mention in the history of literature. (Shepherd, Tom. Markan Sandwich Stories: Narration, Definition, and Function. Andrews University Press, 1993. page 1)
The main reason for this and similar claims are what some call “sandwich stories.” There are no stories about sandwiches in Mark, but several times he seems to sandwich a story in the middle of another story.
This post is about on of those stories.
On the first part of Mark there is an emphasis on discipleship, and on this post we will be focusing on Mark 3:20-35.
This story is also found in Matthew 12:22-30 and Luke 11:14-23, and to be honest, I think it would have been easier to write a post based on either one of those texts, but Mark frames this story in such an interesting way that I could not pass it up.
What I find so interesting about these “sandwich stories” or “interpolation” is that the more closely I study them, the more convinced I become that they are not the result of clumsy writing, but rather a skilled way of bringing deeper meaning to stories, a deeper meaning that I would have otherwise missed.
Better than describing it to you, lets read it together.
...And they went into a house.
20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”
John 3:20-21 NKJV
In Mark 3:19-20 Jesus and his disciples enter a house and a crowd gathers. The situation is such that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat bread!
In verse 21 we read that Jesus' family heard about this and went to take charge of Him, believing Him to be out of His mind.
Jesus' relatives seem to want to save Jesus, they want to help. There is something about Jesus’ behavior that causes them to fear for His sanity. They don’t understand His behavior. His family, those who have been closest to Him His whole life still don’t get it. By thinking Jesus is crazy and going there to save Him shows that they are not sure He is the Messiah, or they are not sure what the Messiah should be doing. Perhaps they believe the Messiah should not be behaving in this way.
The biblical text makes it clear that they are concerned. We can infer that they disapproved of Jesus’ behavior. Even though the cause is not 100% clear, given the evidence, it could be because His mother heard her Son was not eating and was always with people and didn’t take nearly enough brakes and at this rate he would be dead in a few years, perhaps 3 1/2 years.
It could be that His brothers did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, John 7:5 tells us that not even His brothers believed Him, in which case it would seem crazy to be going around addressing large gatherings of people, preaching and healing, and not even having time to eat.
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.”
- John 3:22 NKJV
Now Jesus is being accused by teachers of the law to be possessed by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.
This verse now takes us inside the house where Jesus is. Jesus’ family heard about what happened and went out to lay hold of Him. If His family had been at Nazareth at the time this would mean a 30 mile trip to Capernaum.
While Jesus' relatives are outside the house, the scribes are inside in His presence. They had come down from Jerusalem, where Jesus will ultimately suffer and die.
Jesus’ family thought He was crazy and the teachers of the law accuse Him of being demon possessed. Attacked by family and church leaders. Misunderstood by those who should understand Him best. Attacked by those closest to Him. Those who know the Bible best, and those closest to Him doubt Him and His ministry. How would you feel in that situation?
Both attacks are similar. Both attacks are a reaction to Jesus’ actions, to His ministry. Socially, His family thinks He is crazy, theologically, the scribes believe He is possessed by a demon. These accusations place both groups against Jesus, leaving Him all alone. No support from home or the church.
So is Jesus indeed the Son of God as Mark claims in the very beginning of his gospel? Or is He crazy? Or even worse, possessed by a demon?
Everyone seems to agree that Jesus' behavior is not typical.
23 So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “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 cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 27 No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.
- John 3:23-27 NKJV
Jesus calls the teachers of the law and speaks to them in parables.
Jesus has been busy, He has been accused, and now He will speak. All eyes are on Jesus. He addresses His enemies directly, He is not afraid or discouraged by the accusations of the scribes, and before everyone, he begins to tell parables.
“How can Satan cast out Satan?” (v23)
Try to imagine Charlie Chaplin picking himself by the collar and throwing himself out of a restaurant. Rather silly correct?
It seems that Satan is not that silly, he would not behave in such a way.
A divided kingdom cannot stand. (v24-25)
Jesus points out an obvious and glaring fault in the logic of the scribes. Their accusation makes no practical sense since a divided house cannot stand.
If their accusation is true, then Satan’s kingdom is at its end and the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:14-15).
IF Satan opposes himself his end has come. (v26)
Jesus borrows the argument of the scribes and shows that even if their statement was true, that Jesus was demon-possessed, it would mean that Satan’s kingdom is divided and at an end, making Jesus’ claim that the Kingdom of God was at hand true, and that would mean the scribes had to react to Jesus’ appeal to repent and believe in the gospel.
By the logic of the Pharisees Satan is defeated if he has turned on himself. How wonderful would it be if the evil powers committed suicide and started attacking each other and freeing people from the power of evil. But this is not the case.
You cannot rob the house of a strong man unless that strong man is bound. (v27)
Jesus does not cast out as an ally of Satan but rather as an enemy of Satan, as someone who has come to bind Satan and carry off his possessions. Jesus acts as one who is stronger than Satan and who is an enemy of Satan.
So, since Jesus is not possessed and Satan’s kingdom is not divided, Satan is still on the losing side because Jesus is stronger than him and is able to bind him and free us.
The Unpardonable Sin
28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— 30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
- John 3:28-30
All sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven (v28)
Here the story seems to take an unexpected turn. Jesus switches gear right after he tears apart the accusation the scribes made. Jesus now talks about forgiveness.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven = eternal sin. (v29)
And here is a solemn warning given by Jesus Himself about a sin that cannot be forgiven. The idea that such a sin could exist ought to scare everyone, and verse 30 connects the unpardonable sin to the claim that Jesus was possessed by an evil spirit.
Here Jesus links the unpardonable sin to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that is, to give Satan the credit for the work of the Holy Spirit. To be face to face with God and refuse to acknowledge Him. To witness God at work and refuse to believe, to worship, to be touched. To actively insist on denying God and the work of the Holy Spirit despite all the evidence, despite all the opportunities to believe.
Jesus is not saying they have committed the unpardonable sin, but He is warning them of the final destination of their current path.
31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.”
33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
- Mark 3:31-35 NKJV
If Jesus’ family are outside calling Him. Trying to save Him from being too committed to His ministry. Trying to save Him from doing the will of God. If Jesus goes with them, He validates their diagnosis of His insanity (Mark 3:21), and affirms His need of being saved.
Another problem is that If Jesus’ family believe He is out of His mind and have come to rescue Him, does that mean that His house is divided?
Does that mean that the Kingdom of God will collapse?
Is Jesus indeed out of His mind and in need of help?
Jesus asks “Who is my mother or my brothers?” (v33)
This question is not helping His case. Jesus is indeed looking like someone who might be out of His mind. This is a weird question. Is the answer not obvious?
Jesus looked at those sitting around Him and said “Here are my brothers and my mothers” (v34)
Jesus has just redefined His family declaring those who sat around Him to be His mother and brothers.
Jesus’ brothers sisters and mother are those who do the will of God. (v35)
Jesus redefines family lines, not according to blood but according to choices, loyalty, and love. Not something that happens passively (we don’t get to chose our blood family) but something active that cannot happened against our will.
Jesus defined family along the lines of objectives, goals, direction, faithfulness. Family is not about where you were born, or the identity of your parents, but rather in your willingness and desire to do the will of God.
Jesus’ house was not divided. His family was not divided. Jesus’ family is not defined by blood, but by allegiance, by faithfulness, by willingness, by actions.
Doing the will of God is not easy and often leads to being accused by others who have not yet accepted Jesus. It may seem crazy to others the idea of being honest even when you could get away with it.
To fight for your marriage when everyone keeps telling you to just give up.
To return 10% of your income to God.
To dedicate one whole day to God, and for that day to be a specific day.
To care for your body and avoid certain behaviors, even if everyone else seems to be doing it.
For waiting for marriage to have sex
For not doing drugs, for not cheating, for forgiving, for not getting revenge, for trusting in God.
Jesus too was accused of being crazy, even by his own mother and brothers.
His blood family didn’t get him.
The teachers of the law, who should have been Jesus’ greatest supporters, accused Him of being possessed by a demon.
Yet Jesus remained faithful to God. With wisdom and authority He answered all the accusations against Him, and redefined family along the lines of discipleship.
Jesus is not demon possessed, He is Satan’s worst nightmare.
Jesus is not out of His mind, He is on a mission.
We are all called to ministry. Baptism is a birth, and it is important. But Jesus also clearly delineates His family as those who do.
I know you’re busy, I know it seems crazy.
But what is better than doing what God calls us to do?
May we chose to obey God and not allow anyone or anything to ever distract us or “rescue us” from doing the will of God.