Have you ever done something that made other people wonder if you have lost your mind? If so, you can probably understand what is going on in Mark 3:20-35.
This takes place early in Jesus’ ministry when word of his teachings and miracles is starting to spread. This was a homecoming-Jesus’ homecoming. Our instincts and associations of home and family shape our expectations about how this event will unfold.
Jesus’ earthly family and friends didn’t understand his ministry. They didn’t understand that He was the Son of God. To the people of Nazareth, he was just the son of Mary and Joseph-earthly parents. We are the same. Sometimes we can’t understand Jesus and his ministry. Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand who Jesus is, what he does and why he does what he does. Often we make a rash judgment about Jesus. We need to ask God what his will is for our lives. We need to ask God why he is doing what he is doing in our lives.
At this stage of His ministry, not even Jesus’ own people-His own family-believed He was the Messiah, the Chosen One of God. He also faced opposition from His own disciples, not just from the religious teachers and His political enemies. Still, He never wavered from His mission.
Because the Pharisees did not understand what Jesus was doing, they accused him of being possessed by the devil. They wanted to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people, but their claim had one big flaw. How could the devil defeat the devil? Jesus challenged the way the religious leaders were calling God’s work the work of the devil. The devil and his angels are of equal strength, so evil can’t defeat evil. A strong man can only be defeated by someone who is stronger. Since good is always stronger than evil, good will always defeat evil. Jesus is the champion of everything that is good, so he will always defeat evil. By labelling His healings and exorcisms as works of the devil, Jesus’ opponents tried to portray His miracles as counterfeit wonders designed to lead people away from God. His miracles commonly led people to praise God rather than blaspheme Him-further proving that Jesus’ kingdom is a heavenly one.
Truth-tellers make us uncomfortable. They disturb our creeds, customs and stubborn particularities. The apostle Paul said not to get weary in doing good deeds. Truth and doing good deeds are not always appreciated. We can’t handle them. Those who challenge the status quo are dangerous. They threaten to upset everything. Jesus was dangerous in the eyes of both the Pharisees and His biological family. We as Christians are in the same situation today. If we challenge the way things are or the way things are done, we may be seen as insane or dangerous, and we may be persecuted.
So what’s going on? How has Jesus’ ministry of preaching and teaching and healing created such controversy and accusation? The answer is actually fairly simple: Jesus is so totally what the religious authorities don’t expect that they have absolutely no idea what to make of him. He doesn’t fit their categories, and what doesn’t fit our categories we typically label abnormal, or deviant, or crazy, or possessed. We assume that what we know, have experienced, and hold to be true is normal, natural, and God-ordained, and that becomes the standard by which we measure — and judge — the thoughts and actions of others. And that’s what going on here.
Jesus’ whole ministry thus far has been about announcing both a new vision of God and a new way of relating to God. And at the heart of that vision and way is the conviction that God is love, that God desires the health and healing of all God’s creation, that God stands both with us and for us, that God is determined to love and redeem us no matter what the cost, and that this God chooses to be accessible to us, to all of us — indeed, to anyone and everyone.
This is why Jesus sets himself against all the powers that would rob humanity and creation of the abundant life God intends — whether those powers be unclean spirits; disease that ravages the mind, body or spirit; illness that isolates and separates those who suffer from community; or whatever. Jesus introduces a new vision of God and a new way to relate to God…and it’s not what any of us religious folk would expect.
Jesus frequently prefaced His parables with either a thought-provoking question or straightforward teaching points in order to frame His stories properly. These were effective ways to help people see their faulty reasoning and their need for a Saviour. If Satan really was behind Jesus’ miracles, then the devil would be defeating himself, which doesn’t make any sense. Jesus defeated Satan because He is more powerful than Satan.
Normally, when there is a champion of any type-sports, politics, etc. – most people will follow the champion. In other words, many people will “jump on the bandwagon”, but there will still be some opponents. There is a similar situation in this passage. By accusing Jesus of using the devil’s power to cast out demons, the Pharisees rejected the work of the Holy Spirit. They willingly rejected Christ as their Saviour because they did not want to give up their power, prestige, authority, etc. Because they chose not to believe, they refused to accept forgiveness for their sins. Refusing to accept the Holy Spirit is the only sin that cannot be forgiven-and not blasphemy as most believers would think.
How many people in our modern world have refused to accept Christ because it would mean giving up an earthly way of life that is more important to them? The list is endless, but it includes the famous and not so famous. It includes people such as actor John Belushi and singers Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson-people whose desire for the good things of this earthly life led to their downfall and death from drug and alcohol abuse (even though Whitney Houston was raised in a strong Christian church and with a strong Christian faith).
Jesus’ family wanted to charge him with insanity. The Pharisees wanted to charge Him with working for Satan. Jesus answered these charges with riddles, and they make sense to us. They call on us to consider how Jesus might have to do with how we imagine our world and the ways of God and His creation. What is God calling us to see and hear in Jesus?
Jesus’ earthly family was concerned about his physical and mental health, but Jesus was more concerned about the spiritual health of the people he dealt with. True “family” is not a matter of biological relationship, but of kinship in obedience to God, and that kinship begins when God through his grace adopts us into his family. God wants to have a family, but if we want to join His family, we have to detach ourselves from our old families. In a world where there is so much opposition to the Christian faith, and where our homes and families demand so much of our time, our one priority is to love one another wherever we are, and with every breath of our being.
Jesus defied the norms about who’s in and who’s out. People possessed by demons and those who were maimed or born with a physical limitation or defect were often assumed to be cursed, to be not natural, or to have sinned or to be suffering from the sins of their parents. Jesus forgives and heals all who are in need-no exceptions. If people weren’t sure about this before, Jesus pushed his point unbelievably and quite literally home when he says that anyone and everyone who does the work of God is his true brother and sister and mother. He redefined what constitutes a family at a time when family was everything.
Although Jesus honoured His mother as the law commanded in John 19:26-27, Jesus did not allow even His own flesh and blood to prevent Him from doing the will of God. A closer bond exists between brothers and sisters in the faith than among biological siblings because of their spiritual relationship. This is why Jesus later said that believers who must part ways with their family of origin because of their faith gain a much larger and more closely-knit family. When Christ is the focus of our lives, faith becomes stronger than family.
For Jesus, action in response to the call of God marks what it means to be a member of God’s family. Relationships in God’s family are couched in terms of doing God’s will. At this point in the story, the will of God is not defined. Jesus offers another invitation of hospitality that is about meeting people where they are, accepting anyone who is interested in God’s kingdom and responding to need no matter who is asking or when or how they ask. We have to trust Jesus and the invitation to join him and believe that together we will take part in spreading the Good News of God’s kingdom.
Instead of asking why Jesus got so much flack, we should ask ourselves why we aren’t getting more flack. Why aren’t we pushing the boundaries of what is socially and religiously acceptable In order to reach more folks with the always surprising, often upsetting, unimaginably gracious and ridiculous love of Jesus? If that’s the kind of love we want to offer, we must ask ourselves if we are communicating that message in our words and our deeds loudly and clearly, both in the church and in the community.
Those who accept the Holy Spirit will do the will of God and thereby become part of the new concept of family that Jesus creates. That is, they will become part of the family of God. This is not meant to exclude our biological family unless they refuse to accept the Holy Spirit and therefore refuse to do God’s will. When we allow the Holy Spirit in our lives, nothing can stop us. We have a power that can overcome everything the devil throws in our way-even the opposition of our earthly family. That power is the awesome power of God! When we unite with fellow believers, the power is even greater.
- Stanley, C.F., “The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB”. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2009)
- Exegesis for Mark 3:20-35. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- Max Lucado, “Dealing with Difficult Relations”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Bob Brine, “Team Spirit”. Retrieved from www.christianitytoday.com
- Pastor John Barnett, “All Sins are Forgivable”. Retrieved from www.dtbm.org
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- Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible Software package.
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- McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J., “The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 25: Mark” (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
- Meda Stamper, “Commentary on Mark 3:20-35”. Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching_print.aspx?commentary_id=1315
- Dr. Philip W. McLarty, “Who Are My Mother and My Brothers?” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- Dr. Mickey Anders, “Was Jesus Out of His Mind?” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Proper 5, Ordinary 13. Retrieved from http://lectionary.seemslikegod.org/archives/year-b-season-after-pentecost-proper-5-ordinary-13.html
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: NKJV (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1347-1348)
- James Boyce, “Commentary on Mark 3:20-35.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2468
- David Lose, “Pentecost 2B: Offering a Wide Welcome.” Retrieved from www.davidlose.net/2015/06/pentecost-2-b-offering-a-wide-welcome/
- David Lose, “Out of Our Minds.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1615
- The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon, “Why Jesus? Part 4: Jesus the Home Wrecker.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/2201-why_jesus_part_4_jesus_the_home_wrecker.print
- The Rev. Dr. Ozzie Smith Jr., “When Jesus Comes Home.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/8212-ozzie_smith_jr_when_jesus_comes_home.print