Upon our last venture through Mark, we looked at the 5 conflict stories that pitted Jesus against Jerusalem’s leadership. Mark puts this early on in his gospel (chapters 2-3 for us) to show us early on that Jesus’ ministry was fraught with conflict from the beginning. As we move through these 5 conflicts, each intensifies to the point that the Pharisees, the ones who keep the law of the Lord, show their defiled hearts [7.21] by meeting with the Herodians to plot the death of Jesus [3.6].
Jesus and the disciples withdraw to Galilee where, again, a great multitude from a range of locales (Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and even up north from Tyre and Sidon) comes to Him. And in these 6 verses not only do we see Jesus being popular with the crowds, but we also see Him clean out an unclean spirit right after we see the unclean spirits of the Pharisees/Herodians [3.6; 8.15; 12.13]. Yet here, even the unclean spirits recognize who Jesus is and obey Him.
Unclean spirits: 1
Jesus makes a new “Twelve” of Israel. Just as the tribes of Israel were to proclaim the goodness and mercy of God to the Gentile world, so the 12 apostles will proclaim the Kingship of Jesus to both the Jewish and Gentile world. He appoints them and gives them power to heal sickness and demons (this includes Judas – [Mk. 14.18-21, esp. v19]). They will be doing the will of God by following after Jesus [3.35].
Mark gives us a sandwich from 3.20-35:
A Family Matters [3.20-21]
Mark tells us that “His own people” thought He [Jesus] was out of His mind. Whether for appointing the twelve [3.14] or for being surrounded by a great multitude [3.20], they thought what Jesus was doing was shameful to the family name. “He is out of His mind.”
B Blasphemy [3.22-30]
Verse 22 gives us the first reference of any animosity from Jerusalem, and we will see more of this as Mark’s gospel goes along [7.1; 10.33; 11.27]. They claim that Jesus does the work of the devil, and casts out other demons by Beelzebub (lord of the dwelling/lord of the flies) himself.
But Jesus says that a house divided cannot stand, and for Satan to commit civil war on Himself would make no sense. If a kingdom is divided against itself, it will not stand. And surely neither the kingdom of Satan nor the Kingdom of God is divided against itself. A house divided will not stand [3.25; cf. 3.19; 14.18, 45]
In 3.27 Jesus tells that He is the strong man. He binds Satan and is able to heal and cast out demons. This is not because of Satan’s crafty plan, but because Jesus is the King! Yet the Jerusalem leadership is denying Jesus’ Kingdom-ship. In fact, while they accused Him of blasphemy in 2.7, they are actually the blasphemers here [3.28]!
This unpardonable sin is not a ‘one-off’ sin that a Christian commits and is forever lost. The Jewish leadership is committing the unpardonable sin by attributing the acts of the King to that of Satan himself. They have an “unclean spirit” [3.6; 7.21] which they are not cleansed from (like others [3.10-11]), and yet they accuse Jesus of having the spirit of Beelzebul [3.22].
A’ Family Matters [3.31-35]
Mark brings it back to the family where Jesus’ real mother, brothers, and sisters are those who do the will of God, which would be recognizing that He is the King, not that He is out of His mind. The problem of the family is set around the unpardonable sin of the scribes showing that even Jesus’ own family is culpable of committing the unpardonable act of rejecting Him as King. Who are Jesus’ real family? Those who accept His Kingship [12.30]. What Jesus was doing wasn’t shameful to the family name, for it is what His Father wanted.
Betrayal drips from this chapter and sheds light on a major Markan theme: Nobody understands the King. Not the scribes from Jerusalem, not the people (they don’t understand what His messiahship entails), not His disciples, and not even His own family understand who Jesus is. It seems like only those who understand Jesus’ status are the Father and the demons.
Yet Mark will explain this paradox in chapter 4. Through parables Jesus will show that there are some who are ready to listen, and some who are waiting to deny the coming Kingdom.