Mark 3:20-35 – The Real Identity of Jesus (pt. 2)

Part 1

Mark 3:20-35

Then he went home,and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 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. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”- for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

I. Our affection for Jesus must be informed by the truth. (vv.20-21)

This first term that we must submit to in order to receive the benefits of the work of Christ is that our affections for Jesus must be informed by the truth.  In other words, it is not enough to simply care for Jesus.  We must be willing to accept the truth about Jesus-that is what He says about Himself.  We see this in vv. 20-21.

Mark begins here by highlighting again the ceaseless activity of Jesus.  Mark tells us that, he went home, and crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.”  We cannot be certain that what home Jesus returned to.  However, it seems quite clear that Mark is referring to the home of Simon and Andrew since this is the only house that Mark has mentioned up to this point, and it was the home base for Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

Once Jesus and his disciple arrived back home the word spread quickly, and massive crowds formed almost immediately.  In fact, Mark tells us that the crowds were so oppressive that “they could not even eat.”  The people just kept coming from all throughout the region in waves to see Jesus.  Apparently, the word about Jesus’ ministry made it all the way back to His home town of Nazareth.  In v. 21 Mark tells us that “his family heard it….”  There are a couple of interpretive issues with this verse.

First, it is not absolutely clear who Mark is referring to here.  The Greek phrase that is translated as “his family” literally means “those beside him.”  There are some who say that Mark is referring to Jesus’ disciples here.  However, the disciples were already with Jesus and so it would not make much sense for them to hear about what he was doing, nor would it make any sense for them to go out to get him.  Plus, if they thought that Jesus was crazy then they would have just stopped following Him.  Thus, the interpretation that Mark is referring to Jesus’ disciples just does not seem to fit.  The other option is that this phrase is referring to Jesus’ family.  This interpretation has much fewer problems.  In fact, “there is evidence especially in papyri for the phrase being used to mean a person’s ‘kinsmen’ or ‘household’….”[1] Additionally, in v. 31 Marks brings up Jesus’ family again.  With all of this in mind we can be quite certain that Mark is referring to Jesus’ family.  However, up to this point Mark has not told us anything about Jesus family.  To learn more about Jesus’ family we have to jump forward to Mark 6:3. There we learn who His family was.  Then in John 7:5 we learn that his family did not believe in Him during his earthly ministry (although they did accept Him after His resurrection).

The other interpretive difficulty in this passage is trying figure out what it was that the family heard.  Mark doesn’t tell us specifically.  He simply says that they “heard it.”  Certainly they had heard reports about his popularity, but maybe they had also heard that he was not eating.  They could have even heard that the Pharisees were trying to kill Jesus (3:6).  We are just not sure what they heard, but whatever it was they were not pleased with it.  Mark tells us that when they heard the report about Jesus “they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.'”  Literally they wanted to take Jesus into custody because they thought He had gone crazy.

At this point it would be easy to be very hard on Jesus’ family.  They clearly did not know the truth about Jesus, and they may have even been embarrassed by his actions.  At the same time, however, it seems as if Jesus’ family still cared for Him deeply.  It would have been easy for them to disown Him and stay as far away from Him as possible.  This would have been an effective way to avoid any embarrassment, or condemnation from the religious leaders.  But this is not what they did.  Jesus’ family left their home and went up to Capernaum in order to get involved in Jesus’ life.  The best illustration for what Jesus’ family is doing here is a family kidnapping a teenager back from a cult and deprogramming him.  In their minds, Jesus’ family was trying to help Jesus.

Notice that neither Jesus nor Mark provide any condemnation or explanation for the family’s actions, however it is clear that the uniformed affection of Jesus’ family was a deficient response to Jesus. The problem was that their affection for Jesus was not rooted in the truth about Jesus.  The implications of this for our lives are startling.  This means that we can have affection for Jesus, and even show him a certain amount of devotion without ever truly accepting Him.  Unfortunately this is an all too common occurrence in the church today. There are countless individuals who proclaim their love for Christ, but do not even know who the real Jesus is.  A great example of this is the individual who comes to church and confesses Christ, but becomes embarrassed when you mention the exclusivity of Christ.

In order to accept Jesus on His terms and receive the full benefits of His work our affection for Him must be informed by the truth.


[1]R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 166.

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