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

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Part 2

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.”

II. Our knowledge of Jesus must recognize His true authority. (vv. 22-30)

This second term that we must submit to in order to receive the benefits of the work of Christ is that our knowledge of Jesus must recognize His true authority.  In other words, it is not enough to just know facts about Jesus.  We must be willing to recognize that He is Lord, and that His authority comes from God.  Mark reveals this principle to us through another negative example.  In v. 22 we learn that there were some “scribes who came down from Jerusalem” and arrived in Capernaum.  These Scribes, and Cranfield notes, “would have greater prestige and authority than the provincial scribes”[1] with whom Jesus previously had conflict with.  These scribes from Jerusalem had certainly heard about Jesus, and His increasing popularity.  Thus, it is safe to assume that they came from Jerusalem as official representatives of Judaism to deal with Jesus.

One would think that these higly trained scribes of the law would have come to Jesus and compared His claims with the claims of Scripture.  However, we have no record of them doing this.  In fact, from what Mark tells us their mission was more of a smear campaign than anything else.  Mark tells us that these scribes “were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.'”  This was not just a one time statement.  This was their official position, and their intent was to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people.

What is interesting about the scribes’ explanation of Jesus’ ministry is that they did not deny that He cast out demons.  They couldn’t deny, especially to the large crowds that had gathered and seen Jesus cast out demons with their own eyes.  Thus, they focused their energy on explaining away the work of Jesus.  They did this by questioning the source of Jesus’ power.  The claim of the scribes was that Jesus cast out demons with the power of Beelzebul and by the prince of demons.  We are not positive exactly where the title Beelzebul comes from, but it is clear that the scribes used it and “the prince of demons” to refer to Satan.  In other words, the scribes wanted to cast Jesus as an agent of Satan rather than God.

What is so sobering about this is that these men knew what the OT taught, they heard the message of Jesus in person, they saw his miraculous power first hand, and yet they still refused to accept Him.  They had all the facts right in front of them, and yet they were not willing to recognize Jesus’ authority.  Instead they lied about him, and this refusal to accept him meant that they could not benefit from his work.  This is what Jesus reveals in vv. 23-30.

First, Jesus deals with the validity of the scribes claim.  Mark tells us that Jesus “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.'”  The point of this parable is simple.  Strength depends on unity.  This is true for a large organization, like a kingdom, as well as a small organization like a household.  Thus, it would not make any sense for Satan to try and further His domain by casting out His own agents.  In fact, if he were to do this he would be finished.  He wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything.

With this parable Jesus quickly dispels the lies of the scribes, but he doesn’t stop there.  Jesus goes on to demonstrate that He was not an agent of Satan, but rather an agent of God.  Jesus in explains in v. 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.”  In this explanation Satan is the strong man, and goods are the people under demonic control.  Jesus’ point is that He would not have been able to cast out the demons unless He had already bound up Satan.  This point is emphasized even further in Matthew 12:28.  There we see that it was not a matter a kingdom divided, but rather of two kingdoms colliding.  Jesus came into the world as the son of God with all the authority of the Father, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ authority over Satan proved this.  The Scribes would not be able to argue with this because the logic is airtight, and they had already admitted that He had authority over demons.

Unfortunately the scribes failed to recognize the true authority of Jesus.  Their hearts were stemming with pride, and they bowed their knees to the idol of significance.  They had all the fact about Jesus, but because of their prideful hearts they failed to accept Him on His terms.  Because of this failure to recognize Jesus’ true authority vv. 28-30 tell us that these scribes missed out on the benefits of being in Jesus.

These are difficult verses, but here are some thoughts that may help you to determine what they mean:

-Here Jesus begins by explaining the benefits of being of His work

-“Truly” adds emphasis.  It is like Jesus is saying “listen here”

-Jesus explains the greatest benefit that his work has accomplished for us: forgiveness.

Titus 2:14

-“all sins” = all different kinds of sins

-to emphasize even further how amazing this forgiveness is, Jesus adds that blasphemies will also be forgiven.  This is extremely significant because the OT punishment for blasphemy was death.

-Truly this is an amazing benefit that Christ has accomplished.  Surely you have heard someone say that their sins were too great to be forgiven, but here Jesus teaches us that this just isn’t true.  In fact, all kinds of sins can be forgiven because of what He has accomplished.

-However, in v. 29 Jesus makes it clear that not everyone will benefit from the work of Jesus.  In fact, Jesus excludes on specific group from even the possibility of benefitting from His work. read v. 29

-This verse has been interpreted in many different ways.

-There are numerous Christians who have worried over whether or not they have committed this unpardonable sin.

-This is no small matter: Isa 63:10.  Not only are we not benefitting from the work of Jesus, but we are the enemy of God.

-The question is, what is this eternal sin?

-What it is NOT:

-It is not some formulaic expression that includes the word Spirit.  It had something to do with what the scribes were saying about Jesus, and they never mentioned anything about the H.S.

-It is not something that could be done accidently.  The scribes were intentionally dragging Jesus’ name through the mud.

-What it IS:

-A key in understanding this sin is found in Mark’s editorial note in v. 30.  Here we confirm that Jesus added this exclusion because of the scribes.  He does not necessarily say that they were guilty of this sin, but at the very least they were in danger of committing it.  So, this eternal sin has something to do with the sin of these scribes.

-So what were the scribes doing?  They had all the facts about Jesus’ ministry, but they claimed that his authority came from Satan instead of God.  They were blaspheming the H.S. by failing to recognize the power of Jesus’ ministry.  What is so ironic about this is the fact that it was the H.S. that helped Jesus to overcome Satan in the wilderness (Mk 1:12-13).

– This blasphemy could not be forgiven because it was directly related to who Jesus is.  This blasphemy revealed that the scribes did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  Because of their failure to recognize the truth they could never receive forgiveness.

Mt 12:30 helps us understand what this sin is even further.

This blasphemy against the H.S. is a failure to recognize the divine authority behind Jesus’ ministry, and it reveals that you are “against Jesus.”

-The scribes recognized all the facts about Jesus, but they failed to properly interpret those facts.  Their own pride did not allow them to see what was right in front of them.  If they would have blasphemed Jesus and claimed that He didn’t really cast out those demons then maybe they would have had a chance later.  But because they had the facts about Jesus and still refused to recognize the authority of Jesus they had no chance of forgiveness.  Not because Jesus wouldn’t help them, but because they continued to harden their hearts against him.

-This eternal sin is not some saying that you may or may not be guilty of.  As one commentator put it, “it is the perversion in the heart which chooses to call light darkness and darkness light.  It is conintuing rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit.” (Hughes, Mark, pg. 92)

-This is a stark reminder for us because just like these scribes we can have all the facts about Jesus down pat.  We can even live an outwardly religious life.  Yet never accept the true Jesus.

Romans 10:9-10 makes it clear that we must recognize Jesus’ authority in order to receive the benefits of his work.


[1] Cranfield, The Gospel According to St. Mark, 135.

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