As we move through Mark’s gospel we are reading about the conflict between the kingdom that Jesus is establishing and the present religious authorities. In our last lesson we noticed that the religious leaders are not following Jesus, but are repeatedly challenging Jesus (2:16; 2:18; 2:24; 3:2). Mark 3:6 reveals that now the Pharisees are working with the Herodians to figure out how to destroy Jesus. So we are left with a critical question that now hangs in the air: who will follow Jesus? If the religious leaders are challenging Jesus and now have formally rejected him as they take counsel to destroy him, who will follow Jesus? Mark is going to show us the answer in the midst of conflict in the third chapter of Mark. Open your copies of God’s word to Mark 3:7.
Jesus’ Authority (3:7-12)
A key break in the book is shown in the division between verses 6-7 of Mark 3. Mark 3:6 says that the religious leaders are conspiring to destroy Jesus. But in verse 7 we read that a great crowd followed Jesus, not only from Galilee and Judea, but even from beyond the Jordan River, Idumea, Tyre, and Sidon. The division is crystalizing between those who are for Jesus and those who are against him. We are also reading the beginnings of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would come and be a light for the Gentiles to salvation (Isaiah 49:6). Nations are coming to Jesus. Outsiders are coming to Jesus. His fame is growing so much and the crowd is so great that it is a crushing crowd (3:9). Jesus must get in a boat to teach because of the crush of the crowd. People with diseases are pressing in, trying to touch Jesus so they can be healed (3:10). Whenever an unclean spirit saw Jesus, they bowed and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God (3:11). The authority of Jesus is powerful. Great crowds are seeing this authority and coming to him. As we witnessed regarding Jesus’ teaching on the Sabbath, the religious leaders do not recognize Jesus’ authority (2:24).
Jesus Appoints His Apostles (3:13-19)
This brings us to a pivotal moment of the book. Look at verse 13. Jesus goes up a mountain, calls those whom he desires, and they came to him, appointing twelve as apostles. This is the formation of the new Israel. In the Exodus account, Moses goes up Mount Sinai and receives the law from God which then begins the formation of nation of Israel as God’s people. But we have read the rejection of Jesus by Israel’s leaders. So it is time for new leadership and a picture of the new nation. Jesus goes up the mountain like Moses, and Jesus is forming new Israel. Jesus is calling those whom he desired and they came to him. Appointing twelve to be his apostles further confirms this imagery. Why does Jesus appoint twelve people? Why not ten people? Why not thirteen people? The imagery is clear that just as the twelve sons of Israel became the nation of Israel, so through these twelve apostles will come the new nation of Israel. This point is expressly made in verse 14 where these twelve will be sent out by Jesus to preach and have authority over unclean spirits. The restoration of Israel has come. Jesus is the servant of Isaiah 49:6 who has come for covenant renewal and the restoration of Israel. Jesus is God forming the new Israel as his covenant people. These twelve apostles are given kingdom authority and those who submit to the authority of the apostles are submitting to Jesus and entering into his kingdom.
Who Is Not In This Kingdom? (3:20-30)
Verse 20 tells us that the crowds are crushing Jesus. The crowd is so tight and so great that Jesus and his apostles cannot even eat. But something surprising happens. In verse 21 we see Jesus’ family arrive. Have they come to follow Jesus? No, they have come to seize Jesus because they think Jesus is out of his mind. We know from Mark 6:3 that Jesus has brothers and sisters, which will also come out in this very chapter. We are told in John 7:5 that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him. So they come to get Jesus because they think he is crazy. Can I just stop for a moment and ask: has your family thought you were crazy for following Jesus? You are not alone. Even Jesus’ family thought he was crazy for what he was doing and the crowds that were following him. Jesus understands what you are going through to follow him.
But they are not the only ones who think Jesus is crazy. Look at verse 22. The scribes declare that Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul and he casts out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus’ family thinks he is crazy and the teachers of the Law of Moses know that Jesus must be possessed. Now we need to see something important at this moment. No one is denying the miracles. No one is denying that unclean spirits are being cast out. No one is denying the healings. But notice the unbelief of the scribes. This proves to us that performing miracles does not create faith. Faith is never the result of miracles. Faith is not born from apologetics or proofs. It is a mistaken view to think that if we only saw the undisputed miracles of Jesus that people would be believe or believe more. This is simply not the case and the gospel accounts reveal this. Mountains of proofs and multitudes of miracles is not going to change the mind of these religious leaders. No matter what Jesus does, these leaders are not going to believe. So much so that they say something ridiculous. They say that Jesus has his power from Satan.
So Jesus addresses this absurdity in verse 23. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” No kingdom and no house can stand if it is attacking itself. Satan would be destroying himself. Why would he do that? It is truly an illogical conclusion. Jesus clarifies what they are seeing. What Jesus is doing is not the power of Satan used against Satan. Look at verse 27. Jesus has entered the strong man’s house and is plundering his goods because he has bound the strong man. Jesus has invaded Satan’s realm and he can take anything he wants from him. Jesus can do with Satan’s rule and authority what he wills because he has bound up Satan. Jesus has authority and rule over Satan. Jesus has come for a critical victory against Satan which will set us free from our captivity to sin. Think about this: the authority that Jesus possesses is used to bind Satan and set us free. How the scribes had missed this! How can casting out unclean spirits be by the power of Satan? Casting out unclean spirits is setting people free who are imprisoned by that unclean spirit. This represents what Jesus is doing: setting people free, healing people, rescuing people, restoring people, and reconciling them to the Father. Notice that this is the point in verse 28. “All sins will be forgiven the children of man and whatever blasphemies they utter.” People will be forgiven for all their sins and all their slander they say. Praise God! Wonderful news! God reigns is the good news. Satan is bound and people’s sins, all of them, will be forgiven.
Now Jesus says something devastating in verses 29-30. There is an eternal sin that cannot receive forgiveness. Now people get really upset wondering what this is. But the text explains exactly what the sin is when you read verse 30. People were saying that Jesus has an unclean spirit. What does this mean and why can’t this be forgiven? This sin cannot be forgiven because they are attributing the work of God as evil and belonging to Satan. They refuse to recognize Jesus’ authority, power, and rule. In such a condition, one will never repent because every piece of evidence further blinds one from seeing the truth. I read this illustration that helps understand the idea. If you believe that your surgeon is a murderer, you will never submit to an operation by him. In the same way, if you see Jesus as from Satan, then you will never submit to his will. Please realize that there is no record in the scriptures of anyone genuinely asking for forgiveness from God and being denied. Jesus says that all sins and their slanderous words will be forgiven. The only way that cannot happen is by denying who Jesus is.
Who Is My Family? (3:31-35)
The final scene is in verse 31. Jesus’ mother and his brothers are summoning Jesus to come to them. These are probably both his brothers and sisters as we see in verse 35. They are calling for Jesus to leave and come with them. What does Jesus do? Jesus asks, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then looking around at those who sat around Jesus, he said to them, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus’ words are shocking in a family oriented culture that the ancient Near East had where loyalty one’s own family was among the highest cultural values. Now Jesus is not rejecting his own family. Jesus is establishing a new family, which is what we saw back in verse 13 with the apostles being called and creating new Israel. Jesus is establishing a new society in which family is not defined by ethnic or national identity but defined by a common allegiance to the kingdom of God. Jesus did not allow his family to take priority over the new society and new family he has formed in the twelve.
Jesus has come to heal and set his people free. The leaders of Israel have rejected Jesus and are seeking to destroy him. But Jesus establishes a new Israel with the twelve apostles. Jesus establishes a new family by binding Satan and plundering his goods. He has come and conquered Satan so that all the sins people commit will be forgiven. Who are the ones who follow Jesus? Who are the ones who belong to him? Who are the ones who enjoy this forgiveness? Who are the ones who are part of the family of Jesus? People who reject Jesus as Lord and do not submit to his authority do not enjoy what Jesus offers. Those who listen to Jesus and do the will of God are the ones who belong to the family. It is to these that Jesus says you are my brothers and my sisters.
I want us to see that we can belong to the family of Jesus. If we will see and submit to the authority of Jesus then we can belong to his family. Notice that understanding the authority of Jesus means doing the will of God. This is why we have seen these men immediately drop what they are doing and follow Jesus when Jesus says, “Follow me.” But look at what happens when we see Jesus and submit to him. Verse 28 says all sins are forgiven. Is there something you think you cannot be forgiven of? Jesus says he set you free from Satan’s captivity and you are forgiven.
Finally, look at what we have. We are to be the new family that Jesus built. Jesus tells us how to look at one another in Christ. We are family. We are to act like family. We are to do things for each other like we are physical family. Our bonds together must become so great that we will that kind of family connection with one another. This family is to be so special that if someone were to ask you who your family is, we would think of each other. This family is to be so great that even if your physical family is like Jesus’ family who thinks you are out of your mind for following him, you have a true family in Jesus. We have one another. We care for one another. We help one another. We love one another. We are not an organization. We are not a membership. We are not a club. We are not an institution. We are the family of God. We must continue to grow together as family. So who will follow Jesus? Who will see him as their Lord and Savior? Who will decide to do his will? Who will see his family to be valuable and worthy of belonging to? Who will follow and be forgiven of all their sins? Today is the day of salvation where you can join God’s family by turning from sins and giving your life to Jesus.