“Friend or Foe or Family?”
Intro – If you’ve been with us at all through this study in the Gospel of Mark, you know that Jesus has been shaking things up. It began with the pronouncement that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Since then, he has been calling fishermen and tax collectors to follow after him. Jesus has taught in the synagogues, cast out demons and silenced them, healed the sick and the lame. He has challenged the belief systems of the religious leaders by healing on the Sabbath and by dining with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus not only healed a man but forgave his sins. And all the while his popularity has been increasing. We saw last week that people came from all over Palestine because of his reputation. They came for the show and are merely an obstacle for his mission. Just last week, the crowd pressed so hard on Jesus that there was concern that he would be crushed.
This morning we are going to see Jesus challenge some more things. Surprise, surprise. Jesus is going to be dealing with different relationships and will be standing things on their heads again for those involved. We remember from last week when Jesus went into the synagogue and healed the man’s hand that he looked around angered and grieved at the hardness of hearts of those who were supposedly representing him. Instead they opposed him.
This morning we will be finishing Mark chapter 3. Please turn there in your Bibles. And let’s read the text as we get underway.
We have come to the section where Jesus calls and appoints the disciples for ministry. I have entitled this the Calling of Commoners. Perhaps you’re a bit like me. Maybe you’ve taken a long hard look at your sin and you have searched the Scriptures and you’ve seen that you fall way short of his holiness. In fact, while reading the Bible you’ve seen that you really deserve eternal judgment because of sin. And so we cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness and declare our allegiance to him.
Perhaps you’re a bit like me. When I examine my life and contemplate the glories of Calvary, the fact that the King of Kings would lay down his life for mine, I stand amazed at grace. What was it that the Father saw in me that would cause Him to look on me with favour? It is so easy for me to deceive myself and believe that somehow I deserve his attention and provision. I too quickly find myself complaining when things don’t go the way I want them to. Perhaps you’re a bit like me.
Recently, I revisited some of these issues. I found myself complaining and having a bit of a pity party when I recounted how little time I had in a week for things that I wanted to do and all the pressing matters of life and ministry. It was at this time that God, in his grace, got my attention and determined to do something about it then and there. There was no escaping this moment where I sat and poured out my heart to him and he responded powerfully. God reminded me that I deserved nothing and that everything that I have and everything I experience is by his grace alone. Grace!
I recalled my life apart from Christ and these song lyrics from Keith and Kristyn Getty: What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light, called through the night to find my distant soul. And from his scars poured mercy that would plead for me that I might live and in his name be known. So I will go wherever He is calling me. I lose my life to find my life in Him. I give my all to gain the hope that never dies. I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him.
The reason I bring this up is because of our text this morning. Jesus happens upon these men, the twelve disciples, and their lives are upended. And for eleven of them, it is for the purpose of the Gospel and the New Testament church of Jesus Christ – the Son of God. As we will see, they were not the politically powerful. They weren’t the savvy on Wall Street. They certainly didn’t come out of Hollywood. These were fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James and John. These were tax collectors and rebels. And even one who would betray Jesus was among them.
John MacArthur, in his excellent book, Twelve Ordinary Men, makes this statement: “they were perfectly ordinary men in every way. Not one of them was renowned for scholarship or great erudition. They had no track record as orators or theologians. In fact, they were outsiders as far as the religious establishment of Jesus’ day was concerned. They were not outstanding because of any natural talents or intellectual abilities. On the contrary, they were all too prone to mistakes, misstatements, wrong attitudes, lapses of faith, and bitter failure—no one more so than the leader of the group, Peter. Even Jesus remarked that they were slow learners and somewhat spiritually dense.” I find this terribly encouraging!
These apostles, as you know, are living proof that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Most of us can recall the squabbling between peers over who is the greatest in the kingdom, or the one who denies Jesus several times before he is restored. Then there is the lack of faith in the feeding of multitudes, the fear that grips while walking on water, the one who doubts the risen Christ until he can touch Him. At times, they were dull of understanding and impulsive. Now I know none of us here can identify with any of these character traits. And, thankfully, these are the kinds of people that God uses! Why? 1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He gets the glory through our weaknesses. He calls commoners for his purposes.
We won’t spend time on their individual descriptions this morning. We will see some of the primary players throughout the Gospel – especially Peter, James and John. I want us to see, rather is why he called these men.
The text indicates that Jesus goes up on the mountain and calls to him those whom he desired. Jesus personally selected and called them. As their Creator, he knew them intimately – even their faults. James Edwards notes, “The Greek is more emphatic; the sense is that he summoned those whom he willed. Jesus determines the call. Disciples do not decide to follow Jesus and do him a favor in so doing; rather, his call supersedes their wills.”
The word for “disciple” means “learner” or “student.” Jesus has come to the point in his ministry where it is essential for him to raise up these men so that they are equipped to pick up where he will leave off. And so he calls the disciples to learn from him and that is to be “with” him. “Discipleship” is a relationship before a task. They will learn as they watch and listen to him teach. Jesus will teach truth and then illustrate it in creative ways. And then he will send them out as the term “apostle” indicates – “sent one.”
So the purpose of the calling is twofold. They will learn from Jesus and then they will be sent out on mission. They will be on the front lines of preaching the Gospel of God and will have the authority to cast out demons. Notice that they are not sent out until they have been trained by him and have received the delegated authority over the demons.
This is a model that we are trying to emulate. We are striving to equip teachers and leaders in the ministry context. And so we desire future teachers and leaders to begin to learn and watch their mentors in Growth Groups and Sunday School classes with the intent of carrying on in these ministries.
So this is the group of men that will walk with Jesus, learn from him and minister in his name. These are the ones on whom the church will be established. We, too, are called to learn from him and declare the Gospel. We are also living examples of God’s power manifested in our weaknesses. As I reflected on my life, I recalled my Christian upbringing and my subsequent wallowing in the world. And though I had walked away from the Father, he was relentless in his pursuit of me. In the words of verses 13 and 14, God called to him those whom he desired and I came to him so that I might be with him and declare his gospel.
I can readily identify with these ordinary men. For reasons unknown to me, God called me out of the world, led me to study his Word and placed me as a pastor over his church. This is baffling to me! I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I know that as long as he has called me to stand up here in front of brothers and sisters, I will declare the good news of Jesus Christ. And in my weakness (and there are many!), he will show himself strong and glorious! I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow him.
And the same is true for everyone here. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ, he can and will use you for his glory. The problem for us is that we get so wrapped up in the things of this life that we minimize our effectiveness. Colossians 1:28 “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Let’s jump down to verse 22. This section is sandwiched between this issue regarding family. You’ll notice in verses 20-21, it talks about Jesus going home and the crowds and family. And then again in verse 31 and following, Mark once again talks about family. We’ll deal with that in one unit in a moment.
Verse 22 introduces our second point, which is Blasphemy and Infamy. To this point the religious leaders often posed questions regarding the identity and character of Jesus. In this section, it become all out accusation. The scribes come right out and declare that Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul and by the prince of demons he casts out demons. “Beelzebul” is identified as Satan in Matthew 9 and 12 and Luke 11. It is interesting that they do not deny that Jesus is performing the miraculous. They just attribute the power to Satan rather than God.
Jesus in these next few verses deals with their argument in a logical fashion. His point is quite obvious when he states that if he were indeed Satan, why would he cast out Satan and the demons? One of the things that baffles me is that the religious leaders of the day refused to humble themselves and consider that they might be wrong on some things. Last week, we saw their hardness of heart and the grief that it caused Jesus. The zeal of the religious leaders isn’t really in question, just their conclusions and lack of humility.
Jesus continues by providing a couple more examples of his logical defense. A kingdom does not divide against itself as neither a house. For this would surely promise its destruction. And if Satan would rise up against himself, he too would be destroyed.
Now verse 27 is interesting because Jesus states that no one can enter Satan’s dominion (the strong man’s house) and plunder unless he first deals with the strong man. Then he may plunder. Jesus is the mighty One from Mark 1.7. John the Baptizer declared that “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” Jesus is saying that he is binding the strong man and is plundering his goods. Jesus is setting the captives free by expelling the demons. 1 John 3.8 states that the reason that the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. And here it is taking place.
And then Jesus gets to the point. In verse 28, he says “truly,” “amen.” 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 were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Ok. I suppose this needs a bit of explanation. “Blasphemy” means to ‘slander’ or ‘defame.’ It is an infraction against the true God. It is against the Holy Spirit of God. So what does this mean? The ESV Study Bible helps out here as well. It says, “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—that is, the persistent and unrepentant resistance against the work of the Holy Spirit and his message concerning Jesus (cf. Acts 7:51)—this, Jesus says, will not be forgiven. The person who persists in hardening his heart against God, against the work of the Holy Spirit, and against the provision of Christ as Savior, is outside the reach of God's provision for forgiveness and salvation. Christians often worry that they have committed this sin, but such a concern is itself evidence of an openness to the work of the Spirit. The sin is attributing to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God, and doing this through the flagrant, willful, and persistent rejection of God and his commands. This sin is committed today only by unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation. Remember Stephens words in Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. And James Edwards adds, “Anyone who is worried about having committed the sin against the Holy Spirit has not yet committed it, for anxiety of having done so is evidence of the potential for repentance. There is no record in Scripture of anyone asking forgiveness of God and being denied it!”
This is the blasphemy that the religious leaders were carrying out. They were attributing the works of God to Satan and thus were committing an eternal sin. Their constant denial of Jesus Christ would effect eternal judgment.
Notice also the positive. Mark records Jesus’ words in verse 28 that “all sins will be forgiven the children of man.” This is the contrast to blasphemy. This is infamy. We make it our aim to make Jesus famous because of the forgiveness of sins. The remedy for our sinful state is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He already declared it in chapter 1. Because the time is fulfilled, everyone must repent and believe in the gospel! THIS is the contrast. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will result in eternal damnation while the gospel of Jesus Christ will result in eternal worship of the risen Lord. We want to make Jesus famous!
Lastly, we look at Family. Look back to verses 20 and 21. The text reads, “Mark 3:20 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.”
After calling the twelve apostles, Jesus returns home. And what happens? The crowd gathers. Once again, the crowd is hindering the mission of Jesus. They could not eat because of the crowd. Now, in verse 21, the text suggests that his “family” went out to seize him and said that he was crazy. The original language here states that it was “those of him” which could refer to associates or kin. I think the translators concluded that the context most closely related it to family because of verses 31 and following.
But isn’t this interesting?? Why would his family try to seize him and suggest his insanity? Is it likely that the concern of these folks extended beyond the mere physical need of food and likely regarding their reputation? Jesus was too fanatical for them. James Edwards offers this, “The disconcerting reference that Jesus “is out of his mind” reminds Mark’s readers that the religious authorities are not alone in their mistaken apprehensions of Jesus. Their opposition is the more explainable, for as outsiders they may be victims of ignorance, false reports, jealousy, or misguided zeal. The opposition of insiders is more troubling, for Jesus’ associates ought to be advocates, not adversaries. The very ambiguity of Mark’s wording, “the ones of him,” is a calculated reminder that those closest to Jesus may indeed oppose him, and that proximity to Jesus — even blood relationship or being called by Jesus — is no substitute for allegiance to Jesus in faith and following.”
Perhaps it was in the later section where this attempted seizure took place. Jesus’ mother and brothers were standing outside the house and sent for him. What is interesting here is that Jesus is inside the house and family members on the outside. It is usually the family inside and the crowd outside. The crowd informs Jesus that his family is “seeking” him. You remember that we talked about “seeking” Jesus in this context. It usually refers to an attempt to gain control over him. So even Jesus’ family is trying to control and subdue him.
Jesus replies with a bizarre question: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” We know from other passages that Jesus had step-brothers. However, it seems as though Jesus is making the distinction between physical and spiritual family. To this point, Jesus’ brothers have rejected the fact that he is the Son of God. He indicates that blood relationship cannot claim privilege. Jesus states that only those who do the will of God can claim such rights. He has prioritized the spiritual family over his physical one.
There is great warning and encouragement in this truth. The warning is that those who assume to be close to Jesus need to reconsider. And those who think themselves too distant can take hope. Edwards notes, “The question disquiets the comfortable and encourages the dejected. There are only two kinds of people: those who sit on the inside at Jesus’ feet and those who stand on the outside with false assumptions. Discipleship depends on being in Jesus’ presence and doing God’s will, which are the essential characteristics of apostleship…”
And I think the same is true as we gather together here. Those of us who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation are brother and sister for eternity. We celebrate Communion together and anticipate the Lord’s return. When we trust in him, our spiritual family takes precedence over our physical family. Many have sacrificed these relationships already for the sake of Jesus.
We are those who strive to do the will of God. And the first way that we have done that is to heed the commands of the Lord Jesus in chapter 1. We repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus.
Consider your familial relationship. Do you think yourself in the family of God because of your baptism or Christian upbringing? Your confirmation or church attendance? Charitable giving? “Anyone can be an insider who sits at Jesus’ feet and does the will of his Father, and no one can be an insider who does not.”
Consider grace: What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light, called through the night to find my distant soul. And from his scars poured mercy that would plead for me that I might live and in his name be known. So I will go wherever He is calling me. I lose my life to find my life in Him. I give my all to gain the hope that never dies. I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him.