Bound by Cords of Love
Introduction: Read text. From the time Jesus began His earthly ministry with the words Repent and believe in the Gospel (1.15) to the day He cried out It is finished (John 19.30), He experienced opposition. What is truly amazing is the love He demonstrated and continues to demonstrate even while being opposed from all sides! Our reading this morning indicates that Jesus faced opposition from the Jewish national leadership and His own family.
It begins with His family seeking to lay hold of Him, to restrain Him from ministry (19b – 21). But before His family can get to Him, the Jewish leadership accuses Him of collusion with Satan (22 – 30). The family of Jesus reenters the story at the end (31 – 35). This leads to an important key teaching in the life of Christ. That is, only those rightly related to God through His love demonstrated in His Son belong to the true family of God. They are doing the will of God; they are bound by the cords of Jesus’ love because they are willing to receive Him.
This is the first sandwich approach section in Mark’s Gospel. This is the literary device which further clarifies a main principle for the readers of the Gospel (see PNTC, Edwards). The story in the middle of the sandwich (The Binding of the Strong Man) signifies a relationship between the two stories beginning and ending the section (family seeking to restrain Jesus; family still seeking Jesus at the end).
The beginning and end of the passage has Jesus in a house surrounded by a crowd (20, 32). Both beginning and end indicate that the family is seeking to restrain Him or call to Him in order to gain control over Him. So, Jesus’ family is attempting to bind Him.
The central story has Jesus doing the binding of Satan. The authority of Jesus binds even the prince of demons, but the family of Jesus or those around Him (v.21) must not and cannot bind Him. As the binder of the strong man, He Himself is unbound. As the binder of the true family of God, He binds us with the strong cords of His sacrificial, servant-oriented love. Jesus binds but remains unbound!
Transition: So, our first two observations will explore how people seek to bind the love God through Christ. The last observation this morning will explore the great sacrificial love of Christ in binding us together as the family of God! We learn first, that we are…
Bound Not by Blood: Family will often misunderstand the tie we have to Christ and seek to break it (19b – 21).
Explanation: Jesus and His apostles return from the mountain upon which He had called them to Himself. They enter a house that is no doubt the house in Capernaum, Peter’s house. A multitude gathers again as they did before when Jesus healed the paralytic (2.2). They were spending so much time ministering to this multitude that they could not even take the time to eat (20). Returning from the long trip from the mountain combined with the people that had thronged them from all over Israel, one would expect rest and nourishment. Mark will mention another time when Jesus and His disciples needed rest and didn’t have time to eat (6.31). It is a detail that highlights Mark’s theme: Jesus as the Suffering Servant, the One who is ceaseless and actively working to serve not be served.
“But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him” (21). That is, His own people or literally those of Him. While this may be speaking of friends or disciples, in the narrowest sense and within the context, it seems to be speaking of family. His family heard that Jesus had given Himself over to His ministry, and they were determined to restrain Him from doing so, to bind Him. They may be motivated by the best of intentions for Him. Perhaps they thought He would be destroying His health if He kept on without food or rest. Maybe they thought that He had gone off the deep end in His zeal for God. They determined that He was “out of His mind” (21) and that He had to be restrained.
It’s one thing to face opposition from those who do not know you, even from the religious establishment that should recognize truth; however, it is quite another to suffer opposition from family who seeks to prevent you from doing the will of God. Jesus will eventually teach His family that even a blood relationship with Him doesn’t bind them to Him or He to them. Jesus binds but remains unbound! Allegiance is by grace through faith not a heritage or familial right. Jesus’ earthly family found this very difficult to accept. John records that even at the end of His ministry, Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him (John 7.5). Jesus binds but remains unbound!
Application: Families often have the best of intentions for us, but they lack true understanding as to the purpose of our lives – God working in and through us. Often, we fail to verbalize this purpose because we lack a full understanding of it ourselves. Families misunderstand our zeal and intention to serve Christ. They try to talk us out of new associations that we are forming with Bible believing people and churches, our true family. They say things like those said to Jesus, “You’re out of your mind. You’ve been brain-washed.” Can you relate to this?
Every now and again, we are told that we labor too much for the cause of Christ. People become concerned for our well-being. Notice that the text states that when Jesus’ own heard about the fact that He didn’t have time to eat or rest, they acted to restrain Him. “He’s out of His mind. We’ve got to stop Him from killing Himself. These people are going to overwhelm Him with their needs.” Can you relate to this?
People are often quick to point out when we’re overworked (which may be necessary), but they infrequently stir us up to work harder for Christ …to see the waves of humanity without Christ …to stir us to diligently seek and reach the lost! “You’re too zealous!” they say. But is it not worth health and life to serve Christ? If not, what did Jesus come to do? Jesus binds but remains unbound!
Transition: So, we cannot be bound by blood, by family ties on this earth. Second, we are…
Bound Not by the Will of Religious Man: Religious people will often misunderstand the tie we have to Christ and seek to break it (22 – 30).
Explanation: The scribes come down from Jerusalem. Jesus is attracting the big guns in the Jewish religious world. These men are coming to accomplish one thing: to slander Jesus and neutralize the tie He has to the multitudes. They will continually seek to do this until they murder Him.
Two Slanderous Accusations
The scribes repeatedly level two accusations against Jesus. The imperfect tense of the word said communicates that the scribes were saying these things over and over again. First, they accused Him of having Beelzebub (22). That is, they were saying that the devil Himself was constantly abiding in Jesus, thereby, giving Him the power to do what He did. They cannot deny His authority; they just point out that it is not His at all but Satan’s!
Second, they continually claim that Jesus casts out demons “by the ruler of the demons” (22). So, for them Jesus is an instrument through which the source of satanic power flows. For these scribes, Jesus’ power comes directly from Satan not God!
Parables Picturing Reality
The scribes do all of this behind the back of Jesus. So, Jesus “called them to Himself” (23). He used parables to show them how foolish they actually were being in spreading such deceit. First, he explains how unrealistic their claims are and then he explains the reality of the situation to them.
If Jesus acted under the power of Satan, then “how can Satan cast out Satan” (23)? Kingdoms and houses divided destroy themselves with in-fighting. If Jesus was operating for and by the power of Satan, then that would mean Satan had risen up against himself and is divided (26). Satan cannot head the kingdom of evil and be divided against himself. If any faction exists, he loses his authority over the whole of his kingdom.
No, the reality of the situation is that Satan is a strong man who has accumulated his goods in his house. His house is the kingdom of this world, the kingdom of evil. It stands in conflict with God’s kingdom. His goods are the hapless souls of men born in sin. Jesus is the One stronger than the strong man. Jesus alone can bind Him and remain unbound! Jesus binds but remains unbound!
Jesus binds the strong man and stands in opposition to Satan’s kingdom not in cooperation with it. Then, He plunders Satan’s goods. He overthrows Satan’s kingdom through His death, burial, and resurrection. Satan is defeated by the work of Christ. However, even though he is now a defeated foe, Satan is not completely subdued until the literal manifestation of the Kingdom of Christ!
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
Now, Jesus marks the next section of His confrontation with the scribes by announcing, “Assuredly, I say to you…” (28) Jesus will use this formula over and over again in the Gospels. It is similar to the OT wording: “As I live, thus says the LORD”. That is, Jesus is saying that His authoritative Word is on par with the OT. So, the warning is sober; his detractors had better listen.
“All sins will be forgiven the sons of men” (28) – this is a wonderful statement of blessed assurance. God’s mercy is wide and deep. All men can be forgiven of all sins - even the blasphemies they utter against God and those created in His image. “But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (29). Jesus states these things because the scribes said, “He has an unclean spirit” (30).
So, we must determine what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to understand and apply this warning. It is not cursing the Holy Spirit. It is not taking God’s name in vain. It is not some sordid sin like adultery or sexual perversion. It is not even the atrocities of Hitler or Stalin that are in view. These sins can be forgiven. It is the ongoing, continual, and ultimate rejection of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work in the heart. Those who commit this sin are refusing the deity and salvation of Christ that is attested to by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come. Those who blaspheme the Spirit reject the only propitiatory work for sin’s blight. Men who are guilty of this sin are guilty of eternal sin leading to eternal condemnation. The scribes said over and over again (said in v. 30 is also imperfect) that Jesus had an unclean spirit. They persisted in this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus worked by the power of the Spirit not Satan.
Religious leaders are more prone to this sin. They often call evil good and good evil (see Isaiah 5.20). They reject God’s convicting light for darkness. “Those who most particularly should heed the warning of this verse today are the theological teachers and the official leaders of the churches” (Cranfield quoted in Hiebert, 102). Religious people often seek to bind Christ for their own selfish, willful desires. Jesus binds but remains unbound!
Application: Have you committed the unpardonable sin? J. C. Ryle said, “Those who are troubled with the fears that they have sinned the unpardonable sin, are the very people who have not sinned it” (Hiebert, 102). Can we know who has committed this sin? No, but God knows. We may be sure that many religious people will say in that day, “Lord, Lord…”
Sometimes people will say that if they could only see the works of Jesus, then they would believe. These religious men saw the works of Jesus and attributed them to Satan! Proof positive does not necessarily lead to belief. Seeing is not believing.
Religious ties must be severed for relational ties. Faith in the person and work of Christ is tied intimately to the deity and authority of Christ in the lives of His followers. That’s why many will not believe. That is, they do not want the authority and Lordship of Christ in their lives. They are unwilling to submit to the Gospel. Many false religions attack precisely on this point. They deny the deity of Christ. They are religious, but they seek to do the binding. Jesus binds but remains unbound!
Transition: Jesus is not bound by blood or religion; instead, He does the binding! Finally, this morning, we must learn that the true family of God is…
Bound by the Will of God: Jesus lovingly binds us into the family of God (31 – 35).
Explanation: The family that wanted to bind Christ by restraining Him and keeping Him in His right mind would find out what makes a person part of the family of God. Jesus’ younger brothers and His mother Mary came to Peter’s house in Capernaum and stood outside. They sent word into Him because of the multitude around the house (31). The message called Him out to His family.
One close to Jesus passes the message to Him by saying, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You” (32). Jesus responds by asking, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” He was not denying that He had earthly ties to Mary and His brothers, but He was highlighting the fact that those who misunderstood and tried to bind Him from ministry were not rightly related to Him, not part of the family of God.
“He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers!” Matthew adds that He swept His arm toward His disciples as He spoke (Matt 12.49). One man called this the adoption of the obedient. Jesus continued, “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (35). It has nothing to do with a profession of religion or a place in a certain family; it has everything to do with the authority of Jesus to make us part of the family of God! Jesus binds but remains unbound!
All men can be a part of this family. As many as receive Jesus, “to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1.12-13).
Application: Remember this: whoever does the will of God is rightly related to Jesus! What is the will of God for you? Two definite items worthy of consideration:
- Believe on Jesus Christ alone for your eternal life. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that nay should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9). Jesus said in John 6.29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” Those who believe “in Him [are] not condemned; but [those who do not] believe [are] condemned already, because [they have] not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3.18).
- Grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ. “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thes 4.3-4). All believers have room to grow. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3.12-14).
Remember also how Jesus loves you: Here are my mother and brothers …and My sister. Those who love us the most are those in our immediate family – at least, that is how it should be. The love you have for your child or husband, or wife, or mother, or father is just a whisper of the great love God has for you! The love of God is like the Amazon River that flows down, down, down to water just one little daisy at its terminus. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14.21).
If immediate family seeks our attention and affection …if they seek out a need that they have from us, what will we do to meet it? Most of us will move heaven and earth to help them because we love them. How much more so with the love of Christ for us! Jesus said that He and the Father would make Their home with those who love them (John 14.23). Before we call, God will answer. While we are still speaking, God has heard (Isa 65.24). No good thing will God withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84.11). He is Sun and Shield; He gives grace and glory!
How much does Jesus Christ love those rightly related to Him? He will come one day and receive us to Himself, and thus shall we ever be with the Lord! …with the Lord, secure in the place He is preparing in our Heavenly Home! His constant love is eternal.
When Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14.26), what did He mean? He certainly didn’t mean that we should feel disdain toward our immediate family. We are commanded to love and honor our parents, spouses, and children very clearly in the Bible. The context of this passage speaks of the need to not allow anyone to contend for our affections for Christ. If Jesus Christ loved us to the point of dying for us (even though we were filthy and vile sinners), how can we prefer any human being over Him? He must take priority in any relationship we have.
If we don’t know what it’s like to have a mother, father, sister, brother, or spouse to love us, then we would do well to remember that even when father and mother forsake us, the Lord will take care of us (Psalm 27.10). Also, anyone who has left earthly ties for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s sake will receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10.30). While the people of God may be used as instruments of material provision for us, Jesus gives Himself for and to us. His countless gifts of grace to us provoke gratitude and inadequate expressions of love which He receives! He is indeed the fairest of 10,000 to our souls.
Conclusion: When the world looks at our zeal for Christ, our adoration of Him, and our love for others, we are better suited to fulfill the Great Commission. They may not understand it. They may even despise what we have. Those in our immediate family may even deny that they are related to us. They are ashamed of us and consider us weak. But they do not know our Jesus! When we live out Christ before the lost and dying world, He draws closer to us – loving us with constancy and stability unmatched.
Our gratitude and glow for Christ elicits contempt from the world. Why are we surprised? However, to those who view us with such contempt, they would do well to remember the words of Jesus: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses [enticements to sin]! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18.6-7) Woe to those who seek to bind us and restrain our love for Christ! Jesus binds but remains unbound!
Hymn: I Found a Friend (469)