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Mark 3:1–35 (ESV)


1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

Briefly summarize previous section up until Mark 3:7 (depends on where we left off)

  • 2:1 - 3:6 represent Jesus initial demonstrations of authority, and his conflict with the Pharisees over key issues of purity and uncleanness:
    • He acts in place of the Temple (and by extension God himself) in being the place where forgiveness of sins is found.
    • He eats with the unclean (tax collectors and sinners)
    • He allows his disciples to forgo fasting while he’s present with them
    • He asserts his own authority as to what constitutes keeping the Sabbath
    • The section ends on an ominous note, with the Pharisees and Herodians colluding to destroy Jesus
  • 3:7 - 3:12 highlights Jesus’ growing popularity with the crowds (in contrast to the opposition from the religious leaders), and with its parallel to chapter 1:14 marks out the beginning of a new section
    • The people are described as coming from a very wide area, covering all of the old boundaries of Israel, North and South (including some Gentile areas to the North)
    • We see two ways of acknowledging Jesus’ greatness that are not the same as being his follower:
      • The crowds see the miracles and are enthusiastic about him (yet later they will just as easily turn against him)
      • The demons know who he is and confess it, but they do so and tremble in fear

In v.13-35, the structure of the narrative intertwines Jesus’ conflict with his family with the conflict with the scribes. It also creates a contrastive parallel between the calling of the twelve and the scribes. - Jesus’ disciples come up the mountain to him, receive his authority to cast our demons - The scribes come down the mountain from Jerusalem to discredit his authority to cast out demons

We have a picture of 3 classes:

  • Those close to Jesus who oppose his mission
  • Those “outside” who oppose his mission
  • Those who are “inside”, a true family of God

Appointing the Twelve

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

The scene with the disciples sets up a group of “insiders” in contrast to the pressing crowds, and especially to the following account of the scribes and Jesus’ family.

  • The passage emphasized Jesus’ selection of them - “those whom he desired” - What’s significant about this?
    • Jesus always chooses us first - “my sheep hear my voice” (cf. John 15:16 - you did not choose me, but I chose you)
  • What is the significance of his appointing the twelve?
    • Jesus is establishing a renewed/restored Israel, and twelve is intentional to parallel the twelve tribes
    • Interesting to note that the 12 are chosen in addition to Jesus himself, which hints at his holding the place of YHWH
  • What can we learn about discipleship from Jesus’ approach here?
    • Their calling provides us with a case study in true discipleship - they are to be with him and do the things that he does.
      • Be with him - How is being with Jesus still critical today? How do we do it? What hinders us?
      • Be sent out to preach
      • Have authority to cast out demons
    • He models, and then sends them out themselves (in Ch. 6). The disciples become extensions of Jesus’ ministry. This is very much a hands-on strategy.
  • The twelve are listed, some of whom were already specifically called to follower in earlier passages.
    • Simon (named Peter) (as always listed first) - called in 1:16, leaving his nets
    • James, son of Zebedee (named one of Sons of Thunder) - called in 1:19, leaving family business
    • John, brother of James (named one of Sons of Thunder) - called in 1:19, leaving family business
    • Andrew - called in 1:16, leaving his nets
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew - called in 1:13, leaving his tax booth
    • Thomas
    • James, son of Alphaeus
    • Thaddaeus
    • Simon the Zealot
    • Judas Iscariot (who betrayed him)

Two Kinds of Opposition

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” 22 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.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 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. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” 31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

In this section, we see two groups of people who should really be Jesus’ biggest supports:

  • His own family
  • The religious leaders from Jerusalem Instead they are shown as opposing him, and Mark recounts this in a way that connects them together.

  • Explain the Markan sandwich
  • v.21 - Jesus’ family here what’s going on and they set out from Nazareth to “seize him”
    • The same word used in Chapter 12 to describe the Jerusalem leaders seeking to arrest him
    • Why would Jesus’ family seek to oppose him?
  • v.22-30 - The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
    • The scribes throw two accusations:
      • Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul
      • He casts out demons by the prince of demons
    • Jesus responds by challenging their logic:
      • How would him being possessed make sense? It would be self-defeating
      • Even if their premises were true, it means that Satan’s kingdom is coming to an end
    • Jesus is binding the strong man so that he can plunder his house
      • This passage echoes Isa. 49:24-26, where YHWH is presented as rescuing Israel from captivity to “the strong man”.
      • Who is the strong man here?
      • What is the property being plundered?
    • vv. 28-30 often cause a lot of problems for introspective Christians
      • How can there be an unforgivable sin?
      • How do I know if I’ve committed this sin?
    • Before dealing with the sin, it’s important not to gloss over the gloriously broad statement that proceeds it - “All sins will be forgiven, and whatever blasphemies they utter” - nothing else is outside the reach of his forgiveness.
    • The sin Jesus speaks of here is specifically because they said “he has an unclean spirit.” Attributing the clear work of the Holy Spirit to the evil one leaves them nowhere to go - they must oppose Jesus and have sealed themselves off from the possibility of repentance.
      • Have the scribes already committed this sin? Or are they just in danger of it?
      • Does this mean that once someone has made such an attribution they are forever seared from recognizing their error? Or only if they persist in it do they cut themselves off from forgiveness?
      • It is certainly a frightful passage, and should not be taken lightly, but a sensitive Christian conscience should not be alarmed about accidentally falling into this sin. As many wise pastors have counseled, those who fear they may have committed this terrible sin exhibit a sure sign that they have indeed not done so.
    • Considering how the scribes treat Jesus, how can we expect to be treated?
  • v. 31-35 - Jesus True Family
    • While not the primary intent of this passage, there are some aspects of this that are relevant to the Roman Catholic teaching on Mary:
      • The existence of Jesus’s brothers would challenge the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary
      • The fact that Jesus here holds Mary to the same standard as everyone else gives lie to the idea that Mary has a special exalted status in God’s economy
    • Jesus’ relatives come to see him (presumably to restrain him v21), but he makes the bold statement that his true family are those who do the will of the God. His family’s access to him must follow the same path of discipleship as everyone else.

Some key takeaways from Jesus’ teaching on the family here:

Even Jesus own people (that is, those who one would expect to be closest to him) misunderstand him and his mission.

  1. His family
  2. The religious leaders
  3. Israel as a whole How is it possible today for those who are close to Jesus to misunderstand and even oppose his mission?

How do we mistake closeness to Jesus with being part of his family? How does loyalty to Jesus differ from proximity? “We cannot confuse baptism, confirmation, a Christian background, or church attendance with following Jesus. No one can lay a claim upon Jesus and gain any kind of acceptance into his family other than Jesus himself.”

Spiritual relationships take ultimate priority over physical relationships.

  1. The Jews had to choose between maintaining their strict separation as the family of Israel, or fellowship with Christ alongside Gentiles
  2. Many must choose between following Jesus’ or maintaining peace with their families
  3. Likewise, our loyalties in the flesh, whether it be to a particular nation, tribe, political affiliation, etc, must take a backseat to our common family in Christ

The church is intended to be a genuine family

  • What will this look like?