“Friends, Family and Foes”  Mark 3:20-35

Jesus was not willing to give up on any of them.

Third Sunday After Pentecost  June 8-9, 2024

“Friends, Family and Foes”  Mark 3:20-35

Rev. John R. Larson  Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado

             Of all the people in the world, some of the greatest and some of the worst that have ever lived, no one has had more written about them than Jesus of Nazareth.  Some of what is written is quite complimentary and some is quite harsh.  But who He was, and what He has done, has made many people give Him some attention.

            Our reading from today is actually quite disturbing to us believers in Jesus.  We would never expect these words to be found in the Bible.  “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”  (Mark 3:20-21)

            What?  His own family?  His brothers, His sisters and His mother – Mary – had come for a type of an intervention.  One commentator says that they had come to seize Him.  The words used can be understood, “He has gone berserk.”  Not great words of faith and adoration!!  Not quite a compliment for their brother or her son.  How can this be?  In John 7 there is another disturbing word about the reaction of the brothers of Jesus, He had four – James, Joseph, Judas and Simon – “Jesus’ brothers said to him, (with some cynicism in their words, I believe), ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.  No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret.  Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.  For even his brothers did not believe in him.”  (John 7:3-5)  His own family thought Jesus was deranged.

            And then the opposition became even greater.  I believe those thoughts about Jesus by His family came about by ignorance.  But now words were spoken about Jesus that were quite brutal.  “The teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub!  By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’”  (Mark 3:22)

            They didn’t think that He was crazy.  They thought that He was a devil.  They thought Jesus was the very epitome of evil.  “By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

            Family and foes, at least in Mark 3, were not too kind to Jesus.  You would think that Jesus would have the whole world on His side.  Look at His mercy, His kindness, His power, His grace.  But just like today, many disdained His name.  You might remember the reaction in John 6 to the strong words of Jesus.  He had just fed the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread and many wanted to be His follower.  They walked miles to be with Him.  But Jesus told them that He was greatly concerned about them having food not just for their bellies but for their souls. 

            Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  (John 6:48-51)  Do you know what happened when Jesus was so blunt about Himself and His call for them to be united to Him in faith?  They left.  They didn’t want to listen to Him anymore!  “On hearing this, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching, who can accept it?’”  (John 6:60)  A few verses later we read, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”  (John 6:66)

            Family, foes and friends had a hard time with Jesus.  But Jesus was not willing to give up on any of them.  He addressed the strong words of his foes which called Him the devil.  “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.”  Jesus goes on about this serious charge leveled against Him, “I tell you the truth, all sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.  He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’”  (Mark 3:28-30)

            What is this sin, that Jesus is accusing them of committing that can never be forgiven?  What is the sin against the Holy Spirit of God?  A number of times I have had people see me in deep distress thinking they had committed that sin and therefore they were forever damned.  I’ve had people that I had never met and who called me on the phone fearing that they had committed that sin.

            The sin against the Holy Spirit is the constant rejection of Jesus and His power.  It is a hardness of heart that will no longer listen to what Jesus says.  It is to close the heart and mind completely to God’s way in your life.  It is persistent unbelief.

            If someone asks me if they have committed that horrid sin, I tell them that they haven’t.  Why?  How could I know?  Because God’s Spirit is still bothering them.  God is still tugging at that heart.  But if one has become indifferent, cold, obstinate and couldn’t care a bit whether they have committed the eternal, unforgiveable sin, it is that person that I worry about.  You may be a long way from doing the will of God in your life and your litany of sins may be long and embarrassing, but God isn’t done with you yet.  Before Jesus goes into words about His foes and their charge against Him – that He was the devil – Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, all sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.”  All!!  Repentance and faith in Jesus allows new life.  All sins are forgiven and forgotten by God – all because of Jesus and His work.

            This section from Mark 3 is quite interesting.  His family is going to seize Him and take Him home.  Foes damage His reputation by connecting Him with the prince of darkness.  But Jesus tells us what He is going to do to speak to foes and to address the concerns of His family.  He gives this little story, “No one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man.  Then he can rob his house.”  (Mark 3:27)  What is He talking about?  Robbing a house?  Tying up a strong man?  Everything, in the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ is in that phrase.  That is the whole picture of what our salvation is.  It is Jesus against Satan.  He binds him by His battle against him.  Everything the devil thinks he owns – our life and our eternity – Jesus takes ownership of.  He is Lord, Master, the Victor.  No one should be confused about what Jesus can do and has done.  This battle for a full possession of us wasn’t some little skirmish – He had to bind the devil and then rob his house.  That is the battle on the cross of crucifixion.  He, in triumph said, “It is finished.”  He fought and He won.     

            C.S. Lewis, an atheist turned Christian, writes in his book “Mere Christianity”, that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. 

 Here is the quote:

             “I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often claim about Him [that is, Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse… You can shut Him up for a fool, you can kill Him as demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”

Family, Friends and Foes – how does this encounter turn out with each of them?  C.S. Lewis is right about the foes.  They considered Him a demon and crucified Him.  His family?  Mary was at the cross.  His brothers?  Two of them, James and Jude wrote books in the Bible.  James, who became known as “James the Just”, became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.  And us?  Jesus speaks about us, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Mark 3:35)  We’ve become His friends and even more.  And Jesus?  He is the Lord.  He is our Lord and our Savior.  Amen!!        


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