16 January 2016

Mark 3:22-30

“For they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” (v. 30)

Psalm: Psalm 12


The conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities begins again, but this time it is with scribes who "came down from Jerusalem" (v. 22). This suggests that his notoriety had spread to the capital and that the national religious leaders thought it important enough to travel north and deal with this provincial preacher who was causing so much trouble. Or perhaps it was the local leaders who had called for help after their encounter recorded earlier in this chapter (Mark 3:6) which led them to want to destroy Jesus.

The scribes shared the view of those who had been raising concerns with Jesus' family that his behaviour must mean that he was demon possessed, and not just with any demon, but by "the ruler of the demons" (v. 22). In their opinion, this could be the only explanation for what was happening. However Jesus uses their logic to make his own case and to argue against them. He agrees with them that it would take a higher power to do what he is doing, for it is through the Holy Spirit that he does what he does. He clearly implies that it is through this power that he is able to tie up the "strong man" that they know as Satan or Beelzebul; it is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is able to defeat the power of evil (v. 27). This is something John the Baptist predicted would be the case (Mark 1:8) when he told his followers that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

A characteristic of some of Jesus' important statements was to begin with the word "truly" (eg v. 28), giving them a degree of authority, and he uses this to conclude his debate with the scribes. He turns the tables on them, making it clear that their failure to recognise the Holy Spirit working through him is unforgivable. They were regarded as the religious experts, the people who supposedly had the closest relationship with God as a result of their understanding of his law, but when they found God at work, instead of the wrongdoing they had come seeking, they had failed to see the good in front of their eyes. To Jesus this was unacceptable and he made his views clear.

To Ponder

  • Are there times when our religious traditions and rituals blind us to God at work in the people we meet and the world around us? Pray that our eyes might be opened to avoid this happening.
  • Consider any failings or way of living that can feel like a "strong man" (v. 27) inappropriately controlling or damaging your own life. Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to 'tie up' and overcome these problems.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.