Sunday

6 June 2021

Mark 3:20-35

And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’ (v. 34)

Psalm 130

Background

Today’s reading begins with Jesus’ family coming to ‘restrain’ him as they hear the crowd accusing him of madness (vs 20-21). It is not clear whether his family agree with the crowd – perhaps they intend to protect him from them – but in their reaction they oppose God’s work, even if inadvertently.

While his family try to restrain him and the crowds think him unhinged, the scribes (or religious teachers) from Jerusalem accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan (or ‘Beelzebul,’ an alternative term for the devil – v. 22). Jesus refutes the accusation by pointing out that just as a kingdom divided will fall, so it makes no sense that Jesus in his exorcisms would be empowered by the devil (vs 24-26). Why would the devil equip one to drive out demons? Jesus then offers a vivid and arresting image of a burglar who ties up a strong man in order to plunder his house (v. 27). Here, Jesus is like a powerful burglar plundering the property of Satan!

Jesus’ warning against blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (vs 28-30) needs to be seen in the light of the opposition he faced. While all can be forgiven, the refusal to recognise the work of God in the activity of Jesus – or even to claim that Jesus has ‘an unclean spirit’ – cannot. This is not because God is unwilling to forgive, but rather because the one who refuses to see God at work in Jesus is denying the very means by which God saves and restores people to salvation.

The passage ends by returning to Jesus’ family (vs 31-35). While his mother, brothers and sisters wait outside for him, Jesus points out that those who do God’s will have become his new family. Disciples are defined not by blood but by their obedience to God, an insight that is found throughout the New Testament (John 14:21-24; Romans 6:17-18).

 

To Ponder:

  • What do you make of the image of Jesus as a burglar who ties up ‘the strong man’?
  • What is you understanding of ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’?
  • How might it affect your discipleship to see yourself as part of Jesus’ family?

Bible notes author

Dr Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the Lecturer in Biblical Theology and Mission at Cliff College, and previously worked as a Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church. He lives in Derbyshire with his wife Ali and their two sons.

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