This morning we have some absolutely wonderful Scripture in front of us that opens our eyes to spiritual things. I love the Scriptures of our Lord Jesus Christ. You know, isn’t this true: We have difficulties in our lives, we have situations we find are hard to deal with, we have relationships that are strained and we look, and we look, here and there, only to find at the end of the day, the answer is laying right on your coffee table, it had been there all along, the Bible….we just never bothered to look…..Let’s open up our bibles this morning, look at the Scriptures, and see what we have been missing. We are working through the Gospel of Mark and today our Scripture is Mark 3:13-35.
We pick up the story at verse 13 where we see Jesus calling his disciples. Up to this point Jesus has had only four men following him, (fisherman of course – the Alaska representatives of the twelve) now he increases that number to twelve. He chooses twelve to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, which shows us that everyone is invited into the kingdom of God. Notice, Jesus is very Presbyterian up front in his ministry: Jesus calls his disciples. This is clearly a reference to election, Jesus chooses the men – they do not choose Jesus, he calls them and they come to him. They do not consider, weigh their options…they come when called. Second, notice that the people he picks are not people of significance, yet as the Gospel moves along and as the early church starts these men become people of significance – not because of who they are, but because of who Jesus is. Their relationship to Jesus is what gives them their authority. We have already seen that Jesus is the authority in our lives – Spiritual Authority, Jesus is the one who gives it to the disciples, and to us. We here today are significant not because of who we are, or what we do, or what we have accomplished - we are significant because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The closer we get to Jesus, the more significant we become. Do you want significance in your life? Start with Jesus.
Jesus designates them as Apostles – even Judas Iscariot, even Judas. Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then hung himself, committing suicide, could Judas be forgiven? We’ll look at that in a bit. What we see here in verses 16-19 is the full list of his disciples. Names of lists differ a bit in each of the gospels. This is due to the fluidity of some of names. Several forms of a name are interchangeable. One example is Judas son of James, but Thaddaeus seems to be his preferred name. I think of modern names that are interchangeable like Robert, Rob, Bob, Bert. William, Bill, Billy, Will.
Jesus gives them a purpose in verse 14, to preach – we saw earlier that this preaching is a form of confrontation of our sin, and judgment of that sin, and He also gives the disciples power over demonic beings. This a continuation of the breaking in of the kingdom of God which is now starting to squeeze out the kingdom of Satan.
Jesus, doesn’t pick anyone in his extended family to be with Him, or any friends that he grew up with, He picks men who are NOT from His hometown. These twelve men do not have a preconceived idea of who Jesus is – they just believe. His family on the other hand – they think he is crazy.
V 21 – Out of his mind, is another way of saying (In the Hebrew culture of His time), he has an evil spirit. In Jesus time mental instability was generally attributed to demonic activity. Amazing, his family is accusing Jesus of the same kind of thing that the teachers of the law are accusing Jesus of. The charges of the family and of the teachers of the law are parallel and are designed to stop Jesus form continuing his activity. If he is mad, why would anyone listen to him?
His family appears to come to town as they hear Jesus is not eating, meaning that he is not properly taking care of himself. He is an embarrassment to the family so they have come to take him home by force. They mistake the zeal for God as madness.
Along with Jesus’ family, a delegation arrives from Jerusalem. Word of Jesus ministry has reached them. They are sent to make an assessment of Jesus. The delegation is to deem Jesus as authentic or false, the real thing or a magician. They have the power to deem the city as seduced which means a person has tricked the population with his magical abilities and the inhabitants have fallen for him. They are to distinguish between: instigators, apostates and the innocent. These are men of great authority, their word carries a lot of weight, these are not gossip column writers expressing a personal opinion, these men are serious. In other words, they have the ability to label Jesus and his activity as religiously unlawful which would mean that those who went to hear Jesus were acting outside of the Mosaic law, and could suffer consequences.
The delegation sees that the healings and the driving out of demons is real, but they cannot believe in the totality of who Jesus is, so this leads them to their false conclusion: God has the supernatural ability, but so does Satan, so he must be of the devil. These events are out of their worldview, out of their spiritual experience so they have great difficulty believing. They have not personally seen healings, so to make that step of belief is very, very difficult for them.
They have a great dilemma: the miracles are real and prove that Jesus is of God – so how can they substantiate their rejection of him? They cannot deny his actions, they can only deny his power. Now, don’t take their conclusion as an off the cuff remark, no, this is a well thought out conclusion reached after hours of discussion and debate.
So they throw out at Jesus two related charges: He is demon possessed, and He is working with Satan. In a nutshell they are charging Jesus with sorcery. They call him Beelzebub – Lord of the flies. A local euphemism for the Devil
Jesus in response goes to the heart of the matter. He doesn’t use euphemisms like the teachers of the law, but says it straight out – Satan. (verse 23) He states what is self evident: If Satan attacks himself, eventually there will be no more Satan left, and he would become powerless. But this is not so, Jesus has power – this exposes the fallacy of their charge. Notice, Jesus states kingdom divided against itself in verse 24 and then, house divided against itself in verse 25. His response is directed against both the teachers of the law, and his family; Kingdom referring to the teachers of the law; House referring to his family, who is in the back of the crowd.
Jesus parable about the Strongman is taken from Isaiah 49:24-25
Is. 49:24 Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce?
25 But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you,
and your children I will save.
Jesus quotes Isaiah saying that he is here invading Satan’s territory. Satan is strong, but Jesus is stronger. The captives are the people and the rescuer is Jesus. See, Mark is still showing us the authority that Jesus has. Jesus has the authority to bind up the strongman in your life, Jesus has the authority to rescue you from his house.
Jesus goes further. Charged with possession by an evil spirit, Jesus claims to be working not with evils spirits, but with the Holy Spirit. Notice that Jesus states that all sins are forgivable in verse 28, there are no exceptions, but then there is an addition, one sin is not forgivable. This seems contradictory doesn’t it? Let’s take a deeper look at this for it is not contradictory it is a statement of a deeper meaning.
Some might look at this verse and tell us that the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit constitutes a sin that is not repented of before a person dies. They would say if you have sin in your life and you die, you will not be forgiven for those sins because you have not repented of them.
Let’s say you have an argument with someone and are clearly in the wrong, but before you repent, you have a heart attack and die. Boom, that’s it. Would you be forgiven since you didn’t repent of that sin? What about suicide? A person who kills themselves is sinning as they committing murder, they are murdering themselves. Since they would not be able to ask for forgiveness of the sin of self murder, will they be forgiven? What about Judas as we asked earlier? What do you think? Mark shows us the answer very clearly in chapter three here. What does verse 28 say? 28 “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.” What are the kind of sins that we can be forgiven for…verse 28 – there it is in black and white. The answer is right in front of us.
We have a cultural creep that silently moves into our Christian lives. When someone commits suicide we conclude, “they will not be forgiven for that”. Says who? Where did that come from? The movies, television, paperback novels? What does Jesus say about it….see verse 28.
If you think about it, to conclude that the unforgivable sin is the one you have not repented of, well, that’s just ridiculous. That would mean anyone who died in an accidental or unprepared death, would be unforgiven. What if that kind of thing happened to Billy Graham? It makes no sense. This kind of thinking is the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ himself says on this subject.
Let me clarify more. Jesus is speaking in context of believers. Do not take what Jesus says in verse 28 to mean a blanket statement that everyone everywhere will be forgiven, without exception, they don’t have to worry about it, they can do what ever they want to with out any regard. Remember we learned in the first two chapters what action Jesus wants from us for salvation, which will give us forgiveness: repent of your sin (stop the sin, turn around walk away from it), believe Jesus, follow Jesus. Those actions repent, believe, follow, will gain us forgiveness.
Further, the act of forgiveness from Jesus Christ is eternal, it is ageless, it is not bound by time. When Jesus died on the cross and then rose from the dead, the power of his actions covered all sins present, past and future, for all people past, present, future. As we in this age look back to the actions of our Lord Jesus Christ, others looked forward to his actions. The moment Jesus rose form the dead, the very moment, the sins you have already committed were forgiven, those sins you will commit this very day were forgiven, those sins you will commit in the future were already forgiven. Jesus is the person of God himself, and therefore his actions are not bound by the dimension of time. All your sins past present future are forgiven.
Understand though that we activate that forgiveness, that is there waiting for us, by giving our life over to Jesus – becoming a Christian, and so all our sins are forgiven. This leads us to understanding that though all sins are forgivable, one sin is not forgivable – blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Notice that I said that though we are forgiven by the actions of Jesus for all eternity, we must take action to activate that forgiveness. If one does not activate the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ….THAT is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. If one does not activate the forgiveness offered them by Jesus Christ through repentance, belief and following, it is the act of rejecting the Holy Spirit and not becoming a Christian.
An obvious question then arises, why is the unforgivable sin only against the Holy Spirit and not also against Jesus Christ or against God the Father? The reason revolves the special work of the Holy Spirit. When we become Christians it is through the movement of the Holy Spirit. Remember, we spoke of how the Trinity works in the past: The Father initiates, the Son accomplishes, the Holy Spirit empowers. It is the Holy Spirit who is the one who does the actual action of conversion. When we turn our lives over to Jesus Christ, it is the Holy Spirit who comes upon us. Father initiates, Son accomplishes, Spirit empowers. He brings us our salvation through our repentance. We are in fact Christians and children of God because we have the Holy Spirit upon us - to reject having the Holy Spirit upon you is to reject salvation. It is an act of resistance to the Holy Spirit. It is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Note that Jesus is not saying that the teachers of the law are committing blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The scribes are in danger of going there, though they have not yet followed through. By claiming that Jesus is in league with Satan they are expressing their unbelief. Saying that the actions of God are the actions of Satan, is blasphemy. But again, these men are only in danger of the sin against the Holy Spirit. Historically we see that many of the religious leaders who condemned Jesus became not only followers of Jesus after his death and resurrection, but many became leaders in the church as well – for ultimately they did believe.
Another question that arises out of this discussion is this: “If we have been forgiven for our sins past, present, future, why do we keep going back to God confessing our sins on a daily basis and asking for forgiveness, if we have already been forgiven? Good question? There are two separate issues we need to look at to answer that question: A question of sins and salvation and a question of sins and relationship. In terms of salvation before God we are and have been free of our sin in terms of forgiveness from the moment of our conversion. However, however.... if we ignore our sin and refuse to repent of it, we will not lose our salvation, but, we will suffer in our spiritual lives, sometimes, severely. The deeper we get into sin, the more distant our relationship is with God, the more serious problems develop in our lives. Remember a couple of weeks ago I said that we can trace almost all of the problems in our lives to one source – sin. Deal with the source, and you deal with the problems.
Earlier we saw that Jesus’ family had made it to town, but here at the end of this chapter they are outside the house that Jesus is teaching in. They send in a message which basically says: Your family is here, let’s go. Jesus is full of compassion, He is full of love, He is full of patience, so his response is a bit startling. He doesn’t even go out to say hello, I love you, but I’m 30 years old and I’m not moving back home. Jesus ignores his family and even more dismisses them as family.
Jesus most likely point to his disciples first, and then others when he says that his mother and brothers are those who believe, in verses 34 and 35. Obedience is thicker than blood says Jesus. The Gospel comes before anything, anything, even our family desires, even what our family directs for us in our lives.
Jesus rejects his family’s good intentions and tells them AND us that our first allegiance is to Him, everything else follows. Following what Jesus says here will get us into trouble, this will cause us financial loss, this will cause us grief within our extended families, this is not an easy command to follow.
In North Africa there was a man from an Islamic family, in fact whole village was Islamic. He was on a journey outside his village and he met someone was a Christian and they share the Gospel with him. This man became a Christian right then and there and had a very moving spiritual experience. Upon returning to his village he starts to tell his friends and family about Jesus. His family tells him to be quiet, that he was an embarrassment to the family. The man instead, went to tell others in the village about Jesus. The others in the village beat him severely and left him outside the village for dead.
The man woke up in great pain and thought to himself that somehow, he didn’t tell the message right because it was such good news. So, he picked himself up and went back into the village and repeated his message about Jesus Christ. They didn’t even give him much of a chance. The villagers and his family beat him, and again left him for dead outside the village. Again, the man woke up and thought to himself, “certainly I must have presented the message of Jesus wrong”. So, he got back up and headed back into the village and started again to tell the people about Jesus Christ. Still, again the people beat him until he appeared to be dead.
He awoke a third time, but this time he was held in the arms of the women of the village – they were weeping and tending his wounds. The women said to him, “You have come back from the dead three times – certainly this Jesus must be full of power”. The whole village are now following Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ himself goes through very difficult times and we as his followers will as well. One thing we can be assured of in our lives is that we are forgiven, we are forgiven, we are forgiven. We all have sins in our past that haunt us and we find it hard to believe we are forgiven for them. I want to say this morning that If there is ever a time where you feel as if you could not possibly be forgiven: Pick up your bible, turn to Mark 3:28 – you know what Jesus says……
Note for those using the sermon series: Mark 2:23-3:12, the Scriptures previous to this sermon, were preached on by our associate pastor and our youth director while I was on vacation and are not available on Sermon Central.