Summary: Has anyone ever considered you to be crazy? How about demon-possessed? If you have been accused of either of these conditions, take heart; Jesus received the same diagnoses.
Has anyone ever considered you to be crazy? How about demon-possessed? I know some women who have suspected the first of their husbands and the second of their toddlers! If you have been accused of either of these conditions, take heart; Jesus received the same diagnoses.
His family believes that he is suffering mentally. Mark starts the story by describing yet another crowd scene. 20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. This is Mark’s third reference to Jesus being at home or in a house. Note the progress of the crowd. In 1:33 the “whole town” gathers at the door; in 2:2 so many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door; now, so many had gathered that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. They can’t even get to the refrigerator!
Jesus’ family is understandably concerned about the situation; but instead of attributing the problem to a crazy crowd, it’s Jesus they are alarmed about. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” We have got to be careful here, speculating over Jesus’ domestic relations. Besides what is in the chapter and in chapter 6, when Jesus’ hometown neighbors refer to his mother and siblings, there are no other references to Jesus’ family by Mark. John comments in his gospel in 7:5 that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him. It would seem from this episode that Mark indicates the same. But we can’t be sure about Mary. Is she in agreement with her other sons’ assessment. Is she still “treasuring in her heart” what the supernatural affirmations of who her son is? Maybe she is like John the Baptist, confused by her expectations and Jesus’ actual behavior.
Did Jesus cause a rift in the family growing up? It is easy to speculate how he could. My sisters and I would have gotten a bit peeved with our older brother, if he had let it be known that he was the Messiah. Clearly Jesus would have been different somehow from all the other children, and the difference would have only become more marked as he became an adult. And once he publicly began his ministry, being mobbed by adoring crowds on one side, and venomously criticized by religious authorities on the other, his family certainly would have been concerned for his welfare. Maybe the pressures of crowd-management have gotten to him, they worry. Maybe what they have heard other people claim about him has alarmed them. He has authority to forgive sins? He calls himself Lord of the Sabbath? He’s touching lepers? Something must be wrong.
That is a situation we can understand and even smile about. We parents do tend to over worry about the mental stability of our children, and it is not unusual for one sibling to suspect what is going on in the mind of another. But this next scene is nothing to smile about. The remark above is spoken out of concern; the next remark is spoken out of malice.
22 And 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.” This is a disturbing statement for three reasons: who is saying it, to whom they are saying it, and whom it is about. Mark tells us they are the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem. If you are reading from other Bible versions, the term might be “scribes.” Let me explain again who these men are. They are the authoritative teachers of the law. They are the preachers and seminary professors who have studied the scriptures and commentaries. They are the most qualified to interpret whether a person’s actions or teachings are in accord with God’s Word. Mark implies here that a delegation of these authorities have been sent from Jerusalem, the capital of Jewish orthodoxy and authority, to examine Jesus’ ministry and render a judgment. This is not unusual. The early church leaders did the same thing. Christians had taken the gospel to Antioch and established a gentile church. The Jerusalem Church then sent Barnabas to check out this new development. He reported what he saw as evidence of the grace of God (Acts 11:23).
But that is not how the teachers of the law regard Jesus’ ministry, specifically his ability to drive out demons. They pronounce that he is possessed by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, and that he is empowered by this prince to cast out demons. That is a serious charge to make, perhaps the most serious of all. And it is all the more serious because it is made by those trained and authorized to render such judgments. These are not some wise-guys just shooting off their mouths. What they say becomes what is accepted.