Read or recite Mark 3.
In this chapter the opposition against Jesus is mounting. It began in chapter 2 as Jesus broke several traditions that stood in the way of reaching out to the needy and lost.
1. Jesus announced the forgiveness of sins to the paralytic.
2. He had dinner with tax collectors and sinners.
3. He and his disciples didn’t observe the fast days.
But the biggest of all was the last one in chapter 2…
4. He claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath!
It would be a worthwhile study to see how Jesus envisions the meaning of keeping the Sabbath. We can see already that his view and the established view of the religious authorities in his day clash. Over and over in the gospels Jesus gets into conflict with the scribes and Pharisees over the proper application of Sabbath keeping.
Jesus says that they are hypocrites, straining out gnats and swallowing camels, they put stumbling blocks in the way of those who are entering the kingdom of God. They say Jesus is demon possessed, breaking the Sabbath law, making wild claims about himself so much that he deserves to be put to death.
Clearly a polarization is taking shape with Jesus and his followers on one side and the Religious governing authorities and their followers on the other. Jesus still brings us to the valley of decision where we must choose him over all else. What does it take to be on the Lord’s side? Chapter three concludes with these words by Jesus: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
1 John 3:1 Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.
The Lord wants us to be in his family. John again wrote in 1:12 To all who received him, to those who believed on his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
I see several things here in Mark 3 that are astonishing to me. One of them involves how Jesus’ mother and brothers seem to have viewed him at this point in his ministry.
Verse 21 says: When his own people (that would be his family) heard about this, they went out to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” That’s Mary. That’s Jesus own brothers, Mary’s other children. Among them is James, who later we learn became an influential leader in the church and who wrote the book of James.
Have you ever felt misunderstood by those closest to you? Maybe even your own family?
Jenny and I were talking about this. Doesn’t everyone have a longing to be known and understood? Friendship is one of the most precious human relationships. Jenny is my very best friend in the world. But I still have to say that sometimes I don’t understand her. And I know that sometimes, she doesn’t understand me. Friendship isn’t based purely on understanding, but understanding grows within friendship as does appreciation, respect, love and trust.
Look at Jesus. He has got to be the most misunderstood person in the book of Mark. He entered his ministry in a mystical way. The prophets had foretold his coming. The angels announce it. Stars in the heavens reveal it. God sent a special messenger to prepare the way for his coming. Mark tells us: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God. Just as it was written in Isaiah the prophet…
There is something mysterious about it all. Jesus comes and is baptized and heaven opens, the Holy Spirit comes down upon him, and the Father speaks confirming his identity. Immediately he is driven out to the wilderness to face temptation and do battle with Satan, and angels minister to him. Who is this?
He begins doing amazing things and teaching in amazing authority speaking amazing words. He commands even the demons and they obey him.
The people are polarized between those who are attracted to Jesus and those who are deeply offended by him.
But, listen… who in this gospel thus far genuinely understands Jesus? I submit to you that no one fully understands him. What they see and hear from him makes them either want to join with him or oppose him. But every one of them has a limited perspective that shapes their relationship with him.
To the religious leaders, Jesus is a dangerous threat.
To his mother and brothers, Jesus is out of his mind.
To the multitudes, Jesus is a miracle worker.
To the tax collectors and sinners, Jesus is a friend.
To the disciples, Jesus is the Messiah.
What about you and me? Who do we say that Jesus is? Who is Jesus to you? How do you understand him? What category do you put him in that seems to fit best or how do you see him? Is he a good luck charm to keep you out of trouble? Is he a wonder worker to fix your problems? Is he a judge keeping track of all your good and bad behaviors? Is he a good buddy to hang out with? Is Jesus the Son of God who has full authority in your life? Or is he the Son of God that you sometimes allow to have some access to your life.
How do you know and understand and relate to Jesus Christ?
What we learn in Mark is that our view of Jesus tells a lot more about us than it does about him. Jesus Christ is the center. He is the absolute true person, he completely understands everyone and he acts with absolute authority. Everyone else reveals their own identity by how they relate to him.
1. The scribes and Pharisees are self-righteous control freaks. They have packaged up religion into a formula of doctrines, regulations and traditions, all neat and manageable with all the answers in place. Religion to them is something they can understand and that they enforce. This gives them a sense of power and control. It also is their source of security and authority. It was familiar, deeply valuable and nicely comfortable to them. The problem is, their religious views filled them with pride and a false sense of God’s approval. Then here comes Jesus! He’s way out of step with their rules and regulations, but amazingly convincing and powerful to others.
How do you solve a problem like Jesus? He won’t listen to our rebukes and corrections! In fact, he rebukes us back! The nerve! They begin to view Jesus as their enemy, one they must destroy.
2. Jesus’ family are certainly not his enemies. They have spent much time with him, but clearly do not understand him nor submit to his authority. They would very much like to tame him and get him to act reasonably, that is, according to their definition of reasonable. This is a bit surprising. How could they be so close to him and yet so far from him? How could they know him so well and yet not know him at all? They want Jesus to be… well, what they want him to be. They want to shape him into an image that is safe and normal. Instead of answering his call, they call him, expecting him to come to them. Seeing this, Jesus redefines who his mother and brothers are! Does this not indicate that they are not doing the will of God? This view is disturbing because it can easily be our view.
3. The multitudes know the least about Jesus. They hear what he has done and they come to him from everywhere. Most of them come for healing and help. Jesus always receives them helps them and teaches them. It reminds me of our Honduras mission trips. Where ever we would go, crowds of people would gather looking for food, clothes, medical attention or anything we could give them. We would get a translator and speak to them as they gathered. It is both exciting and frustrating. We can’t build relationships of any depth, just basically point them to God and offer what assistance we can.
4. The tax collectors and sinners grasp the mercy and love of Jesus. Jesus said that they are the ones he came to call. It appears that these see in Jesus what we all need to see. Jesus is the answer to our greatest need, our spiritual need of a Savior who will save us from our sins. Jesus wants us to see this in him. In fact, this is at the center of who Jesus truly is.
5. The 12 apostles that Jesus called to himself and empowered to serve see Jesus as Lord and master. He is to them, the Messiah, God’s anointed king. They want to be with him, to be like him, to work for him, and to live under his commanding authority.
So there you have it. Five levels of understanding of Jesus and five kinds of relationship to him.
The enemies who want to destroy him.
The physical family who want to tame him.
The multitude who want to be helped by him.
The Tax Collectors and sinners who want to befriend him.
The apostles who are called to serve him.
Which of these best describes where you are in your relationship with Jesus today?
Where you are today, may well determine where you will be in eternity.
Jesus came and called us to come to him. If you believe in Jesus today and are ready to answer his call, come now.