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02.20.11 Insiders and Outsiders, Mark 3:7-35 Sermon Summary

by on February 22, 2011

Summary Points

  • The nature of Jesus’ ministry and how it challenges the church
  • Who’s really part of the family of God
  • God’s will, the Spirit, and the unforgiveable sin

How chapter 3 summarizes much of the rest of the Gospel of Mark

  • Jesus speaks to the crowds from a boat at lakeside and in a home. We remember that God’s Word comes to us anywhere and at any time.
  • Jesus attracts crowds because of what he’s “doing,” namely, healing.
  • It is Jesus’ ministry that reveals his identity. This is a guide for the church today—does our ministry reveal who Jesus is? Are we doing good works to generate good will such that we can proclaim the good news? Or are we just trying to proclaim good news without doing the prerequisite good work?
  • Jesus calls some out of the crowd to be disciples, and some disciples to be apostles. In our church, we talk about moving people through the 3Rs: Receiving, Relating, and Responsibility. We recognize that people come to church expecting to Receive something. We have to offer them something. Then we invite them to Relate to one another in fellowship and small groups. Then we invite them to take Responsibility for the ministry of the church. This is church membership. Thus, we follow the progression outlined by Mark 3
    • Crowds, Disciples, Apostles =
    • Receivers, Relaters, Responsible members =
    • Those Served, Those Taught, Those Serving
  • The ministry to which we are called is preaching and healing—not just preaching.

Insiders/Outsiders: Who’s in the Family of God?

To understand this passage, we have to recognize Mark’s framing technique. He starts a story, interrupts with another story, then finishes the first story. He does this a number of times in his gospel. In this case, he starts the story of Jesus’ family coming to retrieve him because he appears “crazy” to them. Then the religious leaders from Jerusalem accuse Jesus of being “demon possessed.” Then Jesus’ family arrives and Jesus teaches about the nature of his true family.

In this teaching, Jesus utters his first “parable,” according to Mark. And in the next chapter, we see how Mark presents Jesus’ parables as ways to distinguish his true family from his false family. Here the parable has two parts: the divided house and the plundered house.

The first part simply asserts that a house divided against itself cannot last. He says this to counter the argument that he uses demonic power to cast out demons. Satan would never use such a strategy, Jesus contends, because it would be self-destructive to do so. In this first part, he is also acknowledging the real power of evil, Satan, sin, demons, or whatever other name we want to use to refer to the powers and principalities that oppose the Kingdom of God.

The second part reveals the real strategy for overcoming evil, and that is binding the “Strong Man” before plundering his house. What the people are witnessing in the ministry of Jesus is the plundering of Satan’s house. But before one can do this, one has to first bind the owner of the house; one has first to bind the Strong Man.

The question naturally arises: When did Jesus bind the Strong Man? And two times suggest themselves. One is when he was tempted in the dessert after baptism—a temptation he successfully overcame. The second is when he died on the cross and resurrected from the dead. So which is it?

It is actually both, but we can’t fully understand it until after the resurrection. John’s baptism—the baptism Jesus experienced—was a baptism of repentance. Christian baptism—the baptism Mark’s audience knew—is our union with Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus binds the Strong Man in his baptism—first his water baptism by John followed by the temptation, then in the baptism of his death and resurrection. This is why, throughout his gospel, Mark constantly suppresses the true identity Jesus—he’s keeping it secret till the end, because we can’t really know and understand who Jesus is until the resurrection.

Jesus concludes by saying that only those who do the will of God are his family members. Here’s the ingenious message Mark has embedded by framing these stories. It’s not his biological family (his mothers and brothers who came to retrieve him), and it’s not the religious officials (those from Jerusalem who oppose him). It’s anyone who does God’s will.

The message to us is, if you think you’re cozy with Jesus, either because you’re part of his family or part of his religion, be careful. If you’re not doing God’s will, you’re actually NOT part of his true family. The Gospel of John puts it this way: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13). And James puts it this way: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

God’s Will, the Spirit, and The Unforgiveable Sin

Following God’s will is equivalent to following the Spirit. This is why Jesus so harshly critiques those who attribute his “craziness” to demon possession. He says they blaspheme the Spirit and jeopardize their forgiveness. There are at least two lessons here.

First, literalists are in danger of NOT following God’s will and Spirit, despite their quoting the Bible literally. Jesus’ literal family found themselves lumped in with those religious leaders who took the Bible literally and critiqued Jesus for not following the religious law. Today the same danger exists for us in the church. We who would argue about who’s in and who’s out of God’s family on the basis of biblical literalism may not be following the Spirit and God’s will at all.

Second, what about the unforgiveable sin? Some people fear they have committed it, or that people they love have committed it and can never be forgiven. Does Jesus really teach that God cannot or refuses to forgive some people?

First, if you’re concerned you’ve committed the unforgiveable sin, you probably haven’t. Your concern is evidence that the Spirit is at work in your life, and if that’s the case, you’re experiencing salvation. The next step is repentance. There’s some reason you’re concerned about blaspheming the Spirit, about not following God’s Will. Explore that, pray about it, find it, resolve to follow the Spirit (God’s Will), and repent of your not following it now. It’s that simple, even if it’s not easy. Concern is evidence of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Following God’s will is the life of the Holy Spirit. Everyone is so called to live by Jesus Christ.

Second, because God is eternal and God’s Spirit is eternally at work, there are eternal opportunities to follow God’s Spirit and experience salvation. I’m not speculating about the afterlife; I’m talking about now. Jesus spoke more about life now than about an afterlife. So do the writers of the Newer Testament. “Today if you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts,” says Psalm 95. Read Hebrews 3-4.

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