Friday, June 24, 2016

RESISTANCE AND PERSISTENCE

Pixabay (Public Domain)
Mark 3:20-34

 Things are beginning to heat up! It’s one thing to go around healing people and casting out demons, but it is a whole different thing to go around forgiving sin! It’s just not “politically correct.” The people loved it, but the religious authorities—well, not so much!

They were there in the house when the paralytic was lowered through the roof. They watched Jesus eat with tax collectors and “sinners,” something that they considered themselves too spiritual to do. They caught him picking grain on the Sabbath so that He and His disciples could eat—something prohibited by them—and when they objected He told them that as Lord of the Sabbath it was His right to decide what was done and not done on the Sabbath. He went into the synagogue to teach, and healed a crippled man—something else prohibited by them. And when He rebuked them and reminded them that doing good on the Sabbath was the right thing to do, Mark tells us that “Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” (Mark 3:6). They hated having their theology corrected, especially in public. They were jealous of His popularity. They were afraid of Him. And since they couldn’t control Him, they had to find a way to cancel Him out.

It’s one thing to have your critics on the outside. Jesus knew what they were thinking and wasn’t the least bit phased by it. He knew who He was. He knew what He had come to do. But as the opposition was growing on the outside, there was some resistance among those from whom we would not expect it. Jesus’ own family began to apply pressure on Him.

By this time it appears that Joseph was dead. He is no longer mentioned in any of the passages that have to do with the family.

Families come in different shapes and sizes. Some are good communities to belong to; others not so much. Every family has its share of tensions. Mothers never cease to be mothers. I went overseas when I was in my 20s. When I came home on Home Assignment I would come back to Timmins and spend some time with my parents. Once in a while I would go out and spend an evening with my friends. My mother would stay awake until she was sure I was safely home. Once, when I was out after 11:00 p.m. she actually called the house where I was to ask when I was coming home. I’m in my 30s by this time, left home when I was 17, have lived on my own in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and she is worried if I’m out after 11:00 p.m. in Timmins! Go figure! Mothers are mothers always.

Well, it turns out that Mary was that kind of mom. She worried about her firstborn. Mark 3:20, 21 puts it this way:

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

He was too busy to eat and mom found out and get worried. He must be losing His mind not to look after Himself a little better than that! So mom needs to take charge. I think the term to describe this today is “helicopter mom” — always hovering. I don’t know if Jesus was embarrassed—I certainly was when my mother phoned my friend’s house to tell me come home!

While they were en route, Jesus had an interesting discussion with the religious authorities about demons. In the previous post I suggested that Satan might have tried to tempt Jesus to concentrate on the healing and casting out demons rather than His teaching about the Kingdom of God. This would have sidetracked the Lord from the purpose of His coming. I suggested that perhaps Satan was willing to have his demons cast out as part of the “show.” Apparently Satan tempted the religious authorities to believe that same story—that Jesus was casting out demons because He was in league with Satan and putting on a show. 

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.”

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”


Jesus very quickly dealt with this obscene suggestion. To attribute to Satan what God is doing is very serious stuff.

During this discussion Mary arrives. It is apparent that she and Joseph had other children after Jesus was born. This is one of the passages that mentions the other family members. John tells us more: “After this, Jesus went around Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:1-5).

They thought He was a glory-hound. They did not yet believe that He was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. It is not until after the resurrection that we discover that Jesus’ family, his half-brothers, had come to faith. Acts 1:12-14, describing what happened after Jesus had returned to heaven, says: “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphas and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

But here in Mark, the brothers come with Mary, not out of belief, but out of a sense of family, to rescue their half-brother from his own folly.

 31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!


For some people, what Jesus says here is offensive. Jesus’ family comes to see Him out of concern for His well-being and He basically ignores them, some might say even to verbally disowning them. That was not His intent. But the message was clear. The mission He had come to complete was more important than anything else. To do the will of His Father in heaven came before any ties that He might have on earth. This is what He taught when He said that those who want to follow Him must love Him more than they love their parents. This is what he taught when He said that those who give up their earthly ties and all they possess for the sake of the kingdom will be rewarded with so much more.

He did not teach when He Himself did not do.

That’s an important lesson for all of us—don’t tell others to do what you won’t! That’s hypocrisy and that was something that Jesus often accused the religious leaders of His day of doing.

We can only image what happened when someone came out of the house and told Mary and the brothers that Jesus couldn’t come because He was busy! Mary might have understood—she knew who He was! But the brothers probably were not so impressed.

The story of the family dynamics here get even more interesting when we get to Mark 6. Jesus was popular with everyone (except, of course, the religious authorities). Well, not exactly everyone.

When he returned to his family home—he hadn’t disowned them or abandoned them at all despite what He seemed to be doing a few chapters earlier—this is what Mark tells us:

Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them , ‘Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ He could not do any miracles there, except to lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:1-6a).

Not only is His family doubtful about Him, but His former friends and neighbours are doubtful too! Despite what He said and did, His background worked against Him. Jesus grew up in Nazareth and when Jesus first appeared on the public stage and people realized where He came from, many probably responded as Nathanael did in John 1:46, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nazareth was the backwater of the boonies! And it looks like the people who lived there thought so too! People judged Him by his family even though they acknowledged that they were amazed by Him, by His wisdom and and by the miracles that He did. Yet they could not believe because He was a hometown boy. It was as though they had John Piper living next door, but they needed to go to Toronto to hear Timothy Keller say the same thing—a spiritual version of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill.”

How sad for the Lord to be rejected by the religious authorities who should have been the first to recognize Him for Who He was. How sad for the Lord to be rejected by His own family members who should have been the first ones whose lives would be positively impacted by Him. How sad for the Lord to be rejected by His friends and neighbours just because He had grown up in their community. How sad that their lack of faith prevented them from taking advantage of His presence among them.

Lack of faith will do that every time. It serves as a barrier between us and Him just like it did during the time He walked among men. The Pharisees and religious leaders couldn’t get past their pride and jealousy. The family couldn’t get past their worry and doubt. The community couldn’t get past their image of themselves and their own sense of inferiority.

What a waste!

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