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Mark 3:7-35: Understanding (& Misunderstanding) Jesus Print E-mail
Sunday, 05 August 2007

In our text this morning there are three statements about Jesus.  First, in verse 11, the unclean spirits say this to Jesus: You are the Son of God.  Later, in verse 21, Jesusí family says this about Him: He is out of his mind.  Finally, the scribes who had come from Jerusalem make these two similar remarks: He is possessed by Beelzebul (v. 22) and He has an unclean spirit (v. 30).  So, then, let me ask a simple question: which group makes a true statement about Jesus of Nazareth?  Surely his family and the religious leaders of the day are making true statements about Jesus.  Likewise, if anybody is going to make false statements it would be the unclean spirits that Jesus is casting out in verse 11.  Yet, as odd as it seems, of the three statements made about Christ in this passage, only the demons get it right.  Granted, it should be noted that their statement is made in rebellion and resistance, but it remains the only true statement about Jesus.

Needless to say, there were many in the life of Jesus who completely misunderstood who He was and what He had come to do.  We see this over and over again in all of the gospels.  In fact, even the disciples will struggle with this until after the resurrection and ascension.  As we have said before in this series, Mark is writing to teach His readers who Jesus is.  In doing so, we often see him including stories that reveal just how much others misunderstood the person and work of Christ.  Our passage this morning includes such stories.  We have also said in this series that Mark is teaching us what it means to follow Jesus.  Thus, this morning I want to consider some of the different misunderstandings of Christ with their appropriate corrections, while also drawing some application for those who would claim to be followers of Jesus.  Letís consider four misunderstandings concerning Jesus.

First misunderstanding: Jesus is primarily a healer (v. 7-20).

We have seen this error before and we see it growing throughout the gospels.  In verses 7-12 we see the crowds coming to Christ for healing.  Look at those verses with me.  Now I should say, it is hard to find too much fault with the crowds at this point.  They are not necessarily wrong in coming to Christ for healing.  Yet, the language that Mark uses concerning the crowd is interesting.  At first, it all seems positive and Mark includes the various regions to show the spreading fame of Christ (and possibly the inclusion of Gentiles).  However, in verse 9, we see Jesus and the disciples taking precautions with a boat lest they (the crowds) crush him.  Going on in verse 10 Mark says that the crowds pressed around him to touch him.  Add to this the statement in verse 20 about the crowds preventing Jesus and the disciples from eating and there seems to be some obvious difficulty. 

Yet, still, to fault the crowds for coming to Jesus for healing is probably not the direct point of this language.  Rather, it seems that the growing problem (which will become even clearer in later passages) is the fact that the people are coming primarily for healing.  They are not as much interested in Jesusí preaching as they are His healing and His other miracles.  It is this issue that Jesus will face later in His ministry.  So, if Jesus is not primarily a healer (even though He does heal and cast out demons), what is the primary purpose of His ministry?

Jesus is primarily a preacher.  As we have noted before, Jesus came to preach (see 1:38).  We see this again emphasized with the calling of the disciples.  Look at verses 13-19.  Notice the purpose for Jesusí calling of the twelve: so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.  Healing and casting out demons is an important part of Jesusí ministry.  But the primary mission is proclaiming the gospel and giving His life to secure its message.  Thus, the disciples are called to be with Him and He sends them out to preach and cast out demons.  What does this mean for us?

Jesusí disciples will proclaim the good news of the Kingdom in response to their time spent with the King.  Obviously, we are not the Apostles and so our following of Christ will not be exactly the same.  But, it sure seems, especially in light of the rest of the New Testament, that we are called to be with Jesus and from that, to preach the good news to others. 

I had a friend in college named Ernie who made up funny words and used them all the time in his conversations.  He did this so much, that if you were around him much, you too would begin to use the words.  Thus, you could always tell who Ernieís friends were because they used these goofy words.  In the same way, as we spend time with Jesus through His Word, through prayer, through His people, and the other spiritual disciplines, we will begin to speak the good news of the gospel to others more freely and it will be obvious to the world that we are followers of Christ, much like the Apostles in the book of Acts (see 4:13). 

Second misunderstanding: Jesus is crazy (v. 21).

Apparently Jesusí own family misunderstood Him.  Look at verse 21.  Mark does not tell us why they think this about Jesus, but their intentions are clear: they plan to seize him.  In the end, they thought Jesus was crazy and they wanted to put an end to His ministry.  Mark will finish this story in verses 31-35 and will correct this thinking.  What does he imply?

Jesus is the only sane one among us.  Sure, what He claims is radical (Son of God, Lord of the Sabbath, the right to forgive sins), but it is nonetheless right and true.  Paul recognizes this as he writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18ff: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of GodÖHas not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  The claims of Christ are foolish to the world, but it is simply because their minds (like ours were before faith in Christ) have been blinded (see 2 Corinthians 4:4).  Thus, Jesusí disciples will look to Christ for knowledge and truth.  We must, by His grace, forsake our wisdom and our plans, and trust in our all-knowing Savior.  All else is foolishness and crazy.

Third misunderstanding: Jesus is possessed by an unclean spirit (v. 22-30).

The next story tells of Jesusí first encounter with the religious elite from Jerusalem.  They have traveled a good distance to discredit Jesusí ministry.  Because they cannot accept Him as the Son of God, they conclude that He must be possessed by the enemy.  Look at verse 22.  Yet, Jesus quickly shows them the error in their deduction.  Look at verses 23-27.  It makes no sense for Satan to be casting out his own demons for how could his kingdom survive if that were the case.  Rather, what is taking place in the life and ministry of Jesus is that the strong man (or Satan) is being bound and his house is being plundered. 

This is a powerful picture of Jesusí work in casting out demons and also His work of delivering His people from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light (see Colossians 1:13-14 and 1 Peter 2:9).  These scribes from Jerusalem were completely misunderstanding the ministry of Christ.  In fact, Jesus calls their error of attributing the work of the Spirit (through Christ) to the work of Satan an eternal sin.  By continually viewing the work of the Spirit through Christ as the work of Satan, these scribes were blaspheming against the Spirit.  This sin is not common in the text (the only other reference besides this story in the Gospels is possibly 1 John 5:16-17), thus we should not be quick to confuse it with other sins, which Jesus tells us will be forgiven.  So, if Jesus is not possessed by a demon, then what does the text reveal about Him?

Ironically, the answer in the text is found on the lips of those who are possessed by an unclean spirit, namely, Jesus is the Son of God.  Of course, as we said earlier, it is not as if the demons are stating their trust in Christ or their repentance.  Yet, what they say is true, even if they fail to submit to it.  Jesus casts out demons because as the Son of God, He is the strong man who binds the Enemy.  The scribes are amazed at His authority because they refuse to see Him as anything more than some crazy preacher who is a threat to their rule.  Their pride prevents them from seeing what is obvious.  Their argument that He is casting out demons by the power of Satan is silly, but they cannot see it.  They continue to stumble over their pride. 

We see here the need for humility in following Christ.  Jesusí disciples will believe that He is the Son of God and they will humbly trust Him as such.  One of the tests that we are given in 1 John to see if we have eternal life is belief in Christ as the Son of God who came in the flesh.  Thus, as we come to the table in a moment, we are saying together that we believe in Christ, the Son of God, and His sacrifice for our sins.  We humbly submit our lives to His rule.

Fourth misunderstanding: Jesusí family is physical or natural (v. 31-35).

Mark continues the story about Jesusí family in verses 31-35.  Look again at what he says.  The crowd expects Jesus to listen to His family and give them precedence over His ministry.  Yet, that is not how Jesus responds.  Rather, He makes it clear that His true family is not physical or natural.  His true family is spiritual and supernatural.  His true family is whoever does the will of God.  Jesus is not saying that natural families do not have their place, but He is emphasizing that the supernatural family takes precedent over the natural family.  Thus, if one is forced to choose between doing the will of God, which means repenting of our sins and following Christ, and pleasing our natural families, then they much choose obedience to Christ.  Jesusí disciples will do the will of God, emphasizing the spiritual family over the physical family. 

To some of us this should be greatly encouraging.  We may look at our natural families and be discouraged by their lack of obedience to Christ.  Yet, our true family tree is not physical but spiritual.  This is one of the reasons we are studying Church History on Sunday nights, namely to be encouraged by our spiritual ancestors who have fought the good fight before us.  They are our grandfathers and grandmothers, just as believers today are our brothers and sisters.  There is true family among those who do the will of God by repenting of their sins and following after Christ.

Mark continues to teach us about who Christ is and why He came.  We see in this text that He is a preacher, that He is not crazy, that He is the Son of God, and that His family consists of those who do the will of God.  So then, the question remains before us: are we following this Jesus?  Are we following the Jesus that is revealed in Godís Word or are we following something else that we have invented with our tradition or with our pride or with our ignorance?  I pray that we are following the true Jesus by preaching the good news, by trusting in the foolishness of the cross, by humbly believing that He is the Son of God, and by doing the will of the Father.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 August 2007 )

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