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Mark

Reaction to Jesus

Mark 3

To give them credit, the enemies of Jesus never saw him as a man who gave room for indecision. You were either for him or against him. The reactions to Jesus, logical and illogical, we shall see in this chapter.

The Holy Bible, New International Version

1Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

4Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

5He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

7Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11Whenever the evil£ spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.

13Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14He appointed twelve—designating them apostles£—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15and to have authority to drive out demons. 16These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); 18Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

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

22And 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.”

23So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. 28I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

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

31Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32A 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.

34Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:1 through Mark 3:35 (NIV)

Misunderstanding

Some people, while intending the best, simply do misunderstand Jesus. They don’t “get it.” For such people Jesus provides logical argument. Indeed, it is hard to see how to miss the logic, for Christ is (as C. S. Lewis cogently put it), “liar, lunatic or Lord.”

The man is insane

It’s worth noting that this is no academic or learned judgment. One can almost picture Mary – note the circumstances; she had heard that the boy wasn’t eating right – thought he must be insane. (I suspect my mother might have the same reaction with me, if I gave up eating). The answer to such an argument is simply to examine the facts.

  • Read his words. Do these sound like the words of a raving lunatic? No, they are the words of a man deeply in touch with God. They flow with shrewdness at times; deep sorrow at others – indeed, there is no shallowness in the entire canon. So the man is eminently sane.
  • Until you read who he claims to be – God in the flesh; the Son of God. But to quote that eminent psychiatrist, Leo Durocher, “it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.” Upon his teaching you must proclaim him sane; therefore, you must consider his claim to be God in the same light.
The man is demon possessed

Not an argument you hear much in logical, modern circles – for we don’t, in general, believe in demons. But the people of this time certainly knew them, and knew them as fact, not just abstract belief. The evidence is still available in third world countries.

Jesus does not condemn these people for this. The fact that he conducts logical argument with them (instead of starting out, “You hypocrites!”) tells us that they were sincere. They were also sincerely wrong. And it does matter what you believe.

His argument is quite simple. If Satan is going around throwing out demons, it’s an act of self-destruction. Not likely, that. But if it’s not Satan, then who’s doing the throwing? Only one who is stronger than Satan. That narrows the field a bit.

What to do about it

We, as Christians, may meet with honest doubt. This should be an occasion for joy, for true honest doubt is susceptible to fact. We should take the example of our Lord:

  • First, he is patient with such souls. He does not condemn them for lack of understanding or knowledge; he enlightens them. Sometimes it takes a while, but his mercy (and his patience) endure forever.
  • Through it all, he maintains his insistence on who He is. There is no suggestion of compromise. It is eternally important that we decide: just who is this Jesus of Nazareth? Indeed, it may well be argued that along side this, there are no other questions.
  • Why? In acknowledging and living by the true answer to that question there is salvation.
Those who understand

Life is complicated. It is complicated often enough by those who understand perfectly; they just don’t like the answer given. It’s not politically correct; so we’ll just change the definition of truth. Jesus treats such very differently.

Demons and terror

It’s interesting to note that the agents of Satan, the demons, immediately begin to announce who Jesus is – and that Jesus immediately tells them to shut up. The principle is simple: when dealing with those who know the truth and have chosen to live in opposition to it, there can be neither compromise nor coalition. As the Psalmist records God saying it,

The Holy Bible, New International Version

16 But to the wicked, God says:

“What right have you to recite my laws

or take my covenant on your lips?

Psalm 50:16 (NIV)

Sometimes you just have to draw the line in the sand.

Pharisees and pride

Rarely do we see one so far gone in evil as to require that (though it does happen). It is more common to see the form of righteousness which denies the power of righteousness. These are the Pharisees in this day; their distinguishing characteristic is pride. It will serve to mark those with the same problem today. Christ does not honor their righteousness.

  • Rather, he is grieved at the stubbornness of their hearts. The matter is one of will. Either a man will attempt to rule his own life, or give it over to God. There is no middle ground. Pride can be used to produce a form of righteousness – but it is still a sin.
  • He is angry at them, for they are the wicked. God’s wrath is his permanent attitude towards those who defy him – even while using his name.

You think that pride is OK? Look what it drives these men to do. It pushes them into an unholy coalition. They are the keepers of the law, in detail. They make alliance with a political party (think of every hack politician you’ve ever known). They make common cause with men who disgust them.

The objective of that alliance? Pious murder.

The unforgivable sin

Which brings us to a topic that has puzzled Christians for generations: the unforgivable sin. Just what is it? It is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” Note, please, that blasphemy against Jesus can be forgiven. Why then is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable?

Perhaps it’s easiest to understand from a step by step, process point of view. No matter how you construct the path to salvation (many people have much to say about this) there is one step which is included in everyone’s short list of steps: repentance. Consider, then, that the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin and judgment – which is certainly preliminary to repentance. One does not repent if there is no sin; there is no need. One would not repent if there were no judgment; for there would be no consequences to sin. So if you will not repent, you are (in effect) saying that sin or judgment (or both) are not real – which the Holy Spirit (the spirit of truth) affirms. No conviction, no repentance. No repentance, no salvation.

The great divide

When confronted with “lunatic, liar or Lord” the world looks for another option. It’s worth our time to confront some of these and expose them for what they are.

A sharp pointed stake fence

Jesus did not intend for us to have a middle ground. He did not intend for us to regard him as a “great teacher” – only. His explicit claim is to be God. Two approaches to this have been developed:

  • One says, “what about all the other great teachers who have appeared?” Well, to begin with, none of them claimed to be God. Jesus did. You may examine the claims as you like; Jesus is unique. So every religion (e.g., Bahai) that claims this must fudge the evidence – or the process of reasoning about it.
  • The other says that the records must be wrong. Jesus just could not possibly have said that. That’s the contention of the “Jesus seminar.” But see the circular reasoning: He couldn’t have said it, so the records are wrong. The records are wrong, he didn’t say it. (There is a reason liberal Christianity is declining in numbers.)

You may try to sit on the fence if you like. You will find it is made of sharp, pointed stakes.

Those who follow him

But for those who make the right decision, things look very different.

  • Those who follow him are those who are called. Not those who decided, in the grandeur of their own pride, to condescend to give Jesus a little help. Those who have received the divine call, and respond to it.
  • They are also the wanted. We need not force our way into the kingdom of heaven; God wants us in it. (How wonderful to be wanted somewhere!)
  • We are called, in one way, on the mountainside. We are in the world, but not of the world. The Christian life is indeed different. It is the life lived close to God.

But one thing is required of us: we must come to him. He will stand outside and knock – but we must come to him. The decision must be made, not just assumed to be there. Going to church and feeling pious is no substitute for saying, “Yes Lord, I believe.”

The rewards

The Apostles were given the reward of a great work. Some of us don’t see things quite that way, but we are part of that great work. In this life we have the satisfaction of knowing, “I count. I’m on the team, and my work is important.”

Indeed, it is greater than that. Those who follow Christ become heirs to the kingdom of God with him. We become brother and sister to the Son of God, and follow him into glory.

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