Day 7: Mark 3:20-33-Jesus and evil spirits, Jesus’ family

20 When Jesus returned to the house where he was staying, the crowds began to gather again, and soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. 21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. 22 But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.” 23 Jesus called them over and said to them by way of illustration, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 A kingdom at war with itself will collapse. 25 A home divided against itself is doomed.

26 And if Satan is fighting against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. 27 Let me illustrate this. You can’t enter a strong man’s house and rob him without first tying him up. Only then can his house be robbed! 28 “I assure you that any sin can be forgiven, including blasphemy; 29 but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. It is an eternal sin.” 30 He told them this because they were saying he had an evil spirit. 31 Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived at the house where he was teaching. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”

33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “These are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Points of Interest :

*   ‘He’s out of his mind’-Jesus is provoking pretty strong opinions about himself. His family thinks he is crazy, and the religious leaders think he is demon-possessed. Both of these opinions come from groups of people who might consider themselves experts. His family thinks they are experts on Jesus. They’ve known him his entire life. They know his place in the world. And this rock star popularity, bands of groupies, and antagonism with the authorities is not what they expect of him. It’s not like him. He must be going through a nervous breakdown, they think. The religious teachers consider themselves experts on God. They know the law. They know what it says about God and about the kind of people God listens to. And from what they know of God, God can’t be behind what Jesus is doing. They recognize that casting out demons requires spiritual power, but it’s not God’s power-it must be from Satan. Both of these groups of experts get very harsh warnings from Jesus. The religious experts are told that they are in danger of committing an unforgivable sin. His family is left outside while he claims another group as his family. To pretend to be an expert on Jesus but reject what Jesus is doing leads toward being left out in the cold.

*   Tying up the strong man-Jesus makes it very clear how it is he casts out demons. He is stronger than them. He wrestles them, ties them up, and then takes their possessions away. Satan would never allow him to do what he does if he had any power to resist, because Jesus is doing too much damage to his kingdom. In the contest of Satan’s kingdom and Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus is winning. The kingdom of God is taking ground.

*   ‘Anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven’-Why would there be a sin that could not be forgiven? And what happens if you accidentally commit the unforgivable sin? What exactly is this ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? What Jesus says is a bit paradoxical: any sin can be forgiven, including blasphemy; but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. How can it be simultaneously true that any sin can be forgiven and that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot? Perhaps blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is more than just a simple action. If the religious teachers are our example of someone in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, it seems like blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is more like a gradual process of rejection of Jesus. In their relationships with Jesus, they move from critical, to skeptical, to hostile. They end up claiming Jesus is demon-possessed, which is, in fact, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit-it is calling the Holy Spirit an evil spirit. But it was not an impulsive action-it was a series of decisions to reject Jesus. By this process, they’ve gotten themselves to the point that they looked at a person being freed from the clutches of an evil spirit and they called it demonic. They look at good and they see harm. They look at Jesus, and they call his Spirit evil. They have moved a long way from Jesus. And if they think he is demon-possessed, they are not likely to seek him for forgiveness. And if they don’t seek him for forgiveness, they can’t receive it, because only God can forgive sins. By their own decisions and their own logic, they have cut themselves off from forgiveness. The apostles are on a process toward Jesus: they are spending time with him, and they will do what he does. The teachers have moved in the opposite direction: they went away from him, and they reject what he does. They’ve gotten so far away from Jesus that it would be very difficult at this point for them to turn and be forgiven.

Taking it home :

*   For you: The Pharisees certainly didn’t set out with the intention of calling the Holy Spirit the prince of demons. But through a long, slow process they cut themselves off from the source of God’s mercy. This is a sobering thing! The disciples, on the other hand, made daily choices to follow Jesus, and now Jesus calls them his family. What are the decisions in front of you today? How could that decision distance you from Jesus? How could it take you another step toward him? Ask God for the grace today to make another step toward him.

*   For your five: Jesus says, anyone who does my will is a member of my family. Not only does following Jesus’ words bring benefits to the lives of your five, it draws them closer in relationship to him. Jesus loves to spend time with people who are trying to trust God. Again, encourage your friends to try out Jesus’ advice for their lives. Affirm them for the choices of faith they make.

*   For our church: Both the teachers of the law and Jesus’ family became arrogant, and it left them on the outside. Ask Jesus to give our church a humble heart and a listening ear, so that we can learn more about him and draw closer to him. Ask Jesus to protect us from the desire to just be experts apart from Him.


6 Responses to “Day 7: Mark 3:20-33-Jesus and evil spirits, Jesus’ family”

  1. 1 Panda February 23, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Day 7 of the readings is upon us already,

    I couldn’t help but smile when I just read the points of interest “He must be going through a nervous breakdown”. As Jesus’ family thought they knew him the best, the same with my family. In my family’s mind I was the last person they’d ever consider to embrace a faith and they said the exact words when they were told I became a Christian “SHe must be going through a nervous breakdown”.

    I did have a breakdown but it was my pride my arrogance my oldways of life

  2. 2 Ben February 23, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    So, if the unforgivable sin is a journey toward rejecting Jesus, is there a “point of no return?” Would this apply to, say, Richard Dawkins, or even Christians that have fallen away? Presumably they consciously make an informed decision: they know of what Jesus has done, but reject it as false, thus blaspheming the Holy Spirit. [I’m not saying that’s what I think – just asking the question.]

    I struggle with the idea that some people may not find redemption because of something they may have done in past. How do we, as evangelists, make that distinction to see those that have strayed “too far?” Is there such thing as “too far” from God? Without Grace we’re all lightyears away from Him anyway…

    Or does it reflect a deeper state of the heart and soul? Perhaps this refers to those people who will never devote their lives to Jesus, no matter how often they hear the Gospel message? It reminds me of Pharaoh in Exodus, how his heart was “hardened.” I always wondered why God would do that, when he is capable of freeing the Israelites through many other ways. But maybe it isn’t that God looks at some people and says “sorry, you can’t be forgiven, you’ve gone too far this time!” Maybe it’s that God knows us so intimately, outside of our limited perception of time, and sees the nature of our souls. The fact that it is an “eternal” sin means that it isn’t governed by a one-time thing, or even a period of time where Jesus is not accepted. I wonder if its possible for anyone to actually completely commit this sin during their time on Earth, for somebody to be walking around down here with absolutely no chance of redemption. I’m not sure if I can believe that this is the case.

    Jesus did die for the forgiveness of all, but that doesn’t mean that all will accept Him. However, how are we to know who will be saved and who won’t? From our perspective, there’s every chance of forgiveness for every person we meet. Yes, some may not meet us in Heaven, but that does not put us in a position to choose. I think it may actually be beyond our comprehension to see how God works through this. We certainly aren’t in a position to judge people. I do believe that people like Richard Dawkins, who may appear to be in danger of committing this sin, have the same chance of salvation as the rest of us. It would be completely against Jesus’ commands to forsake people like him because of our distorted, broken understanding of God’s holiness.

    Wow, that was a lot more than I expected to write! Sorry it’s so heavy – these are just my thoughts. I don’t think that I have a real answer to what Jesus is talking about, and some of the questions above are rhetorical, rather than things that I am unsure of. Still, I would welcome other people’s thoughts on this verse too!

    (Bert, if this is too radical to post here, feel free to delete it! I understand that it might not fit with the feel of the blog. :))

    • 3 Witek February 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm

      “The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws for ever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.”

      See how the author comes to this conclusion here:

  3. 4 Mike Gregory February 24, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Taking verse 29 in light of verse 28

    28 “I assure you that any sin can be forgiven, including blasphemy; 29 but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. It is an eternal sin.”

    I think Jesus’ “blasphemes” is talking about a continual state of not accepting the Holy Spirit as God throughout life, rather than a one off statement. Therefore meaning that this lifelong blasphemy of the Holy Spirit would be a sin with eternal consequences.

  4. 5 Mike Gregory February 25, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Over the last day (rather than revising my Business Law ready for my exam tomorrow – don’t tell Sam!), I’ve been thinking about verses 28 & 29.

    I understand what John Piper is saying in Witek’ post, he is saying that due to the fact that we need the Holy Spirit in order to turn to God (Romans 8:7 – “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God it does not submit to God’ law, indeed it cannot”) by blaspheming against the Holy Spirit in an act of resistance we “belittle the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws for ever”. This therefore means that rather than it being a sin which cannot be forgiven in the sense that God won’t, it’s a sin that cannot be forgiven as we cannot repent without the Holy Spirit there to convict us.

    As with all verses (especially those we struggle to understand) we need to take the bibles message as a whole, rather than look at verses on their own or out of context. I think the same must be done here, which is where I struggle to follow John Piper’ theory, as from what I know of God & his character through the bible he pours out endless measures of forgiveness – just looking at a tiny part of the old testament it is so evident that he forgives the Israelites constantly. I find it hard to believe that the Holy Spirit would withdraw forever when we know how much God wants to save people – however I might well be convinced / shown to be wrong as seems to happen more and more now. Especially when disagreeing with someone with such a wealth of knowledge as John Piper!

    We studied this passage in my bible group in Newcastle and came to the conclusion I posted before, although Piper quotes other scripture to disprove this idea I don’t yet think I’m convinced otherwise as I think that this does agree with other scriptures on sins & forgiveness, however I am often incorrect.

    However I do think it’s very important to not have a mentality or faith that is ‘us’ focused. I think that we can often easily be upside down in our thinking and think that it’s all about humans, so that when we don’t like the thought of something such as the hardening of Pharaoh’ heart, we think God is being unloving or that humans deserve more. I think that the bible makes it quite clear that it’s all about God. We are humans who were created by God and turned from him. Due to our sin, continual disobedience and rejection of God we deserve nothing but punishment & yet even after being rejected HE made a way for us to come into a relationship with HIM through the death of HIS son! This being so that we could bring glory to HIM! We need to remember that God is the loving, caring, just, forgiving, gracious, merciful one and but by Jesus’ death man kind deserves nothing!

    I think I’d better mirror Ben’s bottom 2 paragraphs and say sorry if this is too long or heavy – feel free to delete!

    Ben- good conversation starter!

    Right back to work!!

    • 6 Witek February 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

      Mike, I hope your exam went well. 🙂

      Interesting to read your thoughts on this matter – I have to read them again to write my response – now I better get back to work.

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