Mark 3:20-35


Mark 3:20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. (Buls: And He went into a house. And the crowd congregated again, so that they could not even eat bread.)

Only Mark gives us the details found in verses 20-21. But Matthew and Luke tell us that a devil-possessed man was brought to Jesus and Jesus freed the man. It is remarkable how the Synoptics embellish each other.

Translators and commentators are divided over the question as to whether "house" means His home or simply a house. It is related to the question as to who is meant by "his family" in verse 21.

Another question: what is meant by "they went" in verse 21? From Nazareth? These questions are not a matter of doctrine.

"He and His disciples" in the NIV is "Jesus and those with Him" in AAT.

Mark 3:21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." (Buls: And when His people had heard about it, they went out to restrain Him: you see, they were saying that he was out of His mind.)

They either heard wrongly or misinterpreted what they heard.

Who are the "family"? It is translated three ways: "his friends," "his family," or "his own people." Are these the same people as mentioned in verse 31? If so, then their attempt in verse 21 failed and so they tried again.

In any case, this is a sad occasion, for both those close to Him and those who openly opposed Him and accused Him of madness or devil-possession.

"Take charge of Him" might also be "to restrain Him." "He is out of His mind" might also be "He has lost His senses." They want to protect Him from Himself.

Mark 3:22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul ! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." (Buls: Now the Bible scholars who had come down from Jerusalem were saying that He had Beelzebul and therefore, with the help of the ruler of the demons, He was exorcising the demons.)

He is in Capernaum at this time. The Bible scholars come all the way from Jerusalem and spread the story that He can cast out devils because He is working together with the devil. Note that they make two claims: He has Beelzebul and by means of the rule of demons He casts out demons. By making two statements they make the slander more vicious.

Mark 3:23 So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? (Buls: And so He invited them and spoke by way of illustrations to them: "How can Satan cast out Satan?")

"He called them and spoke" is used only in Mark. It is the same word used in verse 13 "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him." A beautiful touch. Jesus graciously summoned His disciples when He chose them. He graciously invited the scribes, who said awful things about Him, to point out their illogical thinking, to remind them of what He had done, to preach the Gospel (verse 28) and to warn them of their great danger (verse 29).

"In parables" is found only in the Mark account. AAT: "Pictured it to them in this way."

He now asks a question concerning the story they've been spreading about Him: "How can Satan cast out Satan?" Jesus is about to show how absurd their story is.

Mark 3:24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. Mark 3:25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Buls: For example, if ever a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom can never survive. Here's another example, if ever a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.)

These are two examples. Both are axioms which answer themselves quickly. The doctors of the law were accusing Jesus of devil-possession. In actuality it is really they who are in league with Satan for their spread lies about Jesus. But their lies are not even logical. Satan would never fight himself or his kingdom would be destroyed. If a household of people are divided among themselves, they will destroy themselves. By the way, President Lincoln based his famous "House Divided" speech during the Civil War in the United States, in part, on verse 25.

Mark 3:26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. (Buls: In application, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but has an end.)

This is the application. Here we have a fact condition: "If, as you maintain, Satan has risen against himself etc." Jesus is following THEIR line of reasoning which proves to be absurd.

"His end has come" is translated "but he is finished," in the NASB.

Mark 3:27 In 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. (Buls: No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strongman, and then only will he plunder his house.)

Note the double negative which makes the negative most emphatic.

Lenski: The TERTIUM is the thought that complete victory must precede the act of plundering. God's kingdom must first have come in its fullness before demoniacs could be liberated as Jesus was liberating them. . . . All that Jesus here says would be farcical and senseless, if Satan were not the personal being he is represented to be throughout the Scriptures from Genesis 3 onward, and if demoniacal possession, like the demons themselves, were ordinary mental ailments.

Jesus' enemies had admitted that He had cast out demons. Jesus proved by axioms that the force which drove them out had to be one opposite to themselves. And in verse 27 He is plainly saying that the expulsion of demons is proof of the fact that He has already conquered Satan.

Notice that they do not and cannot answer Him. He really muzzled them by the use of simple logic.

By the way, when did Jesus conquer Satan? The same question is asked with reference to Luke 10:18. Satan has been conquered ever since Gen. 3:15 was spoken. All though the Old Testament we see the battle between God and Satan, between God's children and Satan's children.

Mark 3:28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. (Buls: Verily I say unto you, all things will be forgiven the sons of men, their sins and their blasphemies, whatever they utter in blasphemy.)

Two important statements follow: verse 28 is beautiful Gospel, verse 29 is starkest Law. KJV, RSV and NASB translate: "All their sins and their blasphemies will be forgiven to the children of men." AAT: "Anything that people do will be forgiven, their sins and their slanders, though they slander ever so much."

Don't be afraid to stress the true meaning of "the sins and the blasphemies" in this verse. The first denotes the things man fails to do. The second, the slanderous things man says against God and what belongs to Him. This includes the sins of Christians. They are grievous. But they will all be forgiven. You can't preach Gospel rightly unless you preach Law correctly.

Bengel: Ordinary sins are the sins of men; but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the sin of Satan. Verse 28 tells us two things: a) The sins forgiven to penitent sinners are grievous; b) But they are forgiven.

Mark 3:29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." (Buls: But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit does not have forgiveness into eternity but is guilty of an eternal sin.")

Here is utter contrast which is frightening. Note that blasphemy, evil speaking, is common to both verses 28 and 29. The repetition of the article with an adjective in 29 lays stress on the adjectives: "The Spirit, the Holy Spirit."

This is one of the proof passages for the sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not accusing these people of having committed this sin, but He is sternly warning them.

KJV: "Is in danger of eternal damnation." RSV, NEB, NIV NASB and AAT: "He is guilty of eternal sin."

Ylvisaker: The words of Jesus to the scribes should be regarded as a warning, and not as an indictment or declaration of judgment . . . They were on the verge of committing it, and they would become guilty if they continued with their accusation . . . . the sin against the Holy Spirit, for which there is no forgiveness, is not a sin against the PERSON of the Spirit, but sin against the Spirit and His ACTIVITY. The cause lies EXCLUSIVELY in man . . . God withdraws His hand from him.
Fahling: The accusation just made against Jesus was really a sin against the Spirit of God, inasmuch as by discrediting and rejecting Jesus in the face of all evidence and better conviction they deliberately and blasphemously rejected the work of the Spirit of God.

In the final analysis, the sin against the Holy Spirit amounts to the rejection of the forgiveness itself. It must be added here, as has been said so often, that if a person fears having committed this sin, he should be comforted with the fact that he has not committed this sin.

Mark 3:30 He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit." (Buls: He said this because they were saying: "He has an unclean spirit.")

"He has an unclean spirit." Note that only the first part of the accusation, mentioned in verse 22, is mentioned here.

Lenski: Where the Holy Spirit was active these Jews saw the devil. So close were these people to committing the unpardonable sin.

They came from Jerusalem. Perhaps this means that they began spreading this lie already in Jerusalem. Compare John 8 in general and verse 52 in particular.

It is simply awful and terrible to see nothing but Satan when one looks at God. That's what these scribes were doing. They had to admit that He drove out devils. That they could not deny. But in their madness they attribute the cause to Satan himself.

Mark 3:31 Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. (Buls: Now there came His mother and His brothers and, standing outside, sent a message to Him, calling Him.)

Between verses 21 and 31 there are only two possibilities: a) Either they are the same group who, for some reason or other were not successful in the first instance, or b) in verse 21 we have a group of close associates and in verse 31 we have Jesus' relatives.

It really doesn't make that much difference. Our sympathy goes out for Jesus because not only were His enemies absolutely devilish toward Him, but also those close to Jesus were aiding Jesus' enemies rather than aiding Jesus.

Many scholars today are of the opinion that Jesus' brothers (and sisters) were Mary's children born after Jesus was born.

Bengel: The 'blessed among women' was not exempt from human infirmity.
Lenski: It is certainly strange to find the mother of Jesus participating in this affair . . . We prefer to hold that she permitted herself to be drawn into it by the fears and urgings of others.

Mary disappoints us here as does Peter by his denials later. Did she hear the words spoken by Jesus in verses 33-35? If so, the words must have made her think. Sometimes the good intentions of Christians aid Satan more than the person whom they are trying to help.

Mark 3:32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." (Buls: A crowd was sitting around Him and they said to Him: "Look, Your mother, Your brothers and Your sisters are seeking You outside.")

People in the crowd passed the word to Jesus. Here we have a direct quote. Note that they mention His mother first, but Jesus, in verse 35, places her last.

Fahling: News had reached the family of Jesus, His mother and His brethren, of the dense throngs surrounding His person, of the strange and threatening words uttered by Him, and probably also of the presence of the spying delegation from Jerusalem.
Lenski: The exclamation 'lo' draws attention to the strangeness of the circumstances . . . What these relatives wanted of Jesus has already been indicated in verse 21. They thought Jesus was losing his mind, i.e. was using himself up in his excessive labors, like one on longer acting rationally. While they failed to make Him stop, they hope to succeed with this their second effort.

Ylvisaker is a bit doubtful: "Some believe that the mother comes to restrain the Son from what she considers a zeal bordering on distraction, Mark 3:21. Plausible but hardly susceptible proof."

We cannot be dogmatic, but what follows in verses 33-35 is the important point.

Mark 3:33 "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Mark 3:34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! (Buls: In response He said to them: "Who is My mother and My brothers?" Now when He had looked about those who were in a circle around Him He said: "Look at My mother and my brothers.)

"Here are my mother and my brothers" meaning the people who are sitting around Him in a circle. At least at this moment those sitting around Him were more interested in what He was saying then were His mother and brothers.

Mark 3:35 Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." (Buls: You see, whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.")

This is an explanation.

On "whoever" Lenski says: "Open to all and excluding none, yet embracing only those who become truly His."

"God's will" means "that which God wills." And what does God will? That we be saved. That we believe in Jesus as the God-Man Who, as our substitute, redeemed all human beings. The context clearly indicates that.

In verse 27 He assured His hearers that He had conquered Satan. In verse 28 He clearly says that all sins and blasphemies will be forgiven for the sons of men and in verse 29 He says that those who spurn and reject the work of the Holy Spirit are in the gravest of danger.

Jesus is not belittling human relationships. But there is a bond which is more important than blood-relationship. It is a blessed situation in which the members of a family practice love. It leads to closeness. That is the picture which Jesus is drawing. The spiritual bond, made possible by Jesus Himself, transcends all human relationships, ever the closest of them and goes on into eternity.

Note: For a good discussion of the sin against the Holy Spirit, see Walther's Law and Gospel,  pp. 393-403. This text is discussed on pp. 394-5.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B Mark-John, Sundays after Pentecost, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 9-12

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