Families are a bitter-sweet reality of life. There is no better place to receive unconditional love and care than from one’s family. “Home,” it has been said, “is where they have to let you in when you want to go there.” Rudyard Kipling once wrote this about families:
“All of us are we—and everyone else is they. A family shares things like dreams, hopes, possessions, memories, smiles, frowns, and gladness... A family is a clan held together with the glue of love and the cement of mutual respect. A family is shelter from the storm, a friendly port when the waves of life become too wild. No person is ever alone who is a member of a family.”
Yet sadly, many cannot relate to such a warm and positive description of family. Because of our deep love for our families, they have the potential to hurt us the most. While no family is perfect, some experience greater levels of harmful brokenness than others. Divorce, verbal or physical abuse, disapproval, abandonment, favoritism, and neglect—these and more threaten to rob us of God’s plan for the modern family. In Mark chapter three, Jesus will not only encounter trouble in His family, but He will also redefine for us the notion of family. He will show that there is a stronger bond than that of flesh and blood. This stronger bond rests with one’s spiritual family. It is to this family that Jesus calls His disciples in this lesson. It is the same calling that every Christian receives—not to a specific vocation or mission field or ministry, but to the family of God and our responsibilities within those relationships.
3:7 Then Jesus went away with his disciples to the sea,15 and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and from Judea, 3:8 Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan River, and around Tyre and Sidon a great multitude came to him when they heard about the things he had done. 3:9 Because of the crowd, he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him so the crowd would not press toward him. 3:10 For he had healed many, so that all who were afflicted with diseases pressed toward him in order that they could touch him. 3:11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 3:12 But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
3:13 Now Jesus went up the mountain and called for those he wanted, and they came to him.16 3:14 He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles17), so that they would be with him and he could send them to preach 3:15 and to have authority to cast out demons. 3:16 He appointed twelve: he gave the name Peter to Simon; 3:17 to James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee, he gave the name Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; 3:18 and Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, 3:19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
The reason for Jesus’ withdrawal in Mark 3:7 is obvious: The authorities were after him (3:6) and it wasn’t yet time for him to be arrested. Mark 3:7-12 is meant to summarize Jesus’ ministry (see also 2:13). He was teaching the large crowds, performing miracles, and casting out demons whom He commanded not to talk about Him.18 One might get the impression from what Mark has recorded thus far that Jesus was rather aloof, not allowing folks to talk about Him and not getting too close to anyone. What follows will certainly put an end to such thoughts.
Jesus chooses a motley crew of followers: Four blue collar fishermen, one hated tax-collector, one radical member of a violent political party, one doubter, and one betrayer (known to Jesus). We know virtually nothing about six of these men, whose names never appear again in Mark’s Gospel. Although the word “family” has not yet occurred in this chapter, Jesus has nevertheless established the pattern of a family with these disciples. This pattern has three components.
First, Jesus “names” them apostles. The text does not say that He “called” them apostles, nor that He “appointed” them apostles. It uses the specific Greek word meaning “name.” Furthermore, Peter, James, and John receive additional “names” from Jesus. Isn’t that the first step for a new member of a family? Isn’t that what happens when you enter a family? When we are called into God’s family, He gives us a new name. What name has God given to you? I like to think that when a person is born again the Father breaks open His book of baby names and states, “Ah, a new precious child. What shall I name this one?” I would imagine that book contains names such as “Patient One,” “Joyful One,” “Servant,” “Trusting One,” “Courageous One,” “Honest One,” “Faithful One.” What name has the Father bestowed upon you? Are you living up to that name?
Second, these disciples are called to “be with Him.” Isn’t this the next stage for a member of a family? A child is born, named, and then “with” the family for a period of time—usually about 18-20 years. During this time the children are taught, trained, and prepared for life. In the same way, Jesus seeks to teach, train, and prepare these disciples for ministry.
Finally, after a period of time “with Jesus,” these disciples will be sent “to preach and to have authority to cast out demons.” After receiving the training and preparation, the disciples will be sent out to accomplish ministry. In the same way, children are born, named, with their family for a period of time, and then sent out into life. While you and I are not apostles in a technical sense, our job is quite similar. Are you and I following that pattern within God’s spiritual family? We have been born again, named, and with Jesus. Are we now accomplishing the ministry we have been trained and prepared for? I wonder how many of us like the “be with him” part but not the “going out” part. You and I are irrevocably called into God’s family just as these disciples were.
3:20 Now Jesus went home, and a crowd gathered so that they were not able to eat. 3:21 When his family heard this they went out to restrain him,19 for they said, “He is out of his mind.” 3:22 The experts in the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and, “By the ruler of demons he casts out demons.” 3:23 So he called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 3:24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom will not be able to stand. 3:25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 3:26 And if Satan rises against himself and is divided, he is not able to stand and his end has come. 3:27 But no one is able to enter a strong man’s house and steal his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can thoroughly plunder his house.20 3:28 I tell you the truth, people will be forgiven for all sins, even all the blasphemies they utter. 3:29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin21 3:30 (because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit’).”
Note the opposition. The ones who oppose Jesus are precisely the ones who should have known better: The religious leadership and His own family. Note the parallel verses:
“ . . . [his family] said, ‘he is out of His mind.’” (3:21)
“ . . . [the experts in the Law] said, ‘he has an unclean spirit.’” (3:30)
Have you ever been falsely accused? How did it make you feel? In this passage, Jesus is accused by His family of insanity and accused by the religious leaders as satanic. He was neither.
The text here is rife with implied and stated division: Satan vs. Satan, Jesus vs. His family, Jesus vs. the scribes, kingdom vs. itself, house vs. itself. Jesus states that where there is division, a house or a kingdom will not be able to stand. He is emphasizing the necessity of standing together as a family—just when His very own family was divided! Typically, families seek to stick together. In fact, if a family does nothing else, it at least tries to stand together! Having four older brothers, I understand the necessity of standing together. Practically every day of my adolescence one or other of my brothers beat me up. The trade-off, however, was that I knew I would be protected should anyone outside of my family threaten to lay a finger on me. Why? Because families seek to stand together. My wife can talk bad about her parents from dawn until dusk if she wishes to, but the moment that I begin to agree with her . . . she turns on me! She can talk bad about her parents but I cannot. Why? Because families stand together.
If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are a child of God. We are a family, and families stand together. The following list was initially written by Tim & Diane Wulburn as rules to live by in their house. Yet I believe they apply just as well—if not better—to a church. Standing together as a church requires that we follow these rules:
In our church...
1. We obey our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another’s interest ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
17. When we take something out, we put it away.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were here.
Let’s seek to follow these rules as the family of God, and let’s stand together.
3:31 Then Jesus’ mother and his brothers came. Standing outside, they sent word to him, to summon him. 3:32 A crowd was sitting around him and they said to him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.” 3:33 He answered them and said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 3:34 And looking at those who were sitting around him in a circle,22 he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 3:35 For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Having concluded that He has gone insane (Mark 3:21), Jesus’ family has now arrived to collect Him (3:32). When notified that His family awaits Him outside, Jesus redefines for us the notion of family while conveying an allegiance to those who acknowledge and do the will of God. There is a stronger bond than that of flesh and blood; even Mary’s relationship with Jesus was not close enough. She had to become His follower. Who is the true family of Jesus? Those who follow him with a lasting response in word and deed, of course. Put simply, those who do the will of God. Remember that in the Gospel of Mark, actions speak louder than words. As members of the family of God, you and I have been called to obedience within that family.
I am always impressed when I see folks walking dogs without leashes. What marvelously obedient animals. When I see a dog on a leash I know two things about that dog: 1) he has a master, and 2) he doesn’t know that he has a master. Remove the leash and your dog is sure to get himself into trouble. He will run out into traffic, eat something he will later regret, eat something you will later regret, bite someone or frighten someone, destroy something, or simply run away. Hence, the leash.
Peter T. Forsythe was right when he said, “The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master.” Have you found your Master? Are you a member of God’s family? Then as one “dog-on-a-leash” to another “dog-on-a-leash” I ask: When will we begin to obey our Master? Why is it that every time the leash comes off we get ourselves into trouble? How long before God can trust us enough to remove the leash, knowing we will walk in obedience by His side?
One of the most profound prayers I’ve ever heard simply states:
“Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”
We conclude each lesson with one verse from the passage we’ve studied. We refer to it as a “meditation verse” to leave a broad range of uses: mediate, reflect, memorize, reread, etc. Our meditation verse for chapter three is Mark 3:14.
“He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles), so that they would be with him and he could send them to preach.”
14 Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are taken from The NET Bible.
15 Jesus’ later Galilean ministry begins in Mark 3:7.
16 A recurring theme in the Gospel of Mark is Jesus getting alone with his disciples for teaching, instruction, and training. Twice we see it here (3:7, 13).
17 “Apostle” simply means “one who is sent.” By giving His disciples this name, He is suggesting that their future will include going out to spread the Message about Jesus.
18 Jesus is pursued by the crowds for healing. While they don’t grasp His true identity, the demons certainly do. They state plainly who Jesus is in an attempt to rule over him, as knowledge of a person’s name was thought to confer power over that person.
19 The Greek word translated “restrain” carries the meaning “physically detain.” It is translated elsewhere as “arrest” or “seize.”
20 When they can no longer discredit His miracles, the religious leaders attack Jesus’ character. They accuse Jesus of being in collusion with Satan. Jesus’ response is that if He is casting out demons then He certainly isn’t working with Satan but against him. Jesus claims that He is out to destroy Satan’s work. In the strong man analogy, Satan is the strong man and Jesus the stronger man.
21 This is the so-called “unforgivable sin,” which has been defined as “shorthand for ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,’ about which Jesus warned his listeners that it would not be forgiven (see also Matt. 12:31-32; Luke 12:10)” [Matthew S. DeMoss and J. Edward Miller, Zondervan Dictionary of Bible and Theology Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2002), 252]. The $25,000 question: “What is the unforgivable, unpardonable, eternal sin?” First, notice that the text does not say that anyone had, in fact, blasphemed against the Holy Spirit—only that doing so had eternal consequences. In other words, this may have been more of a warning than a pronouncement. Having said that, many think that “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is persistent and defiant resistance by unbelievers to the work of the Holy Spirit. Others teach that it occurred only when a miracle performed by Jesus was attributed by onlookers to the power of Satan. After all, Jesus performed miracles in order to authenticate his true identity. To conclude that He was acting under the influence of Satan is to entirely miscalculate Jesus’ true identity.
22 Those sitting around Jesus were probably the apostles He had earlier named (3:14).