Mark 3:20-35 – As Christ we stand, divided we fall

Updated: Feb 4

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.


“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”


Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”


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This is the Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 5. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, June 10, 2018. This reading is important because Jesus makes it clear that one cannot serve God part of the time and then serve self the rest of the time, because that is a recipe for disaster. In that way, one is not born into God’s favor, as the Jews deemed themselves as God’s chosen people. God does not choose part-time priests.


In this translation, where we read, “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him,” this (I feel) is incorrect. The Greek words translated as “his family” – “hoi pará” – more accurately state, “others alongside of.” The Greek words translated as “restrain him” – “kratēsai auton” – more accurately state, “to seize hold of him.” In my mind, this better describes those who had parallel reputations as rabbis or teachers of Judaic Scripture (Pharisees).


Equals beside with greater fears of competition.


I struggle with the concept that the family of Jesus (as stated much later in the text) would not be considered “alongside of” or “beside” him.  They would know their place was behind him.  Nor can I accept that relatives would be so bold as to “seize” Jesus, as they would know full well his ministry would rock the Jewish boat. It makes more sense that Jesus would have told his family to keep a distance and stay mute.  Therefore, I see Peter (through Mark) recounting the rabbis of the synagogues in Galilee and the Pharisees there were joining with the “scribes who came down from Jerusalem” (actually “scribes, from Jerusalem” – those coming up to Galilee, not down[1]) in placing pressures against Jesus, because he was drawing such attention from the locals and pilgrims.


[[1] The use of “having come down” (from “katabantes” = “descended”) means the high-ranking scribes of Jerusalem had removed their holy buttocks from their golden seats in the Temple and ventured out amongst the “great unwashed” of Galilee.]


When we read the scribes (as well as the Pharisees and rabbis) saying, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons,” this stems from the trap the Pharisees had set in the synagogue where Jesus had been asked to lead the Sabbath service, only to enter and find a man with a withered hand in the congregation. When Jesus asked for comments, from the question, “Is it better to do good or evil on a Sabbath?” he then simply told the man to “stretch out your hand,” which the man did – healed. That act was then being deemed the act of Satan, by high authorities, after testimony given by well-respected Pharisees.


When the scribes had declared Jesus possessed by Satan, we read how Jesus “spoke to them in parables.” This leads one astray, since we tend to interpret a “parable” as: “A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.” (American Heritage Dictionary) In reality, the Greek word “parabolais” comes from the word “pará” (“close beside” or “alongside of”) combined with the word “bállō” (“to cast”), which makes it a companion word to the prior statement that relates to “those beside” Jesus (the Pharisees). Thus, the word actually states that Jesus offered those who condemned him a “comparison” for themselves to consider.

Just as Jesus has addressed the synagogue in Capernaum (Galilee) with a question that went unanswered, he spoke again in questions. He first asked, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

The optional Genesis reading this week is about the serpent being cast out of Eden. How could the serpent cast out the serpent?


The scribes had just implied that Jesus was able to straighten out a lame hand supernaturally, which (in the opinion of the Jerusalem think-tank) could only have been caused by Beelzebul (Satan). They then concluded that by calling upon that “ruler of demons” to “cast out demons” (those determined to be within men with lame hands), Jesus had called upon Satan to cast Satan out of a man’s lame hand. Jesus asked then (in essence), “How is what you propose even possible?”


The “comparison” spoken by Jesus (“parabolais”) was that the scribes and Pharisees were Satan. Here they were attempting to cast out Jesus, because they thought he was Satan. Jesus had simply asked, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” That was excellent discussion material, but none of the Jews in the synagogue (including the teacher Pharisees) responded. When Jesus asked the man with the withered hand to straighten it out, and he did, why would that be grounds for saying Jesus did anything more than ask the man to stretch out his hand? If his hand was healed, was that good or evil?  And, if good, would that not be the work of God?


By the scribes, who came to speak judgment against Jesus based on the Pharisees who reported what Jesus had done, calling Jesus evil, they were answering the question posed by Jesus in the synagogue. They were saying it was unlawful to do good on the Sabbath. That inverts to a decree that says it is lawful to do evil on the Sabbath. The only one who would be so bold as to say that evil was lawful – EVER – even worse on the Sabbath – would be Satan. Therefore, the scribes had just claimed to be – themselves, not Jesus – those who called upon the ruler of the demons (Beelzebul), attempting to cast out the one who would break their laws and do good on the Sabbath.


Jesus spoke truthfully, when he made the scribes’ decree become a reflection on them. Jesus then said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” That was a statement of history.


The scribes and the Temple priests, with the Pharisees, had become the straw bosses of ancient Israel. Unfortunately (for them), ancient Israel had split into Israel and Judah, with both falling to foreign invaders. The Promised Land of Canaan had been given to those who had to serve the LORD (by official Covenant) in order to keep their land. Instead, they waxed and waned, rising in devotion and falling in neglect. Then, tired from all the hard work, they asked for a king so Israel could be a kingdom, to be like other nations. Then that plan did not work, so they split one kingdom into two. Things then went from bad to worse, and Jerusalem was then in Roman Judea (not Judah), with Galilee another Roman province (not Israel). It all collapsed because the people followed bad rulers.


Jesus then added, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” The use of “oikia” (“house”) is a step down from a “sovereign nation” or the “realm of a king,” where it means “household,” while inferring “family.” The whole claim to fame of the Israelites – as God’s chosen people – was ALL about being a house of worship, as a family linked through priesthood (and interbreeding only between the Twelve Tribes, with marriage to Gentiles forbidden).


That means Jesus was saying that the Pharisees running to tattletale on Jesus, and the scribes running to condemn Jesus by hearsay, was evidence of Jewish scholars being divided against a Jewish newcomer who was working miracles and drawing large crowds of followers. This division was not something that could ever be fixed (Nicodemus had attempted to sway Jesus to join their ranks, and failed), so the fact that Temple rulers (straw bosses) were up in arms about good having been done on a Sabbath, well then … “the house of Judaism was doomed to fall down.”


And that after so much work and planning had brought the exilic Jews back from Babylon. And that after so many years of work having been done, especially in the remodeling and beautification of the Second … ooops …. Herod’s Temple. And that after all the lamenting and complaining to their Roman overseers had allowed Jerusalem near city state status (but not quite). By 70 A.D. very little of that house would still stand, while the new house of Christianity was rapidly taking off.


That assessment can then be seen in Jesus next saying, “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.” There was still an opportunity for these Satan-serving scribes to run back to Jerusalem and spread the word, “Hey guys, we have it all backwards. This Jesus fellow from Nazareth is the real deal. We need to stop serving ourselves and drop everything and follow him.” Unfortunately, knowing in hindsight that was a BIG IF that did not happen, Jesus then prophesied the end of the Jews.  As Jesus died on the cross, God left the inner chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem for the last time.  Thus, because Satan had overtaken the Temple, Satan was reaching out to divide and conquer the remnants of Judaism.


Those “comparisons” of ancient failures and current failures were then addressed by Jesus, where he offered the solution. Jesus stated the exception to that history, saying, “But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.”  A “strong man” had been known prior as individual Judges, Prophets, and (from time to time) Kings who ruled benevolently over the people.  John the Baptizer had shown strength, and Jesus was certainly a “strong man” with a house he protected.

The lion is a symbol for strength. It is called the king of the jungle. One with a lionheart is courageous and strong.


By stating “a strong man’s house” (literally, “into the house of a strong man”), Jesus was saying the course to or from failure is each one’s responsibility, such that “the house” of “a strong man” was the domain of each Jew’s body. Their strength was then dependent upon that individual’s commitment to serving God as His priest. The strong individual does not seek any king other than God, who then sits upon the throne of one’s heart and soul. God is the source of a man’s strength.


When that state of service is established, no one can “plunder his property” (where “property” is “goods” [“skeuē”], which are the “works” of that individual). Jesus was such a “strong man,” whose “house” was truly holy; so the efforts of the Pharisees and scribes could not stop Jesus from being a holy and righteous man.


Still, Jesus offered the caveat that IF one “first tied up the strong man; then indeed the house could be plundered.” That means plundering would then have to be the objective, such that the good deeds of the strong man were inconsequential. Such a judgment would be only be meted by evil-doers. In such a case, even the house of a strong man could be plundered, which would be the execution of the pure and innocent, at the hands of the wicked. That could only be prevented if the plunderers were to likewise become strong men, in holy houses, refusing to go against their dominant tyrant rulers. Jesus would eventually be the strong man tied up in arrest and trial, his being judged a criminal, and his being executed by crucifixion.


In this regard, Jesus had just prophesied his own eventual death, symbolically, at the hands of the elite of Jerusalem.  He then forecast their ends, when he said, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”  For all who stand in churches today and promise that Jesus offered forgiveness to all, are those pastors remembering these words or excusing blasphemers of the Holy Spirit?


The Greek words written by Mark actually state, “tois huiois tōn anthrōpōn,” which is translated above simply as “people,” but is better grasped as “the sons them of men.”  Those who will be forgiven for their evil actions will be those following the orders of their elders. Those who were expecting their religious leaders to properly guide them would be forgiven for their sinful acts against the pure, when their “blasphemies” were echoing what their brains remembered their revered scribes saying. That day the common Jews heard the scribes blaspheme Jesus by saying, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”  Are not “sons of men,” rather than “sons of God” (Saints and Apostles), the ones who find excuses for sinners, because they cannot lead anyone to the Holy Spirit?


A leader who tempts with forbidden fruit is a son of man.


Because that blasphemy was uttered due to a man with a withered hand being healed, where the affliction was deemed by blind men leading the blind people to believe physical infirmities were signs of the presence of sin (i.e.: Satan or Beelzebul planted demons), then the only logical explanation of healing could be God.


The scribes would have to remember the fire-starting contest that Elijah initiated (1 Kings 18), where four hundred fifty priests of Baal could not summon him to light dry wood, while Elijah soaked his wood pile with water and it was lit into a roaring flame by God’s Holy Spirit.


God is the power that makes the impossible possible. Therefore, those who would call God’s work that of someone calling upon Beelzebul were the utterers of a blasphemy of eternal proportions, unworthy of forgiveness.


Did the scribes think the four hundred fifty priests of Baal were forgiven after they called Elijah and his God names, accepting the challenge? Of course not.


Those evil priests, if one recalls, were priests imported by Jezebel into the Northern Kingdom, to guide Ahab and the common Israelites. They were the sons of men, not Sons of God.  Those priests of Jezebel all still burn in hell.


Jesus then said, “For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” I imagine there could have been a finger pointed when Jesus said “they said” (“elegon”), used in identifying the scribes and their Pharisees pals. “They said” the Holy Spirit of God, which makes crippled hands straight and strong, was the work of “an unclean spirit.”


I imagine Jesus pointed out “them” to the crowd that had been roused to a maddened state, murmuring that Jesus “had gone out of his mind.” I imagine Jesus silenced all of them as they pondered to themselves, “Did Jesus just say I am guilty of an eternal sin?”


Then, I imagine, Jesus went inside the house he and his disciples had been welcomed into, so they could sit peacefully and enjoy some lunch. As the door closed, the crowd was silently stunned … I imagine.


It is then that we read, “Then his mother and his brothers came.” This, again, was not an arrival based on fear for Jesus, as the implication can seem when reading, “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him.” It might be that the Pharisees (“those beside” Jesus in responsibility, as teachers of Scripture) had stirred such a row that someone ran to tell Jesus’ mother that excitement was about. As this statement is actually separated into two segment (by a comma), it first says “and arrived the mother of him,” followed by a subsequent arrival, “and the brothers of him.” That would imply Mary told someone to go alert her other sons, so she left before them, with each Mary and the brothers arriving one right after the other, in the order of departure from where they were. One would then assume they came in support of Jesus, in case he was being threatened.


By reading, “and standing outside, they sent to him and called him,” they did not know the place where Jesus was with his disciples. Because it is not actually stated to be a home of someone, it could have been a public place, like an eatery. Their not entering could well have been due to the “crowd” that “was sitting around” Jesus was so many there was no room for them to wedge inside.


Good places to eat are not always big, so waits are common.


Thus, they sent word by asking strangers to tell Jesus who was outside. To ensure Jesus got the message, they hollered out Jesus’ name, in familiar voices he might recognize.


Then we read, “They said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” The inclusion here of “sisters” should be read as the wives of Jesus’ brothers, as “sisters-in-law.” The point of Peter recalling “mother, brothers and sisters” is to make it a point that “the house” of Joseph, husband of Mary, and father of sons through at least two wives, they all had arrived to support their flesh and blood relative. They came to make a show that the “house of Jesus” was not divided, even though Jesus went and did his thing with his disciples, while the rest of the family did their things separately. They arrived to show solidarity of blood.


Jesus knew who was outside. God would have told him; but Jesus heard their cries and recognized them. Still, he did not want to make a show of how one family was strong in support of a common house; but he did want to demonstrate how one man had the strength to defend a holy house of righteousness. Thus, we read, “He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”


Again, this is two segments, separated by a comma.  Jesus asked, “Who is the mother of me?” and then, “And [Who are] the brothers of me?”  Each separate focus questions not the identity of multiple people, but asked esoterically, “A I not an individual of responsibility?”


These questions were not directed at the physical people standing outside, as they are alluding to what makes a strong man. As a mother is the one who gives birth to a child, Jesus asked, “Who is it that gives birth to a strong man?” Is it one’s physical mommy? Or, is it God?


When Jesus then referred to other male siblings, he was then alluding to what makes a man truly strong. Does strength come in numbers of others who will come to one’s aid? Or, does true strength depend on the relationship that one has with the Holy Spirit?  Can one not find inner strength from knowing others like oneself have been made strong by God?


When we then read how Jesus looked “at those who sat around him, [and] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,” that was not a claim of the present state of being.  It was prophetic. Certainly, Jesus did not see Mary, James, and his other brothers sitting around him. Instead, we see the twelve disciples that Mark had named earlier in chapter three. Even those twelve had nothing to do with what Jesus said.


Jesus actually did not say, “Here,” as that is a poor translation.  The Greek word he actually used was “Ide,” a form of “horaó.”  That word says, “Behold!” or “See!” or “Perceive!


Jesus was not pointing his finger at the human beings dining with him, or even tapping his finger forcefully on the table they were seated at.  Jesus probably had used his finger when he pointed to “those” outside who blasphemed the Holy Spirit. In my mind’s eye, at this point in the story, I “See!” Jesus lifting both arms high, inviting all who sat near to realize he held within him the mother of his faith and the lineage of all prior prophets of the LORD who were his brothers. Everyone sitting around him, and those outside calling out his name, would also be his own mother and brothers of Christ and all other Apostles, when they would become saints in the name of Jesus Christ.


We realize that when Jesus then said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” This is the recipe of a “strong man whose house cannot be plundered.” It is whoever does the will of God – not the will of Pharisees, not the will of scribes, not the will of friends who tell you someone might be in danger, and not the will of relatives who will defend one’s body without question.


The will of God is done by those who sacrifice their dependency on the outside world, so they only respond to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Of course, those all go by the same name – Jesus Christ.


That name comes when one gives birth to a new you, after marriage to God in one’s heart (a holy house). You become the brother of Jesus of Nazareth, by being reborn as the Son of God. You become the sisters-in-law of Jesus, as human beings given away in marriage to the Father. The officiant of that sacrament is Holy Spirit, which washes away one’s sins, so God can take His throne.  A most holy matrimony through a most holy baptism, followed by a most holy christening [naming one as Jesus Christ].


As the selected Gospel reading for the third Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry for the LORD should be underway, Apostles are called to recognize they are either with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit – the mother and brother of Jesus Christ – or they are standing outside, either calling out, “Sweet Jesus, come to me!” or “Cast out my demons, Jesus, if you are indeed holy!” or “Jesus was nothing more than another prophet who did some good things, but not the Messiah we still await.”  They are one or the other, not both.


A non-sacred cow.


The reality of today is there are crowds of people wanting a good show, in search of a dependable idol to worship. Few people are strong enough to keep themselves as a holy house worthy of God’s presence.


People remember how “Honest” Abe Lincoln quoted Scripture when he compared the divide between the slave states and the free states as a “house that cannot stand.” Few people realize that ordering the deaths of 620,000 Americans, through battles that would force the will of Abraham Lincoln (as the “king” of a nation divided) upon the people.  America has built a monument to Mr. Lincoln.  They immortalize some notes he scribbled on an envelops, while on a train to the battlefield where about 50,000 soldiers (both sides of battle) were killed, wounded, or went missing.  He wrote of forefathers, the ones who said states had rights, including the right to dissolve the union.  Abraham Lincoln rewrote the Constitution, as far as thirteen southern states were concerned.  The reality, as far as spirituality goes, is the United States of America fell in 1865, regardless of who claimed victory, simply because a son of man played god – calling upon Baal for all to worship.

Whoever hitches up their wagon to a country, or claims great pride in associations (political, racial, philosophical, or religious, et al) those people are bowing down before a master of lesser value that God Almighty. When Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24) the same lesson applies to the divisions that inevitably will arise in kingdoms and houses. Only a strong man in his own house, one of absolute devotion to God, stands a chance of surviving the destruction of his tabernacle (bodily temple).


The unnamed place that Jesus sat with his disciples, when he exclaimed, “Behold my mother and brothers!” is the epitome of a church. Jesus said, “Where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20) The church is not exclusively an elaborate brick and mortar building that is decorated with candlesticks, altar, crosses, stained glass windows and red carpeting between polished pews.


Jesus and his disciples might have gone into the equivalent of a pub or café, where he and his disciples shared a non-Passover loaf of bread and cups of wine. The disciples and the crowd were there because they wanted to be close to Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus said there would be those who would later “gather in my name,” he meant Apostles in the name of Jesus Christ – as Jesus Christ reborn – the Holy Spirit and the Christ Mind would then be in their midst.


The sacrament of Communion is the gathering of Saints at a time when there is need to get away from the maddening crown that utters one blasphemy after another.  It has to do with sharing common experiences of body and blood, and very little to do with a wafer followed by a sip of wine from a fancy cup.  The disciples AND those who wanted to be near Jesus that day were in “communion” with Jesus of Nazareth, where that word is defined: “The sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.”

The message of ministry is not to go out memorizing words found in various translations of the Holy Bible. The Pharisees did that and misled the people. The scribes of Jerusalem did that and misled the people. Ministry for the LORD can only be done by His Son, Jesus Christ.


Apostles and Saints have made that possible since the day of Pentecost, when Jesus returned in twelve disciples, and they in turn filled another three thousand who heard them speak with the power of the Holy Spirit. All 3012 found Jesus Christ within their midst. Ministry is thus about that baton passing. Ministry is all about doing the will of God, so one can be reborn as a brother of Christ.


America has become a nation of king worshippers, regardless of which philosophical persuasion one swings. We love the thought of strength, when the only thing that stands in the way of Americans being attacked and invaded is the fear our enemies have created within themselves. That fear is being tested more and more these days, with a little terrorism here and a little insanity there. We are living in the times when the world has gone out of its collective mind.


There are sects of religions that worship Beelzebul.  Their leaders are calling upon the ruler of their demons to cast out the demons they see in a “Christian West.” They call America the “Great Satan,” as a motivator for hatred.  Hatred is an emotion of Satan, not God. So, again we have the lunacy of Satan calling to cast out Satan.


In the houses of religion in America, which call themselves “Christian,” we have one preacher praising the works of Donald Trump and condemn the works of Barack Obama. Meanwhile, in another denomination, there is another priest denouncing the works of Donald Trump, while longing for a return of the days when Barack Obama ruled the “kingdom.” Just like when ole Abe ruled the roost, America is a divided kingdom that cannot stand. It has no strong men and women who defend their holy temples as Saints and Apostles in personal ministry. There is no central house of religious thought, so everything sits upon a precipice, about to slide into the oblivion of the Great Abyss.


People question why Christianity is decreasing in numbers. People want to know why “Millennials” are turning away from churches. This video shows the reason as it sings, “You cannot save me. You cannot even save yourself.” This perfectly shows why true ministry was necessary in Jesus’ day, and why true ministry is necessary today.  It shows how decadent our society has become.  It screams out a need for the truth of Christ to guide us out of our lunacy.


We can be saved, but not as oneself and not by external means.  Salvation comes within, through the power of God.  For that to happen, one has to fall in love with God and get rid of the ego.  Satan loves Americans with big egos and sons of man who go out casting false  judgment on the holy, while pretending to know the Law.  Ministry is being a real representative of Jesus Christ, leading by example.


#1Kings18 #Mark32035 #Matthew1820 #Matthew624