Not Deranged or Demonic (Mark 3:20-35)

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Introduction

I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles this morning to Mark chapter 3. Mark 3, verses 20 to 35. If you do not have your Bible with you, you can find this passage on page 867 of the pew Bibles. Also, let me remind us all of the reason why I encourage you to follow along with me in your Bibles each week. The reason is that what you find on the pages of your Bibles is much more important than the words that come out of my mouth. All I am trying to do is explain what is contained in God’s word. But what I have to say is no where near as important as what you will find on the pages sitting in your laps this morning. That is why we are here… to hear from God in his written word. So please turn with me to Mark 3:20–35 and follow along with me as I read these verses from God’s Word.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” 31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20–35 ESV)

Not Deranged (vv. 20–21; 31–35)

Now, there are two different stories sandwiched together here. The first story begins in verses 20 and 21 and is finished in verses 31–35. Mark sandwiches another story in the middle of this first story and we will look it today as well.

But we see in this first story that Jesus’ family heard about the things going on with him and had determined that he had gone crazy… that he was out of his mind. Why was this so? Just what had taken place that would lead Jesus’ family to believe he was deranged? Well, let’s review a little bit. There is no record that Jesus’ family had been part of the crowd following him around, but it is very likely they were hearing reports about him. Nazareth (their hometown) was not very far from Capernaum (the home base of Jesus’ ministry) and they were certainly getting reports about him. And don’t forget that Jesus had visited Nazareth and preached in the synagogue there and was almost killed for the things he said. His family certainly knew about that. But in addition to this his family had likely heard that Jesus was claiming to have the authority to forgive sin. A claim that was akin to claiming to be God. Jesus was also going around casting out demons, which is kind of spooky stuff and would have gotten their attention. And all of this was getting him in trouble with the religious authorities. And he was making the authorities even more angry by breaking the Sabbath laws and refusing to fast when they said he should.

And he had convinced 12 men to leave their normal life, their families and their jobs, and follow him as he went around and got himself in trouble. And now he is not eating, and he is not resting, and he has this massive following of people who his family believes are being led astray by him.

Just think about it for a minute. Put yourself in their shoes. What do we think about people today who claim to be God or claim to be the Messiah? What do we think? We think they are crazy. We think they should be locked up in a mental institution. This is probably what Jesus’ family thought about him. I don’t think there was malice intended. I think there was genuine concern.

If Jesus showed up in Huntsville tomorrow and started doing this type of stuff I wonder what we would conclude about him? We might all believe him to be crazy too. It would not be malice or ill intent toward him, that is just what we would most likely believe. So I say all of this because I want you to sympathize with the family a little bit. I don’t want us to sit in judgment over them and think they were acting irrationally. We must remember that it is only those who the Holy Spirit does a supernatural work upon who eventually believe that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. And so far in Mark’s Gospel, the only ones to recognize who Jesus truly is are God the Father at Jesus’ baptism who says: “You are my beloved Son,” and the demons who cry out “I know who you are—The Holy One of God!” But at this point, the Holy Spirit has yet to open the eyes of any man or woman and led them to confess Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.

Yet at the same time, there is no other reasonable conclusion for those who have looked on and witnessed the miracles and sayings of Jesus. They really do prove that he is God in the flesh. But apart from the work of the Holy Spirit we are not going to believe it. It will all be foolishness to us. Following Jesus will always seem like a crazy thing to do if the Holy Spirit does not perform a miracle in your heart. And so his family thought he was crazy. They thought that he was out of his mind and we can kind of understand why. Without the Holy Spirit’s opening of our blind eyes, we too might see Jesus as someone who was out of his mind.

And many times the accusation of the world against us as Christians will also be that we are insane, that we are crazy, that we are out of our minds or beside ourselves. The Apostle Paul had that accusation made against him when he stood before King Agrippa and King Festus. Luke records this for us in Acts 26:24. Festus said, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind” (Acts 26:24 ESV). Brothers and sisters the reality is that following Christ faithfully is going to put you at odds with the customs and traditions of the world. The world will think you are crazy to give 10% of your money away to the church. The world will think you are crazy to waste your Sunday mornings… a day you could sleep in to come and listen to someone talk about a boring old book. The world will think you’re crazy to give up a good life, an easy life here in America, to go live in the jungles of Africa to tell savages about Jesus. They will say, “Oh that poor guy has lost his mind.”

And when you get serious about following Jesus even those who claim to be Christians will think you are crazy. They will say you are a fanatic. They will say you are acting like you are part of a cult. They will say you are taking things too seriously. They will point out that “normal” Christians do not act this way. And they will see everything you do as offensive and believe that you are judging them and they will be angry with you. And like with Jesus, many times these accusations will come from your own family. Remember Jesus told us not to expect to be treated any differently than he was treated. Are you ready for that? Are you prepared for that? Are you willing to go through that?

But brothers and sisters, be comforted. Because the reality is your passion for Jesus is not crazy, it is not fanatical, it is not cult-like, it is not eccentric, it only seems crazy to the world because the world does not and cannot understand the things of God because they do not know God. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). They see it as ridiculous. And when you see the cross as the power of God to save… when you see it as the most beautiful event in history… and when you order your whole life around what took place on that cross 2,000 years ago, people are going to think you are crazy, because by the world’s standards, you are. That is the difference.

What the church needs today is more people who are willing to be called crazy for the sake of making disciples. What the church needs today are more men and women who are viewed as fanatics for the sake of Jesus Christ. What we need are more people who the world says are “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” Never buy into that lie. Jesus was the most-heavenly minded person to ever walk the face of the earth and he did more good for the earth than any other person who has ever walked the earth or who ever will.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus was not out of his mind. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was doing the will of his Father who sent him. And he remained obedient… obedient even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). And if you want to be part of Jesus’ family, if you want to be called his brother or his sister, you must be obedient to God as well. Look with me again at verses 31–35.

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31–35 ESV)

Jesus’ mother and his brothers came to seize him. It was like an intervention. They believed he was out of his mind. They believed he was likely to hurt himself or someone else and because they cared about him they were going to intervene. They were going to forcefully take him home. And the crowd notified Jesus who was sitting in the house with his followers that his family had arrived. And Jesus uses this occasion to make a point.

After being told that his mother and brothers had arrived, Jesus looked around to the crowd and said, “Who are my mother and brothers?” And he answered his own question by looking at those sitting around him, this is most likely referring to the Twelve Apostles, and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” Jesus’ earthly family were not the ones following him… well they did track him down when they determined he had lost his mind. But it was these Twelve men had given up everything they had to truly follow after him. They were the ones doing the will of God and they were therefore part of Jesus’ eternal family. Jesus had called them and they followed him. That is a decision we must all make.

So let me issue two warnings here. First of all…

Family Relationships Provide No Eternal Security

Even those in Jesus’ family were not given a free pass to heaven. And before I go further, let me point out that it is not that Jesus was disowning his earthly family. One of the last things Jesus did on the cross was ask the Apostle John to care for his mother. And Jesus’ brothers James and Jude went on to become important figures in the early church and writers of Scripture. But their salvation depended not on their blood relationship with Jesus, but on their spiritual relationship with Jesus. Eventually they reached a point where they saw him as the Son of God and the Jewish Messiah and the lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. Had they not, their family relationship with Jesus would have been useless to them. And had they not, in eternity they would have had no relationship with Jesus.

And so what is the implication of this for us today? Well you have heard it said before that God has no grandchildren. No one becomes a part of God’s family simply because they are born into a godly family. Your father may have been the head deacon for 30 years. Your mother may have been the WMU chair for 30 years. But their relationship with God is just that… their relationship with God. You must make your own decision about Jesus Christ. God has no grandchildren, only children who are adopted into his family through faith in Jesus Christ. And we know we are God’s children, we know we are called brothers and sisters by Jesus, when we do the will of God. Look with me again at verse 35:

For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

So my first warning is not to place confidence in your family relationships to secure your eternity. I don’t care if Billy Graham is your grandfather. That will do you no good. You must decide for yourself what you make of this man Jesus. No one can do that for you.

And my second warning is that…

Good Intentions Are Not Enough

As I said earlier, I don’t think Jesus’ family came after him with malice in their hearts. I don’t believe they had any ill will toward him. Maybe they were a little irritated with him because he was ruining the family reputation, but I believe they came after him because they cared. In other words, they had good intentions.

But good intentions are not enough. Good intentions do not get you into the family of God. “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Doing the will of God requires more than good intentions. It requires complete, total, sold-out obedience… a type of obedience that is only possible for someone who is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

You might think Jesus was a pretty good guy who did a lot of earthly good. You might believe he was an amazing teacher and an upstanding person and a good example for living. That is a pretty nice and sweet, get along with everyone, and sing Kumbaya position to take today. But I want you to listen to the words of the great author and apologist C.S. Lewis from his book Mere Christianity. I think they fit our passage today pretty well. Lewis writes:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

His point is that if you don’t believe Jesus is God, then you can’t accept him as a great moral teacher to be admired. Because Jesus claimed to be God. And if he claimed to be God and he is not God, then he was either a lunatic or a liar, neither of which you should admire.

Let this be a warning to us that having the “best intentions” with regard to Jesus is not enough. It is not enough to be concerned. It is not enough to do what you think is best. Jesus requires more than that. Don’t stake your eternity on the fact that your family is a Christian family or on the fact that you think Jesus was a pretty good guy, none of that is enough. Faith is the only thing that counts.

So the first claim against Jesus in this passage, that Jesus is out of his mind occurs in verse 21. And we have seen the conclusion of this story in verses 31–35. But as I said earlier, Mark interrupts this story about Jesus’ family coming to seize him, with another story sandwiched in the middle, beginning in verse 22. Look there with me now.

Not Demonic (vv. 22–30)

If the first claim, that Jesus was deranged, wasn’t bad enough, this new claim, that Jesus’ powers are demonic, raise it to a whole new level. In this story, the scribes from Jerusalem have come down to investigate what is going on in Capernaum with this man named Jesus. These are the bigwig religious investigators sent to observe the situation and bring a report back concerning what is going on. But they are also sent to restore people to their right minds. And the way they go about doing that is by claiming that the supernatural acts that are taking place—notice they did not try to deny them—are not from God but are from Satan. In other words, Jesus’ power to work miracles is not from the Holy Spirit of God but from the Devil himself. In other words, they are claiming that the work of Jesus is Satanic work.

Now, this is a very serious charge. There are not many people in history or even today who would claim that Jesus was Satanic or did the things he did through demonic powers. They might not believe he was the Messiah. They might not believe he was the Son of God. They might not believe he was God in the flesh, but most people, even today, are not going to say he was Satanic or evil. Most people today will say what we talked about earlier, that he was a good moral teacher or something like that. But the scribes, not being able to deny Jesus’ ability to do miraculous things, have to attribute his power to something, and not wanting to attribute it to God, they say it is from Satan.

We often think that if we could have just been around to see Jesus’ miracles any doubt we have would be removed. Or if our unbelieving friends and family could just see Jesus face to face that they would believe and follow him. But this story teaches us something different. The scribes have seen all the evidence. They are aware of the miracles and do not try to deny them. Instead, because they are blinded by their sin, they can only come up with the explanation that it is “by the prince of demons he casts out demons.”

And in verses 23–26 Jesus sets out to show them the ridiculousness of their assertions. He says if Satan were casting out Satan, Satan would be working against himself. That would be stupid. Satan may be evil, but he is not stupid. Jesus says in verses 24–26:

24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. (Mark 3:24–26 ESV)

In other words, if Satan is the one behind Jesus’ power to cast out demons, then Satan is fighting against himself and is destroying his own demonic kingdom. And Jesus knows that is a ridiculous notion. So in verse 27, Jesus gives them the real explanation for what is taking place. He basically says, if someone wants to rob the house of a very strong man, the first thing he has to figure out how to do is how to tie up the strong man. You better hand cuff him or else you are not going to be able to rob his house. In this example, Satan is the strong man and Jesus is the one plundering his house. The property of Satan or Beelzubul (the prince of the demons) are the demons and those people the demons have taken under their control. Jesus casts out the demons and sets the captives free. And thus, he plunders the house of Satan. But first he had to bind the strongman.

Jesus was only able to expel demons and set the captives free because he had bound Satan. We witnessed Jesus’ first victory over Satan after his forty days of fasting in the wilderness. This victory made clear that Satan would not have the ability to prohibit Jesus in his mission to preach the good news of the coming kingdom of God nor to keep him from demonstrating it through healing the sick and casting out demons. The kingdom of God has arrived and its king is plundering the house of the old king and rescuing his captives. And so, Jesus’ ability to destroy the powers of Satan are not because he is in cahoots with Satan, but because he has bound Satan.

And this is the context for which we enter into the next two verses, verses 28–29, which unfortunately have caused unnecessary concern in the hearts of many Christians over the years. It is in these verses where we learn about the so-called “unpardonable sin.” As a pastor it is important for me to address this issue, because there are people who sit in pews each week who are worried they have committed a sin for which they can never be forgiven. They may not have any idea what that specific sin is, but they believe they have committed it and their hope for the future is in question in their minds.

Let me begin by saying a couple of things, first of all, I want to begin by saying that if you are concerned about having committed this sin, that concern is your best evidence that you have not committed it. Your concern is a ploy of Satan to make the saints of God doubt their salvation and that is exactly what is going on if you are overly worried about this.

Second, notice the glorious statement in verse 28 and just rest in that beauty for a moment. Let me read it to you:

Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter. (Mark 3:28 ESV)

Let’s just stop there. It does not say, all sins might be forgiven. It says that all sins WILL be forgiven including whatever blasphemies they utter. This is a wonderful statement from our Lord Jesus and we should take great comfort in it. We should meditate on it for a moment.

But what about this apparent exception we see in verse 29?

Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin (Mark 3:29 ESV)

What does it mean to “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit”? Well to answer that question we must do it in the context of this passage. And the context of this passage is that the scribes, after having seen all the evidence about Jesus (remember they came to witness what was going on), after seeing him heal the sick, after seeing him cast out demons, after hearing him preach, determine that Jesus’ power came not from God but from Satan. Jesus is not Spirit-filled, he is Satan-filled. That was their “final” conclusion with all the facts in.

And so what is the unpardonable sin and how would we commit it today? It would be knowing all the facts about Jesus, it would be knowing about all his miracles, knowing about all his power, knowing about his love and concern for people, knowing about his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave and his ascension to heaven and saying, “It is all garbage. It is all evil. And it is from the devil. And I am going to my grave believing that. That is what I have concluded with all the evidence in. And that is my final answer.” You blaspheme the Holy Spirit by saying that Jesus is Satanic and demonic. And again, like I said earlier, there are not many people in this world who would ever say that. And there are very few people who would go to their grave saying that.

The unpardonable sin is that final sin, that final blasphemy that says, “I reject Christ. I reject what he did on the cross. Any miraculous thing he did, it was empowered by Satan.”

Now… have any of you said that? Are you going to your grave believing that? I don’t think so.

But if you go to your grave rejecting Christ, the Bible teaches that there is no more hope for you. There is no forgiveness available apart from faith in Christ. The eternal sin against the Holy Spirit is a deliberate refusal to accept his testimony about Jesus Christ as true. It is the sin of deliberately rejecting the forgiveness that Christ offers to all. It is a conscious and willful rejection that follows you to the grave. There is no possible pardon for someone who has made this decision. And that is why it is the eternal sin.

And that is what Jesus was saying to these scribes. It was not that they had committed this sin. It was that they were in danger of it. He was saying, if you keep speaking this way, if you do not change your tune before you go to the grave, if once I am gone and the Holy Spirit is working on this earth in the hearts of men and women interpreting for them my mission and my life, and you continue to reject his testimony about me, you will have rejected your only chance of forgiveness. You will have committed the one and only unpardonable sin—you will have rejected me as your Savior.

Conclusion

Now, why put these two stories together like this? Why did Mark sandwich the story of Jesus being accused of being possessed and being empowered by Satan in between the story of his family calling him crazy? Well I think it is because Mark is trying to make the point that those who are calling Jesus deranged are in the same lot as those who are saying he is demonic. Both of these positions indicate a lack of faith and as we have just said, a lack of faith in Jesus is damning and unforgivable. Notice also what the Apostle John has to say about this. Look with me at John 10:20.

Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” (John 10:20 ESV)

In John’s account, some were saying Jesus was possessed others were saying he was crazy. These are the same charges as in Mark 3. And notice what the implication was. The implication is: “Why in the world would you listen to a man who is possessed and why in the world would you listen to a man who is crazy?” Both of these accusations are attempts to hinder Jesus’ mission. And I think these are the reasons Mark ties them together the way he does.

The three possibilities C.S. Lewis presented to us really are our only choices. What do you take Jesus to be? Is he a liar? Is he a lunatic? Or, is he Lord? And if you say he is your Lord, are you living in a way that demonstrates it? You may say, “Oh no, of course I don’t believe he is a liar.” But are you trusting what he says? Do you believe him when he says, “If anyone wants to be my follower, he MUST deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”? Or does that sound to you like something a lunatic would say? “You expect me to do what?”

Brothers and sisters, following Jesus is not easy, but it’s worth it. Because Jesus also promises us that, “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29 ESV). Brothers and sisters, any sacrifice you make in the name of Jesus Christ on this earth will be given back to you a hundredfold. Therefore, for the Christian there is no real sacrifice. The martyred missionary Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Brothers and sisters, don’t cling to the things of the world and in doing so forfeit the things of heaven. Remember, Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Make sure you are doing the will of God. You will never regret it in the end. That is a promise you can stake your life on.