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Losing his senses and functioning on Satan's power--Does this sound like the Jesus you know!
Then the multitude came together, so that they [Jesus and his disciples] could not so much as eat bread. But when his own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they [people] said, "He is out of His mind."
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebub," and, "By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons."
So Jesus called them to Himself and said to them in parables: "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, he cannot stand, but has an end.
"No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.
"Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter. But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation"--because they said, "He has an unclean spirit." Mark 3:20-30 NKJV, condensed
With the crowds constantly pressing in upon Jesus and his disciples, it was just too much. There wasn't even time or space to eat! Jesus was certainly not living a normal lifestyle. You can imagine the reports his family received as Jesus was more and more becoming a polarizing public figure. Good news one day; bad news the next. What was Jesus thinking when he praised sinners and condemned the religious leadership! His family started to believe the reports that Jesus was losing his mind.
We can sympathize with his family and understand their concerns. It's no laughing matter when relatives behave in ways that are extreme. If he wasn't looking out for himself and taking proper care, then it's natural for loved ones to want to step in and ensure that physical needs are being met. If he's not making sense, then someone has to set him straight. And this business of exorcising demons, it's wild and scary and creates controversy; why does he insist on doing it! So those closest to Jesus came to take him home and rescue him from his present surroundings.
Although their intentions were proper, it must have been a burden to Jesus that his family no longer supported the work he was doing. While this would be true for the human Jesus, the divine Jesus filled his mind with doing the will of his Father in heaven to the possible neglect of all else, including his earthly family.
Meanwhile, critics were blasting Jesus, saying he was in league with the Devil! Learned men from their religious headquarters in Jerusalem came down to rural Galilee to inform the people they were being duped. Their accusations were of the worst kind--that Jesus got his miraculous powers, not from God as he claimed, but from the king of demons.
Out of his mind and operating off the Devil's battery! These were painful insults--one from his own family and the other from his family of faith. Would he survive? For now, yes; but it won't be pretty. His kinfolk were blocked by onlookers and their story continues in the next passage. The arrows of the men from Jerusalem shot through the crowd as swift as lightening. And Jesus responded in rapid fire.
He called his antagonists out from the crowd and confronted them, painting some word pictures to show just how foolish their words were. Why would the chief demon give me power to drive out other demons? That's nonsense. People think I'm losing my mind, well, how about you guys who think the objective of Satan is to fight against himself! How smart do you think you are when you confuse the merciful works of God with the destructive deeds of Satan!
If you are going to enter a strong man's domain and steal from him, you have to overpower and gain control of him first. Jesus phrased it as a riddle, so try to figure it out. What is the grand theft which is being contemplated? Who wants to rob whom? Who is "the strong man"? Was it Satan? Or God? Or Jesus himself? Maybe all or none of the above? What do you think?
Never call God's Holy Spirit evil. Jesus was so adamant about this we have another puzzle on our hands. It's the "unpardonable sin" statement climaxing this episode. Laypeople and theologians alike have wrestled long and hard with the meaning and harsh finality of these words. If you worry whether you are guilty, be assured you are not. This verse was directed toward those who would never be concerned by such a transgression. The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, not because God refuses to forgive, but because those who make the charge refuse to repent.
I like the way Eugene H. Peterson worded it in The Message Bible-- "'Listen to this carefully. I'm warning you. There's nothing done or said that can't be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God's Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you're sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.' He gave this warning because they were accusing him of being in league with Evil."
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: What is the worst thing anybody ever said about you?
Can you think of anything you do, which someone else might consider abnormal? If so, what is it?
Was there ever a time when your family was not supportive of you? Or a situation wherein you disagreed strongly with someone in your immediate family? Tell what that was like.How much do you think it bothered Jesus when his family doubted what he was doing?
Name a current polarizing public figure and tell why people either love them or hate them. Did you ever think of Jesus as polarizing? What does that word do to your image of Jesus?
How difficult is it to distinguish good from evil? Give some examples of calling evil good, and good evil.We think of right and wrong as opposites, so why is it hard for people to agree on what falls into each category?
Was Jesus of God? Or of the devil? You wonder how the two could be mistaken for each other and why they look so much alike to some people. How can you know for sure?Why would Jesus react so strongly when the works of God were confused with the deeds of the Devil?
Have you figured out the riddle of the strong man's house? Who was robbing whom? And what was being stolen?
Do you think Jesus ever doubted himself or his ministry? Give evidence to support your claim.
This episode ends with a grave warning because some in the crowd thought Jesus had an unclean, evil spirit. Those who thought that way were in danger of cutting themselves off from God forever which, according to the Bible, is the most hopeless and wretched state of mankind. Did these circumstances justify Jesus' ominous and perplexing statement?