What is the Meaning of Mark 2.23-3.35

“Jesus is the Lord during Controversy”

Mark 2:23-3:35

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 2.23-3.35

Well, what did you do yesterday? Yesterday was the seventh day of the week, the Jewish Sabbath day. Did you remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy? Well, why not?

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At some point, we will investigate the question more fully. However, for now, don’t be alarmed if you did not remember the Sabbath day. You are here today, and that is what the Lord Jesus desires of you.

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However, for Jesus, it was not that simple. He was embroiled in a controversy over the Sabbath day with the Pharisees on a number of occasions, as he is here the last part of chapter 2 and the first part of chapter 3. Turn there if you will in Mark’s gospel, chapter 2.

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These two chapters occur within a section of the gospel of Mark, where Mark desires to demonstrate that Jesus ministry brought great opposition.

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Whereas chapter 1 focused on positive responses to Jesus’ ministry, chapter two highlights opposition to Jesus ministry. They opposed him when he healed the paralytic because he proves that he can forgive sins by doing so. He had to defend his associations with the very sinners he wanted to forgive and he had to explain the distinction between his disciples and disciples of the old covenant.

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And now, he has to defend his practices on the Sabbath day. In our message this morning the opposition against Jesus intensifies. The Pharisees conspire with the Herodians to determine how they might destroy him. So the Pharisees anger with Jesus intensifies. But the diversity of the opposition also intensifies.

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For example, we have the introduction of Judas Iscariot, who will betray him. So we have enemies within. But also those within his own family are opposing him when they say “He has lost his senses.” His family came in order to take custody of him. So he has opposition within his own family.

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But in the midst of this intense rejection we have overwhelming reception of Jesus. The overwhelming reception of Jesus within the gospel of Mark is typically seen in the crowds. In our passage this morning, the crowds are once again thronging him because of his ability to heal.

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And the story flows together here by noting that even though this opposition begins to broaden and intensify, Jesus still demonstrates that he is the Lord over his own destiny. Jesus proves this in our text this morning when, even though the Pharisees are conspiring against him to kill him and there is a betrayer in the midst of the disciples,… Even though there is all this conspiracy, Jesus proves in chapter 3 verses 20-35 that he is the Lord over his own destiny. That opposition will not result in Jesus death until he desires it to happen. They have come to take custody of him verse 21, but Jesus, verse 27, has come to bind the strong man, Satan. No one can bind the one who binds Satan. In the midst of his opposition, Jesus decides when he is bound. So, I’d to preach to you then on this subject: Jesus is the Lord during controversy.

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  1. Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath (2:23-3:6)

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From chapter 2:23 to chapter 3:6, Jesus is involved in two controversies, both of which concern the Sabbath day. The first story in the last part of chapter 2, Jesus shows that the Sabbath day was a proper day for acts of necessity, when they pick grain and eat it. Eating is an act of necessity. And the second story, the beginning part of chapter 3, Jesus demonstrates that the Sabbath is a proper day for works of mercy when he heals the man with the withered hand.

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  1. Confrontation: The Sabbath is a proper day for acts of necessity (2:23-28)

This first story at the end of chapter 2, when Jesus shows that the Sabbath is a proper day for acts of necessity, he is merely confronted by the Pharisees. In the second story about the Sabbath, Jesus is out right rejected to the point that the Pharisees conspire with the Herodians to kill him.

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The first story starts out, in verses 23-24, when Jesus and his disciples were passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath day and making their way along while taking the heads of grain. And the Pharisees notice, verse 24, that they are doing was not lawful to do on the Sabbath day.

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Now what was not lawful to do on the Sabbath day, according the Pharisees? The rabbis at that time had assembled, based on passages of Scripture, 39 principal works, that they called “fathers.” And these principal works were further subdivided into many lesser categories. And the issue here is that the rabbis had placed their application of the law on par with or above the actual law itself. They were honoring their own standards and rules as much as and in some cases more than the actual word of God. And of course Jesus knows this. That’s why he says of the Pharisees that they are Mark 7:8 (NASB) “neglecting the commandment of God and holding to the tradition of men.

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There are two traditions in verse 23 that Jesus and the disciples likely violated. And that’s why the Pharisees accuse him of breaking the Sabbath in verse 24. In fact, he did not break the Sabbath, but he did an act of necessity.

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The two traditions that they broke in verse 23 are that they walked too far on the Sabbath day and they were reaping and threshing, believe it or not. Mark notes, verse 23, that they were passing through the grain fields and that he and the disciples were making their way along. Those two phrases seem to indicate that they were likely walking too far according to the tradition of the elders.

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Also, it says that in verse 23, that they were picking the heads of grain and then they would likely rub the head until the wheat falls off. According to the elders and the Pharisees, this would be reaping and threshing.

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Jesus responds by arguing from the old covenant in verses 25-26. He gives an example of what David and his companions did in 1 Samuel 21:1-6 when they ate the consecrated bread on the Sabbath, when that bread was only to be eaten by the priests.

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Jesus point is that David’s hunger as well as the hunger of those who were with him was an overriding condition that allowed them to eat that which was not lawful to eat. If the Pharisees were in charge in David’s day, they would have not allowed David to eat that bread, to the detriment of David and to those who were with him. And Jesus’ response here shows that the purpose of that consecrated bread was not to starve people just so that you can preserve the bread. You shouldn’t starve people just so that you can keep the bread.

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In the same way as that, Jesus point is to argue that the Sabbath is not to be kept in such a way so that it is a detriment to man. Jesus says, verse 27, that the Sabbath was made for man… Just like the bread was made for man… The Sabbath was made for man, man was not made for the Sabbath. In other words, the Sabbath was created in order to benefit man. Man was not created in order to benefit the Sabbath! That would be ridiculous! So the principle is that the Sabbath should not be kept by man in any way that might indicate that man was created in order to benefit the Sabbath day. No no, the Sabbath was made for the benefit of man. The Sabbath was created for the benefit of man. This is why when Jesus says what he does here, he demonstrates that it is good to do acts of necessity on the Sabbath day, b/c it prevents man’s detriment and is beneficial. Eating is beneficial and an act of necessity.

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Jesus argues secondly, verse 28, that since he is Lord of the Sabbath, he decides what can and cannot be done on the Sabbath day. His identification as the Son of Man from Daniel chapter 7 proves that he has the authority to determine what can and can’t be done on the Sabbath day, which he himself created for Man’s benefit.

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So he is Lord of the Sabbath day and he says that acts of necessity can be done on the Sabbath day.

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TRANS: Now, we don’t have the response of the Pharisees to that. However, in the next story concerning the Sabbath day, they respond in no uncertain terms. Just like Jesus before shows that the Sabbath day was a proper day for performing acts of necessity, now he will show that the Sabbath day is also a proper day for performing works of mercy when he heals the man with a withered hand.

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  1. Rejection: The Sabbath is a proper day for works of mercy (3:1-6)

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So the Pharisees hound Jesus from the wheat field into the synagogue where Jesus is confronted by another opportunity to make His point about what can and can’t be done on the Sabbath according to the Lord of the Sabbath.

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The Pharisees looked at the same opportunity and saw it as another opportunity to trap Him. So there is a man there with a withered hand; a hand that is visibly crippled and unusable. And the Pharisees are watching him to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath day so that they might accuse him. And he says to the man with a withered hand, “get up and come forward!” Then Jesus asked this question for all who are present, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But nobody answers him a word.

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Verse five recounts Jesus emotional response to their silence. It says there that he was looking around at them with anger. The reason he looked at them with anger was because He had grief over their hard heart. Their hard heart caused him grief, which made Him angry! He was grieved over the fact they refused to perceive the truth, that’s a hard heart, they refused to perceive the truth and that grief caused righteous anger to rise up in his spirit.

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And to make an even greater point that he indeed is Lord over the Sabbath and that he indeed is Lord over all diseases, he simply asked the man to stretch out his hand. When he obeys Jesus, without any physical touch from Jesus, the man’s hand was restored.

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The response of the Pharisees is not to praise but to conspire with Herodians, v.6. The Herodians were Jewish political supporters of the Herod’s dynasty. They got together and began to plan out a scheme that would eventuate in Jesus’ death.

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TRANS: And in the midst of this great controversy, Jesus, perhaps still retaining some grief and anger withdraws himself, v. 7. What we have in verses 7-12 is even though Jesus is embroiled in controversy and there are those conspiring against him in the background, Jesus continues to minster to the people and shows that He is Lord over disease and demons. Not only is he the Lord over the Sabbath, he is Lord over disease and demons.

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  1. Jesus is Lord over Diseases and Demons (3:7-12)

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These verses are in stark contrast to the opposition. The people overwhelmingly submit to Jesus ministry in verses 7-10 and the demons as well overwhelmingly submit to his ministry in verses 11-12. Whereas the people loved it, the demons hated it.

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  1. Jesus’ ministry is overwhelmingly received by the people (3:7-10)

    Notice Mark’s burden. Once Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea of Galilee, Mark notes that a great multitude from Galilee followed them. And then in verse eight, Mark notes all the geographical regions from which these people came. So there’s hundreds and thousands people who are following them. And notice why they were following, end of verse eight, it was because they’ve heard all of what Jesus was doing and so they were coming to him.

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    And Jesus and the disciples had to respond to the large number of people. Jesus told the disciples, verse nine, that they should get a boat so that he can go into the boat out in the water because of the great crowd. They were going to do this so that no one would throng him.

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    And they were wanting to get closer and closer to him because he healed so many people and everybody was hearing about that so anybody who had any affliction at all began to press in on him and to try to touch him. And so Jesus instructed the disciples to make a boat ready so that they would not harm him in anyway.

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    So here you have a great response of the crowds to the point that they become almost violent in order to get to him. This is an overwhelmingly positive response of the crowds to Jesus.

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    And the spirit world as well is responding overwhelmingly. The spirits would fall down before him. They would fall down before him whenever they saw him. So whenever any unclean spirit saw the Lord, they would fall down before him. Every time this happened every time an unclean spirit would observe Jesus they recognize him for who he really was and once again, verse 12, Jesus sternly warns them not to tell who he was. Jesus wanted the very works themselves that he was doing testify about who he was. He did not need any wicked rebellious spirits testifying concerning who he was. Jesus is Lord over disease and demons.

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TRANS: So, Jesus embroiled in controversy keeps on ministering. Very clearly in the midst of his ministering, He shows himself to be the Lord. Lord over the Sabbath, over disease, and over demons. Next we see, He’s also the Lord over whom He chooses to be His disciples.

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In the middle of overwhelming reception and overwhelming rejection, He chooses his disciples. And now, in the midst of all of this controversy, what seems like he has a positive team on his side, the 12 disciples, we find out from this passage that there are clearly enemies within the group as well. The scribes are against him, but also now, there is a traitor in his midst. So here we have the broadening out of those who are against him.

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  1. Jesus is Lord over His Disciples (3:13-19)

Jesus is Lord over who He chooses, even when He chooses His own betrayer.

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Mark demonstrates in verse 13 that Jesus is Lord over whom he calls to himself. And then verses 14 and 15 tell us what ministry these disciples would have. Verses 16-19 are those whom he has summoned to be his disciples.

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Verse 13, Jesus goes out to the mountain and Mark clearly says that he summons those whom he wanted. Jesus decides those whom he wants and then he calls them to be his disciples. Mark emphasizes this when it says that he went up on that mountain and he summons those whom, it says verse 13, whom he himself wanted. He is the Lord He chooses who it is he himself wanted them.

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And the response is the exact response that he demands. They came to him. Jesus is the Lord Jesus is in complete control; therefore, they come to him. Very clearly Mark is emphasizing Jesus Lordship over who gets to be His disciple.

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APP: and that’s exactly the way it is today. Jesus decides who gets to be his disciples. And those whom he chooses to be his disciples, will come to him to be his disciples. Jesus is the Lord and no one can thwart his purposes.

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And those whom he calls to himself, verse 14, he appoints. He appoints them for discipleship and for ministry. Mark notes three things in verses 14 and 15 that they have the authority and privilege of doing. They had the privilege of being with him and Jesus had the authority of sending them out in order to preach. Also in that time Jesus gave them the power to cast out the demons just like he was doing.

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So here you have a clear demonstration of power on Jesus part when not only does he have the power himself to be able cast out the demons, but he also has the ability to give that very power to others.

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Jesus further demonstrates his Lordship over some of these men in this list in verses 16 through 19 by renaming Simon and calling him Peter. And renaming James and his brother John verse 17, calling them the sons of thunder. And likewise Jesus shows his Lordship over the choosing of his disciples by even choosing Judas Iscariot, even though he knew right well he would betray him.

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By choosing him, Jesus is clearly in control of this betrayal from the beginning when he says Mark 14:21 (NASB) “For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

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The Son of Man is betrayed just like the old covenant said it would happen. And there is one man, that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed and Jesus pronounces woe, or damnation, on that man.

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And Peter says that Jesus was Acts 2:23 (NASB) delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God,

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So Jesus is clearly in control of the whole betrayal, from beginning until the end, and Jesus pronounces that Judas is responsible for it.

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So again, we have the broadening of those who oppose Jesus. We have the scribes and the Pharisees and the Herodians. Now we have someone in the inner group of the disciples.

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TRANS: So, where can he find relief? Where should he go? Perhaps he should go back home, to Peter’s mother-in-law’s house, like He did in 2:1 when he was clearly received. Ok, good idea. That’s exactly what He does. Surely he and his ministry would be received at Peter’s mother-in-law’s house, right? Chapter 3 verse 20, he came home, lit. “he came into a house” and the only house we know of is the same house in 2:1 and 1:29; Peter’s mother inlaw.

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And, after reading about the conspiracy of the Pharisees and the Herodians and the traitor within the group itself, you come to wonder if now is the time for his betrayal and arrest. Look at all this controversy and look at all this opposition to Jesus ministry and how it is broadening out and how it is intensifying. Is now time for betrayal? Are those people going to decide to take custody of him?

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Mark’s answer is “No!” Jesus determines the time of His betrayal!

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Mark clearly indicates in this passage, vv.20-35, that Jesus has the authority over His own timing. Also, here, we have the introduction of yet another opponent. Not only do the Pharisees and the Herodians conspire against him, not only is there a traitor within his own group of disciples, but now even those in his own family are against him. And within this section, the major point here is that Jesus is Lord over His own destiny. Not only is Jesus the Lord over whom he chooses, but Jesus is the Lord when others can take him into custody. We find this very clearly in how Mark structures this passage. You may want to mark this in your Bibles.

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  1. Jesus is Lord over His Own Destiny (3:20-35)

    First of all, notice the setting. Remember we said, verse 20 Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. So he came to that house, and if you skip down past Jesus speech into verse 31, Jesus’ mother and his brothers arrived it says. They arrive at that same house. So the setting is the Peter’s mother-in-law’s house.

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    Now, what I want to show you is how Mark structures this story to show that Jesus is Lord over his own destiny. He chooses when he will be taken into custody, not anyone else.

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    And the way Mark does this is by his sandwiching technique. Before and after Jesus speech, He uses similar terminology. We just saw an example, the house and the arrival of Jesus family at the house. Also, verse 21, when Jesus own people it says, that’s his family, his mother and his brothers from verse 31. But his own people heard that he was there, they went to take custody of him because they were saying he has lost his senses, he has gone crazy!

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    And then in verse 22 we have a description about what the scribes were saying about Jesus. Now after reading verse 21, that they came to take custody of Jesus, you wonder, “well, are they going to take custody of him? Will they actually be able to do that?” You have to wait to find out the exact answer to that.

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    But the way Mark structures the story gives us the hint that no, they won’t be able to do that. As you keep reading Jesus responds to the scribes’ accusation that he casts out demons by the ruler of the demons. He responds with an illustration about thievery. Verse 27, no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strongman man and then he will plunder his house.”

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    Jesus point here is that Jesus is the strongman and he will plunder the house of Satan, which is the same thing as casting out demons. I’ll show you that minute. But this is just to point out the word “bind.” The word “bind” and the word in verse 21 “to take custody of” are similar words. Those words are similar to the word that describe what his mother and brothers do in verse 31. Why were they calling him? To take custody of him!

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    Then the crowd informs Jesus that they are looking for him. So, they’re “calling” they’re “looking” for Jesus…these are all words that describe how they are about to take custody of him.

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    So here’s the point. Marks point is that no one can come and take custody of Jesus because he’s the one who binds Satan. So if anybody ever comes and wants to take custody of Jesus, they would be trying to take custody of somebody who himself can take custody of Satan!

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    So Jesus is Lord over his own destiny. He will be taken into custody in his own timing and nobody else’s timing. He does whatsoever he will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the Earth and no one can ward off his hand or say to him what are you doing?

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    Let me comment, on the three responses that we have in this passage to Jesus ministry. We have three people groups: the crowd, the Pharisees, and Jesus family. Like I said earlier, the crowd responds favorably to Jesus. That’s clear from verse 20 where it says that the crowd gathered again to such an extent that Jesus and the disciples could not even eat a meal. Again we have an overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd. Generally speaking, they seemed to have viewed Jesus as the Lord.

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    However, in verse 21 and of course in verses 31-32, we see Jesus family responding that he is, as it were, a lunatic. Verse 21 his own people, that is, his family were saying at the end of verse 21 and he has lost his senses he has gone crazy.

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    And then, in verse 22, we have the scribes claiming that Jesus is a liar and that he is not casting out demons by the Holy Spirit. So we have the three responses of Lord lunatic and liar. These three verses. And in our apologetics class we will deal with CS Lewis and his popular and effective Lord, lunatic, liar trilemma in more detail.

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    Now, very briefly, we will consider this accusation against Jesus and Jesus’ response in verses 23-30. And then we will conclude with Jesus words in verses 33-35.

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    The scribes accuse Jesus of being able to cast out demons by the ruler demons, that is, by Beelzebul. They claim that he is possessed by Beelzebul and is able to cast out demons by him, by his power. Now keep in mind as we go through this that Jesus’ claim is that he is able to cast out demons and to heal diseases and do miracles because he has the power of the Holy Spirit. That is key as we consider in verses 28-29 the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

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    In verse 23, Jesus tells us the identity of Beelzebul when he says, “how can Satan cast out Satan?” Beelzebul is clearly Satan. Jesus illustrates his answer first in verses 24-25 then He gives us his answer in concrete terms in verse 26. Taking verses 24 and 25 together, that the kingdom or a house is divided against itself, meaning, those within the kingdom or those with in the house are fighting each other, then that kingdom or that house will not be able to stand. It will eventually collapse.

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    That’s the same way it works with Satan and his dominion. If Satan has risen up against himself and he is divided he, just like the kingdom or just like a house, he will not be able to stand but he will be finished. He will come to his end.

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    Jesus says, verse 27…

    Mark 3:27 (NASB) “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

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    We already noted the function that this verse plays in the whole of Mark’s argument, which was that Jesus binds Satan, how can Jesus mother and brothers take custody of him? He can’t, Jesus is Lord over his own destiny. Now, Jesus point in verse 27 is that he himself has the ability to bind Satan and plunder his house. That’s how he is able to cast out demons because he is able to bind the strong man and then cast him out. Jesus is claiming that He has bound Satan and that’s how He is now able to cast out the demons from people, which is plundering his house sort of speak. So how can Jesus cast out demons? By the Holy Spirit b/c He has bound Satan.

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    And then we get into Jesus further response to the Pharisees in verses 28-29 with Mark’s comment in verse 30.

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    And this is where Christian people get a little antsy. They asked themselves, “have I committed the unpardonable sin?” Or, “have I blasphemed against the Holy Spirit?”

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    Jesus says, verse 28, that whatever blasphemies people utter, though sins will be forgiven them. But verse 29, Jesus teaches that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a sin no one receives forgiveness for.

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    And Jesus said that to the Pharisees, why? He said that to them because they were saying that Jesus has an unclean spirit. Now let me start there.

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    Have you accused Jesus of having an unclean spirit? Have you accused him with wholehearted conviction that indeed he is possessed by an unclean spirit, by Satan?

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    If you have not, you are not guilty of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. And Mark’s whole point is that they were saying this to the incarnate son of God when he was right there with them performing miracles before their eyes. Have you had an opportunity to say this to Jesus, to his face, after he did an undeniable miracle? Of course not.

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    So even in your timid little heart you are tempted to see what would happen if you accuse Jesus of that, you are not able to commit the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit today.

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    So, I put all the verses together on this, which include this passage as well as Mt. 12:31-32 and Lk. 12:10. The first, theologically speaking, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be committed by true believers. True believers are eternally secure in Christ. True believers who have truly turned from their sin and truly trusted Christ to save them, these people are not able to commit the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

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    Likewise, unbelievers are unable to do so as well. This is clear in Matthew. If you would, turn over Matthew chapter 12 we will look at verses 31-32. Matthew chapter 12.

    We have similar wording down through verse 32, until Matthew quotes Jesus as saying end of v. 32, that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven people … And here’s the key phrase “either in this age or in the age to come.”

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    So we have to define this age and the age to come. “This age” clearly refers to what Jesus and the disciples are living in, Christ’s physical presence on Earth during which he ministered miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit in the sight of everyone. So the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven of people during the time when Christ was physically present on Earth. If those people commit that sin after observing Christ and they say that Christ is possessed by an unclean spirit after observing a miracle of his, they will not be forgiven of that sin.

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    The “age to come” also has to have reference to some sort of time period in which it’s possible to commit this sin or any sin. Just like it’s possible to commit the sin in “this age” referring to the time period of Jesus, so also it will be possible to commit this sin in a coming age. And when you search out in the Scripture for the references to the coming age, what you’ll find is that it does not have reference to this Earth, previous to the millennium. And if it’s during that time in which this sin can be committed, it will not be the eternal state or heaven b/c there is no sin in heaven.

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    Therefore, the age to come must refer to a future period of time that is not like the time period we are living in but yet must also have the possibility of sinning in it. So what time period is coming that is not like the one were living in now, it is future, and also has the possibility of sinning in it? It must refer to the millennium. Because the millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ, will have sinners in it. And Christ will be physically present then too. So I am arguing that this has reference to the future, coming millennium, when Christ is once again physically present on Earth. Then, sinners will have the opportunity to once again commit the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, we will not be sinners at that time. We will have glorified bodies.

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    So this teaching clearly indicates then that only those people who are able to see Christ physically present with them and do miraculous works will be able to commit the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. So you are unable to commit the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

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    If you didn’t catch that, that’s okay. We will go over this in detail on a Thursday night in the future.

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    Now, we will conclude with the application found in verses 33-35. Jesus biological mother and brothers were looking for him and the crowd told him that, then he says, as he looks out over the crowd he says that these are his true family. So who are part of Jesus true family? Who are his brothers and his sisters and his mother?

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    He says here that these people who were right in front of him, verse 34, sitting around him. So the question is, to determine if you are a true follower of Jesus, are you willing to sit at Jesus dirty middle-eastern feet and learn of him.

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    Lastly, verse 35, Jesus says that those in his true family are whoever does the will of God. And doing God’s works in the Gospels is believing on the one who sent Jesus. Jesus says that he was sent by the Father. Are you trusting in the Father this morning? You trusting in him and that he has sent Jesus to you to die on the cross for your sins and be raised from the dead the third day? Are you trusting in this one this morning are you willing to learn of Jesus this morning? Is this your heart’s desire? If so, that’s an indication that you are a true family member in Jesus family!

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    So, we saw Jesus as the Lord over controversy. I don’t know if you think if you’re in a controversy or not, but if you do, then very clearly here, Jesus demonstrates that He is in control of it. He is the Lord, He will be the Lord, and is in your situation. No matter what happens, Jesus is working out His gracious will for you. The trials and controversies of life are mere opportunities for God to show He is Lord.

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