Now as we come to the Word of God, I want to draw your attention back to the gospel of Mark, back to the gospel of Mark. Mark is one of four gospels, as you know—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The purpose of the four gospels is laid out in the end of John’s gospel: “These [things] are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and believing might have life in His name.” That fits both Mark and John, as well as Matthew and Luke. That is the purpose of the four gospels: “that you might know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have [eternal] life in His name.” So the goal of the gospels is to understand who Jesus is and to receive the eternal life that He alone can bring.
True to that, Mark begins—and let’s go back to the very beginning of the gospel of Mark for a moment. At the very outset, chapter 1, verse 1, Mark begins, “The beginning of the gospel”—the good news—“of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” God the Son, one in nature with God, the eternal Son. That’s how Mark introduces Jesus—by His earthly name, His anointed title (“Christ” or “Messiah”), and His divine identity as the Son of God; and Mark immediately launches into making that very clear and evident.
First of all, in chapter 1, verse 7, he introduces us to John the Baptist. John the Baptist, by the words of the Lord Himself, was declared to be the greatest of the prophets, the greatest man who ever lived up until his time; and yet he says concerning Jesus, verse 7, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptize with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Here he affirms the deity of Christ as the one superior to even the greatest of all prophets, and the one who can dispense the very member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, into the life of those who believe.
We have, immediately after that, His baptism; and when He comes out of the water in chapter 1, verse 10, the heavens open up; and again, referring to the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.” It was not a dove; it didn’t look like a dove; it’s simply the picture of the Spirit’s presence in some visible form landing on Jesus in a gentle way. And at that moment, not only is the Spirit thus affirming His deity, but “a voice [comes] out of the heavens, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.’ Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.” The Spirit then takes over His life and His ministry. And from here on, everything He did, He did by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 14 says immediately He began to preach the gospel of God. Jesus came preaching the gospel. John says, “He is the Son of God.” That is the testimony of the Father; that is the testimony of the Spirit; that is the testimony of the prophets, including the greatest prophet, John the Baptist.
We find further testimony in chapter 1, verse 24, from an unclean spirit, a demon: “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth?” the demon says, “Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” John the Baptist knows who He is, the Father knows who He is, the Spirit knows who He is, and the demons know who He is as well.
That evidence of the person of Jesus Christ continues through these opening chapters. In chapter 2, as you’ll remember from our previous message, Jesus says to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And the scribes who were there say, “He’s blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” And so Jesus then heals the paralytic and gives evidence of the fact that He can forgive sin because He can heal; and only God can heal, so He, as God, can also forgive sin.
We find at the end of chapter 2 a very interesting statement: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” He is superior to the law. Sabbath represents the law; He is over the law; He is above the prophets. He is the Holy One of God; the demons know it, and the people should know it by testimony of His miracles, which are laid out in these opening few chapters, and His power over Satan.
But interestingly enough, in these opening chapters we don’t have testimony from any of the crowd. Even though they were watching the miracles, seeing that He could cast out demons, there was no miracle too difficult for Him—but there is no human confession; that doesn’t come until many chapters later. Mark wants us to know that in spite of what the initial response to Christ was, the testimony is clear: He is the Son of God, as the angel said He was when he introduced Mary to that child she would bear.
The evidence of His divine nature is unmistakable. In chapter 3, verse 11, “Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him”—and He was going from place to place and confronting them—“whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’” The forces of hell know He’s the Son of God, but still you don’t have any confession on the part of the people. A crowd is there; they’re strung all through these opening chapters. They were so many people that Jesus could hardly function. And that’s where we pick up the story in chapter 3, verse 20.
Chapter 3, verse 20. Just after He had chosen His disciples in verses 13 to 19, it says, “He came home.” He had gone up, according to verse 13, to the mountain, summoned His disciples to basically get them established; He needed the privacy. And now He comes back home to Capernauml, to the house of Simon and Andrew, who were brothers. That was His home base in His ministry in Galilee.
“He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.” Mobs of people around Him. We saw that, didn’t we, in the case of the paralytic—because they couldn’t get him to Jesus, they took the roof apart to lower him.
This introduces us to an amazing encounter with Jesus that I want you to understand. It’s very, very definitive, and it will help us understand how to understand the Christ, how to identify Him. You have only three options, and we’ll show you that from this text.
But let me start with the one option you don’t have when it comes to Jesus, and the one that most people would affirm. It would be this: Jesus is a good man, a religious man, a spiritual man, a gifted teacher, a great preacher, a wise man, a moral leader, a virtuous example. I mean, that is generally the typical, favorable view of Jesus that is just generally purveyed.
He’s a good man, a good teacher, a wise man—even Islam says that—a prophet. But you don’t have that option. That is not at all a possible option. You say, “Why?” For one particular reason: Jesus said He was God. Did you get that? He said He was God: “I and the Father are one. If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. I do what the Father does.”
He made claims to be God. He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He declared Himself to be the I AM, the Eternal One. That eliminated the possibility that He’s a good teacher, because good teachers don’t say they’re God, crazy people do. This is not a possibility. He claimed to be God in human flesh. He claimed to be eternal. He claimed to have the same nature as God, the same will as God, the same power as God. Good teachers, wise men, truth-tellers, moral leaders don’t claim to be God; so we’ll eliminate that as a possibility. And that wipes out all the pandering, liberal views of Jesus that put Him in that category. You don’t have that option.
There are three possibilities, and they are laid out in this text. Here are your three options: one, He was delusional; two, He was demonic; or three, He was divine. Those are the only options, and they play out in this wonderful text. Let’s consider the first one: that Jesus was delusional, that He was deranged mentally, that He was in some way insane, out of His mind, a lunatic. And we come to that option right away in verse 21.
Jesus had come back to Capernaum; the crowds were there again. They couldn’t even eat a meal; there was crushing crowds. And then verse 21, “When His own people heard of this.” What do you mean, “His own people”? Literally, “those of Him,” His family, His family. “When [they] heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses.’” “He's delusional.” That was the attitude of Jesus’ family: that He was mentally off.
He comes back to His base in Capernaum. The crowds are all there. They’re restrictive. They’re interfering. They’re overwhelming Him. He pulls away, in verses 13 and following, to spend some time getting the disciples going. He comes back, in verse 20, and there the crowd is again. And why are they there? Because He could cast out demons and heal all diseases. That’s why they were there. They dogged His steps because they wanted the miracles, they wanted the deliverance.
And then His family hears about it, that He’s back, and so they went to essentially to do an intervention, to use contemporary lingo. They have to go get Him. What it says in verse 21 actually is, “They went to take custody of Him”; literally, “They went to seize Him.” This was not going to be a conversation, this was going to be a severe intervention. His family was embarrassed; His family was fearful for His well-being, and they thought He had lost His mind.
Thirty years of living in that home in Nazareth, that relatively small village; thirty years of quiet; thirty years of silence as far as ministry is concerned. But only one occasion do we know anything about, those thirty years, and that was when He was twelve years of age and He went to Jerusalem with His family, and He was asking some theological questions in the Temple. There’s no record of any teaching or any miracles of any kind for thirty years. He, in a sense, blended in to the simple life of Nazareth.
But understand this: He was still the Son of God. He was holy, perfect, righteous—but unknown. But known to His family, known to His mother; and she knew the truth about Him from the beginning because she heard it from Gabriel, as we read earlier. She knew the truth, and she pondered it in her heart. But the rest of the family—Joseph now is gone; he disappears very soon in the accounts of the gospels, so he, no doubt, had died. And you have the brothers and sisters in the family; and they—even with their mother’s testimony and whatever of their father’s testimony they heard, concerning the birth of their half-brother—they thought He was a man.
That is a positive in one sense. His humanity was so real, His humanity was so complete and comprehensive. He was so truly human that His family couldn’t believe that He was also truly divine—even in the face of His perfection, even though He never sinned, is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. They might have thought He was odd, but they didn’t think He was God; they thought He had lost His mind, that His rational capabilities had failed Him, because no sane person would say, “I’m God.” Crazy people say that. So they went to take Him captive for His own sake and theirs.
The term “to take custody of Him” is literally “to seize.” Fifteen times in Mark; eight times it was about seizing Jesus, including His arrest. It’s also a verb that was used when John the Baptist was arrested in the sixth chapter. So this is an intervention to capture one that they cared about, one that they, no doubt, loved, who was in danger because of His lunacy, because He’s out of His mind. And by the way, John chapter 7, verse 5 says, “His brothers didn’t believe in Him.” Point blank, His brothers were not believing in Him.
If you look over at the sixth chapter of Mark for just a moment, Jesus “came into His hometown” of Nazareth, in verse 1, with His disciples. This is back in His hometown. “When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?’ They took offense at Him.”
“This is just a carpenter. This is the son of Mary.” Joseph’s not mentioned, as I said; no doubt, had died. “We know His brothers, we know His sisters.” They took offense at the notion that He was claiming to be God, even though they saw the miracles. They said that: “Where did He get the power to do these miracles?” And Jesus responded in verse 4 with a famous line, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” How strange that is, that they who had lived with Him for thirty years thought He had lost His mind, couldn’t see that He was divine.
Now if you go back to Mark 3 and verse 31, we jump ahead in the story a little bit to pick up the family. The family is coming to get Jesus, back in verse 21. They arrive in verse 31: “His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him”—as always—“and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’” Again, this is their intervention to save Him from His insanity, if they can.
Then Jesus says something that is shocking, verse 33: “Answering [the people who were telling Him, ‘Your mother and brothers are looking for You,’], He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’” What do you mean, that He didn’t know them? No, of course He knew them, of course He knew them. At the cross we read in John 19 that He gave His mother into the care of John; very much aware of her. Of course, He knew who they were; but He was changing the category of conversation from earthly relationships to heavenly ones. He’s now talking about His kingdom: “Who are My mother and My brothers?”
Verse 34, “Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.’” The Lord seized the moment to speak of salvation truth. He was not concerned about the human relationships; they were not the relationships that mattered. There was no particular privilege for Mary that set her apart from the need for a Savior. She said that in Luke 1: “God my Savior.” She was not sinless; she needed a Savior. She was His mother in the earthly sense, but not in the kingdom sense, until she had trusted in Him as Savior, which surely by now she had done.
They knew Jesus, but they couldn’t make the step to the reality that He was actually the Son of God; and Jesus, here, is pushing them past their temporal limitation: “I’m not concerned about physical relationships, I’m concerned about spiritual ones.” And spiritual ones are defined by “[doing] the will of God”: “Whoever does [that] is My brother and sister and mother.”
In Luke chapter 11 there’s another very similar conversation, just a brief one. Luke chapter 11, listen to verse 27. While Jesus was speaking to a crowd, “one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.’” Right out of the crowd, this woman shouts that. What is she trying to say? This is a Jewish compliment. This is something in the Jewish vernacular. This person is so impressed with Jesus that she says, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” “Whoa, how marvelous to be Your mother! How wonderful to be Your mother!” Not that she knows Mary; this is just an expression.
And then Jesus says in verse 28, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” He’s saying, “It doesn’t mean anything, spiritually, to be My mother (earthly). It doesn’t mean anything, spiritually, to be related to Me as a half-brother or a half-sister—spiritually. Those who are spiritually related to Me obey the word of God, do the will of God.” And you can go back to Mark 3. So Jesus always, always, always moving to the salvation issue, even declares that Mary had no special relationship to Him apart from salvation and doing the will of God. She needed a Savior who could transform her life.
So when you come back to Mark chapter 3, He says to the crowd, verse 34, “sitting around Him . . . ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! . . . [Anybody who] does the will of God.’” And what is “the will of God”? Well, I think a good place to start in understanding the will of God—I’ll just give you one text on this. John 6, verse 40: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.” OK? “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.” That’s the will of the Father. So those who believe in Him as the Son of God are doing the will of God, and they are members of His spiritual family. Jesus has a forever family of those who believe in Him and have received eternal life. Mary surely had that relationship, but Jesus’ siblings did not. John 7:5 says, “His brothers did not believe in Him.”
Months later, if you look at Acts chapter 1 and verse 14, you read this. This is in the upper room just before the Day of Pentecost, verse 14, “[They] were all with one mind continually devoting themselves to prayer”—that’s the apostles—“along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Sometime between the days of their unbelief and the upper room, the day before Pentecost, they had been converted. The Resurrection had made the difference. So eventually His brothers would be transformed, and they became a part of His forever family, and so did His sisters.
So the first option you have with Jesus is He’s delusional, and that was the attitude of His family. But it doesn’t make sense because of the miracles. How do you explain them?
The second option appears in verses 22 and following in this same account. And this is the option that He’s demonic. That was the attitude of His foes. Look at verse 22: “The scribes”—along with others that are noted throughout this section: Pharisees, Herodians—“the scribes who came down from Jerusalem”—that’s the elite Jerusalem scribes—“were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.’” Whoa.
They had not concluded that He was deranged, they concluded that He was demonic. This is far more sinister, far more potentially fatal. They are the center of authority; they’re scribes from Jerusalem. But they’ve made up their minds already. Didn’t take them long. They had made up their minds by chapter 3, verse 6. Along with “the Pharisees,” they “began conspiring with the Herodians against Him as to how they might destroy Him.” They wanted to destroy Jesus. Why? Because they had decided He was satanic. That’s verse 22: “He is possessed by Beelzebul.” Luke adds that title means “the ruler of the demons.” They called Him satanic.
“Beelzebul” was a Jewish term used for Satan. The original name was Beelzebub, including the term Baal. That was the name of the Canaanite god of Ekron, and it meant “lord of the high place” and “lord of the dwelling.” That’s Beelzebub. The Jews changed the b to an l, Beelzebul, which had a similar Hebrew meaning, only different. It meant “lord of the dung,” “lord of the manure,” showing Jewish distain for the Canaanite deity; and the title was used to refer to Satan. They say Jesus does what He does by the power of Satan, the lord of the dung.
Holy Lord of heaven is identified as satanic in the vilest possible slander and blasphemy. That was the Jews’ final verdict; that’s what’s so important. And the reason they had Him executed was because they were, to the very end, convinced He was a blasphemer.
They were the blasphemers, but they were doing, in their minds, God’s work by destroying this blasphemer. You can say that about Jesus, and it may explain the supernatural elements of His life. It may be a way to explain the miracles, to say that He’s empowered by Satan himself; you can say that. But what you can’t say is some patronizing nonsense that Jesus is a good teacher. He’s either a lunatic, or He’s satanic. He is folly, or He is wickedness. Those are bad options.
Jesus responds to this one in verse 23: “He called them to Himself”—“Come over here, scribes”—“and He began speaking to them in parables”—or illustrations. He asked, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”—“You’ve been watching Me cast out demons, cast out unclean spirits; it’s been going on all along in this Galilean ministry. Now you’re saying I do it by the power of Satan. How can Satan cast out Satan? That is a contradiction.”
Verse 24, He continues, “A kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Or, verse 25, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” Verse 26, “If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!” Your conclusion is as ridiculous as the family’s. How can you say He was deranged and delusional when you knew Him so well? And how does that explain the miracles? How can you say He’s demonic when He’s casting out Satan’s forces? And verse 27, He adds, “[In fact,] no one can enter the strong man’s house”—meaning Satan—“and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.”
If Satan’s house is being plundered, then whoever is plundering Satan’s house—whoever is delivering people from demons, casting them out—is stronger than Satan. He has to be stronger than Satan.
All these two options are absurdities. And so you’re left, really, with one other option. His family thought He was delusional, His foes thought He was demonic, but His followers believe He is divine. That’s the truth.
Verse 28, “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter.” “All sins shall be forgiven”? Sure, if you repent—if you repent, turn to the Lord, seek His mercy and grace. Even blasphemy? Yes, “Whatever blasphemies they utter.” Proof of that, 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul says, “The Lord was gracious to me, who formerly was a blasphemer.” He was blaspheming the name of Christ. He was blaspheming Jesus. He was punishing Christians, imprisoning Christ-followers. He was a blasphemer, but he was forgiven.
“All sin,” including blasphemy, can “be forgiven.” “‘But,’” verse 29, “‘whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness’”—“never has forgiveness”—“‘but is guilty of an eternal sin’—because they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” Here’s the point: After all Jesus had said, after all He had done, after the display of miracle power and power over demons, they came to a final conclusion: “He has an unclean spirit.” “He is satanic, and He needs to be destroyed.”
And what our Lord is saying is, “If that’s your final conclusion, you can never be forgiven. You end up there. You end up—after the Spirit of God has demonstrated who Christ is by His power, His teaching, and you conclude that He’s satanic—you can never be forgiven because you’ve concluded it with the evidence in your face, because everything Jesus did in His life was done by the Holy Spirit working through Him. That’s why it’s blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. And if you look at Christ and say, “No, it’s not the Holy Spirit, it’s Satan,” there’s no possible way that you can be forgiven, because with all the evidence you conclude 180 degrees the opposite of the truth. The people who are forgiven would never conclude that. The people who are forgiven would conclude that He is divine; and that’s what His followers acknowledge.
Everything Jesus did in His life and ministry was under the power of the Holy Spirit. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was baptized by the presence of the Holy Spirit. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit took Him through His temptation and out the other side. The power operating in Christ is the power of the Spirit of the living God. And if your conclusion, like the Jews, is that it’s Satan, you can never be forgiven. Why? The assumption is that you’ve had all the revelation, and that’s where you ended up. How can you possibly be saved?
An illustration of that is in Hebrews chapter 6, and I’ll close with this. This is a familiar text and fits this perfectly. Hebrews chapter 6, the writer is writing to Jewish people who, like the people that we see in Mark 3, the Jews have heard about Christ, they have been exposed to Christ—this is that kind of group of people. And this is what he says to them. Verse 4, Hebrews 6, “In the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come”—none of those phrases has to do with salvation, none of them is ever used anywhere in Scripture to refer to salvation. This is talking about being enlightened concerning Christ, getting a taste of heavenly power, experiencing the Holy Spirit’s power by listening to Christ, seeing His miracles, even being healed by Him or delivered by Him or fed by Him, as He created food. You’ve “been enlightened,” you “have tasted,” you have been a partaker. You’ve even “tasted the good word of God” from the lips of Jesus, and you’ve even tasted “the powers of the age to come”—miracle power, kingdom power that will be unleashed in its fullness in the glory of the millennial kingdom. You’ve had a taste of all of that. If you “[fall] away” at that point, if you don’t conclude that Jesus is who He said He was, “it’s impossible to renew [you] again to repentance,” because you’ve had the full revelation. And if with the full revelation your conclusion was that He is to be rejected, then there’s no hope for you. Why? Because you essentially “[have crucified to yourself] the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”
I mean, ultimately it’s what you do with Jesus Christ. But what you do with Jesus Christ will be determined by whether or not you think the power under which He operated was the Holy Spirit or hell itself. Should be obvious. Should be obvious. You can speak a word against the Son of Man and be forgiven; you can speak a word against the Father and be forgiven. But if you reject the testimony of the Spirit of God, and His whole purpose was to point to Christ, if you reject His testimony, there’s no way to repentance. “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit”— with regard to His testimony concerning Christ—“is guilty of an eternal sin.”
You say, “Does that apply to us?” Well, not in the sense that we were alive when Christ was here, but in the sense that the Spirit of God wrote Scripture, right? So the Scripture is the testimony of the Holy Spirit to Christ, and it’s a sufficient testimony to lead you to the right conclusion.
You read the account of Christ in the New Testament. It doesn’t lead you to conclude that He’s delusional; it doesn’t lead you to conclude that He’s demonic; it leads you to conclude that He’s divine, because that is the Spirit’s intention. An eternal sin that can never be forgiven: to make the wrong evaluation of Christ.
But for those who follow the influence of the Holy Spirit written on the pages of Scripture—that’s right, we have the full record of His life repeated four times—for those of us who see this and understand it and affirm His divinity, we have eternal life. “If you confess Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” That’s the right option.
Our Father, we thank You, as we always do after we have looked at Your Word, for its power and clarity. Thank You for opening our hearts to understand the truth. Thank You for awakening us from slumber, sleep, the sleep of sin and death. Thank You for giving us life and truth, and peace and joy and hope and all the blessings that come with our salvation. We know the world is full of people who write Jesus off as delusional, who are convinced that if He had any power, it was the power of demons. But Lord, we know the truth is that He is divine; and in affirming that, we receive our welcome into Your forever family. What a privilege.
We say Jesus is Lord and God. And even as we, perhaps this afternoon, read through that—glories of Christ’s peace—may it enrich us in the fullness of all that Christ is. For those who need to turn from their sin—and the door is still open to them—Lord, we pray that You would be gracious and grant them forgiveness and salvation and eternal life. May Jesus Christ be glorified in all our lives, is our prayer. Amen.
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