Mark 3:20-35 20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family[a] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” 22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” 23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” 30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” 31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” 33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
PRAY: Spirit of God, open the eyes of our hearts so that we may know you better this morning in this Word.
Sometimes I have wondered if there is a limit to God’s forgiveness – especially for those who do very bad things like drive really slowly around the Barossa when I am in a hurry, don’t dip their lights from high beam when coming toward me at night, people who call me trying to sell me something I don’t need just as dinner is put on the table, people who park in the main street taking up two bays, birds that do their business on my motorbike, dogs who do their business on my driveway, pushy sales people and the bloke named Josh who kept me waiting on hold for two days while trying to fix a Telstra phone problem!
Life has taught me so far that any of us are capable of most unforgivable things given the worst circumstances. Like those people who for some reason place themselves in the worst kind of environment that is designed to bring out the worst in people – and all for us to see on TV, in those shows like “Survivor” or “Temptation Island” or “Big Brother”, we humans do have the propensity to do bad stuff.
In this word from Jesus my ears went straight to that power packed word about the “unforgivable sin”. “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; that person is guilty of an eternal sin”.
I find myself wondering if there is actually an end to God grace for me and you? Is there a limit to how much he will forgive me after all? Maybe I can be “too bad for God”. Maybe his forgiveness is withheld from people who do really bad things, and if so, does that mean I can’t be sure of God’s forgiveness of my sin? Maybe I really do have to do something or be something or understand the right things for God to forgive me, set me free, heal me and love me?
This morning, we hear that Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry is very popular. The public cannot get enough of him. He has such authority and he really gets thing done!
People are being called to follow and they follow (Mark 1:14-19: 2:13). People are being taught who God is with an authority long lost (Mark 1:21-28), hearing evil spirits tell the world who Jesus is – the Son of God (Mark 1:34; 3:11).
Jesus is pushing evil around as he heals Peter’s mother-in-law of fever (Mark 1:29-31), heals other sick people of their illness and frees those suffering under evil oppression and even possession. People are witnessing what was humanly incurable (leprosy) being dealt with on the spot (Mark 40-45).
The fame of the man was immense. Travelling around now becomes difficult, like it is for a Rock star or sporting hero or latest guru who promises the world.
Jesus ‘sees’ people’s faith in him and he does what he says is even greater and harder for him than the even the healing of the human body or freeing of the spirit, he dares to forgive people their sin (Mark 2:5). Now that IS ‘God talk”! It will eventually cost him his life.
The heavies are seeing too. Right here at the start, they begin to talk about removing this threat to their understanding of God.
Jesus crosses the boundaries and does not fit into neatly divided categories of faith. For some this is upsetting and confusing.For some it is inexpressible joy and truly life-changing to the good.
The now famous man returns home to sleepy little Nazareth where everyone knows all about his trade, his parents, his place…. or at least they used to. “He’s Joe’s carpenter son who left a while ago but now is back in town”.
Mary and the brothers wonder whether the home boy has gone out of his mind. They go to find out. They go to see him in the extremely crowded and chaotic house and conclude, “Yep. Like some crazy rock star full of himself or full of delusions of grandeur, he has lost the plot!”
The heavies don’t come to this home town to ask questions but to pronounce their judgement. Jesus is evil. This is why he can push evil around – because he is ‘Senior Evil’ – Beelzebub.
And then he speaks: “I am not Evil. I am not ‘Senior Evil’ – Satan.
Jesus says that if Satan were using him to attack Satan’s own kingdom, then that Evil kingdom would fall! Jesus says that he is not pushing Evil around because he is more Evil. Rather, like Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean, Jesus is actually tying up Satan (the Strong man) and carrying off his loot, which are oppressed, possessed and unforgiven sinners. He is doing this every time he calls a person, forgives sin and as a result, heals and sets free.
And then the real point: introduced by those words, “I tell you the truth….”.
“…people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter”
So, all sin and even blasphemy can be forgiven by God.
Blasphemy is mocking God, railing against God, insulting God, cursing God’s holy name and placing one’s self above God in in cynical or delusional or cutting tones. Even this can be forgiven by God. Remember St Paul who said to his young apprentice, Timothy that:
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).
But sin still is serious. It is not easy for God to forgive. It did costs him the life of his Son! Forgiveness for not giving a toss about forgiveness as we keep on following the desires of our hearts and doing and saying whatever pleases us is by no means guaranteed of God’s forgiveness.
No humble acknowledgement and seeking of forgiveness from a gracious God equals no forgiveness. As Paul says,
“God cannot be mocked” by flagrant and persistent flying in the face of his gracious love for you (Galatians 6:7-8)
But the next word can give us a lot of trouble.
“Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; that person is guilty of an eternal sin”.
Does this mean that there is actually an end to God grace? Is God not so gracious after all? Is there a limit to how much he will forgive me? If so, what’s the limit and have I reached it yet? Maybe I really do have to do something or be something or understand the right things before God will set me free, forgive me, heal me and love me?
No. This word is not saying that there is an end to God’s openhearted grace for even the worst sin anyone can muster or that there is a thing we can do or say that is so bad that even Jesus’ death for us did not cover.
Rather it is saying that there is a limit to what people are often willing to receive from God.
It is not that God is lacking authority, will and the love to forgive any sin, but that people can lack the good grace to receive his grace. They reject God’s hand of friendship and call it evil.
Some people, at different times and for various reasons reject God’s love in Jesus outright and persist in calling God in all his goodness evil (Like the Pharisees in Nazareth this day).
In so doing, for however long and in whatever way, they reject the work of the Spirit to “convict the world of sin” (John 16: 7-11) and so can only remain in the strong man’s house for as long as they persist.
So friend, there is no need to worry that you have committed some unforgivable sin.
The people who worry about this are those who are least capable of such rejection of God’s grace! If you are worried about committing some sin that will separate you from the good things God gives, you are unlikely to flagrantly reject the very God and his goodness you have grown to love!
And because you have complete confidence in God’s authority and will to forgive and heal and free and call you into his service in your place, you can go ahead and cross a few boundaries in your home, in this town, in your school, in your workplace, in our congregation.
As you speak his Words, do his Words of love, forgiveness, peace, kindness you will also tie up the strong man because now he is not is strong because of Jesus’ victory.
You are free and called to carry the “crazy gospel message” that God is, that God speaks, that God loves, that God forgives and calls sinners by sheer crazy and wonderful grace. Amen.
PRAY: open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may know you better. Amen.
Read through the text slowly/deliberately noting what questions come to mind and what fires your imagination as you hear this word from Jesus for you. Share your thoughts…
Can you imagine the scene – lots of people wanting to see, hear be healed and freed by this famous Rabbi. What do you think Mary and Jesus’ brothers were trying to do as they went into the crowded house to see Jesus?
Whatever they were trying to do they came away saying that Jesus “was out of his mind”. What do you think that means? Did they conclude that he had changed ad become quite strange to them? Did they think that he was living in some fake world – like a “fame bubble” the media often speak of with very famous people. They live in some very sheltered world that is all focussed on them…? Share your thoughts…
The Teachers of the Law have been observing Jesus and his speaking and action. Skim through Mark 1 and 2 to note the Pharisees involvement. No they conclude that Jesus must be very Evil to be able to push Evil around like he is. Why do you think they cannot give God the credit for being the source of all this “pushing around” of Evil?
Jesus says that this is illogical and untrue. Evil pushing itself around would make Evil fall! He says it is not by Satan that he says and does what he days and does. So then, Nicodemus’ words to Jesus in John 3 (check it out…) have to be the only alternative. Jesus must be sent by God. Why don;t the Pharisees receive this as good news?
Check Luke 15 and the parable of the Prodigal son and the last part of the parable that focusses on the older brother. His words may give a clue as to why the Pharisees (like the older brother) cannot receive Jesus’ words to all these new younger brothers coming into the family…. Share your thoughts.
Have you ever wondered if there is something you (or another person or group) could do or say that would signal the end of the the relationship with the Lord? Is there a particularly persistent, shameful, hurtful or serious thing that could sever your relationship with God for good? What does Jesus say about all this sin?
Check verse 28. What;s your understanding of what jesus is saying about all sins here?
Then what about verse 29. What is this “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” that cannot ever be forgiven? Share your thoughts..
No. This word is not saying that there is an end to God’s openhearted grace for even the worst sin anyone can muster or that there is a thing we can do or say that is so bad that even Jesus’ death for us did not cover.Rather it is saying that there is a limit to what people are often willing to receive from God.It is not that God is lacking authority, will and the love to forgive any sin, but that people can lack the good grace to receive his grace. They reject God’s hand of friendship and call it evil. Some people, at different times and for various reasons reject God’s love in Jesus outright and persist in calling God in all his goodness evil (Like the Pharisees in Nazareth this day).In so doing, for however long and in whatever way, they reject the work of the Spirit to “convict the world of sin” (John 14) and so can only remain in the strong man’s house for as long as they persist.So friend, there is no need to worry that you have committed some unforgivable sin.
Share your thoughts on this. it is good news for some and bad news for others. Who is is bad news for? Who si it good news for?
Note John 16:7-11 and the Holy Spirit’s work of ‘convicting the world of sin’. People who call God’s grace evil are surely ignoring and rejecting the Holy Spirit’s crucial work of revealing sin and so cannot recive the wonderful grace of God in the forgiveness of Jesus. They place themselves outside the Spirit’s work and so remain bound up by the “strong man”. Do you hear it this way?
Every time your share the good news of God’s forgiveness and love in Jesus with a person, invite a person to follow Jesus with you, forgive a person, pray for person, care for a person Jesus is working through you to bind up the strong man (who is now defeated).
We are called to do this. What scares you about doing this? What is joy-filled about doing this?
Jesus, use me and all of us as a local church to plunder the strong man’s house so that many more are released from sin and evil and the death they bring to people’s lives. Keep us free in the good news that we can never be too bad for you and yet, keep calling us to give our lives into your service with joy and thanks in Jesus’ name.