Text: Mark 3:20-35
Title: Birth of New Family
Theme: Jesus challenges us to think beyond our own paradigm and to see him as he is.
At a dinner some 20 years ago, I shared with the person next to me that I worked in the life science field and then changed to full time ministry. Hearing this, she said, “This must be your mid-life crisis.” If I tell you I am depressed, you will begin to analyze and come up with all kinds of reasons for my depression.
When we see certain events occurring, we tend to pontificate and try to find reasons.. And very often, our conclusions are confined, limited to our own presuppositions and world view. We are confined to our own little boxes.
This is what happened in the passage we read today. At the beginning of the narrative, Mark made the statement that Jesus is the son of God. With his coming into the world, the kingdom of God has broken into human history. Mark then went on to show us the unfolding of this kingdom.
We learn that with the coming of Jesus, there was an on slought of activities. He went from village to village; he left one place and went to another. The word ‘immediate, or immediately' was used repeatedly in this gospel. He healed the sick and casting out evil spirits. Up to this point, Mark did not tell us too much about Jesus' teachings. He focused on activities to demonstrate that Jesus is indeed the son of God; with the power to overcome sickness, nature and the evil spirits.
Jesus was so immersed in the breaking through of God's kingdom into human history, that sometimes he did not even have the time to eat.
Now, when people saw this, they began to explain the reason why. In today's passage, two groups of people were mentioned: Jesus' family and the religious authority. They both were very important in the first century society.
To the Jews, the family is just as important as life. To be rejected or cast out of one's family is like losing one's life. On the other hand, the religious authority held the power of telling one how to live. They were almost next to God. People listened to them and obeyed them. Jesus' family and the religious authorities saw what Jesus was doing and reacted.
3:21, “ And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” Jesus' family concluded that he was out of his mind, he was crazy. No normal Jewish boy would heal the sick, cast out the evil spirits and be so busy to skip meals. Parents among us can understand this, right? We are always concerned if our children are eating properly. When we talk to our children in college, we ask, what have you been eating? Even when I was 40 and above, my parents would still ask if I was eating properly. So Jesus' family went to Capernum to seize him. Meaning they went to get hold of him, to arrest him. Since he was out of his mind, they wanted to take over and control him.
While they were on the way, the religious authorities had arrived from Jerusalem . How did they explain what they heard and saw? 3:22, “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” Jesus is possessed by the devil, Satan. He is casting out the demons by the power of Satan. You see, the family concluded that Jesus was out of his mind, and the religious authorities explained that this was due to Satan's possession of Jesus.
In today's passage we see how Jesus responded to his family and the religious authority. It is the first time in Mark where we read about Jesus'' teaching. From this I would like to bring out one observation and two major themes.
I. The pain of being misunderstood by those who should know better.
Do you remember how hurt you were when your family and close friends did not understand you? Of all the people, they should understand how I felt, but they didn't. One can imagine the hurt Jesus must have felt when he heard his family's conclusion that he was out of his mind. If no one else, mother Mary should know what was happening, right? She was visited by the angel announcing the coming birth of Jesus, the son of God; The shepherds on the night of his birth and then the prophecies by Simeon about Jesus. Mary kept all these events in her heart. She must have also shared it with her other children. Yet, they were the ones who concluded that he was out of his mind.
Then there were the religious authorities. Seeing the sick healed and demons cast out of individuals, seeing health and wholeness returned to the individuals, they should be happy and thanking God. Instead, they concluded that Jesus'' was possessed by the demons, by Satan. To them a good and normal Jewish man didn't do things like this.
People who should, but failed to see, know and understand Jesus. This must be painful.
When we feel misunderstood by those close to us, those who should know better; remember that Jesus knows and understands our feelings. Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin..” Yes, people, and even family and friends may not understand us, but Jesus does. The first theme I want to bring out from this passage is:
II. Jesus is more powerful than Satan.
The religious authorities. accused him of being possessed by Satan. There is a civil war within Satan's kingdom, family. And Jesus responded by saying that it is impossible. Vs.27-28, “ 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.” He has entered Satan' house and have tied him up. The casting out of demons is to show that with the coming of the kingdom of God , Jesus, the one stronger than Satan has come and has bond him up. He is stronger than Satan. Yes, Satan can still influence, but now there is one whose power is greater than it. Then there will come a day, when Satan will be completely overcome and destroyed.
It's like the story in the Chronicles of Narnia. Narnia was ruled by the white witch. The entire land was in a long long winter. Every thing was frozen and there was no spring. However, when Aslan landed in Narnia, the snow stopped, the ice started to melt, the birds began to sing, and the trees talked again. It takes some more time when the witch is totally removed..
The religious authorities accused Jesus of being possessed by Satan. He responded by saying that he is stronger than Satan. This reminds us of 1 John 4:4, “ 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” When God is within us, we should have no fear of Satan. Satan can influence us to sin, but he cannot take control of us, for what is within us, God, is greater than what is outside of us.
In his response to the religious authorities, Jesus made a very severe statement. Vs.28-29, “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”” Jesus is saying, God forgives every sin. However, when individuals consistently insist, and conclude that Jesus is the evil spirit, it is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, against God, and will not be forgiven. This is an eternal sin. When the religious authorities concluded and without repentance, that Jesus has the evil spirit, this is blasphemy against God, and will not be forgiven.
The religious authorities boxed Jesus in their limited thinking. But Jesus surprised them by telling them he is greater than Satan. Now, let's look at his response to his family.
III. Jesus'' New Family.
By the time he finished his conversation with the authorities, Jesus family arrived from Nazareth . He was in a crowded room. And words got to him that his mother and brothers were here. What was his response? What would you do if you were in Jesus' shoes? Family comes first. I need to take a break and talk to my folks first. Jesus'' response was another surprise. Vs.33-35, “ 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 "Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” The religious authorities accused him of possessed by the evil spirits, he surprised them by saying that he is greater than Satan, the prince of the evil spirits. His mother and brothers came to him, to take control of him. He surprised them by expanding his family. Now this kingdom of God is also God's family. What brings the family member together?
I just came back from a family reunion. All the siblings and children were there. When my parents were alive, they were the force that brought everyone together. Now that they are gone, it's the siblings' relationship and bonding that brings us together. This is the case with most families, right? However, isn't it also true that there are many forces that can break this family tie? I think of conflicts, money issues, crisis and tragedy. Even though we say blood is thicker than water, but we also know that many other factors can render the blood powerless.
How about this new family Jesus is talking about? What is common between the family members? 3:35, “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus does God's will, and submit to God, even death on the cross. His disciples are obedient to him to carry out his teachings. The apostles in their writings further expand what God's will are and encourage the believers to be obedient to them. We are in this family of God, because we do God's will, because we are obedient to Him. In Matthew 7:21, “ 21 "“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."” Being obedient to God is the foundation of our kinship in Jesus' family.
There are two thoughts I want to share with you. First, very often we say we are in this church because we are Chinese. I think our ethnic identity is very important. But even more important is that we are here because of our obedience to God's word, doing God's will.
Secondly, it's about marriage. Yes, no doubt there is a marriage crisis among the Christians both in the States and in Asia . When we come to church, we want to hear more messages on how husbands and wives should love one another, improve their communication and all the know how on conflict resolution. Yes, these teachings are important. However, in recent months, I am beginning to feel that the real crisis is not about marriage, but that we believers, have failed to obey God, to do his will. I am also more and more convinced that when we obey God's word, do his will, it will also lead to a healthier family and interpersonal relationships. God's family is much larger than our understanding of family. This family of Jesus includes children, youth, singles and married ones Our common bond is not Chinese or marital status, but our obedience to God and doing his will as revealed in the scriptures.. Because we do his will, we can call each other brother and sisters.
We have come here, to encourage and help each other to be more obedient to God's will which encompass our whole life.
Jesus' family looked at him from their box and concluded that he was out of his mind. The religious authorities looked at Jesus from their boxes and concluded that his condition was because he was possessed by Satan. In both cases, he surprised them. He surprised the religious leaders that he was not possessed by Satan, on the contrary, he was greater than Satan. He surprised his family by explaining to them his new family is much greater than the kinship he had with his mother and brothers. His family includes all those who are obedient to God.In a few minutes, we will be observing the Holy Communion together. We come together as members of God's family. The common bond we have is that we are obedient to God's will, submitting ourselves to him. Therefore at this moment, it is always appropriate for us to spend a few moment in self examination; to see if there are areas in our lives that we have yet to submit to God .
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