Sermon Commentary for Sunday, June 9, 2024

Mark 3:20-35 Commentary

Jesus goes home, but he is not alone. Presumably, along with the disciples, the crowd that has quickly started to gather around Jesus in the first three chapters of Mark have also come.

Mark has made multiple references to this crowd. First, Jesus’s fame was spreading and the crowds came looking for healing (1.28-33). Then, Mark tells us that a leper was spreading the word about the way Jesus healed him, “so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly… and people came to him from every quarter” (1.45). At another instance of teaching in his home region, the building was so crowded around Jesus, that a paralytic man had to be let down through the roof (2.2). At one point, Jesus was concerned that he would be trampled by the “great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon” that he got into a boat in order to each them (3.7-10)

At every one of these turns, the crowds have come to Jesus because he is a healer. In other words, the “crowd” is made up of people who know their need for Jesus. That’s why they keep following him. They don’t want Jesus to stop what he’s doing because they feel its need and they believe its source is good and holy.

Mark describes the crowd of believers as gathered around Jesus, encircling him. In contrast, Jesus’s family is depicted at the beginning and end of our lectionary text as being outside, separate from Jesus. Jesus’s family, like the religious leaders, want Jesus to stop his healing because they believed the voices of others who said Jesus was “out of his mind.”

Why is Jesus accused of being out of his mind? Because he is healing, including casting out demons. Once again, like we saw in last week’s text, the people who should know the most have a problem distinguishing true good and evil from one another. The scribes are convinced that Jesus has an evil spirit, Beelzebul, that is actually behind his exorcisms.

Jesus’s story about a house divided is meant to show them that they’ve got the connection all wrong. Instead of showing that he is in cahoots with the evil powers, Jesus’s healing power and ability to cast out demons is a sign of his power over Satan. Satan is depicted as the owner of the house and Jesus comes like a thief, tying the evil one up and plundering—better yet, rescuing and releasing—those Satan thought he had secured for himself. Jesus makes himself out to be the devil’s greatest foe, not his ally. Jesus is the reason why Satan’s supposed rule over the earth is brought down. Jesus is the reason Satan’s end has come. Amen!

Even more offensive to Jesus, however, is that they call the Spirit at work in him unclean, blaspheming against the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, who is truly good, they call evil. The repercussions of the accusation are expansive. The same Spirit that was at work in Jesus Christ is present and at work in every Christian; will they (we) all be accused of having an unclean spirit and being on the side of the evil one when we do God’s good?

Jesus makes the point that a house divided cannot stand. Those who have the Holy Spirit are not part of the “House Satan.” They are part of the household of God, the true family of faith, citizens in the kingdom of heaven. What the scribes are seeing is not a house divided, but one being overthrown by the forces of good.

And yet, his family wants him to stop because people are saying… The words all ministry leaders cringe when they hear them. Again, Jesus’s family is on the outside and trying to get to him so that they can address their concerns about how his behaviour is being perceived by the likes of the religious leaders. By literally being on the outside of the house Jesus is in, they are imaging the message of Jesus’s parable. The crowd that has gathered around Jesus have come in faith and hope, not judgment and condemnation of who Jesus is showing himself to be as he does the will of God.

The crowd is well on their way to receiving the Holy Spirit and being able to do God’s will by sitting at Jesus’s feet as he teaches and heals. They are well on their way to following the Holy Spirit’s leading— after all, they have found their way to Jesus. The people in the crowd gathered around Jesus are more likely than Jesus’s own family and the religious leaders to build their lives upon the works of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their faith does not pose any threat to the Kingdom of God and shows their freedom from the evil one’s grasp.

Textual Point

This is a classic “Markan sandwich,” where two stories are purposefully intertwined. In this instance, addressing who makes up Jesus’s family is the “bread” of the sandwich, and the interaction with the Pharisees is the “meat.” On the opening verses, Jesus has come home and his family is looking for him, hoping to make him stop what he’s doing. In the middle, Jesus tells a story about a house divided. In the closing verses, Jesus connects the two: the true members of his household are those who do not stand in his way, but those who are obedient to the will of God.

Illustration Idea

At the Illinois Republican State Convention in June 1858, where he was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln opened his speech in this way: “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed- ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved– I do not expect the house to fall- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.” (The full speech is available here.)

Thankfully, we know that Jesus has proven Satan is no match; there is no way that the world will be handed over to the forces of evil. God has plundered Satan’s stolen treasure and rescued the world. “It will become all one thing”: our world belongs to God. May we not stand in the way or align ourselves with the forces of evil.


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