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Mark VIII: Apostles and Blasphemers - Mark 3:7-35

Jesus is the ultimate polarizing figure. In Mark 3, demons recognize Jesus as the Son of God, but the scribes from Jerusalem claim that He’s working for the prince of demons. And not only do you have to make a decision about His identity; following Jesus might cause you to rethink everything you know about your own. In Mark 3, Jesus redefines two of the most fundamental realities of Jewish life by establishing a new Israel and a new family. Jesus’ new Israel supersedes the tribes of Jacob’s twelve sons with those who follow Jesus and His twelve apostles, and in place of His biological relations, Jesus identifies His family as those who honor His heavenly Father.

Knowing who Jesus is changes who you are. It makes you a different person by redefining your parentage and family and social history. This is a big part of what it means to be born again, re-generated. This is why we need to know who Jesus is first: being found in Him might cause us to lose everything else. If He’s out of His mind, then don’t join His new Israel. If He has a demon, don’t become part of His family!

The scribes who come down from Jerusalem to encounter Jesus need to explain His popularity, His miracles, and His message. They can’t ignore Him or dismiss Him, because He’s made too much of an impact. In fact, they cannot account for Jesus without resorting to the supernatural. But their claim is that He has an unclean spirit, and that His ministry is demonic.

Jesus responds to them just like He responded to the local scribes – He exposes their folly with a parable, and points to the true explanation of His ministry. If Satan is punching himself in the face, why would they come all the way across the country to stop that? If they really believe what they are saying, then they are opposing someone who is tearing Satan’s kingdom apart! Whose side are they on?

But then Jesus does something more than He did with the local scribes and Pharisees. He drops the parables and uses straightforward language to deliver one of the most terrifying warnings in all of Scripture. Mark 3:28-30 deal with what has been called “the Unforgivable Sin”, the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit by ascribing His work to the Devil. Jesus says that if your considered opinion of His ministry is that He is serving Satan, then you will never be forgiven.

Now, Jesus is not referring to individuals who temporarily come to a mistaken conclusion – Saul the Pharisee got Jesus wildly wrong, but later repented and was forgiven. What makes the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit eternal and unforgiveable is the nature of the Spirit’s work. If you think of sin as sickness, and the Spirit’s work as providing the medicine, then you can see how being sick is not the problem; what makes your condition incurable is the choice to reject the only cure. If you ascribe Jesus’ Spirit-filled ministry to the Devil, you are rejecting the very ministry that leads to forgiveness and life.

But for those of you who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and who have been given life by the Spirit, I want you to examine yourselves in light of this gospel word. Who are you? What drives your life? Are you American? Middle class? White? Black? Male? Female? Democrat? Republican? Or are you an Apostolic Christian? There isn’t always constant conflict between these competing identities, but there is always tension. Following Jesus means that these other aspects of your identity have to bow to Him as Lord.

So who is your family? What does it mean to honor God the Father and the Church your Mother even more than your own flesh and blood parents? Praise God when your biological family is also part of God’s family, but don’t be surprised when you have to make difficult decisions about money, church attendance, and lifestyle that may alienate your relatives. What makes these decisions easier is hearing Jesus say that by doing His Father’s will, you become part of His family.

These questions about your identity are important, but they can only be answered if you have first heard what the gospel says about Jesus. Is He out of His mind? Is He demon-possessed? Or is He the Son of God? Since Jesus is the Son of God, then you know what you need to do. You need to submit your identity to Him, and allow Him to remake you in His image as a Christian, a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and as a member of God’s family.

Everything about you, everything that makes you who you are, needs to be submitted to the will of God, to His kingdom purposes. That’s what it means to follow Jesus as His disciple. And when you do that, Jesus gives you the power to overcome sin and Satan in His name. So may God strengthen us to listen to Jesus and to do His will.

Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 by CJ Bowen