The Family of the Servant King – Mark 3:20-35
Maybe in high school or junior high, you had to read William Golding’s 1954 dystopian novel The Lord of the Flies. Or maybe you’ve seen the movie (not to be confused with the “Rings,” of course). The story is about a bunch of British schoolboys who get shipwrecked on an island, left to survive on their own. Very rapidly, the nice boys degenerate into anarchy as they vie for power, hunt one another down and even kill each other. Throughout, they kind of wish grown-ups were there to help them because they are better than this. Right?
In the end, they are rescued by a soldier, but the book ends with the soldier taking them back to civilization, but he himself is only there because he is in a war, hunting people down and killing them the same way. Golding was asked about the theme of his book and he says, “The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature…The whole book is symbolic in nature except the rescue in the end where adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island. The officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser?” Golding describes Ralph, the young protagonist who barely survives this way at the end, “”Ralph wept for the end of innocence [and] the darkness of man’s heart….”
Golding provides no answer to Ralph’s sorrow. Left to ourselves, all we have is darkness and cynicism. We are savages who kill each other. We are all stuck in the same pit. We have delusions that we can control everything. But we’re stuck. As we saw this past week, death comes out of the blue, sometimes. We have tough marriages. We have family who make life difficult. Our self-centeredness destroys us and our relationships. We have fear about our futures. We live in anxiety over our finances.
We understand Ralph’s tears. We are not enough for ourselves contrary to what self-help books and Oprah will tell you. We need help from the outside. We need a Savior not just to teach us, but to rescue us from our darkness. We need a King stronger than our darkness in us.
We are back in the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. We jumped ahead to invest some weeks in the final week of Jesus and now we go back and study the person of Christ again. This series is called “The Servant King.” Usually those two words don’t go together, but in Christianity is an upside-down religion. The way up is always down and it always goes back to who Jesus is.
Back in Mark 3, people are trying to figure out the identity of this Servant King who has shown up. We will see today and as we study this Gospel, as King, He has authority, authority over sickness, authority over nature, authority over demonic realm, authority over tradition and even religion, etc. Yet He is a Servant…there is much tenderness, grace and love toward the “wrong” people—like the outcasts, marginalized and the nobodies of His day, loving them to even bring them into His family. He sets them free from being orphans in society.
The Servant King has come as light in our darkness. One who is powerful and Kingly enough to dispel our darkness, banish our cynicism, deliver us and yet tender and servant-hearted enough not to banish us and destroy us at the same time because of our sin. Let’s look at how He does this today: First:
- The Servant King delivers us from Satan’s domain (vv.22-30)
Jesus is getting so popular that highly trained legal specialists sent out from Jerusalem are sent to investigate Jesus. Before in Mark they just asked questions like, “Why does this fellow talk like that?” (Mk. 2:7), but now they come looking for a fight. They claim that Jesus is demon-possessed.
Note that “they do not deny Jesus’ power to perform miracles, nor do they accuse him of being an imposter.” They’re saying that the source of His power is actually from “Beelzebul” or “Beelzebub” (KJV), the latter, which means, “lord of the flies.” By Jesus’ day this…name was used for the prince of darkness—Satan. The best suggested meaning [is] …“Baal’s abode or dynasty.” In other words, Jesus is working under Satan the prince as his subordinate by casting out demons.
It is interesting that Golding uses this phrase as the title of the book and also of a pig’s head on a stick with flies around it, representing savagery and death, perhaps insinuating that it is like the devil, who works to promote evil and darkness among humankind.
In verses 23-27, Jesus refutes them with a parable, or a brief illustrative comparison, an earthly story that illustrates a heavenly meaning and then in verses 28-30 he warns them. First he refutes them by basically saying, “Satan can’t cast out Satan.” Jesus is casting out demons from people, but instead of casting them out, shouldn’t he, if he was an instrument of Satan, be destroying people with satanic influence instead of delivering them from satanic influence? You can’t win a basketball game if you keep making shots for the other team in their basket. Pure logic.“Look, a general never wins a battle by attacking his own soldiers, and so Satan is not doing that here.”
If Satan were battling himself, his kingdom would be crumbling. A civil war in any country is bad news just as a family that is not unified. But if Satan is fighting against himself and delivering the very people he demonized, we should be seeing the end of demon-possession and he is powerless. But we haven’t and so clearly that is not what is happening here.
Jesus basically says in v.27, “But let me tell you what exactly is happening.” Kent Hughes explains, “The ‘strong man’ is Satan, his ‘house’ is the kingdom which he dominates here on earth [through darkness, disease, death and bondage]. His ‘possessions’ are the helpless victims whom he holds in bondage through his demons. Only one who is stronger than Satan can free the victims, and this is what Jesus has done—entering Satan’s house, binding him, and loosing the hapless captive souls.
Jesus is not Satan’s ally, but his adversary. He comes not as a subordinate, but as the Strong one. Not as worker under the prince of demons, but as the King of the Universe. Commentator James Edwards says, “The mission of Jesus is not fulfilled in compromise or coexistence, but in invading and conquering.” What is happening is not the result of a civil war within Satan’s ranks but a direct onslaught from outside. He defeated Satan in the wilderness and will defeat Him at the cross and finally one day forever, at the end (Rev. 20:10).
Then in case they were not still not getting it, he says, “Truly, I say to you” in v.28. This is the first time we see this in the Gospel of Mark. In the OT, whenever a prophet spoke he would say, “Thus says the Lord.” Here Jesus says, “Truly, you heard it right, I SAY to you.” In other words, “I am not just a teacher or a miracle worker speaking from authority, I am God and I am speaking with and out of my own authority.” If you want to experience my kingly power in your life, you must come under my authority. I’m not your secretary to get you what you want. I’m your King. With these allusions, Jesus is saying, “I have come to further God’s kingdom; expand God’s family; and defeat God’s chief enemy.”
Since we are out making judgments, let me tell you something scribes, from the true Judge. He gives them a chilling warning. In vv. 28-30 we have what is often called, “The Doctrine of the Unforgivable Sin.” What if I committed it? How do I know? I don’t think it’s taking the name of the Lord in vain or cursing out the Spirit.
Note in v.30 the word “for.” This is cause and reminds us to look at the context. The scribes see the work of the Spirit and call it the work of Satan and Jesus says, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness.” This is after saying, “All sins will be forgiven the children of men and whatever blasphemies they utter.”
What “a magnificent assertion of the wideness of God’s forgiving mercy. It is not an assertion of universal forgiveness but a declaration that all classes and kinds of sins may be forgiven.” But all sins and blasphemies except this one.
In the Gospel of Mark and in Scripture, for someone to know Christ and experience forgiveness, they must repent, they must turn 180 degrees from their sin toward Christ and follow Him by grace. Look at Mark 1:4, 14-15, 4:12. So when Jesus says in v.28 “All sins will be forgiven the sons of men and whatever blasphemies they utter,” he means, all sins and blasphemies from which you genuinely repent.
The Spirit of God’s job is to bring a person to Jesus. He is like the best man at a wedding whose job is to make the groom look good and point everyone to the groom. His job is to convict us of our sin and point out other lovers of our heart and then as we repent and turn from them, we see the beauty of our Bridegroom and we embrace Him. The Holy Spirit’s job is to get you to say, without hopelessness, self-recrimination, anger, and blame shifting, “I was wrong.”
The Holy Spirit is constantly sending you instant messages, just like on your devices. It is like He keeps sending instant messages and it pops up but if you keep saying, “I don’t know who that is, but I’m busy. Ignore.” Anytime you are convicted of sin, you sense you need God, you miss God, your heart is being stirred, that’s Him knocking on the door of your heart and we are called to respond.
All of us have ignored Him at times. However, when you decide in your heart to turn away consistently from that call of the Spirit and harden your heart, you become unforgivable, why? Because you are unrepentable. You don’t seek repentance. One commentator says, “There is no forgiveness here because such an attitude is incapable of seeking it.” Pastor Kent Hughes defines it this way, “the ongoing, continual rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit to the Divinity and Saviorhood of Christ.”
What Jesus is really saying here is with repentance anything can be healed; without repentance nothing can be healed. The way to come under the Kingly power of Christ is through repentance. But you can be so hardened and blinded that you make your heart repentance-proof as if it is repentance-proof, you cannot receive forgiveness and if you cannot receive forgiveness, you are guilty forever and under the wrath of God.
Wow! If you are anxious right now and worried if you committed this, that’s great! C.B. Cranfield in this commentary notes, “…anyone who is overwhelmed by the fear that he has committed this sin, that the fact that he is so troubled is itself a sure proof that he has not committed it.” The very fact that you are bothered shows the Spirit living inside you.
I don’t think you can commit this if you are a true believer. If you do, then you were never a true believer because you cannot lose your salvation. However, I think there are a lot of churchy people, faithful in their membership, been baptized, attending small group and even be in church leadership who have seen the Spirit of God save people and never truly been converted. These think they are saved because they are moral and overall “nice.” But nice doesn’t mean saved. Lots of nice sinners are on their way to hell.
Notice this warning is not to the prostitute. Edwards says, “Sinners and tax collectors are less likely to commit this sin than are the learned, religious, and moral. In this respect, wickedness poses a lesser problem to the grace of God than do pride and self-righteousness.” It is to the religious leaders, the so-called “nice people.” They are moral, but they are dead. There is no intimacy, there is no conviction and repentance and there is no life. You are empty. I am not talking about once in a while, but this is normal and consistent way of life. This is a warning to those in churches not converted. Some applications:
Differentiate between the voice of Satan and the Holy Spirit. Here we see Jesus not denying the existence of Satan. Satan is strong, but Jesus is stronger. The Spirit of God never leaves the believer, but like a wounded lover, He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30). You grieve only because you love. He wants to show us that we are loved by God. But we don’t fight just against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of the air right? (Eph.6:12). So note these different ways the Spirit works and Satan works:
- The Spirit of God is a Spirit of hope. Satan brings despair. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Rom.15:11).
- The Spirit is clear and specific about our sin. Satan is vague and general.
- The Spirit kindly convicts of unconfessed sin. Satan condemns and accuses of confessed sin.
- The Spirit of God brings up one thing at a time. Satan brings up many issues at once.
Grow in repenting faster. It’s never how far we drift, but how quickly we return. The best time to respond to God in repentance is the moment we’re convicted of sin. If we delay and resist His Spirit, it gets harder and harder to humble ourselves and repent.
Think of the last dispute or argument you had with someone. I know wives, it is 99.9% the husband’s problem (and you are probably right) and the husbands have a slightly different math in their heads, but whatever the percentage, take that you know you’ve contributed, and without anger, blame shifting, hopelessness, self-pity, etc. and all of that, really just take responsibility and say, “I have contributed this to this problem. I am really sorry.” Wait until you see; all the knots will start to untie. There is power in repentance. I know you want the other person to pay for hurting you. But doing that only hurts yourself. Anything can be solved with repentance. Nothing can be solved without it. Lastly,
- The Servant King places us in His new family (vv.20-21, 31-35)
Note in vv.20-21 and vv.31-35, that this whole interaction with the scribes about Satan and the Holy Spirit is sandwiched between the idea of family. Jesus is home in v.20, most likely back in Capernaum, where His base of ministry was.
There is a large crowd and it seems like Jesus and the disciples are so busy, that they do not even have time to eat (Mark 6:31). And I can see Mary causing a big fuss like any mom whose love language and heart motive is “feed you.” But Jesus’ family is causing him problems, trying to “seize,” meaning, “to seize forcibly” (v.21) and control Him and take Him back to Nazareth. We are not sure exactly why. Here they seem to think He’s crazy. Perhaps they were worried about the growing suspicion from the religious authorities making their reputation in jeopardy?
It seems like Mark is saying Jesus has come to bind the Enemy and deliver them, but He Himself will not be controlled by anyone. But it also shows us that only were the religious leaders opposing Him, but He had His own family oppose Him as well. But if your family doesn’t appreciate you, have misunderstood you, want to control you, think you’re crazy as you are following Jesus? Take heart. Jesus faced the same thing in His family!
Note here that Jesus is redefining identity here. In that day, the family was the basis of social and economic life and the source of one’s identity.  Family meant everything. You lived for your family and to make their name great. But now Jesus is saying, I am not here to destroy your earthly family ties, but to demote it.
He is not saying don’t value them or to ignore them, but they are not #1 anymore and sometimes you might even have to lose those relationships because they refuse to be #2. He is exposing the idolatry that families can have and calling here, if I can use an Augustinian phrase, a “reordering of our loves.” We should not neglect our family. We should care for them. We should share the Gospel with them. We should provide for our family. But they should not be our identity, whether nuclear or extended. Are we still finding our identity through our earthly family, tied to their endless obligations and demands, controlled by what they think of us? Some of us live like our identity is, “The disappointing son/daughter of so-and-so” because we have not lived up our parent’s expectations. You are not your parents’ failed expectations. Jesus says, you are now identified as a child of the King. I was the child who perfectly performed and was accepted
Edwards observes that, “Twice we are told that Jesus’ mother and brothers are outside (vv. 31 and 32) and that the crowd is on the inside with Jesus. That is ironic since households normally have family members on the inside and crowds on the outside. But here the order is reversed: Jesus’ family is outside ‘calling’…him. Elsewhere in Mark Jesus is the subject of the verb ‘to call’ (1:20; 2:17), but here his family is attempting to assert a claim on him. They are also ‘looking for’ him.” Note also that Joseph must have died at this point. In addition, note also that Mary was not a perpetual virgin as some claim. She had other children (v.31).
Here they want to control him and demand He oblige to the priority of family. Blood relationships cannot claim privilege just because they are blood related. But Christ has come to redefine family. Those who assume that they are close to Jesus should think again; those who assume that they are far from him should take hope. Jesus’ new family are those “who sit around Him” (v.34) Edwards masterfully concludes, “There are only two kinds of people: those who sit on the inside at Jesus’ feet and those who stand on the outside with false assumptions.”
It is fascinating to me that Jesus not only says here that He delivers people out of the Kingdom of darkness, He puts all those individuals together, all saved by the same grace, all loved by the same Savior, all covered in the same foreign righteousness and into one family. Jesus has come to save us from sin, but also save us from our solitude and individualism. I have seen this over and over again. People do not prioritize community and they end fall apart. Nowadays they think facebook and texting is enough, but we are built for community.
You cannot know and grow in Jesus by yourself. Where do you get courage? It is through community. Where do you find help, comfort, accountability, encouragement, rebuke, hope distributed throughout your heart when it is doubting and fearful? Sure, maybe by a quiet time here and there, but God works primarily through community. One author says, [God] never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many. When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries, when we mix, mingle, confess and pray, Christ speaks.”
There is place in Chronicles of Narnia where Aslan gets resurrected from the dead, and says to Lucy and Susan, “We have a long journey to go. You have to ride one me.” Then Lucy and Susan, very different characters who don’t seem like the best of friends, get on his back and Lucy is tightly holding on to Susan. I love that image. That’s the church, the new family, needing to hold on to each other and they hold on to Christ, but carried “on His back” under His resurrected power!
One of the things I am so thankful for is that God saved my family and then brought several other families unrelated to us as our new family. We became closer to them than our own blood relatives. We had “new blood” relatives, under His blood. And now all of you, as we sit around Jesus, I do seriously see you as family. I am thankful my sister and family are here, but you all know us so much better than all of my earthly family and I am thankful! But there is a cost. Sometimes in order to prioritize the heavenly family, we had to make decisions where it seemed like our earthly family thought we devalued them.
Have we embraced our new blood family? (sounds like a vampire term). Jesus says, embrace the new family I have placed you in. Demote all others. That’s where our priority must be, at His feet.
The King doesn’t ask you to count the cost to be delivered from Satan’s domain and placed in His family, without showing you the cost He paid as well. How did Jesus bind the strong man and deliver us? He willingly became the weak man. There’s the ultimate strength, when the Lord of the universe is strong enough to be weak in order to pay the penalty for our sins so someday he can destroy evil without destroying us. The One who would not be bound by anyone, willingly gets bound and sent to the cross. It looked like He was getting plundered, stripped and left weak. He was pinned down so we could fly free into His arms, delivered from the bondage of Satan.
In doing so, He also did something wonderful for us. Tim Lane says, “The shattered relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the cross provides the basis for our reconciliation. No other relationship ever suffered more than what Father, Son, and Holy Spirit endured when Jesus hung on the cross and cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27: 46). Jesus was willing to be the rejected Son so that our families would know reconciliation. Jesus was willing to become the forsaken friend so that we could have loving friendships. Jesus was willing to be the rejected Lord so that we could live in loving submission to one another. Jesus was willing to be the forsaken brother so that we could have godly relationships. Jesus was willing to be the crucified King so that our communities would experience peace.”
Some of us never got chosen for anything! I was thinking about that in own life. Growing up, during recess, I would never get picked for teams. I was always the last kid to get picked, yet the Gospel tells me God chooses me, loves me and has adopted me into His family. It reminded of a short story I once heard from my professor in seminary, written by Mary Ann Bird called “The Whisper Test:
I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech.
When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me. There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored — Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy — a sparkling lady.
Annually we had a hearing test. Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back–things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.” Love whispers, “I choose you.” Despite our misshapen spirits, crooked hearts and lopsided souls, God, before we were born, before there was time, God picked us and it is the voice of the Holy Spirit that whispers in our heart our identity as a child of God.
Jesus set us free but not to be independent. He lost family, so we could have it. It was through that humility for us, that weakness, He was exalted. Knowing He did that in love for us, we can repent as a family in Christ. The path to strength is through the door of weakness called repentance. As we repent, we see that He has not only forgiven us and delivered us, but allowed us to be part of the biggest family in the Universe. This is the Gospel. Let’s believe it!
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