Read, Mark and Learn – Day 8

Jesus is battling against everyone now–even his natural family. Jesus would have been brought up in a village which consisted of a large extended family. He comes back to his home  (we assume to Nazareth). He can’t even have a meal in peace because of the crowds, and his family members are embarrassed and try to take him away. They think he’s crazy. No doubt there was wild gossip going on. No doubt there was exaggeration and negative stories being told about him. He was being blamed for stirring up trouble and making wild claims for himself. “The Son of Man”??!! “Power to Forgive Sins”?? “The Lord of the Sabbath”?? No wonder they thought him crazy and they feared what would happen to him.

They’re worried because  because the Scribes have come all the way from Jerusalem to give judgement. They think he is demon possessed. His family think he is crazy. The crowds adore him, but do they really? They could turn on a dime and already the powers that be are gathering together against him.

Jesus answers their accusation that he is demon possessed with another smart reply. “Would a demon cast out a demon? No.” Then he piles up imagery. A kingdom divided will fall. A house divided will fall. Satan cannot rise up against Satan. Then Jesus attacks the Scribes with the very accusation they hold against him. They think he is a blasphemer. He accuses them not only of blasphemy, but the unforgivable sin. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to assign to Satan what is done by God.

The person who will not be forgiven is the one who is guilty of the unforgivable sin. Think about it. God will forgive all sin, but if a person does not think he needs to be forgiven, then he cannot be forgiven. Jesus points out the Scribes and Pharisees self righteousness. This self righteousness keeps them from repentance and keeps them from seeing that they need forgiveness, therefore they will remain unforgiven and damned. The sign of their hardness of heart is that they assign what is done by the power of God to Satan.

By extension Jesus is saying, “If you say that what I do is of Satan, then you reject me and if you reject me you cannot be forgiven because I am the source of forgiveness.” Whoa! Where is “gentle Jesus meek and mild”? Jesus is strongly on the attack here and wades into battle against the Scribes. He does so because religious self righteousness and an unrepentant heart is the worst kind of sin. Pride cannot be forgiven because the proud cannot see that they are proud. The proud think they are just fine as they are and cannot see their sin. Even Christ the Lord attacking them only makes them more stubborn, more hard hearted and more full of pride.

Once again Jesus speaks bluntly. There is no softness to his language. He calls them out and names their problem, and they are not happy. He’s just accused them of being on Satan’s side.

The other thing going on in this passage about kingdoms and houses being divided is that Jesus’ own family is divided against him. Some of his relatives believe he is crazy and want to take him away–presumably to lock him up. They don’t want trouble. The big guns from Jerusalem have come to their village and Jesus is stirring up trouble. Jesus words about a house being divided against itself are also directed to his relatives. He  will say later that he has not come to bring peace but a sword and that he will divide family members from each other.

We see it in this passage happening to Jesus. To follow his heavenly Father he must cut his ties to his earthly family. He must please God rather than family.

Then another group of his family members come to see him: his mother and his brothers and sisters. The brothers and sisters of Jesus are most likely half brothers and sisters–children of Joseph by an earlier marriage. Scholars also suppose that they could simply be other members of his extended family in Nazareth. The words “brother” and “sister” are used for all extended family members in Greek, and there are no specific terms for half brothers or cousins.

In any case, Mary and Jesus’ kinsmen also come to see him. One assumes that they are also worried for him, but they are taking a gentler approach–not thinking that he is crazy and wanting to lock him up, but wanting to see him out of concern for his welfare. Was Mary confused about what was going on? Probably. Remember she did not have complete knowledge of how her Son was going live out his destiny of being the Son of David. He did seem to be acting in a rash way. Were the rumors true about him? Was he insane? Was he a rabble rouser? What if the religious authorities were right and he was demon possessed? What was going to happen to her son? Such thoughts and fears must have gone through her mind.

When his family appears Jesus says that those who are with him and seeking to do God’s will are his brothers and sisters and mother. Is this a rebuke of Mary and his siblings? Not necessarily. He is not rejecting Mary and his siblings as much as including those who are his followers into the greater family of God he is establishing. He may very well have pointed to Mary as one who was doing God’s will and then included those sitting in the circle with her and his siblings saying, if you like, “Be like her. Do God’s will.”

On Monday we begin a new section of the gospel. This concludes the Galilean ministry of Jesus and next we enter a section devoted to his teaching and storytelling.