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Sermon 06/06 Confrontation: Impossible?

Mark 3:20-35

Who here likes confrontation? Who here has confronted a person, a person they love no less, about their sin? Who here has told another person in no uncertain terms that if they continue to live life as they currently are, they will not be forgiven by God and instead stand guilty when they are judged?

I do not think it is that we lack belief in these things, but more that we find it difficult to talk to other about them because it makes us look like judgmental jerks, especially to those not born again. We only confront people because we truly love them and want all to know the love of Jesus and be saved just as we are and we want everyone to glorify God.

Jesus, of course, did not fear confronting people. He confronted people with the truth in love even if He knew such a conversation would go badly, even if only from the other person’s point of view.

A few days before our account out of the Book of Mark begins, Jesus had taught a large group. He also healed their diseases and cast demon out of them. But the crowd grew so massive that it threatened to crush Him so that Jesus had to get into a boat. 

Sometime after that Jesus went up on a mountain and called twelve of His followers and appointed them to go out and preach and to have power over the demons. [Mark 3:1-19] 

Then He went home, but the vast crowd of people found Him again. They pressed on Him and overwhelmed Him with their requests to the point that He couldn’t even eat. That was challenging enough, but then His human family came to Him and everything fell apart because when His family found Him they accused Him of being insane and tried to take Him away by force.

And here we must take a step back because there’s some detailed work ahead of us. If you read various translation of this verse you’ll see that not all them say “family,” some say it His friends.

Who then were these people? If it was Jesus’ family, which ones were they? Soon after this interaction, Jesus specifically speaks about His mother and brothers, so it could be that it was His family that were saying Jesus was out of His mind.

That His brothers did not believe in Him is not shocking because it is directly stated in John 7:5. But what about His mother? Could it be that Mary, Jesus’ own mother, did not always understand just who her son truly was? That would not seem to line up what we normally think about her. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that assuming Mary was among those confronting Jesus is wrong, it could be that our assumptions about her are wrong. 

However, it could also be that the people saying Jesus was out of His mind were not His family but those close to Him, His friends. Being dishonored by those close to Him is something that would happen to Him on more than one occasions. For example, Jesus once said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” [John 6:52] That so offended some of the people that were with Jesus [John 3:61] so that many of them left Him. [John 3:66]

While what the people confronting Jesus said was undoubtedly wrong, it was, at least on some level, understandable because this all happened near the beginning of Jesus ministry. Jesus had indeed healed many by this point [Mark 1:32] which no doubt would have been wonderful for those around Him to hear about, but Jesus was also making some outrageous claims such as, “The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” [Mark 2:28] 

Jesus was doing and saying things that they had not likely ever seen Him do in thirty years prior to His very public earthly ministry so they were confused. Perhaps Jesus’ family was afraid of what others would think about them if Jesus continued to act in such a defiant manner. Even so, Mary knew without a doubt her son was not a normal son and was destined to wonderous things due to visitation of the angel Gabriel. 

In that sense, by saying that Jesus was out of His mind they have not been saying that He was insane as though He was a raving lunatic, but that He was being carried away with zeal. On the particular day they met Him, they may have seen He wasn’t even eating. His entire life was being consumed with teaching and performing miracles and those things were guaranteed to bring Him terrible harm. Maybe Jesus’ accusers in this case were doing what they thought was the most loving thing because to them it might have looked like He wasn’t taking care of Himself.

What happened to Jesus can gives insight into our lives. Living a life for Jesus will inevitably bring us into conflict with at least some of the loved ones. When that happens, we can do as Jesus did, answer their objections with logic and love. Much like Peter said in his letter, “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” [1 Peter 3:15]

The religious leaders, however, were never really on Jesus’ side and had no love for Him at all. They tried to trap Him logical arguments multiple times, but always failed. But that did not stop them from opposing Him. When they learned Jesus was in His hometown, they sent an official delegation all the way from Jerusalem. What these scribes said meant a great deal because they were truly learned in God’s laws. 

This time, though, they did something worse than merely arguing against Him. They accused Him of being in a league with the Beelzebub, even of being controlled by him. They did not appear to be content with accusing him of being demonized by any mere demon, but the worst among that kind, their prince or king, the evilest being in existence, for Beelzebub is another name for Satan.

As we know this attack on Jesus’ character would also fail, but it was another step in their plan to bring Jesus’ influence to an end. First, they tried to discredit Him and when that didn’t work even they tried multiple times, they killed Him, but that too would not just fail, but bring about God’s plan for the salvation of all people.

While what the scribes said was clearly shows the gravest contempt, hidden in their accusation is an admission of Jesus’ power. Even His enemies saw that Jesus had total power over demons. They did not accuse Jesus of failing to rescue people form the power of Satan, only how He did it.

It wasn’t as if casting out demons was easy. Sometimes His disciples failed to do it. [Mark :18] There was also a time people who were not believers in Jesus tried to use His name to cast out demons but ended up being stripped naked and beaten. [Acts 19:13-16]

Jesus refuted the scribes claim with logic. He said Satan would never act against himself because that would doom his reign because it would mean Satan was helping Jesus defeat Satan himself. A demonic civil war if you will. Though Satan is irredeemably evil, he is no fool. As it says in Genesis, “The serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” [Gen 3:1]

It almost seems as if Jesus being ironic, like He’s making a joke, in that He says what the scribes were saying was impossible because it would bring Satan’s kingdom to an end as though such a thing could never happen, even though Jesus was going to bring it to end Himself in the very near future. As it says in Hebrews 2:14, “Through death Jesus might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…”

Then Jesus teaches about a strong man’s home. He said it is impossible to rob such a home until that man was tied up. Being a parable, it takes a little meditating to be able to gain a full understanding. Who is the strong man? If we follow the logic of what Jesus was saying seems as if the strong man represents who He was just talking about, Satan. 

What He meant was that if Satan truly had control over a person no other evil force could take the person form him because Satan is the most powerful evil force. But Jesus was infinitely more powerful than Satan. That supposed strong man Satan was less than an infant to Jesus. Also, Jesus was showing us that He was taking back Satan’s territory one person at a time. No one had to remain under Satan’s power anymore because Jesus would rescue anyone who wanted freedom.

As Jesus would soon go on to say in Matthew’s account of this incident [Matt 12:43-45] it does no good to rid a person of demon unless that person receives the Holy Spirit because the spirit will return with even more evil demons.

Jesus then goes on to talk about one of the more confusing topics in the Bible, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin…”

Could it be that Jesus means exactly what He is saying? Is there something that we can do that will make it forever impossible to be saved?

Right away it is likely we want to say. “No, of course not!” And not without reason. We have verses like, 1 John 1:7, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” And Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But then again, we have some troubling verses. Ones like Hebrews 6:4-6 which, in part, says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened… and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

So, as we explore this we need to try to take the truth out of Scripture, not impose our worldview on it no matter where it leads us. After all, the truth is the truth. We have already seen this in this account when I talked about the people who said Jesus was out His mind. If we assume Mary was sinless like some Christians do then we decide before we even study the account. Likewise, if we assume people can or cannot become unsaved after being saved before reading this part of what Jesus said we might miss the truth Jesus was trying to teach.

Jesus brought up some possibly confusing points in this teaching. He said that other blasphemies would be forgiven. That is, it seems like Jesus is saying that people can be forgiven for speaking evil against anyone else. He proved this to be true by what He said while hanging on the cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34] It looks like Jesus can forgive people for murdering Him but insulting the Holy Spirit is somehow too terrible. Why?

To begin with, the people blaspheming the Holy Spirit were literally saying God was the worst evil because they were saying the Holy Spirit was the spirit of Satan. 

Jesus performed His miracles at least in part though the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came unto Jesus at His baptism [Mark 1:10] after which “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee…” [Luke 4:14] At the beginning of His ministry Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” [Luke 4:18] Even Jesus greatest work was done by the Spirit, “Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God…” [Heb 9:14] Jesus was even raised from the dead by the Spirit. [Rom 8:11] His accusers were saying all that goodness, love and grace was the result of an evil power.

It might help to consider what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus said the Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” [John 16:8] So perhaps we can bring it all together by saying blaspheming the Holy Spirit means rejecting the conviction it brings, refusing to admit you sinned against God and need a savior, thinking that you could do enough good works to earn righteousness, denying God’s judgment is just. As it is written in Ephesians 4:30, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” 

If that is true then it makes sense blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven because it rejects the only way people can be saved, by the grace of Jesus without works of any kind. It shows contempt for the forgiveness God won for us on the cross. Like it says in John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” 

Such a judgment is indeed terrible because it results in damnation, however, it is not a judgment that must remain forever because as soon as person confesses Jesus with their mouth and believes that God raise Him from the dead they will be saved because they are no longer blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Spirit is living in them.

By this understanding Jesus was treating those accusing Him of the worst evil with the greatest love. He was warning them that if they continued to reject Him and the Spirit their destination was worse than they ever could have conceived. He was trying to draw them to Him and save them even given their unrelenting hatred of Him.

Perhaps there is a lesson for un in this. We are to carry the Gospel to everyone, even those that those the openly reject it. If they reject, like it seems the people talking to Jesus did, we have done what Jesus told us to do and that is all we can do.

I have heard people struggle over this verse in that they are afraid that they have committed the unpardonable sin and thus can never be forgiven. On one hand this is not necessarily a bad question to ask. We should take our relationship with Jesus seriously. Like Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

But on the other hand, and far more importantly, this teaching of Jesus was never intended to torment believers. No one should ever doubt their salvation if they put their faith in Jesus as the Holy Bible reveals. As the prophet Joel said, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [Joel 2:32]

Really this should the point of all confrontations, salvation. We know that that Jesus has already overcome the world [John 16:33] so salvation is possible, and free, to all. Satan, the so-called strong man, is nothing to Jesus. Jesus will save all that come to Him and Satan cannot do anything about it.

The Holy Spirit is with ever everyone graciously awaiting the moment of conviction that will result in people asking Jesus to forgive them and then being born again. We have been blessed to a have a part in that for we have the honor to bring the Gospel to others.

And so my beloved I leave you with this: We forgiven because Jesus is victorious. 

Lord's Prayer