The character of Jesus' family. 3:20-35


This passage falls within the opening section of the gospel of Mark, paralleling the commencement of Jesus' ministry with the commencement of Israel's journey from Egypt to the promised land. In the sub-section 3:7-35, Mark defines the true Israel; Jesus' true family are not those of his flesh and blood, nor his religious or national community, but rather "whoever does God's will".

The passage

v20-21. Mark is the only gospel writer to record this rather sad incident. Jesus' family have concluded that "he has lost his mind". They feel he is psychologically unhinged, totally obsessed with his mission, and is now even failing to eat properly.

v22. It may well be that this visit from "the teachers of the law" was an official investigation of Jesus to determine whether he was dabbling in magic. As far as the Jewish authorities are concerned, Jesus hasn't just lost his grip, rather i] he is possessed by an unclean spirit and ii] he casts out demons in partnership with the prince of demons.

v23-26. Jesus responds by tackling the charge that he is working alongside Satan. This he does by the use of two short parables. His logic is simple. If this charge is correct, then Satan's kingdom is in turmoil, for he is assisting Jesus in the destruction of his own possessions. This is a rather stupid idea.

v27. As for the charge that Jesus is demon possessed, controlled by Beelzebul, Satan's business is to enslave through sin, a slavery evidenced in sickness, possession and death. Yet, this is exactly the type of bondage that Jesus is freeing people from. For Jesus to cast out demons requires him to overcome Satan, to defeat him. It is obvious that Jesus is possessed by something other than demonic power.

v28-30. Jesus now comes back at his accusers. He opens with an interesting phrase which literally means "Amen" and which we know well as "truly, truly I say unto you". It is a phrase most likely equivalent to "As I live, saith the Lord", and is therefore to be taken as a prophetic word from the living God. Jesus' word is a word of warning. These "teachers of the law" are placing themselves in a position of defiant hostility against God, and if they stay there they will end up no-hopers.

v31-32. Mark moves from the unbelief of religious Israel back to the unbelief of Jesus' own family. Jesus is again pressed in by the crowd and this time his family virtually orders him to come out to them.



v33-35. Jesus then sets out to define a family bond which is far greater than that of flesh and blood, a bond which may well, at times, supersede the responsibilities of a person's natural family. Jesus' family is made up of those who "do God's will." And what does God want us to do? First and foremost the living God wants us to turn and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Family matters

"She 'aint heavy mister, she's my sister."

We all know well the bond of family, friends, work, team and even that of national identity. These circles give us meaning and direction. We know how it is when those circles begin to break down due to age, distance, or disagreement. Yes indeed, we know the horror of loneliness.

Yet, Jesus reminds us of an authentic relationship which ultimately transcends all human association. It is a relationship with him and with those who relate to him. In the end, the relationships we possess as members of the kingdom of God pales all other associations.

To share in Christ's family, to share his new community, requires an act of obedience to God. This act begins with a recognition of who Jesus is. Jesus is the unbounded one, free from the constraints of this world, under the direction of no one other than his heavenly Father. He, the unbounded, is the one who does the binding, he binds the powers of darkness; even Satan cannot stand against him.

We can ignore Jesus, see him as deluded, or even corrupted, and find ourselves eternally unforgiven. To reject his offer of friendship, reject in the sense of set our face against Jesus and continue to do so, is to "blaspheme against the Holy Spirit". Such is the unforgivable sin, a sin never to be forgiven. Then again, we can turn and rest on him. When we put our trust in Jesus we enter his circle of friends, and that circle will be ours for eternity.

So there we have it, Jesus, the one who binds the powers of darkness, gathers us as family in the safety of his care.


1. Why did Jesus' family not think he was well?

2. Why did the Jewish authorities think Jesus was possessed?

3. What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

4. What must we do to become a brother and sister of Jesus?

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