“He’s crazy!” She’s nuts!” We most likely have said something similar about others at one time or another. I remember attending a triathlon that Claire’s brother and sister were participating in and it was at a point where some of the athletes were staggering across the finish line after having swum a half mile, biked 17 miles and now were just finishing up the 5 mile run. Many were wobbly-legged and some were looking awful as they collapsed at the finish line. Our sister-in-law looked at them, then turned to us and said, “What is wrong with these people??!” And I had to kind of agree with her. They were doing something I couldn’t understand doing nor could I understand their desire to do it. They were crazy!... In my humble opinion.
In the passage that we look at today, there were some who looked at Jesus and said that he was crazy! They couldn’t understand why he was doing the things he was doing and they couldn’t understand how he could keep doing it. Some even went so far as to say that he was demon possessed! All because they didn’t understand who Jesus really was. Do we understand who Jesus is? Do we understand why he did the things he did? Jesus came to this earth to defeat the powers of sin and Satan and that is what he is doing here. To some it may seem crazy that Jesus would leave heaven and all the glories of heaven to do what he did. Jesus did this because he loves us and wants to save us. Let’s read Mark 3:20-30.
Jesus now he enters a house, but once again crowds were pressing around him. The home Jesus returned to may have been the one owned by Peter and Andrew in Capernaum and seems to have been a “home base” for them while in the region of Galilee. The crowd’s demands for healing are so great and the crowds themselves so great that there wasn’t even time for Jesus and his disciples to eat. It’s something that is hard to imagine and the scene must have been amazing! I thought of a hospital emergency room which is overwhelmed to the point where the needs are so great there isn’t time to eat or rest. I can imagine the hospitals in Nice, France being like that after that awful terrorist attack a few weeks ago. There were so many injured and so many needing help.
Evidently Jesus’ family heard that Jesus was not caring properly for his own needs. Mothers are like that, right? We can all imagine a mother saying, “Are you eating enough? Are you getting enough sleep? I am worried about you!” And so Jesus’ family came presumably from Nazareth likely with the intention of bringing him back home because Jesus clearly couldn’t handle what was going on. In fact, they believed that Jesus “had lost his mind.” It probably wasn’t just that Jesus wasn’t eating or getting enough rest. They had also heard that he had made some hints that he was a messianic figure. Their conclusion is that Jesus was suffering from delusions of grandeur and it was time for him to come home. But they weren’t alone in questioning the sanity of Jesus.
We saw before that the scribes had come from Jerusalem to check out this new teacher. The scribes know that Jesus has a considerable following and that he possesses the power to expel demons. It is possible that they were concerned that Capernaum was becoming what was known as a “seduced city,” the victim of a false preacher. This would require a thorough investigation by an official envoy of these experts in order to determine the extent of the defection and to correct the heresy. Their conclusion as well is that he is mad, but they think it is because he is possessed by Beelzebub. The name “Beelzebub” occurs in no other Jewish writing and so it may have been a temporary description for a demon-prince. They believe that Jesus is mad because he is under the control of an evil spirit.
II. In response, Jesus gives a very rational answer.
Jesus begins by stating some rather pithy proverbial sayings in verses 23-24. He begins by asking a very insightful question: “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Notice that Jesus substitutes Satan for Beelzebub in his response. He does that intentionally to make it clear that his mission is to confront and defeat Satan, not just some underling demon princes. Jesus is saying to the Scribes, “If what you say is true, then Satan is destroying his own realm.”
Because, Jesus continues, everyone knows that a kingdom divided against itself will fall and a household divided against itself cannot stand. I’m currently reading a book about the car-maker Henry Ford and his son Edsel in the time leading up to World War 2 in the late 1930's. While they were very close at first, eventually they came to completely disagree on how to run the business and there was a great deal of turmoil in that company to the point where the relationship fractured and their business was severely impaired. When there is division in a family as well, that family struggles to survive. If the Scribes’ accusation about Jesus working with Beelzebub is true, then Satan has become divided in his allegiance; however, Satan is still very strong and not divided.
Jesus illustrates this further with a short parable of the robbed house in verse 27. Satan is the strong man who enslaves people through sin, disease and death. The demons are his servants in this destructive work and Satan is chief. Only one who is stronger than Satan can enter into his realm, bind him and carry off his possessions. Jesus is saying that he has done this through the casting out of demons. Jesus’ ability to cast out demons means that one stronger than Satan has come to restrain his activity and to release those who are enslaved to him. The heart of Jesus’ mission is to confront Satan and to crush him on all fields, and Jesus has and is displaying that irresistible and divine power. Jesus’ works are achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit, not some demon. In the face of the claim that he is possessed by an evil spirit, Jesus states clearly that he in fact possesses the Spirit of God and is defeating Satan.
Jesus first says, “I tell you the truth,” which is the first time Jesus uses this phrase. His use of “Amen amen” to introduce and endorse his own words is unique in the whole of Jewish literature and in the remainder of the New Testament. In Jewish usage,“Amen” was regularly used to affirm or endorse the words of another person, much like we might say “amen” today in prayer or teaching. Jesus’ practice of prefacing his words with an “Amen” strengthens the solemn statement which follows and introduced a completely new manner of speaking. “Amen” denotes that his words are reliable and true because he is totally committed to do and speak the will of God and that he is in fact the true witness of God.
Then Jesus concludes by giving a stern warning about blasphemy in verse 28-30. Jesus makes it clear that all the sins of people are open to forgiveness, with one fearful exception: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit forever makes forgiveness impossible. In the 2nd Century, the aged Polycarp was about to be burned at the stake for his Christian faith. At the last minute the Roman proconsul offered to spare his life, and said to him, “Swear, and I will release you. Revile Christ.” Polycarp replied, “Eighty and six years have I served him and he never did me wrong, then how can I now blaspheme my King that has saved me.” Blasphemy is an expression of defiant final hostility toward God.
Jesus’ statement must be understood in light of the specific situation Jesus was in. The scribes understood blasphemy as speech that defied God’s power and majesty. Both the Scribes and Jesus considered blasphemy as a very serious offence. But Jesus is implying that the scribes were the ones guilty of blasphemy when they said that Jesus’ action was the work of Satan. This was a denial of the power and greatness of the Spirit of God and by assigning Jesus’ action to a demon the scribes are being defiant to God himself! In this context, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit denotes the conscious rejection of the saving power and grace of God as seen in Jesus’ words and actions. Their judgment that Jesus’ power was demonic displayed a defiant resistance to the Holy Spirit. Their insensitivity to the Spirit revealed in Jesus exposed them to grave danger.
There are times when, if we are honest, we may think Jesus is mad in what he expects us to do. We may think, “Jesus, you want me to do what??” “You want me to witness to others?” “You want me to stand up for the oppressed and victims of injustice?” “You want me to feed the hungry and help the homeless?” What do we say to someone who has extremely high expectations of us? If your boss says to you, “I want this project done by end of day” and you know it will take at least a week of hard work, you might think: “You’re crazy!” Do we think that Jesus is crazy for expecting us to do all the things disciples are called to do?
Let’s make sure that we are not blaspheming against the Holy Spirit in those cases. We know that blaspheming against the Spirit is rejecting God and his grace. And we who believe would never do that! Yet when we balk or think that we can’t do what Jesus clearly tells us and empowers us to do, are we saying “God, you can’t do that through us. That is crazy!” When we say that things are impossible, we are denying the power of God. Let’s realize the full power of God that is displayed and evident in our lives.
And perhaps we should be so devoted to the Kingdom of God that people think we are a little bit crazy. In our families, let them see that we are crazy about Jesus and are willing to do whatever we can for him. Let’s have our children see that we are completely serious about following Jesus and we demonstrate that through our insistence on prayer and reading the Word. Let’s make sure that our family members see that the way we live and structure our lives is because of the kingdom of God and not our own agendas and desires.
In our workplaces, let others see through our actions of caring for others and loving others that we are crazy for Jesus and for his kingdom. Let others see that while we may be working for a company or a boss, we are really working for our Lord. As one girl I read of said, “I am a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ, cleverly disguised as an administrative assistant.” That is who you are and it shapes everything you do and say in the workplace.
More recently the late baseball player Gary Carter played one season for the Los Angeles Dodgers and during that year had a sign taped to his locker that said, “ With God, all things are possible.” His teammates thought he was nuts. To be a follower of Jesus calls for things that others won’t be able to understand with the result that they will think we are crazy – but that’s okay. They thought Jesus was mad as well and that’s good company to be in.