Mark 3:20-4:20 Notes

Mark 3:20-4:20

1. Beelzebul

Jesus was accused of casting out demons by Beelzebul, which is one of the names to identify Satan. It was also used more commonly in Semetic speech for “lord of the house” which then provides a connection to the parable Jesus later tells in 3:25-27. 

2. Family Tension

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
— Mark 3:21

Jesus’ biological family comes on the scene to ‘take charge of him,' a term that was used for taking hold of someone’s hand or for arresting a person. They are there to get him out of his ministry - maybe for his safety or for the sake of the family name. They have concern for him but little understand or sympathy for his ministry. 

3. An Eternal Sin

Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
— Mark 3:28-29

The issue isn't that people questioned or doubted what Jesus was doing. Faith in Jesus will does not mean we have no questions or doubts. We will and the faithful response is to question our question and doubt our doubt with Jesus and other Christians. 

The eternal sin Jesus is speaking about refers to people who have willfully hardened their hearts and are absolutely unwilling to move from their fixed conclusions about what the Spirit of God is able or unable to do. In this case, what these people refuse to acknowledge is that the Holy Spirit is as work through Jesus, and further, to misrepresent (blaspheme, slander) the work of God as Satan’s work. What makes this sin eternal, or unforgivable, is in how the person is unwilling to seek forgiveness for it. 

This hardness of heart and unwillingness to see otherwise keep people from ever repenting and receiving forgiveness. In the same sentence, in verse 28, Jesus states that God is able to forgive all things. The tragedy is when we believe and live as though He cannot. 

4. Why Parables?

Why would Jesus teach using parables which connected everyday life to spiritual truths. But the meaning was not always clear as we read in 4:10-12. Explanation was required but not always available to everyone. 

One reason Jesus used this method is to encourage serious, persistent, perceptive faith.  As one commentator states, each of those adjectives is important:

The emphasis on seriousness was necessary because ‘hearing Jesus’ seems to have become ‘one of the things to do’ at the time. Crowds begat crowds, and there was enough excitement, in the healings, exorcisms and controversy, to keep them coming. The parable requires seriousness if we are to begin to grasp its meaning, hence, ‘Listen!’, in verse 3. 
Persistence was also important. There were plenty of wandering teachers and miracle workers around. The parabolic method of teaching did not pander to the casual, half-hearted listener. The hearer had to work at it and continue with it. 
Perception was needed, too, since at face value the stories were about things that just about everybody in the crowd knew already. Unless there was some veiled meaning, they were innocuous, even shallow tales. Yet the perceptive saw more than was obvious.

 

5. Problems Then, Problems Now

Hi all -- just thought that I might try to model out a bit more how we can tackle the questions for the day.

When considering the problem/trouble/need in the text and now, we can be overwhelmed by the number of problems in text or the size of the passage. 

As you consider the problem the text, quickly jot down what you see. When you are looking at what this looks like today, don't try to tackle them all (all the time). Instead, focus in on one that really resonates with you. Focus on the one that attracts (or maybe even repels) you most. 

For example in today's passage, 4:1-20, it's long and we see a lot of problems when Jesus starts to explain how people then were responding to God: hard hearts that were not open to God; shallow faith; the way our day to day worries and confusion about what we think we have, need and want can choke out or distract us from what God is doing.

But more than just all those issues at work in the crowd Jesus is addressing then (and now), Jesus starts with the imperative to "Listen!" in verse 3. He's telling people to pay attention. I thought that we really one have to tell people to 'listen' when they're missing something important. I wonder if the bigger problem is how people don't really know, or take the time to honesty see what state we're in when it comes to how we are responding to Jesus. 

The state of our 'soil' can change from bad to good, from good to bad. And often, I feel for myself, I don't catch the change until I see the fruit. And that's too late. We're the soil here...and we need to know and take responsibility for how we hear and accept it.