“And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:22-30
Jesus is in full stride. He’s changing countless lives and becoming a source of contention for the religious elite. He does not honor their false power structures–nor does he bow to their authority. Instead, he establishes a new authority that is centered upon his own life and ministry.
To put this in modern terms, it would be like you going to Wall Street and changing the rules (something the Occupy Wall Street protestors have tried to do without much success). Or it would be like you going to the Pentagon and changing the policies regarding foreign engagement by US troops. Or it would be like you going to the NFL and changing the rules by adding a fifth down to the current four down structure.
In other words, the change in authority and power was causing the ‘powers that be’ of the day to seek to disarm and discredit Jesus. He had officially turned from being a new threat to now being an unwelcome phenomenon that must be eliminated at all costs.
The lesson for us in this passage is very simple. If Jesus faced this kind of opposition and resistance–then we can expect no less as we follow in the steps of our Master. At some point we will be misunderstood by others and perhaps even falsely accused. In other words, there is a price to pay in following Christ–and at some point you will have to pay.
There’s a quote that gives me comfort during times like this. It goes like this: Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing (John Henry Jowett). Some have even contended that ministry that costs nothing is not true ministry at all.
But there’s one more thing that is easy to miss in this passage that I want you to notice. It’s important that you see this.
Let Jesus answer your critics. And I’m not just talking about the critics out there–I’m also talking about the ones inside your own head. The doubts and fears and self-condemnation that drags you down as you seek to live for Christ. Let Jesus handle those voices too.
In this passage the disciples didn’t have to say a word–Jesus did all the talking. In the same way, he defends us before the Father because in him we are now forgiven and declared righteous in God’s eyes. There is no condemnation coming your way from Heaven–only from the direction of Hell. And you don’t have to answer those critics–just ask Jesus to and he will silence them.
1. How do you think Jesus felt hearing the criticism of the religious elite? Does he still feel those same pains when people dismiss him today?
2. Do you think Jesus was too nice to the critics? Or was he too sharp?
3. How do people commit the unforgivable sin today? Do you ever worry that you have done so?