The Stronger Man / Mark 3:20-34 / February 26, 2017

Faith Community Fellowship .org

February 26, 2017

Hello podcast listeners,

Here we are again, with a failed audio recording. I assure you that we are doing everything we can to not smash the sound tech. computer in a fit of righteous fury. So far, we are succeeding.

The sermon transcript is available below, or download here as a pdf.

Thank you for listening reading.


The Stronger Man. Erik Kamp. Faith Community Fellowship.

Couple words before we read the text this morning.

I know in this series thus far I have hinted at, and possibly even promised the famous “Markan Sandwich” – well we finally get a blatant sandwich in our text this morning.  And what I mean by a sandwich, this is a writing technique (which Mark more than any other Biblical author uses) where they start to tell one story, and then suddenly they transition into a different story only then complete the first story.  Thus, sandwiching one story within the other. 

And by doing this Mark, not only signifies that there is a relationship between the two stories, but also in their combination can even make an entirely new point (Edwards 117).  And just like the essence or importance of a sandwich exists in what fills between the two slices of bread (cheese is what makes a grilled cheese sandwich), so too the key or point to Markan sandwich is found in the center story.

  • Now this technique is important to know because many of current Bible translations “add” headings and titles to help readers.  Well most translations add titles in the middle of these verses section – signaling to the reader to separate what should be unified (it can ruin Mark’s purpose – and that’s why we read these verse together this morning)

And while talking about translators additions I also want to remind that “chapter” “verses” and are also additions starting in the 16th century (over 1500 years they never existed).  These books were meant to be read as a whole.  And so one of the things I almost always do is read the preceding chapter and the following chapter when looking at a text (and if that isn’t enough to get context move out an additional chapter each way.)  Cause let me ask?  Can anyone without looking at their Bible tell me the final line or words which precede this story?  (Ok it was the naming of the 12 Apostles – how does that list always end/ or who’s name always ends it?)

  • The final line names “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed (Jesus) him.”  Imagine hearing this for the first time.  Learning one of Jesus closest friends and follower is going to betray him – do you think that changes the immediate following story? 
    • Absolutely – betrayal is a word which does not quickly exit the mind – and I believe our Sandwich this morning is intentionally given in the first foreshadow of Jesus’ eventual betrayal.
      • So with sandwiches and betrayal in mind (sounds like a good title to desperate house wives)– let us read this text this morning.

Text Mark: 3:20-35

Limiting Labels:

So having learned Jesus is about to be betrayed we return to very familiar scene in Mark.  Jesus in home so surrounded by crowds that he and his disciples cannot eat.  Jesus is so popular that it interferes with regular life.  (And we continue see this today with celebrities as they often try to hide themselves in order just to have meals with family – lest they are continually interrupted by passionate admirers – Jesus is the celebrity)  Jesus is in Mark’s normal scene, but then there is a transition to his family having heard about this celebrity mob and they go to take charge of him, for they say “He is out of his mind.”

Couple notes concerning verse 21.  The word family is not actually present here, instead Mark remains ambiguous, writing “those of him.”  Translators add family given the end of the story, but Mark doesn’t.  So the identity could be family, but it could easily be friends, follows, or associates.  We don’t know who, but we do know they are close.  They have some form of relationship with Jesus.  So what do these close people do – they go to “seize” or “arrest” Jesus – this is a strong explicit word – because “he is out of his mind” – they have labeled Jesus crazy – so we must stop him before this go too far. 

  • Why this conclusion – the likely answer is Jesus is endangering himself.  The authorities are clearly angry with him (as we will see), they want to kill him (we have already learned) – and he won’t stop preaching and gathering crowds.  He’s crossing the wrong people – he’s going to get himself killed – he’s crazy – we must stop this – we must seize and silence him before he goes too far
    • We are going to protect Jesus from himself – a noble thought; a foolish (dangerous idea)
  • We anticipate opposition and rejection from the authorities who oppose Jesus.  It’s supposed to be the leaders who set to seize, arrest, and silence Jesus.  But now those close him frighteningly reach the same conclusion – and head out to seize the insane:

Now suddenly we learn the teachers of the law from Jerusalem (the real religious center) have come to Jesus on a very similar mission to stop his ministry.  Yet they have a very different approach, they have different desires, and they pursue them under a different label: demonic.  Jesus is not crazy, he is possessed by Beelzebub!  The power that exists in this person, in this ministry, is none other than the manifestation of the prince of darkness.  They don’t debate Jesus power his preaching or healing (it’s evident) but they can explain away its source as demonic.  Sure he is bringing a kingdom all right – but it is the kingdom of darkness and enslavement. 

  • Why this conclusion – the likely answer is Jesus gospel is endangering their law, their authority, their traditions, their theology, their people, and their stake in them.  They have a lot to lose if Jesus claim is true  and they have already confronted and challenged Jesus and he won’t listen he won’t stop (he disregards our traditions, theology, and authority).  Well then, we must sabotage and undermine his ministry through accusation and slander lest this continue. 
    • We going to protect ourselves, and our people from Jesus and his gospel of repentance, love, and grace in His Kingdom – a demonic idea (so evil in fact that it is described as the unforgivable sin)

After Jesus’ responds to being a pawn of Beelzebub, now Jesus mother and brother arrive.  The specifics of Mark’s description here speaks volumes.  Jesus’ mother and brothers remain outside.  They will not enter the home Jesus teaches within.  They will not join the crowd.  They will not even confront Jesus directly.  Instead they send another person within to go tell Jesus your family is waiting for you outside.  And while this is a continuation of the first part – it has a different feel.  Now it is specifically Jesus family which is demanding he leave the crowds and join them outside – they have labeled Jesus as ours.  They assume their familial status gives them an authority, a right, which Jesus must oblige.  They may summon Jesus from his ministry and crowds to return to them, his own.  They witness Jesus has lost those he belongs amongst – time to return.

  • Why this conclusion – likely Jesus is estranging himself from his home community, friends, and extended family.  His ministry what he says and does is rubbing wrongly those close to him.  We know Jesus was not well received when he returned home.  So they’re going to protect Jesus from alienating himself from those who care and support him.
    • Again, a noble desire, and a foolish one (as Jesus stingy response to their demand displays)

The significance of the sandwich helps us recognize that all 3 parties: “those in Jesus,” “the teachers of the law from Jerusalem,” and “Jesus’ mother and brothers” are attempting the same thing – to Bind Jesus.  Yes, Judas, under whos shadow this story is told, shall blatantly betray Jesus as Jerusalem already has shown, but similar seeds of betrayal are being scattered amongst those close to him.  As Edwards writes in his commentary “the danger before the scribes, which was obvious, is in fact a paradigm of a similar danger before Jesus disciples and family, which was not so obvious… Jesus closest confidants are as liable to misjudge and reject Jesus as the scribes.”  Followers and family were equally willing to restrain or redirect Jesus’ mission.

And I want to look at the common practice amongst all 3 as the great warning here – all 3 groups “label.”  Jesus is labeled as “crazy,” “demonic,” and “ours.”  3 different labels.  Given for 3 different concerns or fears.  1 purpose to – bind, to seize, to silence, to control.  (Doesn’t matter whether for protection of destruction).

  • Think of the labels popularly used of Jesus today: teacher, sage, radical, activist, healer, reconciler, welcomer

There is a long history inside and outside the church of “labeling” ones enemy as “evil” or “sub-human” as a means of justifying your actions.  “He is of Beelzebub – we must crucify him.”  This is not a man, this is a demon.  This is not a man, this is a savage.  This is not a woman, this is a heretic.  This is not a person, this is a Jew.  This is not a human, this is a terrorist – their all evil.  As Garland writes “when one characterizes an enemy as demonic, one can rationalize doing whatever one wants to eliminate that demonic, no matter how devilish it might be.”  (142)  An obvious historical lesson which we don’t need the Bible to teach, any history book can do this, though we certainly need the Spirit to learn.

But Mark sandwiches adds this warning: to “label” one’s companions and family in similar spirit is equally demonic.  Garlands warning is powerful, “Slandering those who belong to Jesus poses as much danger as confusing Jesus with Satan.”  Many live in great fear of demonic forces, but possess so little concern for the labels we constantly use to discredit, undermine, de-grade: to bind and control.  In casual conversation how often do we hear labels “Well you know Tim is a _________ ; Tim believes ___________ (fill it in – you know the labels that fill your world).  And the unspoken message in most labels – they don’t need to be taken seriously or be heard – they need to be arrest, silenced, controlled.  Labels give us the freedom to not listen, to not respect, to not support, to not act in love – those who are of us.    Give us the authority to control. (protectively, instructionally, or destructively)

  • Look in your families, look in your work, look in schools, and most importantly look in your church – how many labels do you see – (labels of protection and destruction)
    • Well Mark’s warning here about using such limiting labels to bind and control Jesus and his people could not be more severe – it is the bread which sandwiches the unforgivable sin.     

The Stronger Man:

Well the context Mark sets up in these sandwiched stories is quite frightening.  The clear distinction between light and darkness, between good and evil, between friends/family and enemies gets blurred as blindness and betrayal is present in both.  If nothing else the context of these stories should plant in each of us a deep humility to never be certain – that we alone see clearly, that we alone understand Jesus ministry – because those close to him miss it too. 

This seems to indicate that we are kingdom which is divided, that we are the house divided against itself –  we are those who cannot stand.  I find it so interesting that the first two analogies of kingdom and house which Jesus uses to discredit the teachers position that he is possessed by Beelzebub is the very context of the story.  The teachers of the law trying to reject Jesus’ display the kingdom of Israel is divided, and the family and close ones who take it upon themselves to restrain Jesus display the family is divided.  The absurdity of divided kingdom and divided family which would doom Satan kingdom is ironically at work in Jesus’.  Is his Kingdom doom to fail?  Are we doomed to fall in him?

Well this is where the analogy of the strong man brings forth the conclusion.  First, Jesus is clearly explaining to the teachers from Jerusalem that they are not witnessing an expression of the prince of demons power, but rather they are witnessing the power of one who can “bind” the prince of darkness.  Rather than being in league he has actually bound the forces of darkness and bondage and is plundering what was theirs.  Jesus is claiming to be “the stronger man” – who can deliver from demonic slavery.

  • As the prophet Isaiah ask in chapter 49 “Can plunder be taken from the mighty, or captives be rescued from a tyrant?”  But thus says the Lord, “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prisoners of the tyrant be rescued; for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children…Then all mankind will know, that I, the Lord, and your Savior, Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Is 49:24-26)

Jesus in his example plays off of what God promised so long ago – that the true mighty tyrant who has contented with Israel throughout her history is bound.  Jesus says open your eyes “the captives are being taken by Jesus, the prisoners are being rescued – the stronger man is at work here – this nothing short of the power of God.  Yet the teachers do not see; but neither does Jesus followers and family.  If they really understood the power that Jesus was wielding, if they really recognized that Lord of darkness could not contend with Jesus – would they honestly fear the Pharisees so?  Would they be concerned that Herod is offended, or that Jerusalem is angry? 

  • They display the same irrational fear that many display today – Jesus is King of the Cosmos – defeated the darkness – O death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory. 
    • But if the wrong person ends up in the oval office, or if the wrong bill gets passed, the wrong restriction enacted, the wrong agenda furthered – it’s all over.  We claim eternal victory in “stronger man” and presently live in fear of much, much, lesser.

Look what such living led to here – Jesus friends and family – tried to bind him, tried to silence him, tried to redirect him.  They tried to make themselves “the strong man.”  (Do we do this?  Do we set our Christian agendas based upon fears?  Based upon agendas and passions outside of Jesus?  Ask this question seriously – Am I trying to be the strong man (or woman) – trying to bind and set Jesus’ course?)

  • Well we have a strong visual picture of that danger – the family is divide – it stands outside in expectation for Jesus’ obedience – only to learn – his family is there, near him in obedience?  Jesus remains the stronger man over those close to him.

But I also think Mark is quite intentional in the language and imagery of this story.  For while Jesus certainly is speak of his binding and plundering the strong man.  Let us not forget Mark, and others, employ these words at Jesus’ arrest.  In Mark 15 the teachers of the law and the Sanhedrin “bind Jesus, and give him away as if they had plundered him.”  Or recall the ominous words in John “Simon, Simon Satan has demanded to sift all of you as wheat.”  The authorities bind Jesus and Satan seeks to plunder.  Well on the cross Jesus is bound, he is killed, but the stronger man cannot plundered – “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your Faith may not falter.”   This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall none  of all those he has given me.”  (John 6:39).  I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor future, nor any power, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-9)

The stronger man cannot be plundered, not even of those who blunder so profoundly as Jesus family and those “who are of Jesus” do in the outer story.  It hard to imagine someone missing Jesus’ mission so blatantly would still be welcomed amongst it.

Well let me also share the great hope for us, who may fear that we are the blind, may seek to bind of Jesus – those who in our core desire or act as the strong man.    Well Jesus family stands on the outside looking in at the end here.  And within this group almost certainly was Jesus brother James – James likely marched down there certain Jesus would submit to the demands of family; only to shockingly to hear that being near Jesus and obeying God was how you became family.    

Well this is the same James, who found amongst the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.  And this is the same James who gains the title “James the Just.” This is the same James who becomes head of the Jerusalem church.  This is the same James who is declared a Pillar of the church.  This is the same James who is martyred for Jesus name.  And this is the same James who in Acts 15 as the church is split on whether or not to accept Gentiles into the family of God without first becoming Jews – stands up and says “Brothers, listen to me.  Simon has described how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles.  The prophets agree…It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Acts 15:13-19)

  • The brother who sought to bind Jesus through his exclusive claim as family – only to be rejected.  Well, this is the brother, when the church was split on who is family – was able to stand up and declare – let God decide.  Let us not burden them.   

The brother who was blind and sought to bind Jesus – later became principal person who had eyes to see and sought to free the Holy Spirit to seek and unify Jesus mothers, brothers, and sister – in his church.

((((A quick word on the unforgivable sin – because it is so harsh and strong – and frightens many.  Can we possibly sin in such a way that we are forever separated from God (can I do it?).  First, if you are worried about unforgivable sin – congratulations you have not committed it.  Too fear it – displays its absence.     

  • For it is the sin of willful blindness: a sustained attitude of pride and self-righteousness which intentionally confuses evil and good out of self-interest.  Thus, even if you show them the power of Jesus and the gospel, it only confirms its demonic power.  (Those guilty of it never fear it – or they are so sure of themselves)))))

Mark 3:20-34 (NIV)

Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family[a] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

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