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Jesus’ True Family

January 17, 2021

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: Mark 3:7–35


Recently our family went to the Grand Canyon. This was my first time. But before we went I had seen pictures. So, of course, I knew what to expect. We’ll hike down to the Colorado River and get to look up at the canyon walls. But I had no idea the scale of it. Hiking down to the river is possible. But not as a daily hike in the winter. We did hike far enough to see the Colorado.

What was really clear is that you could be really close to the Grand Canyon and yet not at all comprehend the immensity of it. It’s too large and too diverse to take it all in with one or two hikes. The Canyon is one thing when you hike along the rim. It’s something entirely different when you hike down into it. And every turn of the path opens up a whole side of it you didn’t see before. The movement of the sun across the sky changes all the views throughout the day.

This morning in our passage Jesus will have that same effect. We’ll read about many people who were close to Jesus, very close.

But we’ll see that as close as they are, many of them didn’t comprehend this Christ. The Christ in front of them was deeper, wider, stronger, more vast than they could possibly understand. In their minds they saw a postcard. But in front of them was the full vast glory of the Grand Canyon itself.

Our passage is Mark 3:7–35. Written by John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. He was one of the key men in the early church. Eventually he’ll make his way to Rome and be there with the apostle Peter. It is Peter that is the eyewitness behind a lot of what Mark writes.

We’ll work through the passage and see the different reactions to Jesus.

I’ll start by reading Mark 3:7–21. Let’s pray.

I. The Crowds

In these first verses the emphasis is on “the crowd.”

  • “A great crowd”
  • From diverse regions: The whole area of Judea represented – east (across the Jordan) and west (Tyre, Sidwon), north (Galilee), south (Jerusalem).

But why, why were they “following” him?

  • “When they heard all that he was doing” (Mark 3:8).
  • In Jesus they find…a powerful healer.
  • They saw something true about Jesus, but not the whole

Part of Jesus’ ministry had to do with “unclean spirits” (Mark 3:11).

  • Jesus’ ongoing battle with the devil.
  • Irony of the demonic testimony: “You are the Son of God.”
  • But Jesus was in control of his mission. Not time for a full-blown proclamation. So, he silenced them (Mark 3:12).

Application: Something will draw us to Christ. But move toward seeing the whole Christ. All that he is. All that he did.

II. The Twelve

Then in Mark 3:13–19 we read of the choosing of “The Twelve.”

  • Does it from “on the mountain.” You’d expect from “the temple in Jerusalem.” But instead, “on the mountain.” The wilderness again.

Now we’re introduced to “The Twelve,” these most famous of all church leaders:

  • Simon he named “Peter” (“stone/rock”)
  • James & John, “Sons of Thunder” – They’re the ones who wanted to call down thunder and lightning on the Samaritans who rejected Jesus (Luke 9:54).
  • Andrew (brother of Peter)
  • Philip – John 1:43, “from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter” (1:44). Bethsaida on northernmost shore of Sea of Galilee. A little east of Capernaum. Philip the one who finds Nathanael.
  • Bartholomew – Last mentioned in Acts 1:13 in the upper room before Pentecost. Because his name means “son of Tolmai” in Aramaic, it’s possible this is another name for the Nathanael in John 1:45.
  • Possible that all six of this first group were from the same town of Bethsaida on northeast shore of Galilee.

But then we get a really interesting group along with them…

  • Matthew the tax collector. Called by Jesus in 2:14.
  • Thomas – known to the world as “doubting Thomas” since he’s the one who said in John, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (20:25).
  • James the Son of Alphaeus – A lot of James’ in the NT, so good to know his father’s name.
  • Thaddaeus – Some question about his name but we’ll stick with Thaddaeus.
  • Simon the Zealot – The Zealots would become a political party later in Jewish history. Known for being fervent nationalists. On the right and left today there are those who are part of “fervent movements” wanting to achieve some kind of political victory. LOYALTY TO CHRIST?
  • And then the most infamous, “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” (Mark 3:19).

Not present here:

  • Gentiles
  • Priests
  • Jewish political or religious leaders
  • Political or military leaders.
  • No women. That’s part of the pattern we see in the New Testament, that church leadership (elders and deacons) are consistently men. Women play key roles in the life of the church, but not in the leadership of the church. We don’t want to think Jesus is here catering to the culture. Jesus is God and has no trouble doing with a culture exactly what he wants. In this he establishes a pattern that continues throughout the NT.

These Twelve are a dramatic statement this was a new day for the people of God. The Twelve Tribes had such a powerful identity in the OT. But whatever the connection to the Twelve Tribes of Israel for this group, it was irrelevant. The fact they were connected was important.

But whatever they were, Jesus was calling them to something very different.

Peter, James, Andrew, John the fishermen were called to become “fishers of men.”

Matthew the tax collector was to leave behind his livelihood, his living made by being a stooge of the Romans.

Simon the Zealot was to leave behind his Jewish nationalism. He was being commissioned to a very different ministry with very different goals.

  • These were 12 men with very different political leanings. Jesus was telling them that all these political leanings had to be put aside in light of their greater allegiance to him.
  • They were being called into mission, and that mission was to be their sole mission.
  • That speaks to us in our current climate, doesn’t it?
  • We might have strongly held political ideas, but these have to be held in the right way. Christ and Christ alone must reign as supreme in the allegiances of our heart. If we do that, then we can fellowship with people with different political leanings but with that same ruling allegiance.
  • But if politics becomes the priority, this can’t happen. Our allegiance to Christ won’t bring us together.

They were called to be part of “the Twelve.” Specially set apart to be with Jesus. To be eyewitnesses that saw what he did. How he treated people. Heard his teachings. Saw his healings. Heard him pray.

This is connected to their mission. “APOSTLES” = “SENT ONES.” Typically, sent with an official commission by some authority. They were “SENT” to….“be with him,” “preach,” “have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14–15).

Not a group just anyone could join.

After the ascension the group needed to replace Judas who committed suicide after betraying Jesus. Here’s the job description Peter defined:

Acts 1:21–22:

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21–22)

In Revelation we can see the significance of the Twelve when John is looking at new Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:12, 14:

It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed….And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Rev 21:12, 14)

III. The Scribes

“The scribes came down from Jerusalem” = perhaps to evaluate this dynamic healer. His reputation would have spread enough that Jerusalem needed to see for themselves what he was about.

Their judgment was quick and absolute: He’s possessed by the devil.

Jesus at first reasoned with them: Their position isn’t just wrong, it’s illogical.

But more importantly, their position is wrong in the most serious of ways. They are playing at the edge of the fires of hell.

Jesus speaks in this passage of the unforgivable sin, which is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” This setting helps us understand what Jesus is talking about. These Jewish leaders saw Jesus operating in the power of the Holy Spirit and instead of praising God they said he was possessed by the devil.

This idea that Jesus of Nazareth was possessed would live on in Jewish tradition. For centuries the idea would be repeated that Jesus was killed by Romans because he did sorcery.[1]

In Jesus they find…the devil.

Something “unforgivable” in the Bible is a stunning idea.


  • Not something you’ll accidentally do.
  • Not something you’ll regret doing.
  • If you’re worried, you haven’t.

3 Things it is NOT.

 (1) Not just a REALLY BIG SIN.

  • Moses the murderer and then lived as a fugitive for 40 years
  • David the adulterer who then murdered the husband of the woman he committed adultery with
  • Peter denied Christ three times
  • Paul imprisoned Christians and persecuted them even to death
  • These are the heroes of the Bible, not the fringe voices.
  • Stealing? No. The thief on the cross.
  • Sexual sin? No. Prostitutes saved in the ministry of Jesus. Rahab.
  • Killing Jesus? No. Jesus, “Forgive them.” Peter, “Repent and believe” (Acts 2).

(2) Not being ANGRY AT GOD.

  • When God does something in our lives we’re tempted to get angry at him.
  • How do I know blasphemy against the Spirit is not just anger at God?
  • Because the book of Psalms is filled with people angry at God being very honest in prayer.
  • And these are God’s people praying these things!
  • The book of Job is filled with this man’s offended rants at how God is treating him. But God never rejects Job.


  • That’s a sin, but it’s forgivable.
  • How do I know? Because of the apostle Paul.
  • Paul rejected Christ as soon as he heard about him. He then gave his energy and life to crushing this new cancer in Judaism.
  • But then…God saved him. God opened his eyes to see Christ for who he truly is, and then this firebrand of hatred against Christ gave his life to his last breath to preaching Christ and him crucified to any who would listen.

Okay, so what IS the unforgivable sin?

Don’t miss the passage right in front of us. The unforgivable sin looks like what the Pharisees are doing.

  • Christ is before them. Christ is healing and casting out demons and bringing forgiveness of sins to those who believe in him. He’s doing it in their presence.
  • These gifts of healing and forgiveness are works of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Pharisees are seeing lives transformed by Christ in their very presence and are still saying that Jesus is possessed by the devil.
  • They are basically saying Jesus is Satan.

Augustine emphasizes this idea.[2]

  • The Spirit brings forgiveness, puts love in people’s hearts, brings healing, brings illumination so we can understand the gospel.
  • To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to hate and speak against these good gifts of the Spirit.
  • It’s far, far more than a Cessationist speaking against the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • It’s a comprehensive hatred of all the good things the Holy Spirit does in the church and in the people of God.

Think again of the Pharisees

  • Not just angry
  • Not just struggling to understand
  • Not simply saying Jesus isn’t God
  • They’re going much further—attributing good works of the Spirit to Satan.

One thing that theologians emphasize with the unforgivable sin is how persistent the hatred of the Spirit is.

  • Not a momentary weakness, but a persistent, even a lifelong rejection and bitter antagonism to Jesus’ work.
  • As Augustine points out you won’t really know if someone commits this sin until they die. If they’re still alive, their heart might change enough to be saved.
  • God’s people won’t commit this sin, since God has chosen before the foundation of the world to save them. And he will overcome their resistance to him to save them.

[1] See Talmud Sanhedrin 43a.

[2] See his sermon on Matthew 12:32.

So, to summarize:

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit:
If you’re worried you’ve committed it, you haven’t.
It is a persistent, intensive rejection of the good gifts that the Spirit gives—healing, forgiveness, spiritual understanding, revelation of Jesus Christ.
It is going so far as to call Jesus the devil and all his good works demonic.
It is a lifelong rejection, an unchanging hardness of heart.

IV. The Family

Mark tells the story creatively. Divides the two parts of it and places the scribes in the middle of it. Brings together the reactions of the family and the scribes more than if the two were told separate from each other.

Part One: “He is out of his mind” (v. 21).

Part Two: Who is Jesus’ true family?

Start with, who is his earthly family? Mark 3:31, “mother and his brothers.”

In Mark 6:3 he’ll be more specific:

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3)

Mary isn’t specifically named as thinking Jesus “out of his mind,” but we can assume as a mom she’s concerned. Mom’s worry about their sons. Mary was no exception to that.

In Part Two of the story Jesus explains, though, who his TRUE FAMILY is – Mark 3:35.

“Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (v. 35).

Eventually his earthly family will know this truth.

James & Judas? The author of two NT books, James and Jude.


4 Things:

  1. Let the example of the apostles remind us that all allegiances have to be evaluated in light of our primary allegiance to Christ.
  2. Let the reality of the unforgivable sin remind us of the seriousness of sin.
  3. Let the reality of the unforgivable sin remind us of the glory of forgiven sin.
  4. Respond to Jesus’ invitation: To be “with him” (v. 14) and his “brother and sister and mother” (v. 35).

Hebrews 2:12:

“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” (Heb 2:12)

Prayer and closing song

[1] See Talmud Sanhedrin 43a.

[2] See his sermon on Matthew 12:32.

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