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.
In these first verses the emphasis is on “the crowd.”
But why, why were they “following” him?
Part of Jesus’ ministry had to do with “unclean spirits” (Mark 3:11).
Application: Something will draw us to Christ. But move toward seeing the whole Christ. All that he is. All that he did.
Then in Mark 3:13–19 we read of the choosing of “The Twelve.”
Now we’re introduced to “The Twelve,” these most famous of all church leaders:
But then we get a really interesting group along with them…
Not present here:
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.
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:
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)
“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.
In Jesus they find…the devil.
Something “unforgivable” in the Bible is a stunning idea.
First thing to say, IF YOU’RE WORRIED YOU’VE COMMITTED IT, YOU HAVEN’T.
3 Things it is NOT.
(1) Not just a REALLY BIG SIN.
(2) Not being ANGRY AT GOD.
(3) Not DENYING THAT JESUS IS GOD.
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.
Augustine emphasizes this idea.
Think again of the Pharisees
One thing that theologians emphasize with the unforgivable sin is how persistent the hatred of the Spirit is.
 See Talmud Sanhedrin 43a.
 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.
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.
“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
 See Talmud Sanhedrin 43a.
 See his sermon on Matthew 12:32.
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