Flashback Episode — An Extraordinary Sin: Mark 3:20-30

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Continuing our year moving through Mark’s gospel, we arrive at a passage that contains a warning, a very challenging truth and an amazing promise. However, while this passage is challenging and possibly confusing to some, we can claim the promise it includes in our own lives and our own mistakes because this passage’s promise is one that focuses on forgiveness.

Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 3, and we will read it using the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 20, Mark tells us that:

20 Jesus went back home, and once again such a large crowd gathered that there was no chance even to eat. 21 When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.

22 Some teachers of the Law of Moses came from Jerusalem and said, “This man is under the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons! He is even forcing out demons with the help of Beelzebul.”

23 Jesus told the people to gather around him. Then he spoke to them in riddles and said:

How can Satan force himself out? 24 A nation whose people fight each other won’t last very long. 25 And a family that fights won’t last long either. 26 So if Satan fights against himself, that will be the end of him.

27 How can anyone break into the house of a strong man and steal his things, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can take everything.

28 I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. 29 But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.

30 Jesus said this because the people were saying that he had an evil spirit in him.

In this passage, I am amazed at some of the details we discover. First, we discover that Jesus went back home, and the most likely place this is referring to is Capernaum, since this was where He first based His ministry. Capernaum is not too far away from Nazareth, which was where Jesus’ family lived.

The next detail I find fascinating. Verse 21 tells us “When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.” The context of this verse is that Jesus was busy teaching people, healing people, and casting out demons. This might be why Jesus’ family thought He was crazy, or it could be Mark’s description of this situation, specifically that Jesus was so focused on helping people that “there was no chance even to eat”.

However, we don’t know what Jesus’ family concluded once they had arrived. I do find it interesting because if Jesus’ family, which I would assume to be His brothers and sisters and not His mom or dad in this context, remembered how Jesus was miraculously born and the promises that were given about Him at His birth, they would remember how extraordinary Jesus is. However, because this passage tells us Jesus’ family thought He was crazy, we can see the subtle truth that the longer something appears ordinary, the less believable an extraordinary change is. In the case of Jesus, regardless of His extraordinary birth, almost 30 years of normal development would be long enough to for someone to assume and conclude that there was nothing extraordinary about Him – which unfortunately means that they would miss seeing Jesus for who He came to be.

However, in addition to Jesus’ family believing He was crazy, teachers of Moses’ Law traveled up from Jerusalem to speak against Jesus. These teachers likely had seen enough evidence of Jesus’ successful healing and forcing out demons that they couldn’t argue with Jesus’ results. These teachers couldn’t challenge the fact that after Jesus forced a demon out, that demon was gone. The only angle for challenging Jesus was regarding how Jesus did this, and there are only two options available: either Jesus forced demons out with God’s power, or this was an elaborate trick of Satan.

Looking at Jesus’ response, we conclude that it is not logical for Satan to work against himself. If this was part of an elaborate trick, it was missing the trick. If Satan was being subtle and deceitful, the demons he would be casting out would be replaced by something worse. Satan is not interested in the well-being of humanity. Satan wants humanity to reject God and he wants us to distances ourselves as far away from the image of God we were created in as is possible.

If Jesus was receiving power from Satan to perform miracles, Satan would be fighting himself and ultimately prompting God to receive glory because in almost every case, God was glorified when Jesus helped or healed someone. Satan would not want to help or prompt God to receive glory. Satan’s claim is that God is untrustworthy and not worthy of glory at all. Helping Jesus give glory to God would run counter to Satan’s character.

However, a subtle truth we discover in this passage is that regardless of whether Jesus received Satan’s power or God’s power, how Jesus helped people ultimately doomed Satan’s kingdom. Either Satan fights himself and destroys his own kingdom, or Jesus really is more powerful than Satan is, and Satan’s kingdom is doomed because Jesus’ Source of power cannot be matched.

This passage concludes with Jesus promising us that anything we say or do can be forgiven, regardless of how bad those things are. However, speaking against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. This is a huge challenge for us, but it is also a huge promise. The huge promise in this passage is that we can be forgiven of more than what we might think or believe. Whether your life is filled with sin or whether you have only sinned once, your sins can be forgiven.

However, what are sins that speak against the Holy Spirit, and why are they different?

While I’m sure many people have ideas and theories about this, my thought on this is partially based on what Mark tells us at the end of this passage. Verse 30, which comes immediately following this warning, tells us that “Jesus said this because the people were saying that he had an evil spirit in him”.

I believe the context for Jesus’ promise and warning have to do with where we attribute motives and actions on a spiritual level. If we learn that someone comes to God, repents, and puts their faith in Jesus, this can only happen if the Holy Spirit is involved. However, what if the context of this transformed life comes in the most unbelievable way? What if this person’s life transformation happens in a very questionable fashion?

Looking at what people were saying about Jesus, specifically that He used the power of demons and not the power of the Holy Spirit, we can conclude that speaking out against the Holy Spirit might refer to rejecting the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a situation where someone comes to God and claiming that this is really Satan working to deceive.

I will be the first to say that Satan is a master deceiver, but it is not up to us to judge the ways God chooses to work or chooses not to work, and God is not afraid of taking the most opposed person to Christianity and turning them into Jesus’ biggest supporter. For an example of this, we need to look no further than Saul in the book of Acts, and his conversion experience.

I believe this sin is unforgivable because the more we interpret the working of the Holy Spirit to Satan the more we will try to distance ourselves from whatever this work is. This has the effect of us distancing ourselves from God and when we are separated from God, we won’t have the belief or faith in Jesus that is needed to be saved – or to use another term: forgiven.

While we won’t have all our questions answered, and while some things God does might confuse us, it is better to hold onto our questions until we reach heaven than to reject God because He doesn’t fit into the box of our understanding or the box of our expectations. Let’s hold onto our faith in God and our belief in Jesus and accept that even though we don’t understand all of what God does, we can know that He loves us enough that Jesus came to redeem us from sin when we didn’t deserve redemption.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to trust Him even if some of the things He does do not make sense. If God doesn’t make sense to you or I, then don’t reject Him because of this. Simply accept that God is infinitely bigger than you and I and that we likely are incapable of fully understanding Him. A god we can fully understand is not much of a God.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and move closer to God. The more we spend time with God, the better we will be able to see and understand what He chooses to do. While we might not have all our questions answered, the only way to get any questions answered is to come to God with our questions and to let Him teach us through His Word.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Mark – Episode 7: When Jesus’ family thought He was crazy, and some religious teachers speak out against Jesus’ source of power, discover how we can be forgiven of almost anything, except for one extraordinary, significant sin.

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