Mark 3:13-35 Mad, Bad or God?

Twenty six years ago today a certain young English rose said in a Sunday Times interview, "If a woman like Eva Peron with no ideals can get that far, think how far I can go with all the ideals that I have." Who said it? Margaret Thatcher on becoming leader of the conservative party this day in 1975. A little arrogant perhaps? She certainly believed in herself and took much of the country with her. "This lady is not for turning." Indeed not, until that is the night of the long knives when she was betrayed by those she had trusted. Perhaps that is why she has been rather dismissive of each of her successors since. It tells us something about human nature, about how we interpret history and believe what they want to believe about someone. So what are we to make of Jesus Christ?

That is the question which Mark is raising in these first eight chapters of his Gospel? Who is Jesus ? What does the evidence tell us? When I was thinking about becoming a Christian, it was C.S.Lewis who clarified the alternatives on this question. His trilemma is quite famous now.

Either Jesus was Lord, or a Liar, or a Lunatic. He was either Mad, Bad or God. Which is it to be? There is no middle ground, no half way house. The evidence does not allow us to believe that Jesus was somewhere in between, a nice moral religious leader like Gandhi, or political leader like Margaret Thatcher. It was only this week as I looked at Mark 3 in more detail, that I realised where C.S. Lewis got his idea from.

Mark tells us that people in their own generation reached those three very same conclusions about Jesus. Before we look at it, just a word about the structure of the passage. You may find it helpful to think of verses 13-35 like a mirror and its reflection somewhat distorted by peoples impressions. If 3:13-22 is the reflection,

3:23-35 the reality.
3:13-22 contains people's images of Jesus
3:23-35 contains Jesus response.

3:13-19 Apostles who believed Him Divine Their Lord
3:20-21 Family who thought Him Deluded A Lunatic
3:22 Leaders who considered Him Demonic A Liar
3:23-30 Jesus Condemns the Leaders
3:31-34 Jesus Chastens His Family
3:35 Jesus Confirms His Disciples

Lets look at these three alternatives one at a time.

1. The Apostles for Whom Jesus was Lord 3:13-19
Read 13-15 It is very significant that Christianity began with a group. In fact one that Jesus describes in verse 35 as a family. The Christian faith was from the very beginning discovered and lived out in relationships not in isolation. The Pharisees had a very different view of spirituality. One all too popular today. Their very name means "the separate ones". They liked to think they were special, separated from so called "sinful" people.

All it did for the Pharisees was separated them from the one that really mattered. Jesus. The Church was and is a family to which anyone can join through faith in Jesus. Jesus did not have favourites, but He did have a strategy, and He confided more closely in Peter, Andrew, James and John, as His key workers. What brought them together, what wedded them together, was their common submission to Jesus, to His Lordship. Jesus had two purposes for the Apostles.

1.1 First he called them to be "with Him." 3:14
The crowds were fickle and might come or go depending on the weather or his miracles, but the Apostles were invited to share His very life. To be with Him, to stay and to follow Him. That was their education. What an education.

I bet none of them ever asked Jesus when His sermon was going to finish..... That's the heart of being a Christian, being with Jesus. Listening to Him, talking with Him, learning from Him. Its a relationship, a personal but shared relationship.

1.2 Second "He sent them", as representatives. 3:14
He not only educated them, He equipped them too. He sent them with a message to preach, and an authority to demonstrate. That is always the order, first fellowship then service. The two must always go together. For the quality of the latter is always in proportion to the former. Just as the quality of a musicians performance will depend on how much practice they have undertaken in private, so our time in fellowship with Jesus will determine the quality of our service for him in public. His Apostles for whom Jesus was Lord 3:13-19

2. His Family for Whom Jesus was Mad 3:20-21
Read 3:21-22 These two short verses, burst the bubble of an over romaticised, unbiblical view of Mary the mother of Jesus. She was not perfect. She misunderstood her son just like everybody else. She was just as much in need of forgiveness as everyone else. Why did his mother and family think like this?

2.1 Because Jesus disregarded financial security
Jesus had left not only His home but the family's carpentery business in Nazareth. As the eldest son it was his inheritance. He had given it all up to become a homeless penniless vagrant.

2.2 Because Jesus infuriated the religious superiors
Jesus was already well on the way to a head on collision with the religious leaders. Like Iran or Afghanistan today, the religious leaders had great political power too. Only a fool or a mad man would consider taking on the Pharisees, Saducees, Herodians and the Romans, and imagine he could get away with it. No wonder his family felt uncomfortable. Not only did Jesus ignore the need for financial security, and infuriate the religious superiors, but he also

2.3 Because Jesus identified with the outcasts of society

In fact he'd started a society of his own. It was made up of fishermen, reformed tax collectors, fanatical nationalists, former prostitutes and the like. What would the neighbours say. No sensible person would pick a crowd of friends like that.

Jesus lived an intense and sacrificial life. He was always surrounded by the crowds of needy people, there was little time to eat or sleep, and he was at the top of the Mafia's hit list. His family just did not understand Him. Read 3:21. Its no different today.

Did you ever read the Eagle comic as a boy? Do you remember Dan Dare, chief pilot of the space fleet, or PC49, private detective Harris Tweed, or Storm Nelson, and Luck of the Legion? Maybe you read Girl, or Robin, or Swift. They were all created by the same person - a vicar - the Revered Marcus Morris who died recently aged 73. In 1949 the Bishop of Liverpool released Marcus from Parish work because his readership had already reached a million children. He was a boy that never grew up. Or what about the Reverend Awdry and his Thomas the Tank engine story books? The world expects clergy to be slightly eccentric, mad on children's comics, steam engines or cricket or all three.

And its no different for you. You're not considered mad if you travel the country every Saturday following your favourite football team. You're not considered mad if you run in the London Marathon with half a million other competitors, or get soaked to the skin on an all night fishing expedition where the only thing you catch is a cold, - but you get on a soap box and tell people that Jesus died to save them from their sins, and they'll say your mad. When I was at college, one of the first people I told I'd become a Christian was the porter of our dormitory. You know what he said to me? I can still remember it, "Oh Stephen" he said, looking very disappointed, "I didn't think you were one of them too..." If a person dies attempting a new world record in flight, or racing, they are honoured as noble sportsmen, if a scientist is killed in one of his experiments he is a hero, but let a young person die from tropical diseases soon after reaching the mission field and the world says, what a waste, what foolishness...

Jesus family thought he was mad. That is why His words found later in verses 31-34 sound rather cold and hard. That is because he knew why they had come. Read 31-35 Jesus did not come to destroy but to safeguard family relationships.

The way that he does it is to lead us into a spiritual relationship with the Father which is sovereign over all others. One commentator says, "Jesus despises not His mother, but places before her, His Father", for she too needed a Saviour. The closer we walk with Jesus the more likely we are to be misunderstood even by our families. It is hard to be misunderstood by those we love, but loyalty to Christ may make it inevitable. If it must be so remember this story. Summarise.

3. The Pharisees for whom Jesus was Possessed 3:22-30

Read 3:22 The religious leaders had to explain away the incredible power Jesus demonstrated. The orthodox officials never questioned his power to exorcize demons. They didn't need to, for exorcism was a common phenomenon. What they did say however was that Jesus power over the demons was really because he was in league with the devil and used black magic. They were saying, its by the power of the great demon that he casts out little demons. In their indictment they criticised both the source of His power and its scope. In this they were particularly abnoxious and offensive. The term they used 'Beelzebub' means "Dung god", a derogatory corruption of the name of the "Fly god" worshipped by the Philistines. This is evidence of the extreme to which these scribes had carried their contempt and hatred of Jesus when they chose the grossest nickname of a false god to describe the unseen power by which Jesus performed miracles. Jesus had no difficulty in exploding their argument.

3.1 The scope of His power 3:23-27
Read verses. Jesus points out their inconsistant logic 3:23.
Jesus then uses two illustrations to prove His point. 3:23-25.

A kingdom cannot survive civil war, a household cannot cope with internal strife, both will be destroyed. How then can Satan survive what you are claiming. You are illogical says Jesus. Then Jesus uses an illustration to explain the reason for His power. Read 3:27. It was because he is stronger than the strongest one that he could invade the domain of the evil one and rob Satan of his slaves. The scope of His power.

3.2 The source of His power 3:28-29
Read verses. In our translation the full force of this sentence is lost. When Jesus said "I tell you the truth" the pronouns "I" and "you" leap out with great emphasis. One translation put it this way "I, the Son of God, declare to you, my spiteful enemies and false accusers...." Jesus leaves them in no doubt that it is the Holy Spirit of God who empowers Him to perform these miracles. The scope of His power, the source of His power and,

3.3 The seriousness of His power 3:29
Repeat verse. Sooner or later in our Christian lives we fear that we have committed this sin. The good news is that if we are ever concerned that we might have done, its the clearest evidence that we haven't. As we read verses 28-29 did you notice there the most wonderful truth in the whole Bible. Reread 3:28. What then is the Blasphemy which is unforgivable? The Religious leaders had called the work of God satanic.

That indicates a level of spiritual blindness that would not be, that could not be removed by the love of Jesus. When Tokichi Ishii first read the story of the Gospel, he said "I stopped. I was stabbed to the heart as if pierced by a five inch nail. Shall I call it the love of Christ? Shall I call it His compassion? I do not know what to call it. I only know that I believed and my hardness of heart was changed"

Can you identify with him? There is only one condition of forgiveness, and that is penitance. That is because forgiveness is a gift that must be received. But if a person repeatedly refuses to heed the Holy Spirit's convicting work, and loses the ability to recognize goodness when he sees it, his moral values will become inverted and he will call good evil, and evil good. Then when he is confronted by Jesus he will have no sense of sin. With no sense of sin he cannot feel sorry, and without repentance he cannot be forgiven. The only unforgivable sin is the one that refuses to believe there is any need of it. If a person turns their back on Jesus how can they be forgiven, for there is no other way back to God. That is why it is so important we are sure of our answer to this most basic of questions which Jesus asked His Disciples. Who do you say that I am? Divine, Deluded or Demonic? Let me leave you with C.S. Lewis' conclusion.

"You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." Let us pray.