March 5, 2017
A child’s game sure to bring disappointment is musical chairs. If you have a group of 10 children, you set up 9 chairs in a circle with the seats facing out. While the music plays the children walk around the chairs. When the music stops each child must find a chair to sit in. But of course, one child will not have a seat, and that child is out. Each go you remove another chair so there is always one less. It is a game that can get rambunctious and cause hard feelings for children who want to win.
Today we are looking at Mk.3:21-35 and Mk.6:1-6. The Mark 3 passage is one of the sandwich passages. I want us to consider these passages because they speak to the matter of who has a seat at the Table with Jesus?
I. FAMILIARITY WITH JESUS DOES NOT GUARANTEE RELATIONSHIP. Mk.3:20-32; 6:1-6
In the first half of Mark’s Gospel we are amazed to see the goodness and power of Jesus. Jesus embodies and demonstrates the kingdom of God. But when the kingdom of God is revealed and proclaimed in this world there will be conflict. Already in Mk.2 when Jesus forgives the sin of a paralyzed man, the Jewish leaders who were present believed that Jesus was blaspheming because he was claiming for himself the authority of God to forgive sins.
In Mk.3 Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, in the synagogue and it was too much for the Pharisees who were present. It says in Mk.3:6 that the Pharisees went out and held counsel on how to destroy Jesus. In Mk.3:13 Jesus identifies and selects 12 disciples to be with him. And then in v.20 Jesus returns to Capernaum where he was staying in Peter’s house. (v.20-21).
In v.21 we read something surprising. Jesus’ family came to seize Jesus! They were saying that he was out of his mind! From what we can see, it would seem that his mother and brothers did not like what they were hearing. Clearly Jesus was not taking care of himself. Yes, he was doing good things, but the authorities were not happy and it would seem that Jesus was allowing the crowds to dictate his life. He didn’t even have time to eat. He was driven by the crowds. “What is Jesus doing? This is such an embarrassment to our family!” Clearly the family of Jesus felt that they knew what was wrong with Jesus and they were going to take care of him. And just like that, Mark starts into another story.
Some scribes came from Jerusalem to Capernaum to find out just what Jesus was doing. This is sort of like bringing the Feds in from Washington, D.C. to find out what is going on in Chicago. Of course the scribes were well educated in Jewish scripture and theology. They knew how to interpret the Bible and they were held in high regard by the Jewish people. When they saw what Jesus was doing, it was their esteemed opinion that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, which is another name for Satan, the prince of demons. In other words, they were giving the people the idea that you can’t trust Jesus because he is doing these things by the power of the devil. First it was his own family trying to seize Jesus, and then it was the Jewish religious leaders who were trying to discredit Jesus. They also knew what they were talking about. They were well educated.
No one is certain as to the exact meaning of “Beelzebul.” In his commentary, James Edwards points out that the name seems to refer to an exalted ruler over a house or dynasty. In v.23-27, Jesus quickly turned the tables on the scribes. He replied, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.” Jesus is asking, “What kind of sense does it make to say that Satan casts demons out of people? Satan wants to destroy people.” In v.27 Jesus implies that he is the one who enters into the house or dynasty of Beelzebul, binds him and liberates his captives.
(v.28-30) Many have read these verses and have wondered if perhaps they committed this unforgivable sin. What is the unforgivable sin? Verse 30 is helpful because Mark points out that they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” New Testament scholar, Dr. Walter Wessel writes, “Jesus had done what any unprejudiced person would have acknowledged as a good thing. He had freed an unfortunate man from the power and bondage of evil. This he did through the power of the Holy Spirit, but the teachers of the law ascribed it to the power of Satan.” James Edwards writes, “The sin against the Holy Spirit is...a specific misjudgment that Jesus is motivated by evil rather than by good, that he is empowered by the devil rather than by God.” I believe we are talking about an intentional misjudgment and a blatant, persistent rejection of Jesus. If you think you might have committed the unforgivable sin and you are worried about it, you have not committed it. The person who commits this sin is not at all concerned about it.
More importantly by putting this story in the middle of the first story, Jesus is saying something that is sobering. Look at v.31-32. Jesus’ own family were suggesting that Jesus was out of his mind and needed to be controlled. They were coming to do that. Now Jesus does not say that they were also committing this unforgivable sin. We know that at least James and Jude and his mother, Mary came to faith in Christ. But we don’t know about the others. Nevertheless, they were ignoring the obvious truth about Jesus and implying untrue things about Jesus. A dismissive attitude and a persistent heart of unbelief toward Jesus is dangerous.
(6:1-6) Here Jesus visits his hometown, Nazareth. By this time his reputation for doing miracles was well established. Jesus was well known in Nazareth. He grew up in Nazareth. You would think the people who knew him best would have given him a parade. “Local boy makes good.” What did they do? They diminished Jesus. “Wait, isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us?” It is said that, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and that seems to be true for the people of Nazareth in regard to Jesus. So dismissive were they that Jesus marveled at their unbelief. Throughout the first half of Mark’s gospel, people are amazed at Jesus. Here Jesus is amazed at their unbelief.
Look at this. Jesus’ family, the religious leaders, and his own home town all rejected and dismissed Jesus. You would think they would have been the first to acknowledge and embrace Jesus. You would think they would be insiders.But no.
Perhaps you were raised in a Christian home with godly parents. Perhaps you went to church on a regular basis and learned much about Jesus. Perhaps you are well versed in the Bible. Well, none of this guarantees that you will embrace Jesus Christ as Lord. In fact, what we see here is that these people had hard hearts towards Jesus and that puts one in a perilous condition.
II. THOSE WHO DO THE WILL OF GOD HAVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE. Mk.3:34-35
So far we have been looking at people who had had significant access to Jesus: family, neighbors, and religious leaders. So far we have seen that they are on the outside, separated from Jesus, even antagonistic to Jesus.
But here we find Jesus in a house and the crowd is sitting around him. Jesus’ mother and brothers are standing outside calling him to come to them. When Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are seeking him, we are surprised at what Jesus says.
Who are Jesus’ family? Who has a seat at the Table of Jesus? Jesus says it is those who do the will of God. What does that mean? Well, I can tell you that Jesus is not just talking about doing good things for others. Doing good things is important and is surely a part of doing God’s will because God’s will is always good. But we’re not just talking about a general sense of doing good. It is more than that.
First we notice that these people were sitting around Jesus. They are attending to the presence of Jesus. They are listening to him. They are being with him. This conveys the idea of discipleship. In 3:14 we see that he called his disciples to be with him. None of his family, or neighbors or religious leaders wanted to be with Jesus. They wanted to control or hinder Jesus. But Jesus is seeking those who will be with him.
Assuming that you are a disciple of Jesus, how are you with him each day? I’m sure that many of us read a portion of scripture or a devotional booklet each day. We spend some time in prayer. And that is important, but it’s possible to do these things in a mindless way. So being with Jesus means that we engage mind and heart in his presence. We are cultivating an awareness that wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we are in the presence of Jesus who is at work with us.
Along with this, being with Jesus means that we trust him. We are with him because we trust him with our lives. We find our strength in him. We find forgiveness in him. Our very life is in him.
But there is something else. Doing the will of God means that we are willing to serve him. In Mk.3:14 it says, “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” Doing the will of God involves serving the Lord. Jesus sends the 12 out to proclaim the kingdom of God in Mk.6. Now you may not be a preacher. That’s okay. If you are a disciple of Jesus he wants to use you to promote life in the kingdom of God through the way that you live and talk. He calls us to take what we learn from being with him into the world. And this is not just an individual undertaking. This is an ecclesial calling. The body of Christ is called to serve him in the world. And of course this means that as a local congregation we must be promote fellowship and community with each other and with the Lord.
Now before us is the Lord’s Table. Who qualifies to have a seat at the Lord’s Table? Well let me mention who does not qualify. People who have a Christian heritage but who have never personally embraced Jesus by faith as Savior, Lord, and King do not qualify to have a seat here. Just being born into a Christian family doesn’t make one a Christian. Jesus’ own mother, brothers, and sisters were not automatically followers of Jesus. What is more, those who were raised in the church and who have Bible knowledge about Jesus, but who have never repented of their sins and called upon Jesus to save them, are not qualified to have a seat at the Lord’s Table. Anyone who takes Jesus lightly does not qualify to have a seat at the Table. Jesus made it clear, that his family are those who do the will of God.
The Lord’s Table is highly significant and to be highly valued. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit believers, the Church, is brought into the presence of Jesus Christ around his Table. He didn’t give this ordinance to individuals. He gave it to the church and so it must have significant, ongoing value for the gathered church. The Lord’s Table is not a place for perfect people. It is a place for forgiven people, for people who have entered into and are living out his new creation life by faith. In a few moments we will gather to the Lord’s Table. Do you have a seat at the Lord’s Table? Do you know him? Unlike the game, musical chairs, there are plenty of seats available for those who know Christ. If you do not know Christ, this Table beckons you to come to Christ today. Amen