Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21
Jesus has already encountered opposition in this chapter, but now he faces it more intensely as he teaches a crowd in a home. His own family begins to question his actions. The Kingdom is unfolding, and the world isn’t quite ready for all that it entails; not even Jesus’ family can understand it.
But the opposition becomes more aggressive with the accusation of the scribes. It’s no small thing to call someone a Satan follower. They are not simply trying to get rid of Jesus; they want to discredit everything he has said and done. Jesus replies to their accusation by telling a parable that logically pokes holes through their charges. Masterfully, he points out that Satan would not cast out his followers. Satan cannot destroy himself if he wants to gain power.
Jesus then illustrates his logic with this imagery of a thief. He says you can’t rob a strong man unless you first restrain him. On the surface, this sounds like a simple illustration but if we look closer, we see a powerful statement about what Jesus is doing in the world. Jesus doesn’t reply to the accusation by saying, “I am not doing this by the power of the devil.” What he says instead is, “not only am I not doing this by the power of Satan, I have tied Satan up, I have bound him in his own house, and I have plundered him.” Jesus declares a decisive victory over the forces of evil in these words.
You may not have an unclean spirit in your soul, but you may have brokenness in there. You don’t need to be possessed by Satan to be in bondage to sin or fear or pain. Take a moment to visualize the dark corners of your soul and then picture Jesus entering into those places binding up wounds, tying up sins, and plundering evil from your soul.
I must address this text from another angle today as well. This text has elicited much concern because Jesus’ words are so strong. If you have been around Christianity for long enough, you may have heard of the unforgivable sin. This passage is one of the texts that reference this, “eternal sin.” The scriptures are full of passages that confuse, challenge, or even infuriate us. One rule of thumb is to see these challenges as an invitation from the Spirit of God to dig. It’s precisely in the questioning that we find some of the most profound insights into God’s heart and his way.
Ultimately this text is not focused on Jesus’ statements about the unforgivable sin. Instead, Jesus is attempting to teach us about his authority over evil, as we have already read. But that doesn’t answer the question, what does he mean by “blasphemy of the spirit?” When you boil it down, Jesus is teaching us that redemption, salvation, and hope cannot be accessed if you begin to associate the giver of redemption and salvation with evil. N.T. Wright explains in his “New Testament For Everyone” commentary, “It isn’t that God gets specially angry with one sin in particular. It’s rather that if you decide firmly that the doctor who is offering to perform a life-saving operation on you is in fact a sadistic murderer, you will never give your consent to the operation.”
In the mind of Jesus, we must never associate the coming of God’s good Kingdom with evil. If you want life, you cannot be afraid of the giver of life. If you want restoration, you must not hide from the giver of restoration. Many pastors have said this, but it deserves repeating, if you are afraid of committing the unforgivable sin, you almost certainly have not.
By Aaron Bjorklund