2019-3-03 Who Are You?

Who Are You?
Mark 3:20-30
3-03-2019

Our Scripture this morning is found in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 3 verses 20 through 30. Follow along as I read from God’s holy, inerrant, and inspired Word.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’

30 He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’ [1]

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Prayer of Illumination

Prepare our hearts, O God, to hear your Word and obey your will. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

May of us know the song “Who Are You?”  Even if you don’t like rock music, you know the song. You recognize the catchy way Roger Daltrey sings who are you. The CBS show C.S.I. used it as the theme song.

While you know the song, you may not know the background to the song.  In the late 1970s, Pete Townshend went out for a few drinks with some guys from a punk rock band. And during the course of the evening, Townshend had a few too many drinks and passed out in a doorway. A police officer found him and woke him up. Townshend responded by asking, “Who are you?” That encounter led to him writing the song “Who Are You?” for his band The Who.

Who are you? That is the implicit question that is being asked here in this passage. Last week we looked at how the crowds misunderstood Jesus as just a miracle work; they didn’t understand that he is the Son of God. We also saw that we can avoid misunderstanding who Jesus is by spending time with Jesus; that as we spend time reading Scripture we see Jesus as he truly is.

Today as we examine verses 20-30 in Mark chapter 3, we’ll see that there are some wrong theories about who Jesus is, we’ll see who Jesus says he is, and what that means for us.

Wrong Theories About Who Jesus Is

In verses 20-21 we read, “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” Jesus has returned to Capernaum from his time teaching by the Sea of Galilee. Even in his own home, the crowds flock to him. The crowds continue to crowd around Jesus and prevent him from eating.

Word reaches his family and they say, “He is out of his mind”. They hear that Jesus isn’t caring for himself; that he isn’t eating. They might have also heard that he was spending all night up in prayer (Luke 6:12). When those reports get to them, they think that Jesus has gone crazy. They think he’s a lunatic.

At this point, Jesus’ brothers do not believe who he is. In John’s gospel account they mocked him when opposition to his ministry was ratcheting up. Jesus wasn’t ministering in Jerusalem because the leaders wanted to kill him. His brothers mocked him and said that he should go to Jerusalem and publicly proclaim who he is. John tells us they said that because they didn’t believe him.

And maybe they have heard what Jesus is saying, that he has the authority to forgive sins, that he is reinterpreting the Pharisees’ customs in light of himself. Then when they hear that he isn’t eating, they begin to think that he is out of his; that he is a lunatic.

Now it’s not just his family who thinks that Jesus is a lunatic. Most of our English translations say, “When his family heard”. The Greek is actually much more ambiguous. The Greek actually says, “When the ones of him heard”. The implication is that even some of those who followed Jesus thought that was out of his mind. Maybe that includes Judas Iscariot. Maybe that includes some of the crowd. But in any case, people thought Jesus was a lunatic.

Thinking that Jesus is a lunatic isn’t the only wrong theory we find in this passage. In verse 22 we read, “And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’” The Scribes are claiming that Jesus is not who he who claims to be. They are claiming that Jesus is a liar.

They can’t deny the miracles that Jesus has done so they say that Jesus is a liar. The teachers of the law are putting Jesus in the same category as they would a magician. Magicians were people who used demons and incantations to put spells on items or on people.

The teachers of the law are saying that Jesus can do the miracles because of Satan. They say that he is possessed by Beelzebul. Beelzebul means “Lord of the House” and is a colloquialism for Satan. As a result of being possessed, he’s a conduit for Satan to work.

If Jesus is possessed by Satan, then he isn’t who he claims to be; he’s a liar. The teachers of the law are saying that Jesus claims to be a godly man, that he’s a godly teacher but in actuality he is a demoniac. He is only pretending to be a godly man. The teachers of the law are claiming that Jesus is a liar.

Those wrong theories about who Jesus is didn’t die off 2,000 years ago. Even today there are wrong theories about who Jesus is. Often times we say that Jesus is just a good, moral teacher. When I was in college, I heard that a lot. I remember that one time after one of my literature classes, several of us were sitting in café talking. As we were talking, somehow we started talking about faith. One of guys said that Jesus is just another good, moral teacher like Buddha, Mohammed, or Moses.

While that is a relatively popular theory about who Jesus is, C.S. Lewis points out a major flaw in that line of thinking. He writes:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. 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 with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.[2]

Those are some wrong theories about who Jesus is. Who does Jesus actually say he is?

Who Jesus Says He Is

In verses 23-27 Jesus says, “So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.”

Jesus responds to the teachers of the law’s theory that he is liar; that he is possessed by Beelzebul. He points out that their argument doesn’t make sense. If Jesus is in league with Satan, then what he is doing would mean Satan’s kingdom is divided.

Kingdoms don’t generally stand when they are divided and in civil war. A few years ago, one of the most popular movies was Captain America: Civil War. While it’s a movie that has superheroes, it’s really a mystery. It’s a mystery about why someone is framing someone Captain America cares about and what their endgame really is. The guy who framed Captain America’s friend said this when asked why. He said, “An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again; but one that crumbles from within, that’s dead”.  He wanted to divide and conquer the Avengers.

That’s not just movie logic. If a country has fallen into civil war, there’s a chance that country won’t recover from it. It may divide into two separate countries; it may be conquered by its enemies. Or it may survive the civil war but never actually return to its former glory.

Jesus is pointing out that if he is casting out demons by Satan’s power, then Satan’s kingdom would be falling from internal strife. But that’s not the case. Satan’s kingdom is falling because someone stronger than Satan is here. Jesus is the one stronger than Satan who can enter into Satan’s kingdom, bind him, and steal his possessions.

A few months ago, we looked at Genesis 3. We saw that humanity had fallen into a state of sin due to the tempting of Satan. In the midst of the pronouncement of judgment against sin, God gives a promise. God says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The fulfillment of that is happening in Jesus’ ministry. He is the one who crushes the head of Satan. He is the one who can come into Satan’s domain and redeem people from Satan’s captivity. That is why he can cast out demons. That’s why demons tremble when they see him. He is the one who is stronger than them.

Even though he has ascended to the right hand of God the Father, he is still working and redeeming his people out of Satan’s captivity and into the kingdom of light. Every place where the gospel is proclaimed, Jesus is at work. He uses average men and women, like you and me, to accomplish his purpose of proclaiming his gospel and seeing people be redeemed out of sin and death. He works through the sacraments. When we partake in the Lord’s Supper he is active and nourishes us spiritually as we feast with him.

So when someone comes to faith, when they recognize that Jesus is lord, it is the result of Jesus having redeemed them out of Satan’s kingdom. That is Jesus taking someone he has called to himself out of Satan’s possession and redeeming that person.

Jesus will continue to redeem his people out of their captivity to sin and death, out of Satan’s kingdom to himself until he returns. When he returns, Satan will be completely and utterly bound, and cast into the lake of fire and sulfur to suffer for all eternity.

What does it all mean for us?

What This Means

In verses 28-30 we read, “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’ 30 He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’”

The fact that Jesus is the one who is stronger than Satan, the fact that Jesus is lord means a couple of things. It means all our sins are forgiven. If you are in Christ, if you place your trust and hope in him as lord and savior, then you are forgiven. Sometimes, I’ll talk with people and they’ll say, “Oh … I don’t know if God can forgive me for that”. He can and he does, if you are in Christ.

We just finished looking at the life and theology of Martin Luther in our Knowing What You Believe class on Tuesday nights. If you were in that class you’ll remember that Luther truly struggled with the weight and gravity of his sin. He would confess his sins for hours, even the most minute of sins. He really struggled with whether or not God could forgive him.

One day around 1515, he was studying Romans 1:17. He read, “ For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”[3] At first he hated it. He had been taught that the righteousness of God was something he needed to perform. But as he was studying that passage, he realized that the righteousness of God referred to Jesus, who he is and what he has done. It was in that moment that he realized the beauty of the cross because that was where Jesus bore the consequence of our sins so that we would be forgiven and get his righteousness.

Whenever you doubt whether or not God can forgive your sin, look to the cross. Look to the cross and know that God nailed all of your sins to that tree and you are forgiven. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had affairs, if you’ve cursed and taken the Lord’s name in vain, if you’ve shot a man just to watch him die. If you are in Jesus, your sin has been nailed to the cross never to be spoken of again. You are forgiven in Jesus.

While all sins will be forgiven, there is one sin that Jesus says won’t be forgiven. He says blasphemy “against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven”. This verse is one of the most misunderstood passages in all of Mark. Let’s first say what it isn’t. It isn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain, though you shouldn’t do that. It isn’t unbelief. Those are forgivable sins. So what is this unforgivable sin then? R. Kent Hughes puts it better than I could. He says:

Very simply it is the ongoing, continual rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit to the Divinity and Saviorhood of Christ. It is the perversion in the heart which chooses to call light darkness and darkness light. It is continuing rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit, whether that witness be a quiet witness in the conscience, the rational witness of the Word, or even miracles and wonders.[4]

That is the unforgivable sin. It is the continual rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit; it is calling light darkness and darkness light. It is doing what the teachers of the law were doing, seeing Jesus work in someone’s life and saying that is Satan’s work.

That is a warning more to those of us in this room than the person out on the street who doesn’t recognize Christ. The person who doesn’t recognize Christ as Lord is less likely to commit the unforgivable sin than someone who has a little bit of theological knowledge, someone who knows a little bit about the bible. Let us not call the work of the Holy Spirit the work of Satan; let us not deny the ability of Jesus Christ to redeem someone.

There are a lot of wrong theories about who Jesus is out there. Some say he is just a good moral teacher, some say he’s a lunatic, some say he’s a liar. But who Jesus really is is the one stronger than Satan who redeems and forgives his people of their sins.

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Mk 3:20–30). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Lewis, C.S. (1952). Mere Christianity. (p. 52). New York, NY; HarperCollins

[3] The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 1:17). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant and savior (Vol. 1, p. 92). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.