THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS FOLLOW THE SON OF GOD, 3.7-12.
The stunning truth of Mark’s Gospel is that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the Son of God!, and that when Jesus effectually calls us to follow Him, He calls us to follow the second Person of the eternal Godhead.
Many Follow for Wrong Reasons.
Now our first verses, 3.7-12, Mark is trying to draw us back to that point. They are something of a summary of Mark’s Gospel so far. There is an intensification of Jesus’ ministry and fame. We see in verse 7 that He desires to withdraw with His disciples but that in verse 9 He ends up having them stand ready with a boat at the edge of the sea. And the reason is mass hysteria. A great crowd followed, “from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon.” And we read, in verse 9, that if the disciples failed to have a boat ready, the crowd was likely to crush Him, which would have been quite a different death than a Roman cross.
What was their reason for following Jesus so hysterically? Verse 10: “[Because] He had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around Him to touch Him.” To be clear, the healing ministry of Jesus was part and parcel with His mission as the Messiah. It testified to His Person and to His main work, which we have seen to be the salvation of sinners. The leper’s deepest need was to be cleansed of his sin. The paralytic’s great paralysis was the sin that separated him from God. This doesn’t mean that Jesus had no care for their physical suffering. He did, and He healed them. It does mean that He is mainly concerned with reconciling sinners to God.
And so I want us to notice in our text a telling silence–there is no mention of his preaching, which we know was to repent and believe the gospel (1.15). In other words, the crowds are mainly concerned with temporal, physical healing without much regard at all for righting their relationship with God both now and forevermore. They are following Him for His ability to remedy real but ultimately skin-deep problems. And that is a wrong reason for following Jesus.
When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He calls us to a greater remedy and a greater reward than being cancer-free or acne-free or debt-free or stress-free or politically-free for life. He calls us to freedom from sin, Satan, death and hell. He calls us to Himself and through Him to God forever!
Brothers, sisters, friends, will you continue to follow Christ in the day that cancer takes your spouse, the womb is rendered permanently infertile, a child conceived fails to survive, or the job you desired is given to another? If you know Him as the Son of God, which every true disciple does, you will.
Though it is a bit odd, Mark draws us back to Christ’s Person and ultimate work by the testimony of unclean spirits, “You are the Son of God” (3.11). It is a narrative way of honing us back in on the One Whom we follow.
That Jesus is the Son of God is the great emphasis of Mark. Jesus is called by many other titles. Already in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is the Christ, the Lord, the Beloved, the Holy One of God, the Son of Man, the Bridegroom, and the Lord of the Sabbath. But it is to this exalted title that Mark returns, the Son of God. It is consummative for Mark.
The first verse of the Gospel reads, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1.1). And the climactic verse of the Gospel, occurring after Jesus has given up His life, exclaims, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” What makes the gospel “gospel” for Mark is that the eternal Son of God became a man like us, Jesus of Nazareth, without losing His deity, and that that One laid down His sinless life as a ransom for sinners on a Roman cross, only to take it up again three days later. To see, in the heart, the glory of the deity in the face of Jesus of Nazareth is to be a Christian! Paul says that is the divine light given the heart in the new birth. The One Who has called us, in Whom we have believed, and Who we follow is the Son of God.
This is no rabbi, teacher, sage, philosopher, guru, preacher, pastor, motivational speaker–He is God the Son in the flesh! To follow Him is to follow the One Who willingly left the Father’s side, entered this world, and went straight to the cross for us, and through it, back to glory. The call of Christ to follow Him is a call to treasure Him through crosses to glory! And that is why cancer and infertility and the death of a child and the loss of a desirable job won’t destroy your faith. The Son of God has called you to a fellowship with Him in all your crosses, and through them, to glory where you will see His glorious face! By grace, we are followers of the Son of God!
Now the rest of the text is saying one thing:
ONLY THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN THE SON BELONG TO THE FAMILY OF GOD, 3.13-35.
PUT ANOTHER WAY, ONLY THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
I want to unfold this in four truths from our text:
1] All the peoples of the world belong to one of two families.
At 8:10 p.m. last night, the world population for less than one second was 7,102,933,570 persons. By 8:11, it had gone up by almost 100 people. According to the Joshua Project, there are 16,594 people groups in the world. There are 30,443 households in Newton, 2,521,984 in Massachusetts, and 114,596,927 in the United States. But biblically, from the Fall, there are two and only two families, that of Satan and that of God, and all the peoples of the world belong to one of those two families.
2] [The sobering and hard and provocative but necessary truth of our text is that] Every human being is born a member of Satan’s household, 3.22-30.
Now in these verses, Jesus is speaking directly to the scribes who are propagating the idea that Jesus, in truth the Son of God, is ironically possessed by Satan. But we should notice that, apparently, his own family did not presently believe in Him (3.20-21; 31-35). Moreover, in verse 28, it is not simply the sin of scribes but all sins of the children of man that by faith in Christ will be forgiven. So Jesus broadens the scope in order to teach us that every human being that has ever existed has come into existence as a sinner and, thus, a member of Satan’s house.
But what does that mean? Jesus unfolds it for us in a parable designed to reveal the folly of the scribes’ charge: “by the prince of demons he casts out demons.” They realize that Jesus is destroying Satan’s kingdom. But rather than confess that in Jesus the kingdom of God has come, they propagate the idea that in Jesus there is an uprising within Satan’s own kingdom. And Jesus exposes the folly of this with an obvious truth that has shocking consequences: many kingdoms and houses have come and gone because of anarchy and uprising–Satan’s kingdom and house are not like that.
There is utter uniformity of will within Satan’s house. Understanding that He is speaking rhetorically, Satan is for Satan. The subjects of Satan’s kingdom are loyal subjects. The children of Satan’s house are one with him in will and desire. Satan’s goods love their shelf. Let me speak plainly–
The predicament of the unbeliever is a hopeless one from within. The mastery of Satan over his house is universal and unchallenged. Because of Adam’s sin, all people have been plunged into sin. The nature of the sinner is such that they, even as we once, live willingly in bondage to him, his reign, his household rules. Again, the will of the unbeliever is in perfect accord with the will of the devil, and that they know it not is just another part of his mastery. There is no desire, in our passage, to break free from his reign, no will to obey another, Stronger One. The situation is such that Satan will not willingly surrender them and they do not will to be surrendered. Let me give you biblical texts–
That he will not willingly surrender his children, 2 Cor 4.3-4, “If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
That his children do not will to be surrendered, Eph 2.1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
And to the common Jew in Jesus’ day, and most certainly the scribes and Pharisees, who considered themselves to be the children of God, Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but He sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8.42-44).
Jesus is saying that every unbeliever is uniform in will with Satan, who is their father. And that means that freedom from sin and Satan and death and hell, that redemption and reconciliation to God must come from outside of Satan’s house. And Jesus is the Son of God!
3] Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has plundered Satan’s house for God.
“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” (3.27).
Why must Satan be bound? There are two reasons. His reign in the life of unbelievers is free and it is powerful. It is free in that what he desires, unbelievers desire. There is no opposition to his overtures. It is powerful in that any opposition to it from the outside he combats. He flexes to keep his children in darkness when the light of the gospel comes. And for these two reasons, it is necessary that One should come from outside his reign to bind him. The Son of God must enter the world and put an end to his free reign. He must overwhelm all his efforts to hold on to his children.
How is it that Jesus has bound Satan and plundered his house?
a] The Son of God became a man like us and was yet distinct, in that by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, He was conceived without a sinful nature. In other words, when He is born, He stands outside of Satan’s house.
b] And yet He could have been bound if He were to sin, even as Adam. But at the point of every Satanic temptation, Jesus said no–a billion times “no”, and a billion times “yes” to God, His Father. So he bound Satan by being personally, utterly holy, by willing a perfectly sinless life in our place. This is what Jesus means when He says in John 14.30, “[the ruler of this world] has no claim on me.” Therefore, Jesus is eligible to plunder Satan’s house. How does He do it?
c] We are to see from verse 28 that the plundering of Satan’s house implies a work on behalf of the Stronger Man that effects the forgiveness of sins. He flexes His omnipotence by laying down His life for us! It is that sinless Christ dying on the cross in our place, paying the price of our ransom, accomplishing our redemption, purchasing us at the cost of His infinitely valuable blood! When He laid down His life, He did it to set you free from the tyranny of sin and Satan. When He arose from the grave, He did it to set you free from the sting of death! In Him, we have redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of our sins. If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!
d] This occurred two thousand years ago, that at present it might be applied to us by His Spirit in the new birth. To become a child of God, you must be born of God, and it is this birth that the Son of God purchased for us. The breaking of chains is nothing less than the new birth giving rise to repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. It is God shining in our hearts, overwhelming the blinding efforts of Satan, “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4.6).
e] For the Christian, the disciple of Jesus, Satan is bound, you are a child of God! Darkness has given way to light. Condemning guilt is gone. That which Christ utters of Himself-”He has no claim on me” is our right by faith in Christ. Sin’s tyranny has been broken. By a new heart and will, we are willing and able to refuse the devil and obey our God. With sin forgiven, death has lost its sting! Hell is closed to us! We are free in Jesus Christ!
f] Now, out of this parable, Christ draws two things: the first is infinite mercy for sinners and, the second, a grave warning to those who persist in their rejection of Him: do not wait! There is a hardness of heart from which there is no return, no repentance, no divine aid.
i] Infinite mercy for sinners: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.”
There is no sin, no matter how great or how frequented, that the grace of Christ is not greater than for any who repent and believe upon Him. Adam, in original righteousness, traded God for the illusion of glory implicit in a lie. Abraham worshipped idols. Moses committed murder. David committed adultery. Solomon prostituted himself with a 1000 women. Isaiah had a filthy mouth. Matthew was probably a thief. Peter denied Christ four times. Paul executed Christians. In the churches, Paul combatted schisms, pride in speech, jealousy, sexual immorality, a lack of self-control, idol worship, self-exaltation, the abuse of spiritual gifts, doctrinal errors, greed, and lovelessness. And within the church were people who had formerly lived in sexual immorality, homosexuality, sorcery, enmity, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, orgies [“and things like these”], who were thieves, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, gossips, lovers of pleasure, haters of God, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless, entrenched in bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice. And Jesus says that He is able and willing to pay for it all, where sin is forsaken and He is believed upon. Not one of these sins, no matter how great, no matter how frequented, and all combined, even that which we have been utterly unaware of, the like of which must be thousands upon thousands, are greater than the infinite mercy of Christ displayed and forged in the cross. They are like drops of rain in the ocean that are submerged and quickly disappear. There is more mercy in one drop of Christ’s blood than there is sin in the history of the world.
And if you should put off coming, in spite of the Spirit’s testimony to Christ, resisting His overtures, you are in danger of what Jesus calls “an eternal sin.”
ii] So He gives an earnest warning: “‘but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’–for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”
What is this sin? Jesus calls it the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and yet you’ll notice that they seem to be blaspheming Jesus. So what exactly is going on here? Our text has led me to believe that this is–a close observance of the Spirit-anointed Person and work of Jesus, and in spite of clear Spiritual evidence that He is the Messiah, it is a rejection of the Spirit’s testimony and the convictional propagation of the gross error that the works and Person of Jesus are satanic. To put it simply, they believe and advance the idea that the Spirit upon and working through Christ is evil. It is the ultimate conflation of things: what is supremely good, they preach as pervasively evil; what is perfectly divine, they say is utterly satanic; what is pure light, they propagate as darkness.
Now I want to be clear. It is not simply a saying, although it includes words. It cannot be committed by a believer, for the believer has fled to Christ. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit appears to be the consequential sin of a hardness of heart that, in its persistent refusal to believe in Christ in spite of every evidence and influence to arouse faith, reaches a point of no repentance. It is a grave truth that God will give a person over to their sins and will, at the same time, remove His restraining and influential grace, and allow them to reach this point, a point of no repentance.
Now I think what Christ intends by such a warning is this: do not wait to come to Christ!
The infinite mercy of Christ to set you free from all your sins in every way is extended for awhile. Do not abuse it or put it off as if it will be available at some later date. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6.2). Where there is faith in the Son, this eternal sin is not a sin committed. The whole issue terminates in a call to faith, then. Do not put off believing the gospel! If, as is the case, Satan has been bound by Christ and you see other cell mates, other siblings in sin fleeing from Satan and from sin into the arms of Christ, do not sit idly by but flee to Christ! The Son will set you free indeed and you shall be a child of God!
Only those who believe in the Son are part of the family of God!
4] The family of God is, therefore, immovably centered on Jesus Christ.
In our passage, we are made to feel that in various ways. And if we would be centered upon Christ, Christ Community Church, this local expression of the family of God, should be marked by these very things. We find the majority of these in 3.13-21 (a text in which Jesus is revealing that the true people of God, of which His twelve disciples are a microcosm, are defined by faith in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God), and one more in 3.31-35 (where this faith is authenticated).
a] Communion with Christ, 3.14, “he appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him.” What an incredible mercy to be called into communion with Christ. We must remember that Christ came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to Himself. To be with Him is to be in fellowship with God. This is the desire of Christ, to be with you. How desensitized are our hearts to this simple yet incredible mercy?
b] Mission for Christ, 3.14-15, “he appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” Communion with Christ inevitably overflows into mission. Working at Starbucks, I have fellowship with coffee all the time. Because of that, I smell of coffee, the aroma of coffee covers our home. Because I know more about coffee, I talk about it more. Because I have more of it, I give away more. In Acts 4, after Peter and John have been given opportunity to share Christ, we are told “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (4.13).
c] Progress in Christ, 3.16, “He appointed the twelve.” We do not claim sinlessness but for Christ. We do lay claim to the new birth, to the inner working of the Spirit of Christ, to progressive righteousness (sanctification), and growth in holiness. Where is this emphasized in our passage? “He appointed the twelve” and then Mark proceeds to give the names of men who struggle to follow Christ. They misunderstand Him, they fumble over His words, they stand in the way of the cross, they are
d] Contentment in Christ, 3.18, “James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus . . .”. Have you heard of these guys? Me neither! But many of the greatest advances of the kingdom of made by those who have never been named in any book of church history, any book at all–except for the one that matters most–the Lambs Book of Life! But certainly there must be a contentment in Christ in all of our service for Christ.
e] Unity in Christ, 3.18, “Simon . . . and Matthew . . . and Simon the Cananaean . . .”. These, the common Jewish person, the traitor tax collecting Jewish person, the person with extreme enmity towards Rome–these are very different people, coming with very different ideologies and sins at variance with one another, and yet here they are in one family because one gospel, one Christ has called them together and, by His grace, overcome that which formerly would have resulted in a great dual and division. The gospel of Christ stands centrally to the unity of Christ’s family.
f] Persevering in doing the will of God, 3.31-35. Judas, freedom in Christ, born of God, will of God: repentance and faith in Christ, holiness, sexual purity, sacrificial love, joy in weakness, being a neighbor to your neighbors, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all yoru heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. To persevere in doing these things is absolutely incredible! It implies a new birth, for formerly we were enslaved to the will of Satan, but now we are marked as those who do the will of God! What a thing that Christ has done for us in setting us free from sin and slavery and death and hell, to God and for God and His glory! The simplest things of a holy life imply the most incredibly divine realities towards and about you. Let us rejoice in the grace of God towards us!