It really is amazing to me how much of Jesus’ life we know nothing about.
- We have some documentation concerning His birth....
- We have one story describing Jesus at the age of 12....
But other than that, the first 30 years of Jesus’ earthly existence is simply unknowable.
The main source of data is the four Gospels, which focus exclusively on the 3 year earthly ministry of Jesus that occurred between the ages of 30 to 33.
But even then, it really is shocking how little of this 3 year ministry we have recorded for our consumption. Did you know of the 3 year ministry of Jesus we only have 1 month of actual days recorded in the Gospels? Only 30 or so days of Jesus’ life have been documented leaving approximately 2 years and 11 months to pure speculation just like the 28 years before it.
Don’t get me wrong.... this doesn’t mean Jesus wasn’t active. John 20:30 is clear that, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.”
But I am left considering.... why only provide 30 days of Jesus’ ministry?
1. Maybe it goes without saying, but the things included in the Gospel narrative have been hand-selected by the Holy Spirit to reveal the person of Jesus. The Bible provides for us the “complete revelation of Jesus Christ.” Nothing more is needed than what we’ve been given.
2. But this also tells me.... because every story concerning Jesus was hand-selected.... these 30 days demand my focus, study, and attention.
As we established last week.... Jesus’ ministry has moved from phase one (Period of Obscurity) to phase two (Period of Popularity), however the seeds of the third phase (Period of Opposition) have already been sown.
A plan to murder Jesus has been hatched through the unlikely alliance of the Pharisees and the Herodians. The only thing holding them back from their dastardly plans was the popularity Jesus had with the population at large.
In order to rid themselves of Jesus, they would first have to erode His popularity. To accomplish this they’d focus on a smear campaign of lies in the attempts of discrediting His ministry.... Mark records their attempts.
Mark 3:20-22 “Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.”
Scene of Activity
Jesus selects 12 disciples from among the multitudes that followed Him.
After providing the names of these 12 characters, Mark tells us they all “went into a house.” It’s hard to say with certainty where Jesus is or even what house He’s entered, but Mark continues by providing us two important bits of information that set the scene....
1. “The multitude came together again....” A large group of people have gathered.
2. “So they could not so much as eat bread....” The venue was so overcrowded it was impossible for the people to access basic amenities.
An overcrowded venue and a hungry group of people made for a dangerous situation which the enemies of Jesus decide to use for their advantage. Mark tells us that “when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him....”
Don’t forget Mark is writing to the “slave world” within the Roman Empire. His audience is made up mainly of a gentile (non-Hebrew) population. By describing the opposition of Jesus as being from “His own people,” Mark is simply stating the enemies of Jesus were Jews lest his audience think this wasn’t an act of aggression brought about by the Romans.
Attack Ad #1: Jesus was “out of His mind.”
It’s another way of saying Jesus was “beside Himself.” The accusation is that Jesus was mentally unstable. He was insane.... more specifically, they accused Him of being schizophrenic. To be “out of your mind” or to be “beside yourself” indicates that there are two of you acting as one.... you besides yourself.
Those who opposed Jesus were educated, powerful men determined to destroy Jesus. This attack ad was well crafted and thought out. It’s been said, “the best lie is one that contains a little bit of truth to make it believable.” I’m sure they even hired Frank Luntz and Dick Morris to run some focus group testing on the ad’s effectiveness among likely voters.
This attack was effective for two reasons?
1. The timing was perfect....
Jesus had just picked out 12 men to fill a position from a multitude of people who had turned in applications. There was no doubt a “jealousy component” was at play among a group of people supporting Jesus who felt overlooked.
2. Jesus had just done something insane....
If you weren’t chosen by Jesus, you’d naturally think you were more qualified then the 12 Jesus chose. But the irony is that you’d probably be correct in your assessment. Let’s not sugarcoat it.... choosing these 12 men was insane.
Attack Ad #2: Jesus was possessed by “Beelzebub.”
Though it’s difficult to trace the origins of the word “Beelzebub,” it seems evident from the context of our story the religious leaders were accusing Jesus of being possessed by Satan.
This attack was also thought out and well crafted....
Though they couldn’t deny the existence of Jesus’ supernatural power, they could attempt to spin it into a negative by claiming His power came from Satan, and not from God. Sure, Jesus was casting out of demons, but He was doing this in the power and authority of Satan. These guys were the original spin-doctors.
Mark tells us specifically that this second attack ad was crafted by “the scribes who came down from Jerusalem.” It’s interesting to me the powerful implications of this simple detail....
Earlier in our story these same men had come to Galilee to observe the ministry of Jesus for themselves. Scripture tells us they heard Jesus teach and had witnessed His miraculous power.
In Mark 2 we’re told the “scribes” were present that day when the paralytic man was lowered through the roof of Peter’s home, and Jesus forgave the man’s sins before proceeding to heal him of his paralysis.
It seems as experts of the Old Testament scriptures they returned to Jerusalem with the purpose of deciphering what they had seen - and most importantly desiring to reach a consensus as to whom Jesus really was (don’t forget in that same exchange in Mark 2 Jesus had claimed to be God).
And what conclusions did they return from their quest to share with the people.... that Jesus was possessed by Satan, therefore He had been given the power of Satan to preform the supernatural works they were all witnessing!
I have to ask.... how do you witness an awesome miracle preformed by Jesus - and then search over the Scriptures for an explanation - and reach that conclusion?
ANSWER: I’m a firm believer that an honest and objective quest for truth will always result in the discovery of truth. But here in lies the problem.... There are always one of two results to every situation.... (1). we can either see a situation for what it actually is - the truth, or (2). we can see a situation for what we want it to be - a justification of our prejudices.
If a person allows their preconceived prejudices to taint their quest for truth concerning Jesus, they end up arriving - not at the truth - but with more validity to their very own preconceived prejudices.
For a multitude of reasons, these Scribes had no interest in an honest examination of Jesus. In the end, they not only reached the wrong conclusions, but looked rather foolish in their assessment.
Mark 3:23-27 “So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “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 cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.”
Jesus provides His rebuttal....
1. Their logic was self-contradicting.
If Satan had imparted power to Jesus, then why was Jesus using this power to defeat Satan? This didn’t make sense. “If Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”
Their argument violate the law of self-contradiction.... Why would Satan give power to a man who was casting out demons and liberating people from his influence? Could they point to any of Jesus’ activities and truly say it furthered the cause of Satan? Their argument didn’t pass the sniff test.... though cleaver, it was fundamentally flawed.
2. Their reasoning was self-defeating.
In order to make their argument, they had to concede the fact Jesus possessed supernatural power. It was a reality they couldn’t skirt. Since Jesus was using this power to combat the forces of evil, it didn’t make logical sense for the origin of His power to come from Satan. So where did the power come from?
Their flawed argument was self-defeating.... without realizing it their argument was actually affirming that Jesus’ power had come from God. “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.”
Though Jesus provides a rebuttal on the second attack focused on the origins of His power and authority, please notice.... Jesus doesn’t address the first attack focused on His sanity.
To me it’s interesting - and in many ways revealing - that Jesus will defend an attack against His character, but He doesn’t seem to care to defend His actions.
Why is this?
1. Jesus rarely explains His actions.
Jesus had picked out 12 men to be His disciples. Those present might have considered these choices insane, but Jesus had His reasons and didn’t feel incline to share them with the population who’d questioned Him.
And from my experiences it seems consistent that Jesus wouldn’t take the bait to provide a reason why He chose to act in a way people couldn’t understand.
You know, in much the same way, there are times in my life when Jesus chooses to work in a certain way that defies my intellectual reasoning. There are times when He chooses to work in a way that I don’t understand.... a way that I maybe even question.
And it’s in those moments - like those who opposed Him that day - that I demand some kind of justifiable explanation from Jesus.... that I demand Jesus to defend His actions.... or at least explain His reasonings. But guess what.... as was the case that day.... He doesn’t feel incline to defend Himself to me either!
2. Jesus desires His followers to trust Him.
Jesus defends His character, but He doesn’t defend His actions.... because, in the end, a fundamental component to following Jesus is trust.
When it’s all said and done, we must filter every experience through the prism of His great love and trust that He knows what He’s doing. We should always keep in mind His promise to “work all things for the good.”
Faith might be the mechanism that enables me to obey God when God leads a certain way. But trust is the mechanism that enables me to be at peace with the results of my obedience.
Mark 3:28-30 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Jesus makes an interesting transition in these verses.... He provides a rebuttal of their accusations, but continues by issuing a warning aimed at these religious leaders.
These verses contain what many have called the “Unpardonable Sin” - sadly, by removing the context of Jesus’ statement, this idea has created all kinds of unwarranted confusion.
Don’t forget the context....
- Jesus is addressing a group of religious Jews who had previously rejected the God of the Old Testament (the first person of the trinity).
- The blasphemous accusation they had just levied at Jesus.... that “He has an unclean spirit” revealed their rejection of the Son (the second person of the trinity).
Jesus is warning them that if their hardened heart continues with a rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives (the third person of the trinity) then they will have completely rejected the working of the God-head in their lives.
The result of rejecting God.... you will find yourself beyond the forgiveness of God. And, you’ll find yourself subject to eternal condemnation.
The “Unpardonable Sin” is therefore not one act done against God - it’s not a word I utter against the Holy Spirit - but rather the complete rejection of God’s work (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in my life.
Mark 3:31-35 “Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
Apparently the reports of Jesus’ bizarre behavior - coupled with the attack ads being run on the local Galilean networks - had finally reach Jesus’ immediate family. Maybe some of the rumblings of a growing opposition among the power brokers had also reached His family spawning this intervention.
Regardless of their reasons.... out of an ill advised concern, they came to Jesus and (according to another Gospel account) plead with Jesus to return home to Nazareth and chill out a while.
- Aside from His mother Mary, we know from other places that Jesus’ family also consisted of several brothers and sisters. We have no mention of Joseph during Jesus’ 3 year ministry, leading many to conclude he died sometime between Jesus 12th and 30th birthdays.
We also known historically that Jesus’ siblings had significant doubts concerning His Messiahship. Two of His brothers (James and Jude) would become pillars in the church, but only after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead did they repent and believe.
Though some have interpreted Jesus’ response a little harsh, don’t forget the context of the story and a greater lesson Jesus is trying to communicate.
In the presence of His earthly family.... “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You....” Jesus takes the opportunity to make an important point to His followers concerning the family of God. He said to them.... “whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
The Hebrew people considered themselves the people of God. In light of the interactions these religious leaders had just had with Jesus, and in leu their obvious doubt.... Jesus is making one thing crystal clear to everyone present that day.... the mark of being apart of the family of God.... was not birthright - it wasn’t heritage - it was obedience!
Problems with the Roman Catholic Position of Mary:
1. If Jesus had physical, biological brothers and sisters, then it really blows a hole in the Catholic doctrine known as the “Perpetual Virginity of Mary.”
2. If Mary is divine and worthy to receive our prayers, then her actions in our story don’t seem very godlike or consistent with divinity.
Of all the people in Jesus’ earthly family that should not have doubted His divinity, mission, and purpose it would have been Mary.
She was the virgin who conceived. She had received a revelation from God through the angle Gabriel. She had witnessed the miraculous circumstance surrounding His birth and early childhood. She had witnessed the manifestation of His sinless nature as He grew and matured in direct contrast to His peers and siblings. Mary had no excuse for not believing, and her actions in this story are inexplicable.
Don’t get me wrong.... Mary was a great women.... maybe even the greatest women, and in many ways Protestants don’t give her the credit she deserves. However, passages like this one fly in direct opposition to some of the inappropriate notions espoused by Roman Catholics.
Recap a few important points from our text....
1. If you have yet to make a definitive conclusion concerning Jesus.... please know.... an honest and objective quest for truth will always result in the discovery of truth. However, if you allow your preconceived prejudices to taint this quest for truth concerning Jesus, you’ll end up arriving - not at the truth - but with more validity to your very own preconceived prejudices.
2. If you’re struggling with the way certain things have gone in your life.... don’t forget.... Jesus rarely explains His actions, because He desires His followers to trust Him. “Faith might be the mechanism that enables me to obey God when God leads a certain way. But trust is the mechanism that enables me to be at peace with the results of my obedience.”
3. And then there’s the warning.... if you continue to reject God’s work in your life (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) then you will find yourself in an unpardonable situation. You will find yourself beyond the forgiveness of God, and subject to eternal condemnation.
4. Finally, never forget the mark of a child of God is not a person’s birthright - it isn’t a person’s heritage.... it’s rather obedience to the commands of God!