Archive for July, 2011
While such a claim is not tasteful to a world in which the child of the Enlightenment (i.e., Postmodernism) is now fully mature, Christianity is an exclusive faith that makes a sharp distinction between who is in and who is out. Many Protestants, however, are children of Paul, and at some point in their faith journey, they forgot that the Gospels exist. The exclusive nature of the Christian faith permeates both Paul and the Gospels, but the Gospels often make statements that cause us to hesitate a bit in our understanding of what it means to be “in” or “out.”
Take Mark 3:20–35 for instance. Floods of people are seeking Jesus because of his power over the demonic realm. He has just appointed twelve apostles to assist him in his proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of God. At the beginning of our passage, Jesus has returned home and a large crowd has gathered to him. It is important next to notice the “sandwich” that Mark creates. Think of v. 21 and vv. 31–35 as the bread and vv. 20–30 as the meat. The Gospel writers often use this literary device of “sandwiching” with related theological themes in the narrative.
So, Jesus’ family arrives on the scene in verse 21 because they thought he was crazy. “What is he thinking—all these people and all this commotion—he’s lost his mind!” They purpose in their heart to restrain him, but then the “camera” angle changes and moves to another group of opposition. The experts from Jerusalem claimed that the source of Jesus’ power which he exercised over the demonic realm had its source in the ruler of the demons—Satan himself (i.e., Beelzebul—lord of the flies; lord of filth).
After speaking parables that present such an idea as nonsensical, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, people will be forgiven for all sins, even all the blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” In verse 30, Mark explains why Jesus responded so harshly, “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.'” They attributed Jesus’ power over the demonic realm to the prince of the demons so that his work was some kind of demonic witchcraft, and in so doing, they blasphemed or defamed the Holy Spirit (1:10, 12). This is the unpardonable sin—to attribute the work and power of the Holy Spirit, who was unmistakably at work in Jesus, to the work and power of an unclean, demonic spirit.
Following this hostile encounter between Jesus and the experts in the law, Mark returns to Jesus’ own family, who, if you remember, thought Jesus had lost his mind. As his family draws near to restrain him, he responds, “‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who were sitting around him in a circle, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'”
According to Jesus, who is in and who is out? Who is a member of his family? If like the experts in the law, you defame the work of the Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus by attributing to him the work of the devil or an unclean spirit—you are not in. Further, some sort of blood relationship doesn’t get you automatic access either. Your parents are Christians? Great. Are you a Christian? You attend a church where Christians gather for worship? Great. Are you a Christian who worships the Triune God? A special title or a special relationship doesn’t grant access into Jesus’ family. The one who does the will of God is a member of Jesus’ family. What is the will of God according to Mark? Pick up your cross and follow Jesus to Jerusalem for the sake of God’s kingdom. Proclaim the good news in suffering, by faithfulness and with power.