This is a Bible study on Mark 3:20-35.

5 pages.

Mark 3:20-35 - Don’t Misjudge Jesus

Read Mark 3:19-35 and Matthew 12:22-50.


If you were living during the World War II era, you might pick up the newspaper, turn to the comic section, and there read the latest exploits of that battle-wise, war-weary twosome, Willie and Joe. That particular comic strip was created by a famous cartoonist by the name of Bill Mauldin.

About forty-five years later, someone wrote an article in which they referred back to that World War II era and that particular comic strip and to that famous cartoonist, Bill Mauldin. But when the article appeared in the magazine, the editors had accidentally transposed the letters in Bill Mauldin’s name; they spelled his name M-A-U-D-L-I-N, instead of M-A-U-L-D-I-N. A few issues later, the letters to the editor page of the magazine carried the following note from one of its readers: The thousands of us who appreciated the Willie and Joe comic strip know that cartoonist Bill Mauldin was never “maudlin!”1

The word “maudlin” means, “to be so drunk that one is emotionally silly;” it means, “to be confused, disoriented, or drunk.” That unintentional transposition of letters created a real misconception of a very astute and intelligent man; it was a grave injustice to the cartoonist, Bill Mauldin.

In the passages of Scripture presently before us we find the people of His day entertaining misconceptions about the person of the Lord Jesus. It is important that we have a true biblical understanding of who Jesus is, as opposed to holding a self-conceived misconception of Him. As we consider these passages of Scripture, let us learn not to misjudge Jesus and not to entertain any self-conceived misconception about Him.

Don’t Misjudge Jesus, Regardless of Your Motives🔗

Mark has previously reported (3:7-8) that great crowds of people were following the Lord Jesus; upon hearing of the great things He was doing, they flocked to Him. Now Mark reports (3:19b) that a large crowd has gathered around Jesus in Capernaum; they literally invade the house where He is staying, and they do not even give Jesus and His disciples the chance to eat their meal!

When His friends and family hear what is happening, motivated by concern for His welfare, they set out to “rescue” Jesus, fearing that “he has lost his senses.” Jesus’ urgent sense of mission, His deep sense of compassion, His self-denying love, (even to the point of depriving Himself of His necessary food), caused His family to conclude that He had “gone overboard” and had lost His senses.

The scribes who were present, offer a different view. Observing this scene, they voice their opinion: “He has Beelzebub.” They are charging that the Lord Jesus is demon-possessed. Matthew (12:22) informs us that one of Jesus’ mighty works was the deliverance of a demon-possessed man. The scribes, unable to deny Jesus’ miraculous power, choose to attribute that power to the devil, rather than acknowledge that it came from God.

They choose to make this their official position because of their heretical theology: a theology built upon a self-righteousness that separated them from God (cf. Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, Lk. 18:9-14, esp. vs. 11); and, in order to preserve that self-righteousness, they sought to distance themselves from God, seeking to avoid a personal encounter with Him. Therefore, they could not and would not recognize the Son of God when He came into their very midst. Furthermore, they choose to do so because of their jealousy, as Pilate will perceive on a later occasion: “[Pilate] knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him” (Matt. 27:18).

Here we have two striking examples of Jesus being misjudged. Jesus’ zeal for God is compassionately mistaken for insanity. The people who held that view were sincere, but extremely superficial: they lacked spiritual discernment, comprehension, perspective; they had no true sense of who it was with whom they were dealing. Then, by others, Jesus’ divine authority is blasphemously attributed to demonic power. The people who held this view were entertaining ulterior motives: they had a self-preserving and self-seeking agenda and, consequently, they could not and would not acknowledge who Jesus really is.

We must be careful that we do not misjudge Jesus, regardless of our motives. We must not entertain a superficial view of Christ, which fails to recognize that we are dealing with the Almighty God Himself. We must not harbor any ulterior motive: a self-seeking, self-preserving agenda, that prevents us from acknowledging and yielding to the divine authority of Christ.

We must not misjudge Jesus by entertaining such views as the following:

  • One popular misconception is that “Jesus is irrelevant.” This view maintains that Jesus is confined to the pages of the Bible and to the realm of heaven; He has no bearing upon our everyday life.
  • Another misconception is that “Jesus is ignorant.” This view maintains that Jesus doesn’t know our contemporary situation; He doesn’t understand modern life; after all, the world was so much different when He was on the earth.
  • A third misconception is that “Jesus is naïve.” This view maintains that His standards, His demands, His counsel, are impractical, impossible and out of this world; they can’t possibly be implemented in “the real world” of everyday life.
  • One other misconception is that “Jesus is not authoritative.” This view maintains that we do not have to take seriously His commandments and His warnings; after all, He and God His Father are much too kind to ever inflict punishment and judgment on anyone.

Don’t Misjudge Jesus, On the Contrary, Accept Him on His Terms🔗

In Mark 3:24 (and Matt. 12:25a) Jesus presents this mini-parable: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” That is to say, if a nation is torn apart by civil war it cannot continue, it will eventually destroy itself.

Then in Mark 3:25 (and Matt. 12:25b) Jesus presents a second mini-parable: “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” His point is that a family torn apart by internal conflict cannot function; it will become alienated and dysfunctional.

Now, in Mark 3:26 (and Matt. 12:26), He applies these parables to the situation at hand: ”if Satan has stood up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but comes to an end.” Jesus has just delivered a demon-possessed man from the power of the devil. If He has done so by the power of the devil, as the Pharisees charge, they are confronted with the anomalous situation of devil defeating himself. The very act Jesus has just performed demonstrates Him to be the adversary of the devil, the One who has come to destroy the power of the devil. The facts speak for themselves. The evidence is clear. The Messiah has come to deliver His people from the hand of their adversary, the devil.

Then, in Mark 3:27 (and Matt. 12:29) Jesus presents yet another mini-parable: “No one can enter into the house of the strong man and take his possessions, unless he first ties up the strong man.” You can only plunder the house of a strong man if you are stronger than him. Jesus, by His act of delivering the demon-possessed man, is unmistakably demonstrating that He is mightier than Satan and He is using His might to confront and conquer him.

In Matthew’s Gospel (Matt. 12:30), Jesus concludes His parables of the divided kingdom, the divided household and the plundering of the strong man with the words, “He who is not with me, is against me.” The point He is making is that we either acknowledge the divine authority and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to it and availing ourselves of it for our salvation, or we are standing in opposition to it. Our prayer should be: Apply Your saving power to me, Lord Jesus, and grant me to partake in it.

Mark reports that the Lord Jesus then proceeded to issue this solemn warning:

I tell you the truth, Men shall have all their sins forgiven, and whatever blasphemies they have uttered; 29but whoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.

Jesus is confronting the Pharisees (and us) with the seriousness of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mk. 3:28-30). Jesus assures us that all sins are forgivable: consider the call of Levi, the publican; the conversion of the penitent thief on the cross; the restoration of Peter after he had denied the Lord three times. But He then goes on to warn us that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.

What is Jesus teaching, against what is He solemnly warning us? Mark’s explanatory statement, Jesus said this “because they were saying, He has an unclean spirit, "give us insight into this dangerous phenomenon known as blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. When he writes of the Pharisees, “they were saying” that Jesus had an unclean spirit, (i.e. He was empowered by the devil), Mark uses the imperfect tense of the Greek verb, “to speak,” the tense that indicates continuous, on-going action.

Thus, to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit means to either persistently deny His convincing work or persistently resist His convicting work. Since the Holy Spirit’s work is to reveal Christ to us and bring us into the bosom of Christ and under the Lordship of Christ, to resist the Holy Spirit is to cut ourselves off from the only Savior, the only hope of salvation. The Apostle Peter, referring to the Lord Jesus, proclaims, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin because it is a self-induced and self-imposed sentence of condemnation: it is willfully rejecting the Holy Spirit’s appeal that we come to Christ, the only Savior. May Stephen’s indictment of the Jewish leaders never be true of us: “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51)

The Gospel of Mark brings this section to a conclusion by once again returning to the pleas of Jesus’ family, made on His behalf:

Then his mother and his brothers came; and, remaining outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32Now a crowd was sitting around him; and they told him, Listen, your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you. 33But he answered [by asking], Who is my mother and who are my brothers? 34Then looking round about at those who sat around him, he said, Look, [here are] my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever shall do God’s will, that person is my brother, and sister, and mother.

The report is brought to Jesus that His mother and His brothers want to speak to Him. In effect, the report is: “Jesus, your mother requests you to submit to her authority and come home. Be a good son and obey her!” In response, Jesus asks the question, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Jesus is asking, “To whom am I really accountable, and with whom am I in a true spiritual relationship?” Jesus answers His question by declaring, “Whoever shall do the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.” In His incarnate state as the Messiah and the prophetically-foretold Servant of the LORD, Jesus is in submission to His heavenly Father, and to no other authority. As the Son of God, Jesus’ divine relationship to His Father and His spiritual relationship with those who obey His Father transcend all earthly relationships.

What is the lesson for us to learn from this? We may not define our relationship to Christ, conceiving of that relationship in earthly and human terms, viewing Jesus merely as our Friend, our Counselor, our Consoler, our Companion, or even our Servant. It is Christ who defines our relationship to Him, and He does so in divine and heavenly terms: we are His brother or sister when, like Him and by His grace, we show ourselves to be obedient sons or daughters of His heavenly Father.


In the case of cartoonist Bill Mauldin, an unintentional transposition of letters created a misconception that was a grave injustice to a very astute and intelligent man.

In the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, a spiritual ignorance, or a sinister resistance to Him, can create a very serious misconception of the Son of God, with eternally disastrous consequences.

For His honor, and for our spiritual welfare, let us never misjudge Jesus. May we, together with the Apostle Peter, acknowledge Him for who He is: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). In response to that acknowledgment, may we place our faith in Him and submit our lives unto Him.

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. What causes Jesus’ family to be concerned about Him? What did they think had happened to Him? See Mk. 3:19b-21 Have people ever viewed you as a “fanatic” because of your devotion to Christ? What do you do that causes them to take this view? Is it reading your Bible, praying before meals, sharing the gospel, giving thanks and glory to God, attributing circumstances to God rather than “chance”? Do these people hold the same negative view of those who are “fanatically” devoted to their favorite sports team?

Then [Jesus] entered a house, 20and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21When his family heard about this, they went to get him; for they said, He has lost his senses. Mk. 3:19b-21

  1. When the scribes and Pharisees witness Jesus’ healing of a demon-possessed man, what is their opinion of Him? See Matt. 12:22-24 When the crowd witnesses Jesus’ miraculous act of deliverance, what conclusion do they draw about Him? See Matt. 12:23 Which reaction to Jesus’ miraculous act is more reasonable? What motivated the religious leaders to be unreasonably opposed to Jesus? Note Matt. 27:18 Do you harbor any unreasonable prejudice against the Lord Jesus?

Then there was brought to him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute; and he healed him, so that the man could speak and see. 23All the crowds were amazed and said, Can this be the son of David? 24But when the Pharisees heard about it, they said, This man only casts out demons by Beelzebub the prince of the demons. Matt. 12:22-24

[Pilate] knew that because of envy they had delivered [Jesus]. Matt. 27:18

  1. How does Jesus refute the scribes and Pharisees’ charge? See Mk. 3:23-26 After His resurrection, how will the Lord Jesus address Thomas’ honest skepticism? See Jn. 20:25-27 What evidence has the Lord Jesus provided for us; what does the Apostle John tell us was his purpose in writing his gospel? See Jn. 20:30-31 What does the Lord Jesus tell us is the way to gain greater assurance? Note Jn. 12:36/Jn. 6:68-69 Do you appreciate the fact that greater assurance comes by as a result of believing the evidence Christ has provided for us?

[Jesus] called them to himself, and speaking to them in parables, he said, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has stood up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but comes to an end.Mk. 3:23-26

The other disciples told him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Unless I see the nail prints in his hands, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26Eight days later the disciples again were in [the upper room], and Thomas was with them. [Although] the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them, and said, Peace be with you. 27Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger here and examine my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. No longer doubt, but believe. Jn. 20:25-27

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and by believing you may have life in his name.Jn. 20:30-31

While you have the light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of light. When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.Jn. 12:36)

Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have believed and know that you are the Holy One of God.Jn. 6:68-69

  1. What warning does Jesus give the religious leaders concerning their unreasonable charge against Him? See Mk. 3:28-30 Why is this the unforgiveable sin? If you reject the Savior of whom the Holy Spirit bears witness, how can you be saved; are you not condemning yourself? Note Heb. 2:3,

I tell you the truth, Men shall have all their sins forgiven, even whatever blasphemies they have uttered; 29but whoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin. 30[He said this] because they were saying, He has an unclean spirit. Mk. 3:28-30

Jesus defines their charge against Him as blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, (He is referring to their persistent rejection of the Holy Spirit’s witness that Jesus is the Messiah, cf. Matt. 12:28). shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard [him]... Heb. 2:3

  1. What do Jesus’ mother and brothers do? See Mk. 3:31 Does their action indicate that they wanted to intervene on Jesus’ behalf out of concern for His well-being? How does Jesus respond to His family’s attempted intervention? See Mk. 3:33-35 What is that divine will (Jn. 6:29; 1 Thess. 4:3); are we seeking to comply with this divine calling?

Then his mother and his brothers came; and, remaining outside, they sent someone in to call him. Mk. 3:31

But he answered [by asking], Who is my mother and who are my brothers? 34Then looking round about at those who sat around him, he said, Look, [here are] my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever shall do God’s will, that person is my brother, and sister, and mother. Mk. 3:33-35

Jesus responded to them by saying, This is the work God requires, that you believe in the one whom he has sent. Jn. 6:29

...this is the will of God, your sanctification... 1 Thess. 4:3

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