(Also Matthew 12:22-50; Luke 8:19-21; 11:14-36)
It’s extraordinary the lengths to which some people will go to explain away the existence of God or to deny His activity in the world and the results of prayer. Mark sets the encounter with the teachers of the law over the issue of Beelzebub in the context of misunderstanding within his own family over his identity and purpose. The teachers of the law have him possessed by the devil; his family think that he is out of his mind.
The latter is not unreasonable: Jesus had turned his back on the family business; was at risk of being killed; was hanging out with the wrong sort of people; welcomed into his inner circle unlikely members; and now, to top it all, he wasn’t eating or sleeping properly either. There are signs, in their view, that he was perhaps mentally unwell or at least not seeing things as clearly and rationally as he should. What he needed was some family therapy – we’ll sort him out. So, they went looking for him.
Meanwhile in Matthew and Luke’s account this confrontation with the teachers of the law comes after a man was released from a demon that had caused him to be both blind and mute. The Pharisees were attempting to get a handle on how this could happen without having to sign up to the most natural conclusion: that Jesus was doing this by the power of God! That would raise all sorts of other questions and issues. I guess their logic was: if the devil is in charge of the demons then Jesus must be under the devil’s control in order to tell a demon where to go! However, Jesus pointed out that His actions were not in line with the nature or strategy of the devil. Furthermore, they were evidence that He had access to a higher power and greater authority than the devil. So, do not persist in looking for any other explanation than that I am doing these things as evidence that the Kingdom of God is near.
Now, when I became a Christian, I was very troubled by verse 29. Would it be possible for me to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? I remember sharing my concern with a trusted leader and being reassured that Jesus was warning here against a persistent refusal to acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ. Reassuring indeed.
But, I think now, my greater concern is with verse 35. Being part of God’s family requires me to be doing the Father’s will. How well am I doing against that one?
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‘Not my will but yours be done’ said Jesus on the eve of his crucifixion. May we make Jesus’ prayer our own today and may the Spirit of God grace us with the humility and wisdom to know His will and put it into practice.