PARDON MY UNPARDONABLE: OR goodness gracious great balls of fire
I heard about how Katie was telling the story of Adam and Eve in the children’s service. Following the story, she asked the children to draw some picture that would illustrate the story. Olivia drew a picture of a car with three people in it. In the front seat, behind the wheel was a man and in the back seat, a man and a woman. Katie was at a loss to understand how this illustrated the lesson of Adam and Eve. Olivia quickly explained that. “this is God driving Adam and Eve out of the garden!”
Mark does what most authors do, he writes in sections. The section that began in 1:14 is over. The next partition of Mark begins here and runs thru 6:13. Mark tells us about the continuing adventures of Jesus in Galilee while including new developments.
1) A VOICE FOR THE FUTURE (RELEASED)
A Great Multitude Follows Jesus
7 But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. 9 So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.
The Twelve Apostles
13 And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. 14 Then He appointed twelve,[b] that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and[c] to cast out demons: 16 Simon,[d] to whom He gave the name Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”; 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; 19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house.
By this time Jesus was getting quite a number of followers which included the serious and the hangers-on. The crowds were getting so large that Jesus kept an escape vehicle handy just in case (9). Out of the wide group, Jesus selects 12 to become emissaries who would preach, heal, and proclaim as they bring this section to a close following their return from a preaching mission.
Between these two mentions of the 12, Jesus experiences further rejection by the Scribes and the townspeople. Nothing really changes. The environment is hostile. Jesus keeps teaching through Parables and to see divine power manifest among men in ever increasing ways that make men marvel. We are about to see Jesus heal, cast out demons, demonstrate His power over the forces of nature, and raise the dead to life.
Abruptly, Mark takes us from the seaside to the mountain, which is the traditional place where God grants revelation every since the Exodus from Egypt (3:13). Jesus calls and appoints the 12. This calling is different than the call of the 1st disciples in two important ways. The first difference is in the number 12. This is the official constitution of a body of believers who were capable of creating a Synagogue, and it stipulates the body of intimate disciples who will be with Him from this time forward. Mark is going to mention them a total of nine more times in his Gospel.
So why 12? I don’t think that it’s the ideal number for group dynamics or our capacity to have meaningful relationships, even though those are cool facts. I think that Jesus chose 12 because they represented the new Patriarchs of the 12 Tribes of Israel, as they speak prophetically of the new Israel which was now at hand.
Additionally, the twofold purpose of the call is stipulated: they were to be with him and to be sent out from Him. Both of these elements are critical to the narrative. It would be easy to assume this in the first callings, but here it is explicit. This is the foundational principle of the Kingdom. If you are going to proclaim and witness the Good News of the Kingdom, you must first experience it in the person of Jesus.
V 7-8 Jesus knew (ginosis) of the plot against Him at Lake Gennesaret. As serious as these confrontations had been, the worst was waiting in the wings. The crowds who were coming to Him came from 7 regions Judea, Capernaum, Jerusalem, Idumea, Tyre and Sidon, and the region beyond the Jordan. Herod was an Idumean. The Maccabees had campaigned against the Idumeans after they had invaded the Judean countryside following the destruction of Jerusalem in 587BC. John Hyrcanus defeated them and forced them to adopt Judaism as a religion, which they resented and rebelled against. It was no small wonder that Herod acted the way he did when Rome installed him as the King of the region.
Apostles apostollos sent ones
Luke 6:12 is the backdrop – Jesus spent the night praying over His ultimate choices.
This was a strange and eclectic group of men. 4 were fishermen, one was a despised tax collector, at least 1 a radical subversive who belonged to a harsh, violent political party, you had Zealots and Sicarii, with 6 that we know very little about.
They were also apparently laymen without one noted scriptural expert among them and their acceptance of the call made them marked men for extinction eventually. By modern standards of leadership, they were a Motley Crew at best. Most were presumably of modest means, limited in schooling, obscure in identity, so why them? The answer goes back to the original call: follow me. Following qualified them as worthy and trustworthy. They were also teachable and task oriented. These were the marks of the 12.
Carl CF Henry once said that God is the greatest gambler in human history. He bet the future of our redemption upon a carpenter and His small band of fishermen. Jesus chose and still chooses potential over achievement
2) A VOICE OF AFFIRMATION (UNWANTED)
A House Divided Cannot Stand
20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 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.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” 23 So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 27 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.
The lines of demarcation are being drawn clearly in the sand between Jesus and the powers of evil, Jesus and His enemies and between the committed disciples who were trustworthy and those who were half-hearted enthusiasts who could not decide between Jesus and the world (4:13-20). Mark is challenging us in a subtle but powerful way to make a similar decision through his recording.
The main reason Jesus was drawing the crowds was the healings. Some commentaries will tell you that Mark is making a negative judgement here, and that he is saying that the crowds are coming for prurient and selfish reasons alone. This is unfair, even if the motivation of many wasn’t pristine. Jesus accepted the crowds for what they were and the people for who they were. They had needs and He was willing to heal them. And his disciples are learning more about who Jesus is with each passing moment.
Then comes the other voices. Once again, Jesus is confronted by the untimely confession of the demons. They really knew who He is. Whether their confession, “You are the Son of God,” was a vain attempt to gain power over Jesus by naming Him, which was a common mystical/magical belief that if you could name a spirit, you could control it, or what it simply looks like, Jesus had the greater authority, which caused them to bow before Him. Their confession has nothing to do with love, devotion or trusting faith. Nor is it the type of confession Jesus was looking for. Only believers can make that confession.
3:20–30 Jesus Raids Satan’s House
3:20–22. Exorcists often invoked a higher spirit to get rid of a lower one, so Jesus’ opponents accuse him of gaining his power for exorcism from sorcery—relying on Satan himself. Insanity (3:21) was often associated with demon possession (3:22). Because false teachers were sometimes thought to be inspired by demons and the official penalty for misleading God’s people this way was death (Deut 13:5; 18:20), Jesus’ family had reason to want to reach him before the legal experts did. (The legal experts could not enforce the death penalty openly, because Palestine was under Roman law; but the public charge alone would humiliate the family.)
3) A VOICE OF COMFORT (FORGIVEN)
The Unpardonable Sin
28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— 30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
“Truly (amen lelo humen almost a verbal homonym)I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter (NRSV). Truly I tell you, aka, “Verily I say unto you” in KJV, “I tell you the truth” NIV, and “Assuredly, I say to you” NKJV) is a recurring phrase that is uniquely Jesus. Jesus loves to use it prior to a solemn warning or pronouncement.
Amen is derived from a Hebrew word meaning to be reliable. It is used thirteen times in Mark and sixty-two times in the other Gospels, and always as Jesus’ self-affirmation of what he said. Amen as an introductory formula of self-affirmation was unknown among Jews, who used amen as a concluding formula to affirm the truthfulness of what another person had said.
It is like the Old Testament’s “Thus saith the Lord.” The words are divinely self-authenticating and guarantee the truth and importance of what Jesus would say next. Jesus has stopped reasoning with his accusers. Now He gives them a solemn warning. Jesus had just been accused of being in league with Satan and had soundly refuted those charges. Now Jesus has a few words for these so-called teachers of the law, the Jewish leaders.
First he made the incredible promise that people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter. Too often people miss this promise and worry about the warning in the next verse. But the fact is, those who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of all sins (evil acts, wrong actions, good actions not done, evil thoughts, evil motives, etc.) and of all blasphemies (evil words said against God). When there is confession and repentance, no sin is beyond God’s forgiveness:
• Acts 13:39—Those who trust in Christ are freed from guilt and declared righteous.
• Isaiah 1:18—No matter how bad or deep your sinfulness, God can make you clean.
• 1 John 1:9—If you confess, God will forgive.
• Psalm 103:3; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 2:12—Jesus’ death covered all your sins.
3:28–30 . Different Rabbis debated whether some sins were eternally unforgivable. “Blaspheming the Spirit” means opposing Jesus’ messiahship so firmly that one resorts to accusations of sorcery to get around the Spirit’s signs confirming his identity. Jesus means that their hearts were becoming so hard they would never think to repent. The word “blasphemy,” is simply a transliteration of Greek, and it literally means slandering human beings or, as here, being irreverent or defiant toward God.
I like how Mark defines the sin that “will never be forgiven.” It is ascribing to Satan and his demons the works of the Holy Spirit manifested in the ministry of Jesus. It is not a single act but a habitual action and attitude. The imperfect tense could be translated, “They kept on saying.” I like how the sin was committed by scholars and religious authorities, not laypersons. The unforgivable sin is refusal to identify the divine Christ with the human Jesus. Both Mark and John (1 John) the unforgivable sin is the stubborn refusal to acknowledge that God is working/ has worked in the man Jesus.
Sometimes believers worry that they have accidently committed this unforgivable sin. But only those who have turned their back on God and rejected all faith have any need to worry. Jesus said they can’t be forgiven—not because their sin is worse than any other, but because they will never ask for forgiveness. Whoever rejects the prompting of the Holy Spirit removes himself or herself from the only force that can lead him or her to repentance and restoration to God. Those who have seen the light and prefer the darkness are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Their stubborn refusal to believe can only lead to a hardness of heart that cannot be penetrated; thus, forgiveness never will be possible because it never will be sought. It is an eternal sin because the consequences last for eternity (1 John 5:16).
CONCLUSION: GOODNESS GRACIOUS
God is remarkably gracious. No offense blocks his forgiving love—no curse, no skepticism, no flat-out denial, no slander or angry outcry. When we confess our sins and turn away from them, they are all forgiven because we have put our trust in Jesus. Not many people would forget a rumormonger who spoils a family’s reputation with malicious gossip—but God does. Not many people would forgive a recurring cruelty, a lasting scar, a persistent hurt, a screaming adversary—but God does.
All of us would all be hopeless if God kept track of offenses. God forgives without imposing penalties on us. Jesus paid for all our sins.
When you ask God to be forgiven, you are asking for what God loves to do best. Rest in that life-changing promise: By the Cross of Jesus you are gladly and fully forgiven.