In last week’s gospel, Jesus cured a man with a withered hand.

Immediately after that healing:

Jesus departed with his disciples… and a great multitude from Galilee followed him…they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready … because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

People were so eager to get close to him that they threatened to crush him. So he escaped and went up the mountain and…he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles…to proclaim the message... (Mark 3:13-15)

Jesus’ popularity created the backdrop for this morning’s gospel (Mark 3:20-35)


The crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.

The crowd was so large and came so close that Jesus and his apostles were not able to eat. People may have been trying to get Jesus’ attention by shouting or pulling at his cloak. There were so many pressing in that they probably jostled Jesus. Conversation was difficult or even impossible.

When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’

His family of origin seen him grow up and believed that he was more or less like them. They hadn't seen anything special in his behavior. He had been devout, but hadn't claimed to be the Messiah. This change in him alarmed them. They may have even been concerned for his well-being and wanted to protect him from the crowds.


And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons."

And he called them to him, and spoke 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 will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.

This saying about a kingdom divided was a known axiom: internal divisions will destroy a kingdom. Jesus told it as a parable.


But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

Jesus said that the real story is that he, Jesus, tied up the devil, entered the strong man’s (the devil’s) house and freed those whom the devil had held captive. Jesus said that he, personally, had defeated the daemon, entered hell and freed those whom satan had enslaved. He rejected the scribes’ narrative.


Then Jesus makes a countercharge.

Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" – for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."  

Jesus did not directly accuse the scribes, instead he set out a criterion for forgiveness or condemnation. The scribes could use it as a yardstick to measure their own culpability.

The unforgivable sin...never have forgiveness…has been a source of theological discussion for millennia. Augustine described it as impenitence and resistance of God’s grace. The medieval theologian, Peter Lombard, explained it as the collective form of six species of sin: despair, presumption, impenitence, obstinacy, resisting God’s truth and envy of another’s spiritual welfare. Calvin described it, in the 16th century, as resisting divine truth with malice. Today, we generally accept a version of Augustine’s interpretation: resistance of God’s grace.


Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.

A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you."

He replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother."

Doing the will of God became the new basis for intimate, familial relationship with Jesus, not biology.

In Mark’s gospel there are few clues as to the meaning of God’s will. In Gethsemane, He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ (14:36) In this context it seems to mean praying to God, with faith, that God will bring about what is sought (Mark 11:23-24)


In this gospel both Christology (the nature and character of the Christ) and discipleship are related. Jesus defined his own nature, as doing the will of God in response to the scribes' challenge about his identity. When they accused him of being Satan he replied that he was the one to defeat the ancient enemy. Then he added that those who shared his way of living, by doing God’s will, were more closely related to him than his natural family.  


  • ·Imagine the frenzy of those trying to get close to Jesus when they knew that he could heal chronic illnesses, injuries or possessions! Those closest to him would have been pressed on by others trying to get within reach. His newly-named apostles may have been concerned for his welfare.
  • How do you define blasphemy? It is not a common word to us but Jesus took it seriously. Is it an insult? Disrespect? Lack of reverence to something sacred? What are contemporary forms?
  • How do you determine the will of God in your own life? Is it exclusively a personal decision? Do you consult external resources like scripture, the teachings of the church or a spiritual director?