Gospel: Mark 3:20-35
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Lesson: Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm: Psalm 61:1-5, 8
CLB Commentary – Rev. Matt Richard
(originally published in 2012)
In the Gospel of Mark one of the themes is that of conflict. The conflict in the Gospel of Mark is between the religious authorities and Jesus himself. This conflict begins very indirectly and then proceeds to become more direct all the way up to the point of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion.
Before Mark 3:20-35 there were some conflicts over issues such as announcing forgiveness (2:1-12), eating with sinners (2:15-17) and fasting (2:18-22). The conflicts are thus indirect. The conflicts are over issues rather than directly with the person of Jesus himself. Needless to say, by Mark 3:7 we see that the conflicts have escalated to the point of the religious leaders plotting to destroy Jesus.
Even though these early conflicts were indirect, they were essentially against Jesus’ authority. By Mark 3:22 we read of the first outright attack of Jesus authority. The religious leaders recognized Jesus’ power but they attributed His power to demonic rather than divine origins. In response to the religious leaders, Jesus delivers a rebuke. They are trying to define Christ and are certainly looking for a fight, however, Jesus turns their logic upside down showing them that if Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, that the house of Satan would be divided. In other words, if Satan acted this way, it would be suicidal.
Do you see how the conflict develops? It begins indirectly over issues, and then proceeds to personal attacks upon the character of Jesus until the conflict becomes fully manifested in the physical killing of Jesus on the cross.
There are several wonderful things to consider in this text when delivering it to a congregation. First of all there is the comfort that Jesus is truly the strong man who overcame death, the world and the Evil One. In Christ, Satan has been defeated (i.e. Christus Victor).
Secondly, there is a great angle one could take in considering this text. If Jesus was casting out devils by the power of Satan that would mean that the house of Satan would be divided. Francis Rossow states, “Such a strategy would amount to civil war and would soon bring about the collapse of Satan’s kingdom. Satan would hardly approve of an approach that would bring about his own downfall.” However, what about God’s kingdom? Think about this for a moment. When Christ was on the cross scripture says that He who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). While upon the cross, God’s kingdom became divided as the Father judged the sin of the world upon Jesus. Jesus was made to be sin on our behalf and God forsook Christ on the cross, judging and damning Him for our sins (i.e. Christ As Victim). Rossow states, “Holiness recoiled from the sight. Jesus was left alone in the abandonment of damnation.” The amazing thing about this division in the kingdom of God is that God’s house did not fall but stood. Through this division something other than the fall of the house happened. What happened was the most profound thing the world has ever known… the division and conflict between mankind and God was thus removed. Because of Jesus’ division and conflict on the cross, we have peace with God. Thus at the cross we see a climax of conflict in Mark’s gospel, physical and spiritual, that is perceived as the ultimate end of Jesus; it is perceived as the great defeat. However, in the midst of this climatic conflict we see the essence of our Atonement as Jesus drinks the bitter cup of agony for the sins of the world.
Enjoy the blessing of Jesus’ conflict that brings you and me peace.