When I become a Christian, I was only 19 years old. Although I had grown up in a good home and attended church all my life, I chose to live a worldly life of secret sin. I am so thankful that God chose to pull me away from my sin and save me from Hell. When He saved me, He gave me a new life with new desires. My new desires included wanting to read the Bible and pray. And as I did that a new desire grew in me to find a way to serve the Lord.
Over the years, the Lord gave me opportunities to learn from pastors and Christian teachers who patiently dealt with my quirky personality and impulsive nature. The Lord also gave me opportunities to serve Him in different churches, at Christian camps, and as an evangelist for children. After 34 years, I can look back and smile at how the Lord used me. God is so patient! And so were God’s people.
I was reminded of my own journey as I read the first part of our chapter today. We will begin by looking at how Jesus chose the original twelve disciples. And as we study through the Gospel of Mark, we will see how these men were used by God despite their quirks and sometimes even their bad decisions.
- Jesus chooses the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19).
What it says
After Jesus had healed the sick and cast out demons, he went up on a mountain. Once there, he called4 a number of people whom He wanted as disciples. From this group, He appointed twelve men who were (1) to be with Him, (2) to be sent out to preach, (3) to heal the sick and cast out demons. The names of the twelve are listed in order of importance beginning with Peter and ending with Judas Iscariot who eventually betrayed the Lord. After appointing them, they went into a house together.
What it means
Jesus wanted to train others to do the work.
Peter was the first mentioned and later became the leader of the early church. Jesus’ nickname for him was “Peter, the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic Cephas, which means a ‘stone or rock.’ This probably described his leadership role during Jesus’ ministry and in the early church.”1 He wasn’t the only one and they weren’t the only ones who were used by God in the early Christian church, but they were the first who were trained by and used by Jesus.
They needed this training because there was a lot they didn’t understand. At one point, when Jesus had been rejected by a community, two disciples suggested calling down fire from heaven to destroy the village. Obviously, they had a lot to learn from Jesus before they were ready to lead the early church and reach the world with the good news of Jesus.
Jesus wanted to enable others to do the work.
When Jesus began His ministry, it was a mix of helping people (healing, casting out demons) and preaching repentance and faith. While the disciples could preach, they did not have the ability to miraculously heal people or to command demons to leave a possessed person. But Jesus did and gave these disciples the ability and power to do such things. As they did so, they would be recognized as servants of God and people would listen to what they had to say.
How it applies
I still think it is interesting that Jesus would choose to use people instead of doing the work Himself. He could obviously do it better than any of us, and yet He wants to use us. This leads to two questions.
Do you want to serve the Lord?
The disciples were used by the Lord during the first century church. But they are long gone and the need is still great. Who will serve the Lord today? Do you have the desire to serve the Lord? Those who are called to serve are Christians (people who have been regenerated by God) and people who are eager and willing to do God’s will. Are you one of these people? If so, you should consider how you can serve the Lord today.
Are you able to serve the Lord?
The disciples were not superheroes when Jesus called them. They were people who were not particularly impressive except for one thing. They had been with Jesus. Their time training under Jesus involved watching how He responded to people, how He cared for others, how He spent time in prayer, and how He taught people God’s truth. As they learned from Him, they gained knowledge and experience and were also enabled to do the work. What made them effective was that Jesus enabled them to do the work.
It may be that you are willing to serve the Lord but are not yet feeling enabled. Who can enable you to do the work of ministry around you? It is God who can enable you. Jesus may not be physically present to train you for ministry, but He has enabled others who can help you.
Ephesians 4:11-12 – “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
If you are willing to serve the Lord and are wondering how you can be enabled to do it, think of what this verse says. God gave us the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor teachers to prepare us to do the work of the ministry. One of the ways you can be enabled to do ministry is to attend Sunday School, Sunday services, and prayer meeting. During these services, the Lord will use what you are taught to equip you for serving Him. The you can serve with a better understanding of what God has said and wants to be accomplished.
- Jesus refutes a false accusation (Mark 3:20-30).
Have you ever been falsely accused of something? It may be that you were accused of doing something that you had not done. It isn’t a good feeling, is it? Jesus also went through that. Except what He was accused of was much more serious.
What it says
A multitude of people found out where Jesus was and came to see Him. There were so many, that it was impossible even to eat a meal. When his family found out about this, they thought he had become a “mentally unbalanced religious fanatic.”2 Isn’t it interesting how people viewed Jesus’ ministry? To some, He seemed like a weirdo because of His devotion to God’s will. J. Vernon McGee notes that “the musician, the athlete, the businessman, the artist, the statesman who gives himself to his work is recognized for his total devotion. But if a man gives himself in total dedication to the cause of God, he is branded as a fanatic.”3 However, the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, stated that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub5 and was casting out demons with Satan’s help. “Instead of recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, the scribes charged that he was the permanent tool of Satan. It was a vicious attack upon His person.”6
Jesus responded to the scribes in parables. They had attributed his power to Satan but this didn’t make sense. How could Satan cast out himself? How could Satan’s kingdom stand if it was defeating part of its own kingdom? He then used an illustration of someone wanting to plunder a strong man’s house. To do so, you would have to bind the strong man first. Otherwise, it would be impossible. Jesus then made a very clear statement about their accusation. He told them that God will forgive all kind of sins including blasphemies. But if someone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, he would not be forgiven but would be condemned forever.
What it means
Jesus is opposed to Satan and his minions.
What the scribes were accusing Jesus of was completely false. As you read through the first three chapters of Mark, what do you notice about Jesus and demon-possessed people? You notice that Jesus was opposed to the demons and wanted to free the possessed person from their control. The authority He had over them was not as a general exercises authority over his own soldiers. No, Jesus was God Almighty exerting His authority over His enemies. He even commanded them not to reveal His identity to the world because He wanted no connection between their evil work and Him.
Jesus is serious about this kind of blasphemy.
Although Jesus made logical arguments against the scribe’s false accusations, He noted that their sin was unpardonable. What sin had they committed? This is a difficult sin to define. Several commentators say that it wasn’t a particular sin that Jesus referred to but it was the fact that His accusers were hardened beyond the possibility of repentance.8 11 12 While there is evidence for that in other parts of the Bible (the pharaoh during the Exodus), that is not mentioned here. So, we need to look closely at what Jesus says.
There are two things that Jesus meant to say here.
First, Jesus stated that all sins will be forgiven by God including blasphemy. Note that when Jesus stated that all sins would be forgiven, it was “not an assertion of universal forgiveness but a declaration that all classes and kinds of sins may be forgiven (with the one exception subsequently stated).”7 By this we understand that God is very merciful. He could hold our sins against us for eternity, but He chooses to grant us forgiveness. That forgiveness is only available because Jesus died in our place on the cross.
Second, there is a sin that will not be pardoned by God. That sin is what the scribes did here. They saw the Holy Spirit performing miracles through Jesus and still attributed those miracles to the devil. In this case, the unpardonable sin was saying that the works Jesus did were from the devil. This was a bold sin committed by people with hard hearts.
Consider what one person wrote about this:
“They had no excuse for such an action. They were not speaking out of ignorance or misunderstanding. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God to save Israel. They knew the prophecies were being fulfilled. They saw Jesus’ wonderful works, and they heard His clear presentation of truth. Yet they deliberately chose to deny the truth and slander the Holy Spirit. Standing before the Light of the World, bathed in His glory, they defiantly closed their eyes and became willfully blind. Jesus pronounced that sin to be unforgivable.”13
How it applies
Whose side are you on?
This section of the chapter shows two types of people. On one hand, there were the people who eagerly listened to Jesus and believed who He was and what He said. These people included the disciples and others who had become convinced as they saw what Jesus did and heard what He said. On the other hand, there were the hard-hearted scribes who were against Jesus. These people came with hardened-hearts and were unmoved by what they saw. They were enemies of Jesus because they were also enemies of God.
Which side are you on? Have you seen the miracles and heard His teaching and become convinced that Jesus is the Son of God? Then you are headed in the right direction. Keep listening and at the right time God will work in your heart and draw you to Himself. If He is doing that right now, then repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus. But there was also another group of people in this part of the chapter. Are you like the religious scribes who saw all the evidence in Jesus and rejected Him? Are you still an unbeliever? Have you come to the place where you are willfully rejecting who Jesus is and what He can do for you? Let me say that if this is where you are, you are in a dangerous place. Don’t let your heart become hardened anymore. Turn to the Lord today.
Have you committed the unpardonable sin?
It may be that you wonder about your own sins. Have you gotten to the place where God will not forgive your sins? Before you become overly anxious, consider several well-known sinners whom God forgave after committing horrendous sins.
David – adultery, dishonesty, murder
Adulterous woman – caught in the act of adultery
The prodigal son – wasted his money on harlots and wild living
Peter – cursed and denied Jesus three times
Paul – persecuted Christians in the early church, part of stoning Stephen to death
If God could forgive these people who sinned terribly, He can forgive you as well. But it would be good for you to consider these who were not pardoned for their sins. How did they get to the place where they willfully rejected Jesus despite the evidence displayed right in front of their eyes? This happens slowly and surely. When someone rejects what God is showing him, he gets a spiritual callous on his conscience. Then when he continues to sin and rejects the convicting of the Spirit, that callous gets harder. As time goes by, the callous becomes so hard that the person no longer feels bad about his sin and totally rejects God’s Holy Spirit.
Psalm 95:7-8 – “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts…”
Each of us needs to consider our own relationship with God today. I can’t tell where you are in relation to the Lord at this point in your life. But I do know this. If you will listen to what God is saying, there is still hope. Don’t let your heart become hardened to what God is saying. Seek Him today while you can. Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. It can only come from Him.
In our passage today, we have seen several types of people. First, we saw the disciples whom Jesus called to Himself to train and eventually send out to preach the gospel to many people. Second, we saw curious people who came in large crowds to see Jesus. Not much is said about them except that they came to Jesus and listened to Him. Third, we saw religious scribes who rejected Jesus despite the incredible evidence that He was the Son of God.
Some of you are like the disciples who have been trained to serve the Lord. Let me encourage you to take what you have learned and share it with others. Don’t become complacent. Get up and do something for the Lord. Speak for Him wherever you can.
Some of you may be like the curious crowds who came to see Jesus. You are here listening to this message but have yet to make a choice. Let me encourage you to not put off your decision for long. If God has convicted you of your sin, now is the right time to repent and believe in Jesus.
Some of you may be like the religious scribes. You have already made up your mind that Jesus is not Who He claimed to be. As you have heard the Bible taught today, you have no desire to repent of your sin or to believe Jesus. Be careful. There will come a time when you will regret this. Turn from your sin now and receive God’s mercy before it is too late.
1 Grassmick 116.
2 Grassmick 117.
3 McGee 174.
4 Hiebert 92. “Calleth is middle voice and indicates that Jesus was acting in His own interest.”
5 Hiebert 99. “In the Greek, the name is always Beelzeboul; the familiar ‘Beelzebub’ is from the Vulgate. Some view the name as a derisive corruption of the title of the god of Ekron, Baal-zebub, ‘the lord of the flies,’ to make it mean the lord of dung. More probably it means lord of the dwelling, that is, the dwelling of the evil spirits. This agrees with the reference to ‘the strong man’s house’ in verse 27.”
6 Hiebert 99.
7 Hiebert 101.
8 Hiebert 102.
9 Hiebert 103.
10 Hiebert 104.
11 Ironside 58, 59.
12 Hendriksen 139.
Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.
Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.
Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.
Ironside, H. A., Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1948.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.
“What is the unpardonable sin / unforgivable sin?”, as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=1689 on 9/9/2023.