Running With Mark 21

Day Twenty one – January 18, 2020

Read Mark 3:19b-30 New Revised Standard Version

Have you noticed who is responding to Jesus?  The crowds continue to grow in fact to the point that it is difficult for him to move about freely.  They have heard him teach and have received healing.  The unclean spirits have called him out by name as the Son of God.  It is clear to them that Jesus has a power and authority that is not of this world.

Have you also noticed who is troubled by Jesus?  The religious leaders aren’t sure what to with this many who invites tax collectors to follow him, touches a woman, heals on the sabbath and challenges their teachings.

In this chapter his family “…went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”  (Mark 3:21). Mark uses a literary device known as intercalation––a story within a story.  You’ll see it again in the story of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage.   

Jesus’ family thinks he is having mental health issues and go out to try to restrain him.  Suddenly the Jerusalem scribes show up and try to discount Jesus––to undercut his authority––by saying that Jesus works by the power of Beelzebul (3:22) and that he has an unclean spirit (3:30).  They want people to think that Jesus has no authority. 

They accuse him of being the Tempter (which is sometimes translated as Satan, or the accuser, or sometimes as Beelzebul who was an arch-demon) in order to cast out demons.    

“Some also thought that false teachers could speak by demons.  If this association is at all in view here, it suggests a serious charge, since the penalty for leading God’s people astray was death.”[1]  You can already that a movement to stifle Jesus has begun.  What is not clear yet is just how far they might go.

Jesus asks them how can Satan cast out Satan? Their argument makes no sense.   They have labeled Jesus’ work as from the Tempter.  Jesus’ ministry is really the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why he says it is blasphemy, because they are calling the work of God, the work of the Tempter. 


Jesus is really firm.  “Truly I tell you…….” Pay attention when you hear Jesus say those words, “I tell you” or often “they say this, but I tell you….”

“I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”(Mark 3:29-30).

To blaspheme means to speak evil against, to speak slander or abuse, or to speak ill of God.  According to Torah law, blasphemy was a capital offense (Leviticus 24:16).


What do you think he meant when Jesus said, “They can never have forgiveness”?  Most of us have been taught that there is no sin beyond forgiveness.  I did some reading this week that has been helpful to me on this topic.  Scholars say that this blasphemy is about refusing the Holy Spirit, refusing the gift of grace and forgiveness that is offered to us by God. Those who call Jesus Satan are not open to receiving his help.

Can grace be refused?  What do you think?  If grace is a free gift, offered to us without price, without having to earn it, can we refuse to accept it?  If someone gave you a new car, you could choose to accept it, or you can turn it down.

Faith is not something you can make someone else have.  It’s a really strange thing to acknowledge that the God of the universe, who created us in love, has given us free will to choose not to love God back.

I find the writing of Brennan Manning to be powerful.  In his book, All is Grace, a Ragamuffin Memoir he writes, “This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”
― Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

Here’s what I believe about those who refuse to accept or receive God’s love, I believe that God offers us many, many opportunities during our lifetime.  It’s not a once and done sort of deal.  I do believe that a person can refuse grace during their lifetime here on earth. 

If God is the God of unfailing love and grace, and I do believe God is, then I wonder what it will be like when we die.  When we come face-to-face with the great I AM, when we finally experience the fullness of God, I think there will be lots of people who says, “Oh, I get it now.  This is God.  This is holiness.  This is Shalom. This is what I have needed. This is what will set me free.  Oh yes, Lord, oh yes.”  But I guess until we die, we will not know for sure.

Standing in line

I once visited an elder who was approaching death.  As we were chatting, she said that she sure had a lot of questions for God and that as soon as she got to heaven she was going to go right to the front of the line with her questions.  She died a few days later and I couldn’t help but think that now she had her answers.  It also made me chuckle to think of this dear soul budging to the front of the line so she could talk with God.


What do you think will happen when we die?

What will God be like for us then?

Is heaven a place? A relationship? A state of being?  Who will be there?



Your Grace is Enough by Chris Tomlin


Great is Your Love by the Walls Group


Prayer Focus:

Jesus’ family worried about him.  Do you have any worries about your family?

Talk to God today about your family worries, relationship struggles, concerns etc.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] NIV Cultural Backgrounds, Study Bible.  ©2016 by Zondervan.  pg. 1690