Mark Lesson 4: Near, Far, It Matters Where You Are

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(Unfortunately, due to a location change, audio is not available for today’s lesson.)

It is a common phrase to hear in the work-world, either as you are trying to get your foot in the door, or advance the ladder of worldly success. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Whether it is nepotism, an old college connection, or just good old-fashioned sucking up, if you can get in on someone’s good side, chances are you will have just a bit of an advantage over someone else – whether you know more than them or not.  In yet another display of turning the world as we know it on its end, we see this week that Jesus is showing us:

It’s not who you are, or what you think you know, but where you are that matters.

Growing up in the family situation I did, I loved being in Psychology class. Not because I come from crazy, but because I loved throwing my teachers for a loop on birth order day. If you have ever taken a Psych class, you know there are some common characteristics that occur in people based on which order they were born in.

I am curious – how many of you are the oldest child? Youngest? Middle? Only? Yeah, I  am all the above.

What? How is that possible, you ask? Here’s the breakdown: Biologically, I am an only child, and lived as such for the first 5 years of my life. Then my mother remarried, and I became the youngest of three with my step brother and step sister. A few years later, my father remarried, and I became the oldest of what would eventually be 4 children. Take all of us into consideration, and I am smack in the middle. Fun, right? I longed for familial connection growing up, as you can imagine. When I lived with my mom, I had a different last name than everyone else. When I lived with my dad, I was only a half-sibling. I struggled to identify with either family.

So, naturally, as a military child growing up overseas, when I couldn’t ground my identity in my family, I grabbed hold of my identity as an American. I was teeming with American pride. Overseas, we needed to be especially careful and vigilant, but I knew – I was an American. When I came home to the States, I was safe, because this is the greatest country in the world, and no one would dare mess with us. I could tolerate the bomb threats and sacrifices we made in the name of safety and security while overseas, because I knew we were keeping home safe.

This is not unlike the groups of people we see in our passage this week. We are going to focus on three groups of people today, Jesus’ family, the scribes from Jerusalem, and the crowd, which includes the disciples.

Jesus has been making some pretty bold claims up to this point already – forgiving sins, claiming lordship over the Sabbath. And when you begin to rock the boat, you’re going to draw a lot of attention. And attention Jesus drew. He was drawing such large crowds that he was seeking ways to be able to still minister to them without being crushed. We see in verse 9 he tells his disciples to have a boat ready for him so he can be just off shore. After he calls the 12 apostles, he heads back to Capernaum, his new home base, and is still so inundated by people seeking him and his help, that he is not eating. Word makes its way back to Nazareth that he is so surrounded he can’t even eat, and his family thinks he is crazy. So they set off to fetch him.

And then the story changes. What?

Here is the first time in our study that we encounter what is known as a “Markan Sandwich.” If you made it through to the Digging Deeper section this week, you have done some work on that. This won’t be the last time we encounter it, so I am not going to spend a ton of time on it. But this sandwich technique is like the cut scene in a movie, where you see two stories happening side by side by way of jumping back and forth between them. Mark uses this technique to highlight a specific theological truth, which we will come back to in a minute. I want to jump down to verse 31 and see what happens with Jesus’ family.

Because family is important, right? It has been a pretty big deal in Israel for thousands of years! What tribe you belong to, who your father is. Often, your family’s name is actually “son of so and so.” His family has no reason to think that Jesus wouldn’t come with them, right? They get to the house, and stand outside and call for him. Imagine their presumption. Even the people inside are like, “Dude, your mom’s here.” Okay, that’s not what they said, but it is kind of like that, right? As a mom, I know what reaction I would want my kid to have if I showed up to collect him and called for him from the door.

“Get on it, now, son. Let’s go. Enough of this silliness. You are not eating, and there are all these people. We are done.”

I don’t know if that is what his mother and brothers are thinking exactly, but there is an assumption here that because they are his family, he is going to go with them. That’s who they are. So, Jesus is like, “Check ya later, peeps, Gotta go.” Right? Nope. He has already been revealing, as we have seen in the past few lessons, that he is bringing something new. And here, he shows the “new” is a new definition of family. Bloodline and genealogy no longer grant you access to God’s blessing. There is no favored tribe over another, blessing reserved for one bloodline over another.

Jesus says,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

The question we have to ask ourselves, then, is, what is the will of God? Did you know if you Google that question, you actually can get an answer? I know, right! According to Wikipedia,

In Judaism, the will of God is said to be encompassed both in the Ten Commandments and in the Mitzvah. Mitzvah is a word used in Judaism to refer to the 613 commandments given in the Torah and the seven rabbinic commandments instituted later.

That is a total of 630 commandments to keep in order to do the will of God. Can you do that? I don’t even know what they all are, and I can guarantee you none of us can. Romans 3:23 says ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So what hope is there for you and me to be identified as a member of Jesus’ family? To have access to God?

Because it is not who you are that saves you from your sin, that grants you access to relationship with God.

It’s not what you think you know, either.

If we take a look at the meat of the sandwich, that story within a story, we find some pretty important people. Look at verse 22:

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”

These were not your neighborhood scribes, these were the big deal religious leaders from Jerusalem. The have travelled a long way to be here. And they have a lot of sway. I bet you THEY know the 630 commandments, and all the other extra things added to the Scriptures that they held people accountable for (not to mention all the ways they were bending the rules to make them work for them, which we will see more later in Mark). Adrienne pointed out last week, these are the men who should have seen what Jesus was doing, and KNOWN who he is! But they don’t! They go so far as to say he is possessed by the devil, and is using Satan’s own power to cast out the demons.

They think they are so smart!

Tell me something, if Jesus was possessed by Satan, why would he be casting out demons? Why would he be decreasing his influence over people? Why would he be weakening his hold? How in any right mind does that make sense? That is the same argument Jesus makes there in verses 23-27, and seems to do it much more graciously than I would.

And what do they do? They refuse to change their minds! They continue to claim that he is possessed by an unclean spirit. That causes Jesus to give one of the gravest warnings I can recollect reading in the Bible. I could be wrong. But he tells them there is one thing that will not be forgiven, and that is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. That is an eternal sin.

That is scary, right? The idea that I could commit a sin that could never be forgiven! Have I done that? I found the study notes in my ESV study Bible so helpful. It said:

If a person persistently attributes to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God—that is, if one makes a flagrant, willful, decisive judgment that the Spirit’s testimony about Jesus is satanic—then such a person never has forgiveness.

If you are even worried that you have committed this sin, then the evidence from Scripture and from generations of men and women wiser than I says that you have not because your desire to not commit it is proof that your heart is soft and that you are seeking to know Jesus better.

But what about people in our lives who are persistent in their unbelief, even after we have shared the gospel with them over and over? Do we despair and give up? No! Even if they spend their lifetime rejecting the gospel, and at the moment of their death they genuinely repent and turn to Jesus, he will not turn them away. That genuine repentance, even at the end, shows their hearts were not so hardened that they refused the Holy Spirit. So, don’t give up. Keep telling them about the hope they have in Jesus because of his death on our behalf, and his resurrection that confirmed his sacrifice was sufficient. And pray. Pray the Holy Spirit would move them, would soften them, and would lead them to repentance.

Because it is not who you are, or what you think you know that grants you access to God.

It is where you are that matters.

Look back at the beginning of our passage. Where was the crowd? They were following him from all around the map. Those cities encompass almost the entire compass around Galilee. They were pressing in on him, seeking him, wanting to be near him.

Look at the list of the disciples that he called to be Apostles. These were not learned men, or men from special backgrounds. These were fishermen, tax collectors, and other ordinary men who chose to ground their identities in Jesus.

And look at the crowd in verse 32. Where are they? Sitting around him. Compare that with his family. His family is outside waiting for him to come to them. The crowd is inside, sitting at his feet, recognizing he has already come. Did they have questions? Were they still trying to figure out what was going on? I am sure. But they were not shying away, they were not hiding their questions. They were seeking answers.

So, let me ask you, where are you? How’s your heart?

What does it look like, then, to be sitting at Jesus’ feet?

  • It means we are seeking him in his Word.
  • We are committing to faithful, gospel-centered community.
  • We are telling others and inviting them to join us at his feet.
  • It means we center our lives around him.
  • When we walk our kids to school, we seek to speak truth to them about the creation God has surrounded us with.
  • When we are out and about during our day, we see the people around us as Jesus does, and we seek to treat them with respect and dignity.
  • It means we prioritize how we spend our money.
  • It means, maybe, we don’t watch the latest and greatest TV show because it causes our hearts to harden to the effect of sin in our lives.
  • It means we never shy away from pushing in and seeking to see more of what Jesus is doing in the world around us, and praising him for it whenever we can.

It means that, sometimes, we must choose to break one connection in favor of our connection with him. I still struggle with how to release my pride as an American in favor of my love of my Savior. What is it you ground your identity in that might need to be let go so that you can find yourself pressing in toward Jesus more?

I can tell you the exact moment I began to see that my identity, my security was misplaced. September 11, 2001, 6:03 AM. That was the moment I watched live on TV as the second plane crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. My identity, my security, my reality began to unravel. I came to understand that I have zero guarantee in this life of anything. Nothing, except for the grace of God which says that I may trust that Jesus paid my penalty. That is the only guarantee I have.

So, I choose to sit. I choose to press in and seek Jesus.

It is passages like this that show me I am nothing apart from Christ. It is not my identity as an American, or my belonging to a family that gives me assurance and security. It is my repentance for my rebellion against God, for my sin, and my trust that the death and resurrection of Jesus offers me the best security. Like the crowd, I want to be found sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening, allowing the Spirit to work in my soft heart, as I trust him for my salvation.

Because it is not who you are, or what you think you know, but where you are that matters

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