Jesus wanted poster When we hear the story of Jesus calling the Twelve we may be tempted to hear it as though we are hearing a sacred chant or see it through the gilded lens of holy history. But we are not hearing it as Mark want s us to hear it. What may be lost on us is assortment and diversity of this crew. They are not Rabbis or Priests. They are not even prophets, and some of the prophets were a bit unconventional. The Twelve are rather average as individuals. They represent all types in Israel, with the exception of the elites. They are fishermen from the north. Tax-collectors from the big city. Rebel resistance fighters, like Simon the Zealot, and those who have invested in the Roman invasion, like Matthew the tax-collector. Some of them are even half-breeds from states that are not commonly accepted as part of Israel. The list sounds like a rap sheet in that many of the Twelve go by assumed names . . . Simon, aka Rocky. James and John Bar-Zebedee, aka the Sons of Thunder. Levi aka Matthew. Some of their names may not be their given names. Thomas means "the Twin." Bartholomew mean Son of Thalamai.

I urge us to listen again to the calling of the Twelve and the following teaching of Jesus in all of it earthiness. Listen for the details that Mark wants us to hear. Listen for the way he paints the raw reality of the situation. Listen to Jesus’ teaching to those who accept him and those who do not.

Read Mark 3:13-35
Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he selected twelve of them to be his regular companions, calling them apostles. He sent them out to preach, and he gave them authority to cast out demons. These are the names of the twelve he chose: Simon (he renamed him Peter), James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus named them "Sons of Thunder"), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).
When Jesus returned home, the crowds began to gather again, and soon he and his disciples couldn't even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. "He's out of his mind," they said. But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, "He's possessed by Beelzeboul, the prince of demons. That's where he gets the power to cast out demons." Jesus called them over and said to them by way of illustration, "How can Satan cast out Satan? A kingdom at war with itself will collapse. A home divided against itself is doomed. And if Satan is fighting against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. Let me illustrate this: You can't enter a strong man's house and rob him without first tying him up. Only then can his house be plundered! "I assure you that any sin can be forgiven, including blasphemy; but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. It is an eternal sin." He told them this because they were saying he had an evil spirit.
Jesus' mother and brothers arrived at the house where he was teaching. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. There was a crowd around Jesus, and someone said, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." Jesus replied, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" Then he looked at those around him and said, "These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Jesus Went Home

What does Jesus’ family say about him? They are anxious and concerned for his well-being. He is out of his mind – they say. He is associating with an odd assortment of people. Some of them are known instigators. He must be out of his mind because he is going up against a system that will surely destroy him. He isn’t making sense.

What do the scribes say about Jesus? They acknowledge his power, but they reinterpret it. They say that the source of his power is the devil. He has power over evil because he is one of them.

Jesus’ response to the scribes: Why? Why would evil work against itself? Why would Satan oppose himself? The powers of evil are malicious, but they are not stupid. If you work against yourself then you will lose your power. Evil wouldn’t make the mistake of being divided. It makes more sense to say that there is a power greater than evil. It makes more sense to say that Jesus is involved in an assault on the stronghold of the strongman. It makes more sense that the days of the strong man are over and Jesus has come to rip him out of his little spider hole. It makes more sense that Jesus wants what the strong man has taken and he is here to establish God’s authority and take back the people and the spiritual territory that the strong man has captured.

Jesus is preparing for an assault. He intends to invade the house of the strongman and plunder it. The strong man is the evil one and it will take one strong enough to tie him up. Jesus is that one – the one that John the Baptist spoke about – one more powerful than me who is coming after me. The treasures that Jesus intends to take out of the strong man’s house are the strong man’s captives. Those who have been enslaved by the power of evil, darkness, and sickness. Jesus is setting them free by God’s authority. This is what it means to be "fishers of men" – to rescue people from the depth of darkness.

A house divided against itself cannot stand

Jesus’ family is divided against Jesus. Jesus is actually making more sense than they are. He’s not the one out of his mind. They are out of their minds with worry and fear.

We get that way when we let our anxieties rule us rather than let God rule us. We go out of our minds with fear and worry. We become divided against our own spiritual household. And we will not stand.

The scribes are divided against Jesus. Jesus understands the truth much better than they do. Despite their learning and their experience they refuse to believe what is clear. They actually go so far as to redefine the work of God and the work of the devil because believing the truth means more than they are willing to accept. Rather than accept this new reality (which actually does fit with their traditions but doesn’t fit with their agenda) they will cut themselves off from the power of the Holy Spirit and thus condemn themselves

We get that way when we let our desire for control rule us rather than let God rule us. We cut ourselves off from the power of God’s Holy Spirit to work newness in our lives because we don’t want to let go of our own spiritual agenda. We would rather hold on to our own explanations than open ourselves up to the explanations God gives. We become divided against our own spiritual household. And we will not stand. Worse than that, we go so far as to cut ourselves off from God. We will deny ourselves forgiveness and claim that we have it all figured out.

The Twelve, like us, need to take all of this in and answer this question – Who is Jesus? The 12 have been enlisted by Jesus in the war against the power of evil and darkness, but they may just become casualties in the war if they misunderstand Jesus the way his family did and the way the scribes did.

Likewise, we will become casualties in the effort to plunder the strong man’s house if we are divided. Satan isn’t divided in his efforts. He is unified and singled-minded in his purpose. We had better ally ourselves totally with the one who has the power to defeat evil and we dare not turn on ourselves.

Who Is Jesus?

Who is My Family?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 June 2005

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