He Has Lost His Senses”

Following the calling of His twelve disciples, Jesus returned to His home—Capernaum—where “the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal” (Mark 3:20). They were at the door and probably even in the house (Cf. also Mark 1:33; 2:2). The kinsmen of Jesus heard these reports of all His followers and came to take Him into custody, perhaps for His own protection, but certainly because they said, “He has lost His senses” (Mark 3:21). Of all the calumnies Jesus suffered during His ministry, this reaction by His own family members had to hurt worse than all others. “The family of Jesus were doubtless inspired by a desire for His safety, but their interpretation of His enthusiasm implied want of faith in Him.”[1] How often is Spirit-filled enthusiasm mistaken for zeal born of natural affections—or, even worse, for insanity. This was one of the most direct fulfillments of those words in John 1:11— “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” In every age of religious formality and indifference to true spirituality, those who have been the subjects of a spiritual awakening have been falsely maligned as hysterical or insane. Jesus was now being accused of being insane by His own brethren who were spreading that report openly to others. J. A. Alexander’s comments on the word that was used to describe Jesus’ mental state is worth noting:

The Greek verb is the same employed above (2, 12) to signify extreme amazement, but intrinsically applicable to any derangement or disorder, whether bodily or mental, and actually used by the classics and Josephus, with the mind or senses, to denote insanity, in which sense Paul elliptically makes use of the verb alone (2 Cor. 5, 13). Some interpreters prefer the sense of bodily exhaustion, and suppose these friends to have gone out, either to sustain (support) him, or to hold him back from such injurious exertion. It is commonly agreed, however, that the reference is to mental disorder or extreme excitement.[2]

Undoubtedly, the exhaustion of the body has a large effect on the mind and Jesus was greatly overworked, including spending many nights in prayer, as He did before the calling of His disciples. Yet, the words that were broadcast about Him were in reference to His mental state. His own family members were concerned that He was insane. There was growing opposition to Jesus at this time as a result of the envy and malignancy of the Pharisees and the scribes. They had been watching His every move very carefully for some months—ever since the arrest and imprisonment of John the Baptist. Thus, there was a new deputation from Jerusalem that came to Capernaum with new accusations—“‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons’” (Mark 3:22). Luke described these accusations as arising from the people who saw His miracles; Matthew said it was the Pharisees who thus accused Him; and, more specifically, Mark wrote it was the scribes. Of course, all three writers are correct. These scribes were from the strict Jewish sect of the Pharisees and they had seen many of Jesus’ miracles. After being embarrassed by Jesus concerning fasting and the Sabbath day observance, they probably sent a party back to Jerusalem to ask advice from the Sanhedrin. The decision was made by those religious leaders to accuse Jesus of being possessed by a demon and performing His miracles by that underworld power. Galilee was an area of Israel that was especially infiltrated by all kinds of pagan ideas and this charge seemed to have enough plausibility to persuade the masses to turn against Jesus. Moreover, it was ultimately successful in doing that very thing.

Jesus did not ignore these very serious accusations against Him and His ministry. He called the scribes together and began to speak to them in parables. It is not clear whether Jesus actually heard the scribes say such things about Him or simply received reports of them doing so. Beelzebul was the Lord of the flies or, more accurately, the Dung-god. Nothing could have been more odious than for these scribes to make such a charge against Jesus. On the one hand, the scribes were aware of the protoevangelium from Genesis 3:15, the ongoing conflict between God and Satan which would be carried out in “two antagonistic races”.[3] They were right to hold that the devil was not an occasional enemy, but an ever-present adversary. Yet, Jesus showed them how absurd their charge against Him was. As He asked, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” (Mark 3:23). Alexander commented on that question:

This simple question contains the sum of the whole refutation. It implies, as previous questions, who is Satan? What is the meaning of the name? What relation does it necessarily denote?  How can the adversary be a friend? How can the leader of one party, in a war which has been going on for ages, be the ally of his enemy and conqueror? Christ came avowedly, as well as really, to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), not as an incidental or collateral effect, but as the very object of his work and mission. Of this mission his credentials were his miracles.[4]

The simple and direct questions that Jesus asked the scribes were never answered and remain unanswerable. Some of those questions have entered into the common sayings of mankind as statements that are irrefutable. For instance, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” was used by President Lincoln at the time of the Civil War. No one needs to have such statements explained to him. 

Jesus then used those questions to state another great truth—the possibility of committing the unpardonable sin. The unpardonable sin is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Instead of openly rebuking the scribes, Jesus indirectly described for them the nature of the sin which they were in danger of committing. Jesus’ declaration begins with “a solemn form of affirmation.”[5]  Verily or Truly or Amen are the different ways in which this Hebrew adjective have been translated. It indicates a solemn form of attesting to what has been said or what will be said. It was common for Jesus to preface important statements or conclude His prayers with this affirmation—this Amen. In these words, Jesus warns the scribes of their dangerous position—the danger of eternal fire and the refusal of all forgiveness. 

There are some things to notice about the blasphemy of the Spirit. First, it is called the ‘blasphemy of the Spirit’ which means that only those who have been wooed by the Holy Spirit and refused Him can be guilty of this sin. Second, it is not just any sin or blasphemy. Jesus said, “all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter” (Mark 3:28). Third, the blasphemy of the Spirit is nowhere in Scripture described in detail and that is for a reason. If men knew the exact boundary lines of the blasphemy of the Spirit—or, the unpardonable sin—they would be prone to get as close to it without committing it as possible. Instead, the Scripture simply warns us of a great danger that must be avoided. The wise will always take heed and stay clear of the danger, but the foolish will fall into the pit heedlessly.

At that point, Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived in Capernaum and the crowds told Him that His family was looking for Him. Swete describes the situation well for us:

They were crowded out, as in the case of the paralytic. . . Naturally, they were unwilling to disclose their errand (iii, 21), and therefore contented themselves with asking for an interview.[6]

Jesus, knowing all things, knew the purpose of this request for an interview. Mary had probably given into the pressures placed on her by her other sons, but Jesus knew that their requested interview was for the purpose of trying to put an end to His mission. Satan was using many different methods to try to interrupt and stop Jesus’ ministry. After the revolting accusations of the scribes did not work, then he tried to entice Jesus through His own mother. The actions of Jesus might seem harsh and unfeeling to us until we focus on why He responded as He did. The mother and brothers and sisters of Jesus are those followers alone who do the will of God.  

[1] Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977), 64. 

[2] Joseph Addison Alexander, The Gospel According to Mark (London: Banner of Truth, 1960), 72. 

[3] Alexander, The Gospel According to Mark, 75. 

[4] Alexander, The Gospel According to Mark, 76. 

[5] Alexander, The Gospel According to Mark, 79. 

[6] Swete, Commentary on Mark, 69. 

NEWS: I received the good news on Monday that Reformation Heritage Books will print my new book, Job and the Problem of Suffering. I signed the contract and sent it back to them on Wednesday morning. RHB is, in my opinion, one of the very best reformed publishing companies in the world and they are very picky about what they print, so I am very grateful that they are willing to publish my book. It will probably be sometime in 2024 before the book is in print. Some people have asked me when it would be printed, but I do not have a date yet. This book was described by Al Baker, one of my endorsers, as “Scholarly, but simply and succinctly written.” Ryan Denton also wrote an endorsement and he told me that it is both scholarly and pastoral. I believe this book will be a good endorsement for Vanguard Presbytery. 
Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL


Please mail any contributions to: Vanguard Presbytery, PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540. 

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