Gospels

The World’s Strongest Man

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When God’s kingdom activity began through Jesus it attracted opposition. The first few chapters of mark illustrate this conflict. People couldn’t explain exactly what was happening in Jesus’ ministry. He was doing remarkable things. Family called him crazy. Religious authorities called him possessed by the devil. Mark wouldn’t have made these stories up just to create a narrative.
Jesus’ popularity with the people has become enormous. His acts of healing and teaching have turned Jewish society upside down. The peasant communities are seeing the Messiah confront the powers of the current social order. The Temple elite know Jesus has “illegally” been issuing pardon and status to the wrong people (2:5-12). Its as if someone today were handing out driver’s licenses or US passports out on the street. Only the state or federal government has the authority to do that. In Jesus’ case, He’s been forgiving sins and healing people, appearing to defy Torah and assuming the role of priest. This is how Jesus is being “blasphemous.” They’re claiming that only God can forgive sins but they aren’t defending God. Instead they are defending their overreaching legal authority to define what indebtedness to God is.
The Temple system (the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.) are corrupt, very corrupt. They “devour widows houses” and drain Israel of its resources for their personal and political profit. Mark’s gospel will use demons as a symbol for the Temple elitists and even the disciples blindness (9:14-32; cf. 9:32). The demons know who Jesus is (3:11) but Jesus has authority to restrain the truth they cry out. In other words, Jesus has come as the One more powerful than John (1:7), and Jesus will be the One powerful enough to bind the strong man of the house (3:23-30) so that He may complete His mission of setting captives free. This was Israel’s original vocation but they have been taken captive themselves. Mark is conveying Jesus as the One who will upset the strong man, the devil, the accuser (Satan), who is manifested through those who have control of the Temple, the “house,” because they are in opposition to God even though they claim to be holy ones among sinners, even though they fashion themselves as God’s true ministers. Outwardly they are flawless. Inwardly they’re evil.
In 3:13 Jesus will form an opposition group on the mountainside (think of Moses). Jesus “called to himself those he wanted, and they came to him.” This group of disciples will form the core of the new covenant community Jesus is forming, and they aren’t from the Temple elite. They are given new names, signifying consolidation (as one author explains) of the group, which will be needed for them. For it is to them that Jesus will give the secrets about the kingdom of God (4:11). They will be the ones who will bring to light the real mission of the Messiah in the future. The success of Jesus’ mission is crucial to the overthrowing of the strong man, Satan. Mark ends the list of the disciples with the one who will precipitate the climax of Jesus’ mission to the cross (cf. Luke 22).
In 3:20 Jesus entered a house with the disciples (where “safety” was assumed) but the crowds are so persistent that it prevents them from eating. Jesus’ family hears of this and then they come after Him to “take charge” of Him. In other words, they intend to stop Jesus’ from continuing whatever they think He’s doing. They are doing this out of concern for Jesus’ safety but they don’t understand the nature of His mission. They resort to basically calling Him a fanatic, a nut, or crazy. However, the teachers of the law have arrived “from Jerusalem.” They have come with authority to stop the mission of Jesus when they declare that Jesus is under the control of the prince of demons. However, we’ll see that Jesus isn’t going to be “pulled from the game.” First, JesusWe see Jesus counter and expose their lack of understanding about what God is doing, about what the Messianic agenda was all about. Jesus’ rebuttal is with the parable of Satan driving out Satan. How can that happen? Logically, it can’t happen lest Satan bind himself. Yet, Jesus is implying that He must be the One to bind Satan, and that’s what they’ve begun to see Him do. Jesus is the stronger “man.” God’s kingdom actions are being manifested through Jesus’ ministry and its causing quite a wrestling match in the “house.” The teachers of the law (and others) are seeing something transpire, which they can’t explain. They are actually observing the activity of the Holy Spirit working through Jesus, but they cannot grasp this. They are witnessing God wrestling with them, remarkably, in order to actually free them from their captor; yet they are resisting.
Jesus qualifies all of this by shocking the listening crowd in 3:31-34. Essentially, who are those who can clearly see God’s kingdom activity through Jesus? Those who are listening to and learning Jesus’ kingdom message as opposed to those who’re attacking it. Those are Jesus’ mother and brothers (cf. 3:35). These learners must pay careful attention to Jesus. They will get the key parable to unlock all other parables in chapter 4 with the story of the sower. Look at 4:13.
The point? The time of binding the strong man has finally come. The true Messiah is there and will drive out the real enemy, Satan. The Messiah will give Israel a new and clean heart. Good seed will finally take root in Israel because of Jesus’ mission. Israel will have opportunity to be vindicated as God’s people if they leave the path of destruction they’re on and turn around to the path of true salt and light by proper belief in Him as the Messiah. Only then can the nation escape the wrath to come spoken by John the Baptist, the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. [Perhaps the caution of foolish building fits in here? When the rains came, the streams rose, and the winds blew against that house (the Temple, the strong man) and it fell with a great crash (70 A.D).]
More to come…..

Categories: Gospels, The Gospel Story

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