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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark

Family Problems


Let’s begin, this morning, by looking at another chiasm.  Remember that a chiasm is the A-B-C-B-A literary device that matches up...  The chiasm we are exploring this morning is only a A-B-A chiasm.  I think when a chiasm is only A-B-A we should call it a…  sandwich.  Two pieces of bread with bologna in the middle.  So, this morning we have a sandwich.  That’s good… I like sandwiches. 

Here is the top piece of bread…

Mark 3:20-35 Then Jesus went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. (“Eat” is a clue that it is a sandwich chiasm) And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind." 

Interesting.  We have Jesus’s family trying to stop him. Mary and a couple of Jesus’s step-brothers come to do an intervention.  Mothers are always concerned about their boys eating enough.  Jesus’s family may believe that Jesus has lost control of what he has started.  The crowds who are coming from all over the map, so much so that Jesus can’t even eat.  They believe Jesus has lost control… “He’s out of his mind.”  What is he thinking?  He is going to get himself killed, if he keeps on… Jesus has lost it!

Mary and the brothers attempt to rescue Jesus from himself.  Jesus is out of touch with reality.

So, the top slice of bread is… Mary heard that Jesus was not able to eat because of the crowds, it was time for a mother to intervene.  Jesus is out of his mind.
Here is the bologna on our sandwich.

Mark 3:22-30 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."  And Jesus called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.  But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"- for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

Wow, this sandwich is packed with stuff.  It’s like you are at Subway and you load everything into between your slices of bread.  Let’s break it down.

The scribes come down from Jerusalem, on official business, appointed by those in charge; the Sadducees, most likely, to investigate why all these people are going to Jesus.  Who is this Jesus?  That’s our question… Who do you say I am?  Jesus needs to be labeled. 

It is important when you are in charge to label people, people who are causing a stir, leaders need to know which label to pin to Jesus.  Once you get a name on something then you can put it in the correct pigeon hole. From the pigeon hole, you know how to deal with it. 

So, the scribes come but, Jesus doesn’t fit well into any of their categories. 

--Jesus is not a zealot agitating for war. 

--Jesus is not one of the Pharisees, pushing people to be more holy. 

--Jesus is not a charlatan, tricking people with fake healings.  

--But, he is certainly not on the Sadducees side of thing. 

Without any other label to put on Jesus, they conclude he is evil.  Obviously, he is controlled by the devil.  Their pigeon hole is… Jesus is in cahoots with Satan.  Jesus is in league with the arch-demon, Beelzebul. Maybe he’s even possessed by Beelzebul.  Jesus is a lying to the people.  Jesus is not good.  Jesus is not God.  Jesus is a liar like Beelzebul. 

Beelzebul means… Lord of the house. Jesus picks up on this word and says a house that is divided cannot stand.  It doesn’t make any sense, if I am in cahoots with Satan why would I be casting out all of these demons.  Mark has already pointed out 4 times that Jesus is ending demon possession.  The invasion is destroying the kingdom of Beelzebul.  “How can you say I am in cahoots with Satan?”  Jesus points out their label doesn’t fit. 

Rather, I am the invader.  I am a robber.  I am a burglar. I have invaded the strong man’s house and tied Satan up and stuffed him in closet and I am ravaging his house!  Jesus is at war with evil… Jesus is winning!

Then we have this unforgivable sin statement.  Listen to how N.T. Wright explains this…

Once you label what is in fact the work of the Holy Spirit as the work of the devil, there’s no way back. It’s like holding a conspiracy theory: all the evidence you see will simply confirm your belief. You will be blind to the truth. It isn’t that God gets especially angry with one sin in particular. It’s rather that if you decide firmly that the doctor who is offering to perform a life-saving operation on you is in fact a sadistic murderer, you will never give your consent to the operation.  -- N. T. Wright

Jesus is warning these scribes… don’t do it… don’t label me Beelzebul… if you buy that belief… there is no way back for you… for they had said… "He has an unclean spirit."

The top piece of bread is – Jesus is out of his mind.

          The bologna on our sandwich is – Jesus is in cahoots with Satan.

Here is the bottom piece of bread… it matches the top.  Everyone knows you can’t have mismatching bread on a sandwich. 

Mark 3:31-35 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.  And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." And he answered them, "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!  Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."

Jesus does not go along with his mother’s intervention.  Jesus denies his biological family.  And then, Jesus creates a new family.  All who do the will of God; all who join the one who binds the strong man; all who join the invasion; all who sit at the feet of Jesus, like those in his house, are his new family.  Jesus is forming a new family!


In Jesus’s world, this was scandalous. The family bond was fundamental to society.  More than our families today.  In Jesus time family was everything.   In a world of brutality, the only safe place was family. The family unit would often be a business unit as well, sharing everything in common. Typically, they lived in one house.  What’s more, for Jews, this close family bond was part of the God-given fabric of obedience. Loyalty to the family was loyalty to Israel, as the people of God. Break the link, and you’ve undermined a major pillar in their society. 

So, if you are not shocked by, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” you don’t understand the significance of what Jesus said.  God is doing the unthinkable.  Jesus is starting a new family, a new people, a community which goes beyond human family bonds.  This new family, we call it church, is the primary place where we connect to the power of the one who bound the strong man. 

Here’s our sandwich…

Old family – Jesus is looney tunes

          Scribes – Jesus is in cahoots with Satan

New family – Those who do the will of God

Let’s bring our sandwich forward in time from then to now.

In our pericope this morning, Jesus is labeled by two groups; his family and the scribes.  One calls him lunatic.  The other calls him liar.  These should ring bells with people who have heard me preach over the years.  One of the set-points of my faith is C.S. Lewis’s trilemma… Liar, lunatic or Lord

Lewis states you only have one of three choices as to who Jesus is. 

-- Choice one… Jesus is a liar.  Jesus claimed to be the one who binds the strong man but really, he knows he doesn’t.  Jesus lied about who he was.  Jesus is not the Son of God; Jesus is not the one who forgave sin.  Jesus is a liar.  Choice one. This is the scribes’ choice. The scribes accuse Jesus of lying about who he was in cahoots with. 

--Choice two… Jesus thought he was the Son of God, but really, he was delusional.  Jesus was not playing with a full deck, he was two bubbles off plumb; he was not the sharpest knife in the drawer… This is his family’s choice.  Jesus was out of his mind and they came to take him back to his rubber room.

OR, or, or Lewis says there is only one more logical choice.

--Choice three… Jesus is who he claimed to be.  Jesus is the one who invaded the earth.  Who is from God.  Who is stronger than the strong man.  Jesus is the one who says the audacious thing… "Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."  No one can say this but God himself!  No one can create a new people of God except God. 

Mark, in this pericope, is forcing you to pay your nickel and buy a sandwich.  Mark does not leave you with the liberty to not choose. 

--Either you agree with his family… the porch light is on but no one is home.

--Or, agree with the scribes, Jesus is evil… he was in cahoots with the Evil One. Jesus is a liar.

--OR you sit at his feet and call him LORD. 

Liar, Lunatic or Lord… pay your nickel!


That’s our top slice of bread… Let’s bring the meat to the now.

Jesus is the one who is strong enough to bind up Satan.  This is the focus of the sandwich.

“Who do you say I am?”  “You are stronger than the strong man.  You have bound up Satan. You are leading an invasion into enemy territory.  You are restoring your creation!  You are the burglar who has bound the strong man and are pillaging his house!

Wait, wait… we must go back a pericope, to last week’s pericope.

Mark 3:13-15 And Jesus went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.

Jesus is gathering his army.  His first generals, the apostles, he commissioned to be with him. Then he sent them out to preach AND cast out demons.  That is what his army is all about.  Marching with Him.  Preaching about Him.  Binding Satan through Him!

Jesus is stronger than Satan… As God, Jesus is ripping the gates of hell open and delivering the captives!  He recruits us to be in his army!

But don’t miss our bottom piece of bread… which we bring to the now. 

Jesus is forming a new family to do the will of God.  Or, more accurately, those who do the will of God, those who join the invasion, are formed into a new family; a new community; the church.  This new family Jesus created has power over the strong man! 

This community binds Satan.

Within the church, we first have the power to reject Satan from the family.  Satan cannot touch this. 

1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Here is a radical thought.  When we come in together-worship one of the purposes is exorcism.  What?  Let this thought soak in…

--when we sing praises to YHWH we drive out the influence of evil from our hearts.   

--When we bread the bread of communion we seal our community against evil. 

--When we pray for healing we are advancing the restoration of creation against the brokenness of the devil.  When we let the Word of God into us there remains no room for wrong!

As we move out into the world preaching who Jesus is, we advance forgiveness of sins.  As we share our lives with others we advance the kingdom with the keys to the gates of hell. 

This new family Jesus created has power over the strong man! 

Who do you say I am?

--You are Lord, not a liar, nor a lunatic.

Who do you say I am?

--You are the one who binds the strong man. 

Who do you say I am?

--You are the creator of a new family which overcomes the world!



Tim Stidham

March 26, 2016

Los Alamos Church of Christ



Los Alamos Church of Christ - 2323 Diamond Drive - Los Alamos, New Mexico - 87544 - (505) 695.5875