Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 29, 2012
 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.  And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”  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 he 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 were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”  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!  For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
-- Mark 3:20-35, ESV
We all know the story of Goldilocks and her experiences with the bears, the chairs, the porridge, and the beds. No one wants what is too hard or too hot. No one wants what is too soft or too cold. We want what is just right. So it was with Goldilocks in the house of the three bears; and, so it is with us in the house of God. We want to know and enjoy God, just right.
Finding God, however, is kind of like reading a book through bifocals. If you hold it too close, the words become too soft, too fuzzy, totally unreadable. If you hold it too far, the words become too hard, too small, totally unrecognizable. You’ve got to get it just right, not too close and not too far, in order to truly see, understand, and enjoy what you are reading.
It is possible to be too close, too casual with the Almighty, so that you really do not know Him or understand Him at all. And it is quite common to be too far, too critical, or too indifferent to enjoy a relationship with the Lord. You want to be just right, you want to see Him and know Him, you want to understand and enjoy God. This text will tell you how. It is a tale of upset relatives, unpardonable sin, and understanding God.
Jesus’ family did not understand Him (ref. 20-21; 31-32). They literally thought He was a mad man, “out of His mind.” Mind you, Jesus’ earthly family consisted of great saints. His mother, Mary, remains blessed among women. His (half) siblings included the great Apostles James and Jude. But Christ’s earthly family misjudged His earthly ministry. At an early stage, they intended to shut Him down. “They went out to seize Him,” which means they were going to arrest Him, take Him by force if necessary, and get Him some sort of mental evaluation. Quite a mistake!
Jesus’ family and friends did not understand Him because they were too close. Familiarity can breed contempt. Even Jesus stated that a prophet is without honor in his own home town (ref. Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; John 4:44). Can you imagine growing up with the perfect son or brother? Familiarity can breed jealousy, too. For decades, Jesus’ immediate family had been so close to Him that they just couldn’t see Him for who He is. Instead of understanding God and enjoying Him, they were upset with Him and tried to tear Him away from a pivotal point in His early ministry.
In my ministry I have met too many people who are so close to God they cannot see Him at all. Typically they are lifelong Baptists, or Catholics, or other religious traditionalists, who have been in church all their lives, heard church talk all their lives, performed church work all their lives, but have never given their lives to Jesus Christ. They don’t know Him. They don’t understand Him. Perhaps they are just too close.
Jesus’ family was too close. His foes, however, were a bridge too far (ref. vs. 22-30). They were so far away, in fact, that they couldn’t even tell the difference between the Lord and the devil.
From the early stages of Jesus’ earthly ministry, our Lord had hard enemies in high places. Like all mean-spirited people, these scribes criticized what they could not understand. Jesus addressed them in parables, simple stories with spiritual meanings that serve as tests for understanding God. The scribes and Pharisees failed the test at every taking. Not even the word of God could penetrate their hard, religious hearts.
These far out Pharisees went so far as to accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed. Not only did they wander into dangerous territory with God, they ventured to the point of no return. The “eternal sin,” or unpardonable sin (ref. Luke 12:10), is not so much an act as it is attitude which leaves a stain that lasts forever. Jesus identifies it here with a present tense verb, meaning it is a persistent lack of faith which denies the deity of Christ and attributes the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. In other words, the unpardonable sin is speaking out against God in ignorant, militant, ongoing, hardening unbelief. It is a line one crosses from which he is too far gone to ever get back to God. And the frightening thing about it is that when you’re there, you do not care (meaning if you do care about whether or not you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, be assured you have not).
The upset relatives did not understand Jesus. The unpardonable sinners blasphemed the Holy Spirit. But there were a few at the Lord’s feet on that day who understood God.
Jesus’ first followers understood Him (ref. 33-35). They sat at His feet. They followed His footsteps. They fed on His word. They became His family, the true family of God.
True Christians do not stand too close, become too casual, nor become so comfortable with Jesus that they lose the reverence and awe required of our holy and transcendent God. True Christians are never so far, so cold and proud, so unrepentant and unbelieving, that they miss the opportunity to fellowship with our loving and imminent God. True Christians get it just right because they’ve come to the right place. It is a place where God meets man, where transcendence touches imminence, where fear is kissed by love, where salvation begins and spiritual life abounds. It is a most holy place called “the will of God.”
“The will of God” is a place; or, better still, a place in a family. Jesus said, “Here are My [family members]… whoever does the will of God.” It is a family where to get in you must be born again (ref. John 3:3). To put it another way, it is a family which requires adoption by God (ref. Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5). Like any baby or adopted child who finds a family, you did not find it so much as it, or the Father, found you. This is grace! But when you finally arrive, you gladly join in. This is faith! By grace though faith you discover the will of God, and arrive at a just right place where you can understand and enjoy the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The will of God” is a principle, a guiding light for life. It is confessing Jesus as Lord and living with Him as the number one priority of your life (ref. Matthew 6:33, 16:24). He is above all and over all, including relatives and friends (ref. Luke 14:26), social status (Mark 8:34), and worldly wealth (ref. Matthew 6:24). Living in God’s will means pursuing and seeking to please God with all of your heart, mind, body, and soul.
“The will of God” is a practice, a way of life. Faith yields faithfulness. Understanding God is abandoning your own understanding for His (ref. Proverbs 3:5-6). It is proving love by obedience (ref. John 14:15). It is catching the spirit of Luther who confessed, “My conscience is held captive by the word of God!” For when you are living by the word of God, you are living in “the will of God.”
If anyone should have understood the Lord, it should have been His human family, even before His earthly ministry began. But, they did not. They were too close. If anyone should have understood the Lord, it should have been the religious leaders of Old Testament Israel. But, they did not. They were too far. Yet a few fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes, like the proverbial Goldilocks, found the place that is just right. They found the will of God. Have you?
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org