Jesus frequently performed miracles in the course of His earthly ministry. Mark 3 contains a couple examples of note. Jesus was near the synagogue on the Sabbath. Our Lord’s detractors were keeping a close vigil in hopes of catching Jesus in sin. Jesus taught with authority in the synagogue, yet He was often rejected by the Jewish religious authorities. Jesus healed many, including the man with the withered hand, and when evil spirits encountered Him, they cowered in fear. The scribes claimed He was possessed by a demon. Even our Lord’s family believed He was deranged.
In this context, accused of devilry, our Savior cleverly presents the parable of the house divided.
A House Divided (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 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.”
Many in Jesus’ day believed, and perhaps correctly, that demons had the capacity to perform supernatural acts. It is important to note that demons are fallen angels. As a result, they have powers, but only through God, that is, completely given and under the authority of the Lord. Seeking to discredit Jesus and seizing upon the healing miracles, the scribes accused Jesus of demon possession. Jesus responds with clear logic. Were He possessed by demons, why would they fall down before Him? Why would agents of Satan work against one another?
Then Jesus confronts them with perhaps the most sobering expression of condemnation—that in rejecting Him, they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, committing the one unforgivable sin. Remember that the work of the Holy Spirit is to bring salvation to unbelievers through the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. In other words, to reject Jesus as the Savior is tantamount to rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit: the creation of saving faith.
Jesus states that all sins will be forgiven, even blasphemies. Jesus performed miracles for two important reasons. First, He sought to ease the suffering of those afflicted with the consequences of a fallen world. In doing so, Jesus announced His kingdom, the new creation that would come to earth because of the cross of Calvary and the empty tomb. Second, Jesus wished to convince those of His day, and today, that He is indeed the Son of God, the Almighty and man come together in one Savior for the redemption of the world. He brings forgiveness, even of blasphemies, through faith.
Strength and clear division are two overarching themes of this parable. Try illustrating with this sports analogy. Ask students to list their favorite sports teams. Stress the importance of knowing which team you play for and how this is essential for success in the game. If possible, have a student explain the process of drafting team players at the beginning of the season. Highlight the importance of team commitment. If time and facilities allow, take students to the gymnasium and have them divide into teams.
First, compare the concept of teams to Jesus’ parable of the house divided. Each person in human history, from Adam to the last one before Christ returns, is either a Christian or not. There is nothing in between. Further, Jesus is the Lord and Savior of the kingdom of heaven, His “team.” Nothing, including the devil and his demons, can snatch Christians away from Jesus. In making this comparison, take great care to clarify that the devil, while he is the captain of the other team—that is unbelievers—is no match for Jesus Christ. Jesus is God Almighty. Satan is a created and fallen angel.
Second, explain that, as players on Jesus’ team, we have been “drafted” by the work of His Holy Spirit, not because of our goodness or good works, but rather in love and mercy. Further, because of His saving work on the cross, we need not fear condemnation for our sins. He keeps us forever on His team, despite our daily sins.
From: All God’s People Sing!
- A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, 50
- Christ Be My Leader, 81
- Christ, the Life of All the Living, 82
- Have No Fear, Little Flock, 115
- I Shall Not Be Moved, 130
- Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven, 200
- Those Who Trust in the Lord, 244
Looking for suggestions on how to teach other parables?