The last book in C. S. Lewis’ fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia is called The Last Battle. If you are not familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan is a lion who is Christ. Tash is an evil being. We might call him, Beelzebul.
During the last great battle of Narnia on Stable Hill between the faithful Narnians and the Calormenes, King Tirian finds himself fighting against the Calormene leader, Rishda Tarkaan. At length, the pair fights just outside the stable door. Tirian, knowing that Rishda wants to shove him into the stable where the wrathful Tash is waiting, leaps into the door and pulls Rishda along with him. Although Tirian expects to see the inside of the dark, dingy stable, he instead finds that he is in a beautiful, luscious land. For Lewis, this is the kingdom of God.
There he reunites with Eustace, Jill, and all of the other people involved in Narnian adventures of the past. They meet with Aslan and watch the ending of the world of Narnia. Aslan then tells them to come further up and further in.
As Tirian and the others follow Aslan, they come across a Calormene soldier, Emeth, who had previously entered the stable with the wish to meet the great Tash but instead had found himself meeting Aslan in this land. Emeth relates the story of his meeting with Aslan to the others.
“Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, ‘Son you are welcome.’ But I said, ‘Alas, Lord, I am no son of yours but the servant of Tash.’ He answered, ‘Child, all the service you have done to Tash, I account as service done to me.’
“Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that you and Tash are one?’
“The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, ‘It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites. I take to me the services which you have done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds, that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he had truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if anyone does a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Do you understand, Child?’
“I said, ‘Lord, you know how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.’ ‘Beloved’, said the Glorious One, ‘unless your desire had been for me you would not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.’
“Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.” (204,206).
In Mark 3:20–35, the scribes and Jesus’ family are like the Calormenes. But Mary, in particular, was like Emeth. They fail to see the Spirit at work in Jesus. All they see is a barn.
Now, picture what has happening in this gospel passage. Jesus grows up in Nazareth. He most likely learns the carpentry or artisan trade from his father. Probably he keeps his nose clean and does not stand out in town. Nazareth is small enough that everyone probably knows everyone to some extent.
So then the people of Nazareth hear that Jesus has spent time around the Sea of Galilee and he is healing people and driving out evil spirits. That had to be really puzzling. The people of Nazareth are incredulous over the stories they are hearing from Galilee. It was like in “The Return of the Jedi” when Han Solo is told that Luke is a Jedi Knight. Solo responds by saying, “Everyone has delusions of grandeur.” The people who have known Jesus all his life are gossiping around town saying that Jesus has lost his mind.
If Jesus is your blood relative, in a small town, and people are saying bad things about your loved one, you want to get the loved one off the streets, bring him home and keep him in the house, out of sight. Just picture it. Jesus’ family knows what they will say to Jesus, “There, there Jesus. Just come along with us. We’ll take care of you. We will feed you. Not like these people who don’t look out for you. Come along.”
Meanwhile, some know-it-alls have arrived from Jerusalem, some scribes. The scribes make copies of scriptures and so are well versed on what the scriptures say. Odds are that Jesus’ activities have reached the ears of the religious authorities in Jerusalem and they sent some scribes to check it out. They already know about Jesus casting out evil spirits.
So they accuse Jesus of being possessed. It is only by being possessed that he has the power to cast out demons. In other words, the religious authorities have not given Jesus permission to do the works of God.
Jesus responds to their accusations by telling them parables. Jesus then employs logic, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Jesus is saying that if he is a demon then how can demons win if demons are expelling demons? There won’t be any left and the whole evil enterprise will fall. Abraham Lincoln drew on these few verses to justify going to war to hold the union together. The United States can survive together, not apart.
Jesus backs up his point, illustrating it, with a parable about a home invasion robbery of a strong man. The robbers can only be successful if the strong man is first bound.
Then comes a verse that tends to make people sit up, take note, and wonder if they ever blasphemed the Holy Spirit and how does one even do that? The penalty for doing so is harsh. All sins will be forgiven. Whew! Except that blaspheming of the Holy Spirit. That will result in eternal damnation. Not a pleasant prospect.
What does that mean? Well, we need to look at the context. Jesus is talking to the scribes and is refuting their contention that Jesus is demon possessed. To an uninvolved observer, when an evil spirit is cast out, that would be a good thing. To do so, Jesus relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet these scribes are saying that what Jesus did was through the power of Beelzebul, a demon (which is actually a Philistine god).
To have this unpardonable sin, one would have to have a pattern of behavior of repeated and willful acts of sin. When we sin, we separate ourselves from God. The unpardonable sin is not an isolated act. The person would have to be so depraved that it is not God who refuses to forgive, but that the person refuses to allow God to forgive. I think we know of people who fit that definition. If you are afraid that you have committed this sin, then you have never done it.
Meanwhile, Jesus’ family has arrived from Nazareth and are standing outside overhearing this debate. They can’t get past the crowd. Note that the scribes did. The scribes probably demanded in and the crowd acknowledged their authority. The message is given to Jesus that his mother and his siblings are outside and want to talk to him.
Jesus knows why they are there. Jesus knows the speech that I imagined earlier. He is not going to let them deter his ministry any more than he is going to let the scribes derail him. Jesus disowns them in favor of the people who follow Jesus. The apostles have left everything to follow Jesus. Yet Jesus’ family stayed home and ignored Jesus. They only showed up after they heard the community gossip. Jesus has brought them shame and they want the shame to go away.
The people already gathered there are Jesus’ family. These people love Jesus. They are there because they want to do the will of God. Until now, nobody in Jesus’ family even bothered to walk down to Capernaum to see him and see what he was doing. Mark never tells us if they ever spoke to each other during this visit. (Mary eventually travels with Jesus.)
There are good families. There are bad families. All families have some degree of dysfunction. We’re only human. All who obey the will of God are members of Jesus’ family. By being part of Jesus’ family, we are members of God’s family. We are bound together by love. With God, we get a glimpse of perfect love and we can carry that foretaste of love to our other relationships.
Text: Mark 3:20–35