The Three Houses of Mark 3

I.

1 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” 4 Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.[a] 6 Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

II.

13 And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him.[…] 19 […] And they went into a house.[…]31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.”

33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

III.

25 … if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 27 No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.

High/Low Christology?

There are some who would promote the erroneous idea that as the Gospels become later in date of composition they begin to portray Jesus as God. This sort of reasoning is largely dependent upon how critical scholars, who are through and through naturalists, deists, or flat-out atheists, interpret the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel, they claim, portrays a very non-God-Man Jesus. Jesus is seen as getting angry, having compassion, etc. Whereas in the Gospel of John, they claim, He is, basically, on Zoloft, impervious and bold and explicitly defined as God (cf. John 1:1). As satan manipulated the Word of God in the garden of Eden, so these men and women also manipulate the Word of God, neglecting to mention Jesus’ sorrow, anger, and compassion all throughout the Gospel of John, and the slew of references – explicit and implicit – to the Deity of our Lord, by our Lord Himself, all throughout Mark’s Gospel.

Individuals who would support the idea of a Christ who is gradually moved into the realm of “God-Man” theology propose a distinction between two types of Christology – (a.) “high” Christology, which shows Christ as God-Man, Exalted, Sovereign, etc, and (b.) “low” Christology, which shows Jesus as a special man of God, a type of a higher prophet or moral teacher, or even a new Moses (but not God) – in spite of what the text actually presents.

Mark 3 gives us an example of “high” Christology, as does chapter 2 (which I will post on tomorrow), in the example of the three houses. In each house mentioned in the preceding verses, Jesus is entering the house and driving out those whom He did not want there, taking what they presumed was theirs, and doing so without regard for any opposition He may face. To put it bluntly, Mark 3 shows Jesus Christ acting on earth as Sovereign Theanthropos (God-Man).

The Three Houses

The three houses are significant because they show Jesus’ authority in three different ways.

1. House of God (vv. 1- 6) – Jesus enters as Lord of the Sabbath (cf. 2:28), heals a man’s withered hand by commanding him to do the impossible (i.e. “stretch out your hand”). His authority over sin, the Sabbath, and sickness is here exhibited, and the Pharisees are compelled to leave.

2. A House (vv. 19-22) – The Lord enters with His chosen men and, presumably, teaches those who are following Him. While no one is reported as “leaving” (as in the case of the Pharisees leaving the synagogue/house of God), those who think He is “out of His mind” (i.e. His physical relatives) are on the outside.

3. The Strong Man’s House (vv. 25-27) – Here, the Lord explains why the house figure in this chapter shows up so frequently: It demonstrates His strength over the wicked one, His role as Divine Rescuer/Redeemer. As the only One who is stronger than the strong man, Jesus has bound satan, entered his territory, and taken back what is rightfully God’s. He states this parable/example in order to put the Pharisees in their place for stating that He only could cast out demons by the power of beelzebub.

As the Pharisees were on the outside of the kingdom of heaven, and thereby shown to be children of the devil, because of their claim that “He only casts out demons by the power of beelzebub”, so Jesus’ physical family members are on the outside for they also consider His ministry to be illegitimate (i.e. they say that He is only doing what He is doing because He is mentally unstable). Similarly, as the man with the once withered hand stands in the synagogue with Jesus and is now part of His spiritual family, so too those who are sitting around Jesus are called His spiritual family.

What we see in Mark 3 is God exercising His Sovereign strength in binding the strong man and redeeming His once captive people, and His Sovereign Will in choosing who will come to Him. This is not “low” Christology.

The Lord Jesus’ words can only be seen for what they are:

An implicit claim to full Deity.

And His actions declare that He regularly assumed an authority that only God Himself possesses.

The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, yes; but He is also Lord of the synagogue, the physical body, or whatever other domain the enemy of our souls had formerly tried to dominate and claim as his own – or that we would foolishly claim as our own! Christ has bound the strong man, as He is infinitely stronger, and has plundered him.

What Does This Mean For Us?

An obvious teaching to be gleaned from this passage is that it is the grace of God that makes one part of God’s family, not religio-national (i.e. whether or not one is Jewish means nothing) or familial descent. Those who are sinners saved by His grace (cf. 2:13-17); they are those who follow Him and are His family. We who are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ are His.

Therefore, those who are regenerate are on the inside with Jesus; those who are not regenerate are on the outside. There is a distinction between the saved and the unsaved that Christ Jesus Himself held to quite firmly, but one that the contemporary church has watered down or lost altogether. We would do well to remember this and not sacrifice biblical truth to postmodern distortions of tolerance and acceptance.

A Narrative Model/Pattern

As a side note, be sure to note the pattern laid out by the Holy Spirit here. There are two physical/earthly scenarios and one explanatory spiritual scenario (here in the form of a teaching explaining what is going on in the chapter). This is important, for it shows us a narrative pattern that is consistent throughout Mark’s Gospel and helps us determine the literary/theological necessity of Mark 16:9-20, which liberals like to debate as “not original” because of its appearance in later manuscripts (which is a completely unnecessary assumption that I’ve spoken about in brief here). Mark’s narratival/theological method is consistently as follows: a physical event is paralleled by a spiritual event, the latter explaining/shedding light upon the former (this is a pattern found in Genesis and perhaps the entire Pentateuch). If you have the time, read the Gospel of Mark carefully and note the parallelisms that center around a common theme (e.g. in this chapter the diverse stories center around Jesus binding satan and plundering his goods, in Mark 5 the stories center around Jesus being the One to Whom all creatures plead [whether the demons of hell, the unregenerate men and women who oppose Him, those saved by His compassion and grace, or those who seek His help for others]). Mark 16:9-20 is original; the Gospel would be incomplete without it.

-h.

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2 thoughts on “The Three Houses of Mark 3

  1. Heather says:

    Thanks for posting this, Hiram.

    Craig and I were talking about the binding of the strong man just yesterday.

    I’m sadly not very familiar with Mark’s and Luke’s Gospel accounts. I think I have my next reading assignment lined up :)

    Like

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