Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Phariseest of Them All?

Mark 3:22-30

As we’ve been reading through the gospel of Mark, perhaps you’ve been struck by the various groups of religious authorities.  Mark tells us about the Pharisees, Herodians, scribes, chief priests, elders, and Sadducees.  Have you ever wondered why they are in a story about Jesus?  Afterall, why not just tell us about Jesus and his miracles?  Every story needs a protagonist and an antagonist.  Jesus is obviously the protagonist and, together, the various religious authorities form the antagonist.  As Mark has been telling his story, he has made it clear that Jesus has authority over the world.  He has authority over disease, demons, nature, and even the law.  And, by implication, Jesus has authority over all other religious authorities, which is why they hate him and seek to destroy him.

The urban dictionary way of saying it would be Jesus is the hero and the religious authorities are the villain.  

There’s another purpose for including the various religious authorities, in order to give you a mirror so you can see yourself.  It’s impossible for us to see our blindspots, unless someone else points them out to us.  One of the best ways to point out blindspots is to tell a story in the third person, hoping the listener sees himself or herself in the characters.    

When we read Mark’s gospel, we are to see ourselves in the characters of the religious authorities.  In other words, Jesus is the hero and we are the villain.  Mark’s gospel story is a mirror, showing us what we look like at times.  To riff off the witch in Snow White, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the Phariseest of them all?”

Jesus is constantly showing us his authority over all life and we are constantly challenging him, just like the scribes and Pharisees.  He lays claim on our lives and we seek to evade him.  He shows love to the unlovable and we get hung up on some trivial point of our manmade “law,” missing the forest for the trees.  He is getting all the attention and we’re getting jealous.  He heals and we inflict pain.  He forgives and we judge.  He shows mercy and we demand revenge.  He makes friends with outcasts and losers and we say he’s gone mad.  He casts out unclean spirits and we accuse him of being too cosy with the devil.

That’s where our passage is taking us today in Mark 3:22-30 and I want you to see yourself in it.  “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” (Mark 3:22).  They also said, “He has an unclean spirit” (30).  At first, you might not be able to see yourself, but step closer to the mirror, and really look.  

Think about a car.  Let’s say you were convinced a particular car had a bad engine, would you buy it?  Of course not!  You wouldn’t trust it to take you where you needed to go.  Likewise, the religious authorities were convinced Jesus had a bad engine, thinking he was powered by a bad or unclean spirit.  They didn’t buy him and surely didn’t trust he could get them where they needed to go.  

Can you see yourself yet?

In response, Jesus told them “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.” (Mark 3:28-29).  

Make no mistake, you will be forgiven for every single sin you have ever done or will do.  “All sins” means all sins!  However, there’s one particular sin that never has forgiveness, and that’s to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.  What does this mean?  It means you think Jesus is powered by an evil engine.  You don’t think he will take you where you want to go.  You think he can’t provide forgiveness and does not have authority over life.  If we think he can’t do what he says he can do, to put it simply, then he won’t.

I love how Jesus tells his life story, turning himself into a streetwise tough guy.  “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.” (Mark 3:27).  In just a couple of sentences, Jesus tells us he’s like a thief, who breaks into a house, ties up the musclehead bouncer in the corner, and then steals all his stuff.  That is the narrative of life Jesus is asking us to embrace.  Jesus Christ broke into our evil world, has bound the devil, and is reclaiming all hostages.  He might not be doing it exactly like you or I would do it, but he is doing it.  

He may be staying out late with prostitutes and getting drunk with government officials, but he is doing it.

Again, can you see yourself, yet?

Let me point out where we are located in the story, in case you missed it.  Verse 22 says, “And the scribes…came down from Jerusalem.”  They “came down” to accuse Jesus, because they thought they were above him.  They thought he was below them.  They thought they knew more than he did.  They wouldn’t run the world the way he was running it.  Can you relate?  

Think about your life, are you happy with how God is running it?  Or are you envious of others?  Do you buck at what’s going on at home?  Grumble at your life situation?  Do you think you know better than Jesus?  Do you look down upon him?  If we’re being honest, most of us feel that way at some point.  

By default, we are all Pharisees, until the Spirit convinces us of our sin (instead of us accusing the Spirit of His sin). 

Remember, all sins will be forgiven, no matter what you’ve done, who you are, or how many times you’ve done it.  But the only sin that cannot be forgiven is to believe in your heart that Jesus is driven by pure evil and cannot take you where you need to go.  Jesus can forgive you, Jesus will forgive you, Jesus loves you, and Jesus is causing all things to work together for good, whether it looks like it or not (Romans 8:28).  

“Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).                

The Breakdown

  1. In what areas do you tend to judge others the most?  Keep track throughout the day and write them down.  What does this show you about yourself?  What can you learn?
  2. Be honest, do you doubt Jesus’s plan for your life?  Why or why not?
  3. What does Mark 3:22-30 teach you about yourself?  About God?  About others?
  4. Go to the mirror and honestly ask it, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the Phariseest of them all?”

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