The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? Mark 3:22–23
Note how the scribes are characterized here. They were not the local religious authorities but rather those who came down from Jerusalem.
After the healing of the leper, the messianic miracle, many scribes and pharisees traveled up to Capernaum from Jerusalem to investigate who could heal leprosy. They found out it was Jesus. It was the official delegation sent from the Sanhedrin.
After investigating that miracle and the other miracles, words, and acts of Jesus, their final verdict was, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”
Who is Beelzebul? The verse tells us he is the ruler of demons who Yeshua associated with Satan in v.23.
That was their final verdict concerning Yeshua. First, they accused Jesus of being demon-possessed and second, they accused Him of working for Beelzebul. That was the final break. Their decision changed the whole course of history, especially that of Israel.
A Gracious Appeal
Let us see how He answers such accusations. Although severe, there is still grace to be found. Let us begin with v.23.
And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?
Note that Yeshua was not angry, but surely very sad and so His first reaction is that He …called them to Himself. At the beginning He did not have harsh words for them, but called them back to Himself, as a last appeal, or perhaps because a few among them would realize the grave decision they were taking. He did not say, “cursed are you”, but “come to Me, listen to Me”, for their decision would lead to eternal consequences.
Listen to what He says in vv.24-26: If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!
The words stand and divided are the theme, with each being mentioned three times. But why is Jesus speaking of a divided kingdom and a divided house? Which divided kingdom and house were, at that time, completely split up?
He may have prompted them to turn around and see that what was so divided at the time were the Kingdom of Israel and the House of David. But that is what Yeshua came to repair in His desire to gather Israel together. Yet they accused Him of working with the author of their own destruction. How could they say that Satan was divided when his own evil work was being accomplished within their very midst?
It is like a man who is standing in front of his burning house, yet he prevents the firemen from extinguishing the fire, saying everything is fine, all is well. They fail to see the evil arsonist at work, and they fail to see their Savior.
Time to Turn
Now let us consider verse 12 of Mark 4, a most difficult one, which is a quotation from Isaiah 6:9-10.
And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” Mark 4:11–12
At first glance, these words look like a mass condemnation of people because of the refusal of a few. It looks like many are now prevented from understanding the mysteries of God and prevented from coming to forgiveness as if it were a tit-for-tat between God and man. But that is not the way God operates, otherwise the history of mankind would have ended long ago.
The translation of this verse is good, but we can change one word for a synonym which translators have used elsewhere for the same Greek word mepote. If we use the synonym perhaps instead of otherwise, you will see the verse take another direction.
‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Perhaps they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’
Seeing it this way, one can see the reason why the Lord is not allowing so many to come closer to the truth. Perhaps it is to give them time to repent so that they will not commit the eternal sin and be doomed for eternity. So that perhaps they would turn, tshouva, in Isaiah. This explanation fits the biblical context.
Patient Intervention in History
When Adam and Eve sinned, God moved them away from the Tree of Life, outside of the Garden of Eden, so that they would not eat of it and stay in that fallen state for eternity. It was a measure of mercy and grace.
Once saved in Yeshua, we find access to the Tree of Life in heaven where we all will partake of its fruit one day.
When men got together and built the Tower of Babel, the Lord confounded them with different tongues, to gain more time to save some. In order to save man from continuing their conspiracies together against God, and falling away from God eternally, He gave them time.
If God has waited 2,000 years, it is because of great love and grace toward man so that all come to repentance. Peter helps us understand this mercy at times when we wonder why God has taken so much time.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
That is the reason behind this long wait – the salvation of man. God takes His time, stretching it as far as He can, in order that perhaps one soul would come to believe.
In the same way, Jesus’ use of parables was to reveal and also to conceal, with the ultimate intent of saving many.
Paul uses the same Greek word mepote in 2 Timothy 2:25, speaking of those outside: with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
We need to read this passage under the lamp of grace.