The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke 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 his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’
As soon as Jesus began his public ministry, he drew attention from the Scribes, who are the officials of the party of Pharisees based in Jerusalem, and Sadducees. They heard what he had done and they wanted to know whether he was the Messiah promised by the scriptures. It did not take long before they found out that Jesus did not fit to the image of the Messiah as they understood. For example, he healed people on Sabbath, which was not in line with their teaching of no work on Sabbath.
First, they accused Jesus claiming to be God and violated the Sabbath. Later, in the incident of today’s Gospel, they went even further accusing him of being possessed by an evil and being in league with Satan from whom he had received the power of miracles. This is blasphemy of the worst kind saying that the Son of God is under the power of the most evil one. Jesus shows them that this idea is not only absurd but is also an unforgivable sin because it is the worst insult they could offer to God.
The incident took place soon after the appointment of the twelve Apostles. Therefore, it was likely taken placed at Simon’s house at the shore of Lake Tiberias where they returned to after praying in the mountain overnight. When they wanted to take a rest and eat in the house, a large crowd gathered around the house anxious to see or obtain a miracle. Some must push their way into the house so that Jesus and his disciples could not rest or eat. It seemed that the crowd began to get excited when they learned that Jesus was in the house.
The Scribes from Jerusalem came down to Galilee to enquire into Jesus’ behavior. They had heard all the reports of his miracles and they now saw in person the large crowd in Capernaum waiting for him. As with all inclination of human behavior, they tried to seek an explanation of what had heard and what they saw at the scene.
The only explanation that they could come up with was that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, a pagan god of Ekron originally meaning “Baal the prince” but changed to “god of the flies” in the Second Book of Kings 1:2. This is the way how the Israelites’ contempt for a pagan god, who to them was a demon.
For the Scribes, Jesus cast out demons with the power and authority of the prince of demons. But Jesus asked, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Apart from the fact that Jesus’ question is logical because no kingdom or house divided against itself can survive, we may also recall that Jesus had been exorcizing demons from the very beginning of his public ministry and the demons recognized that the Messiah, who would put an end to Satan’s reign, had come, although others did not recognized Jesus.
Jesus pointed out that notwithstanding the strength of Satan’s power up to the present, one stronger than he had come. He had now begun the despoliation of Satan and would soon put a total end to his kingdom.
Why Jesus said blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin? Accusing Jesus of being in league with Satan was blasphemy against God, because it was through the Holy Spirit Jesus worked his miracles. This blasphemy is a denial of our Triune God.
One small but important note on the mentioning of Jesus’ mother and his brothers coming to see him in today’s Gospel is that it should be emphasized here that Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus, had no other children. Therefore, Jesus had no brothers or sisters. That is clear from the infancy narratives in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, and from the constant tradition in the Church. It is confirmed also by John’s Gospel (19:26). Jesus would not have had to commend his mother to John’s care if she had other sons or daughters. The brothers or brethren mentioned here and in the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke and in Acts 1:14, because there was no other word in Aramaic or Hebrew to describe cousins or close relatives.
The question Jesus asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” is not a denial of interest in his mother and relatives. He stressed that it was not to from human relationship that he came, but spiritual brotherhood. All those who learn from him to do the will of God will be his real brothers and kinsmen. He invites us to the wider and more important brotherhood. Amen.