Who Is the Strongest Man?
Mark 3: 20-30
Macho men always want to brag about how strong they are. Some boys on a school playground were bragging. Johnny said, “My dad has a list of all the men he can beat up—and all your dads are on his list!” Later that afternoon a knock came on Johnny’s house and his dad answered the door. A big angry man said, “Are you Johnny’s dad?” He said, “I am.” “Well Johnny told my son said you have a list of men you think you can beat up, and my name is on it.” Johnny’s dad said, “That’s right.” The big guy started rolling up his sleeves and said, “Well, I don’t think you can beat me up. What are you going to do about it?” Johnny’s dad said, “I’ll mark you off my list.”
Guys are always bragging about who’s the strongest. Since 1977 there has been a televised event called “The World’s Strongest Man.” Most of the winners have come from Finland, Iceland, and Eastern Europe. These guys are required to perform amazing feats of strength like pulling a Boeing 747 with their teeth. These aren’t body-builders; they are bulked up dudes. One of the competitors from Iceland, who is nicknamed Thor, stands 6’9” and weighs 435 pounds.
So who do you think was the strongest man in the Bible? Are you thinking of the book of Judges and the guy with long hair who could kill a lion with his bare hands? Samson was pretty strong, but after he got a haircut in the devil’s barbershop, he lost his strength.
In our passage today, Jesus is going to talk about a strong man; then He’s going to mention a stronger man. Hopefully, by the time we finish you’ll know the identity of the “The World’s Strongest Man.”
Mark 3:20-30. 20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.
21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.”
23 So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan?
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25 And 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.
28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter;
29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”—
30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, for the Republican State Convention, and they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. That evening Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues and the main focus of his remarks were on the issue of slavery:
“Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention. If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.
We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, NOT ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand."
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." That's a powerful sentence! Did Abraham Lincoln come up with that phrase all by himself? No. Well, where did he get it? That’s right ... he was quoting Jesus.
Whose kingdom is Jesus talking about here? Who’s the “strong man” that must first be bound? Who’s kingdom is about to come to an end?
The main reason for Jesus’ coming was to bind Satan, to divide and destroy his kingdom.
Now, hold that thought for a moment.
Did you ever look up verses in the Bible that have the words “division” or “divide” or something similar in them?
I found that division is not always a negative thing in Scripture. In fact, sometimes God CAUSED division to take place.
For example, in Genesis - when God created the world – we’re told that: “God saw the light, that it was good: and GOD DIVIDED the light from the darkness.” Genesis 1:4
Was that good? God said it was good!
A few verses later we’re told “God made the firmament, and DIVIDED THE WATERS which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. Genesis 1:7
Again, this was a pretty good thing... because God said it was good too.
And then in Deuteronomy we read “... when you see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven... which the LORD your GOD HAS DIVIDED unto all nations under the whole heaven.” Deuteronomy 4:19
God divided the stars unto all nations? Did you know that if you were in the southern hemisphere you see an entirely different set of stars than WE see in the northern hemisphere. God has divided all the stars unto all the nations under heaven. And that’s kind of a cool thing
So when GOD divides things... that’s a GOOD thing. I mean just by definition - if God does something it’s got to be good --- doesn’t it???
So THEN I read this verse in the New Testament: (Jesus said) Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)
Jesus came to bring division?? Well, that’s what He said!!! But if (by definition) if God does something it’s got to be good how can Jesus causing division in a family be a good thing?
Well, here’s the deal: People live in one of two realms.They either belong to Jesus or they belong to Satan And when you think about this you begin to realize that entire families belong to Satan. Entire families are outside of Christ.
Now sometimes an entire family will come to Christ. We’ve seen it here. And other times we’ve seen ONLY 2 or 3 members of any family come to church. Maybe the wife. Maybe a teen.
Maybe grandparents. And that reality can create division in the family because some members of the family decide to belong to Christ and others don’t.
By default – if these people don’t belong to Jesus they belong to Satan.
You see --- belonging to Satan is not all that hard. You don’t have to DO anything to Satan. You don’t have to BELIEVE anything to go to hell. In fact, not believing in God - not belonging to Christ - is all it takes. And people who do not make up their minds to God in their lives... belong to Satan! Satan’s kingdom is made up of all kinds of people who simply have not decided they want God to run their lives.
Is that God’s fault? Of course it’s not! But it would be God’s fault if He was satisfied with leaving things that way. Thus, because God’s intention is divide the Kingdom of Satan. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. And God’s focus is on bringing Satan’s kingdom to its knees. His intention is to bind the strong man and to peel off people who once belonged to the devil and give them life and hope and peace.
Now, the problem becomes that Satan has no intention of letting that happen. Satan intends to hang on to every last one of those that he has. And one of the tools Satan will use... is family.
That may end up being true. OR your decision might just make all the difference in the lives of your family. They might just come to Christ because you made that choice first. By standing off to one side and simply being God’s child you may begin to make your family jealous of your faith in Christ. And if that happens, you may be able to help divide up Satan’s kingdom that much more and change the eternal fate of those that you love.
Jesus faced continued bitter criticism from these religious leaders throughout His ministry. That lets us know that if you’re serving God, you can be assured that you’ll face criticism.
When Jesus faced false accusations and criticism, He never tried to defend Himself. He usually asked His critics some questions, and answered with a parable. He turned their rants into teachable moments. In this case He asked, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” And then Jesus, the Master Teacher shared one of his shortest, and most enigmatic parables.
Let me read it to you from Mark 3:27: 27 But no one can enter into the house of the strong man, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
Let’s examine the parable Jesus spoke, and then we’ll talk about the warning Jesus gave.
I. THE PARABLE: Jesus came to reverse the work of Satan
The Pharisees were insulting Jesus when they claimed that He was possessed by Beelzebub. The name “Beelzebub” literally means “Lord of the flies.” (The same name of a novel and a 1960s movie.) Beelzebub was a pagan deity of the ancient Phoe-ni-ci-ans. He was a god of death, filth, and feces.
In Jewish literature, Beelzebub was a chief demon, and sometimes even identified as Lucifer himself. So now you realize the depth of the insult they leveled against Jesus. But He used it as an opportunity to give a short but powerful parable. What is the spiritual meaning of this short parable of the world’s strongest man?
A. Satan is strong, but Jesus is the strongest!
Jesus announced to the world that He came to drive out Satan, the prince of this world. He said, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” (John 12:31)
I could have said Jesus is stronger, but He’s the strongest. Satan is real, and he is strong. But sometimes we make the mistake of give him qualities that only belong to God.
God is omnipresent—He is everywhere all the time.
God is omnipotent—He is all-powerful.
God is omniscient—He knows everything.
Satan, which means adversary, is Lucifer, a fallen angel. He isn’t omnipresent, but he’s fast and has an army of demons.
Lucifer isn’t all-powerful, but he is like a roaring lion roaming about seeking whom he may devour.
Lucifer isn’t omniscient, he can’t read your thoughts. But, like a snake, he is shrewd and crafty.
So the strong man in this parable is the devil, but Jesus is stronger. His house is this world. Satan is called the prince of this world but this isn’t the only world there is. Jesus is the one who came into the world and He has bound Satan and then stolen his possessions. But Jesus wasn’t really stealing anything from Satan. He was only reclaiming what Satan stole in the first place. Jesus isn’t a thief sneaking in and ripping off someone. He’s like a policeman going into a robber’s house and handcuffing him to retrieve stolen property that the devil took.
Jesus called Satan a thief. He said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”
B. Satan’s “possessions” are people without Christ
The Bible describes people without Christ this way: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:1-2)
The Bible says Satan (who is a spirit, like all angelic and demonic beings) is at work in the lives of people who don’t know Christ. Now if you told an unbeliever they were under the control of Satan, they would laugh at you. They would probably say, “Are you crazy? I don’t even believe in Satan!”
But the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” Even for people who don’t believe God exists or the devil exists, Satan is actively keeping their minds shut to the truth about Jesus. They are slaves to Satan without even knowing it.
There is a species of ant in the Amazon area of South America called the Slave-making ant. Hundreds of these ants periodically swarm out of their nest and attack colonies of weaker ants. After destroying the living ants, they carry back the larvae of un-hatched ants. When these young ants are hatched, they are forced to be slave ants. These worker ants are born thinking they belong to the colony never realizing they were forced to be slaves from the time they are born. That’s a picture of humanity. We all need a Savior to come and rescue and reclaim us from the strong man. That’s what the strongest man, Jesus came to do!
C. Jesus bound and robbed Satan on the cross
The very act where the strongest man, Jesus robbed the devil was at the crucifixion. The Bible says, “Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:14-15)
The Bible says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8) “By his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)
So what does this mean to us? The devil is a defeated foe. He is still active, but he was rendered powerless on the cross.
He knows his doom is sealed. He’s smart enough to read Revelation 20:10 that says, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
You may be thinking, “OK if the devil is a defeated foe, he sure is causing me a lot of misery.” He’s like a wounded animal. He’s going to fight to the end, although his defeat is sure. It’s like when the Nazis realized the war was lost, Hitler issued the Nero Decree. He told his retreating armies to destroy everything of value. Satan is doing the same thing. He continues to steal, kill, and destroy. But he no longer has any authority over you. He will try to kill your joy, steal your peace, and destroy your testimony, but his power is broken. You can say to him, “Get away from me, Satan, because greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world!” You’re strong, but I have the strongest man living in me!
So that’s the parable. But because these religious leaders accused Jesus of being in union with Satan, Jesus responded with a stern warning about their spiritual blindness.
II. THE WARNING: Jesus will forgive every sin except persistent rejection of the Holy Spirit’s conviction
Jesus said: “When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8) Before you can ever be saved, you must experience a sense of guilt over your sinful condition. Jesus said this is the role of the Holy Spirit. It’s not my job to make you feel guilty, that’s the job of the Holy Spirit. Scary stories may bring fears and sad stories may bring tears, but only the Spirit of God can bring true conviction of sin.
The word blasphemy means to “speak against.” So blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is when a person says, “No” to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In that moment they are “speaking against” the Holy Spirit.
I like the paraphrase from the Message: Jesus said in Mark 3:28-29, 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
“The unpardonable sin involves the total and irrevocable rejection of Jesus Christ. It is rejecting, completely and finally, the witness of the Holy Spirit, which declares that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who alone can save us from our sins.
So, the only sin God won’t forgive is terminal unbelief. And the reason God won’t forgive that sin is because the person who commits it will never ask God to forgive them. If you are someone who considers yourself to be an unbeliever, I appeal to you to trust Jesus today. Every time you say, “No” makes it easier to say, “No” the next time. There is more to life than this life. And the moment after you die, you will realize this. One day we will face eternity.
On the evening of June 18, 1850, a man stood in the bell tower of London’s Winchester Cathedral staring anxiously out to sea. All of England was waiting for a report of the Battle at Waterloo between British general, the Duke of Wellington, and the French dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte. The torch signals from a ship in the English Channel were sent by code. The message read: “Wellington defeated...” At that moment a thick fog rolled in. The man in the tower signaled the news across the city and there was great gloom and sadness because that meant Napoleon would next invade England. But hours later the fog lifted and the rest of the message could be read: “Wellington defeated the enemy.” Sadness and despair was replaced with joy and celebration.
When Jesus died on the cross, it would seem as if He had been defeated. But when Jesus rose from the dead the rest of the message was received. Jesus defeated the enemy!
And we can rejoice today. The World’s Strongest Man has defeated our enemy!
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