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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Cosmic Clash of Kingdoms


"So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand."

Mark 3:23-24

I’ve decided this morning that there’s enough of a unifying theme is this chapter of Mark to treat the whole chapter as a stand alone unit.

I hope that’s going to prove to be a good approach - one that honours God’s word and honours what God intended Mark convey to us through his account.


Because, that is really what we are looking for when we come to our bibles. We are looking for the inspired authors intended meaning.


If we’re not looking for that then the text can mean whatever anybody wants it to mean. Bible reading is not an exercise in arriving at a conclusion that most comfortably fits with our personal views. It’s a feasting on what God has designed to shape us, and conform us to his righteousness.


So, we’re going to spend most of our time orienting ourselves with the theme.

If I’m right in what I’m saying the theme is - and you can tell me if you think it’s not - then Mark is weaving it through the four historical events he has recorded for us, with powerful emphasis - that, I believe, is life shaping for us.

Back in Mark 1:15 we heard Jesus proclaiming that the time had come, ‘the kingdom of God has come near’. What did he mean?

He meant that with his own arrival on the earth - a one time earth-event; the next time he comes it’s over, the age is finished - with his arrival on the scene, God’s very own kingdom has entered into the domain of this world of ours.

So the question is, with an event as monumental and significant as that, won’t the whole world go after him? I would expect that. Supported by, sickness yielding to his indomitable power; sin being repelled and repulsed at his presence, and Satanic forces cowering at the sight of him.


And we have seen those kinds of things happening in Mark’s account so far. People have been healed of their sickness. Evil spirits have been driven out. Sins have been declared forgiven. All by Jesus. So surely no one could fail to receive him.


Well, evidently they could. And the reason why they could is because Jesus’ kingdom wasn’t then - isn’t now - the kingdom it will be when Jesus returns a second time.

We know that’s the case because, when Jesus was being questioned by Pilate he said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place’.

Being as his kingdom wasn’t of this world (yet), his disciples didn’t fight like you’d expect followers of a king to fight.


What that means is, that Jesus’ purpose on earth at his first coming represents a cosmic conflict of kingdoms, not a worldwide conquering kingdom. One day it will be, but his kingdom in his own words starts like a tiny seed. It doesn’t start like the fullness it will be.


Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, like Satan’s kingdom is of this world. And as Jesus enters into the world he enters into Satan’s realm, creating a cosmic-scale clash of kingdoms.

Let me show you, here in Mark 3, what I mean.

I see six evidences in this chapter, of two kingdoms colliding. And as we walk through them one by one, we’ll find ourselves walking through the chapter too.


The first evidence is found in the first 6 verses. Jesus is in the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath - a holy day on which no work was to be done. And he encounters a man with a shrivelled hand. And he tells the man to stand up in front of everyone in the synagogue. The man stands up and Jesus says to all who are looking on: ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ No answer. Jesus says to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’. He stretched it out. And it was ‘completely restored’, Mark says.

And the Pharisees hated him for it!

They watched a miracle happen before their very eyes and because of what they saw, they went out and plotted to kill him, Mark says in verse 6.

That’s Satanic!


Mark’s commentary proves that it was Satanic. Mark tells us what was going on in the minds and hearts of these Pharisees, and what was going on in Jesus’ mind and heart too.


He says in verse 2 that the Pharisees were ‘looking for a reason to accuse Jesus’.

That’s a tip off for us, because it sounds like Revelation 12:10. Speaking of Satan: ‘For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down’.

In other words, Satan’s native activity is accusation - and by it, to attack the kingdom of God.

In Revelation he wants to incite God against his own people. And here in Mark he wants to incite the authorities to kill Jesus in whom the kingdom of God has come near.

So there’s no doubt, these Pharisees do the work of their Father the devil. Which is exactly what Jesus called them in John 8:44 - they are sons of Satan!


Jesus’ response to these agents of Satan was both anger and distress verse 5 says. In other words, he saw the stubbornness of their hearts and he knew who they represented. Anger at their opposition. Distress at their unbelief.

The second evidence that we’re witnessing the clash of kingdoms here in Mark 3, is by the admission of demonic spirits.

Is it not interesting that where large crowds gathered to receive the healing works of God’s good and righteous kingdom, that what should be present but impure spirits (v.11)?


Satan has no regard for people. The earth is the domain of his kingdom and he intends to deceive as many people as he possibly can into hell. Which is why impure spirits are where Jesus is. They are sent to obstruct the influence of the kingdom of God.


And the stakes are high for Satan on this occasion, because the crowd that gathered to encounter Jesus now encompass people from the ‘regions across the Jordan’ too (v.8). This crowd, for the first time, is made up of Jew and Gentile, not just Jews.


And that’s desperate for Satan because his kingdom is a kingdom of the whole world not just Israel. He’s got countless billions of followers who he wants never to encounter Jesus, less they believe and be saved!

This crowd looks distinctly international and that’s terrifying to Satan. So no wonder he sends his impure spirits.

But look what happens. Verse 11, ‘when they saw Jesus, they fell down before him [faces on the floor] and cried out [at the top of their lungs] “You are the Son of God”’.


Back to Revelation for a minute. Where do the impure spirits of chapter 16 come from? Answer: from the mouth of the dragon. Who’s the dragon? John already identified him in chapter 12, he’s Satan.

Where do these demonic spirits go according to chapter 16? They go out to the kings of the world to gather them for battle at the second coming of Jesus.


Devil-sent, powerful, possessing spirits that serve the lie of Satan and his opposition to God. And here they are in the face of Jesus and they can’t do anything except speak the truth about who he is.

They came to deceive the crowd, and they just made Jesus moreconvincing to them than he was before.

So that’s the second evidence that kingdoms are clashing. The third is a switch of personnel. Verses 1-6 show us who’s in charge - the Pharisees. They are the religious rulers.


People take their cues from them; get their Law-of-Moses interpretations from them. They’re really important people.

They appear to serve the kingdom of God on the surface, but deep down they serve Satan.


Which is why Jesus, with the kind of authority you’d expect of a king, chooses, calls, appoints, authorises and sends a new group of teachers - the 12 disciples. Mark says in verse 13, ‘he called to himself those he wanted…he appointed twelve…that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons’.

Jesus invested his new group with the power and authority they needed to contend with the kingdom of darkness. He invested them with power to drive out demons - like the one’s who just confessed Jesus the Son of God.

And he invested them with a message at odds with that of the religious teachers. And now he’s going to send them out, like sheep among wolves, to work on behalf of the king, in the midst of a hostile kingdom.


And to drive the point home, that the 12 were serving a kingdom under conflict, Mark reminds us that one of the twelve would even end up betraying king Jesus (v.19). So there’s really no doubt what Mark’s theme is.

But there’s more.

The fourth evidence that kingdom-conflict is Mark’s emphasis, is seen in verses 22 following. It seems the big guns have been rolled out now, following the plot to kill Jesus, because the teachers of the law have come down from the capital to encounter him.


Their conclusion, from what they see Jesus doing is, that he must be possessed by Beelzebul - who they themselves call ‘the prince of demons’ (v.22). ‘By the prince of demons he is driving out demons’.

People who are demonically influenced frequently make incoherent statements like this.


Jesus points out the logical fallacy: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan?…If Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come’. In other words, ‘you guys are talking nonsense! Just think about what you’re saying!’

But they can’t - they hate him too much for that.

They know that if the non-sensical accusation they’re making can be proved, then Jesus could be stoned to death under Jewish law. That’s an outcome that’s worth the title of ‘brainless’ so far as they’re concerned.


But Jesus is saying more than, ‘if that was the case Satan couldn’t stand’. He’s saying Satan’s kingdom couldn’t stand either.

Verse 24 explicitly references a kingdom.

If Jesus belonged to the kingdom of Satan and by his power was driving out demons what would he be doing except undermining the kingdom he belonged to and the one he served!


It’s massively ironic, isn’t it, that his family went to take charge of Jesus saying ‘he’s out of his mind’ (v.21), when the religious leaders are so clearly out of theirs.


But Jesus’ parabolic teaching hasn’t reached its kingdom-clashing zenith yet!

Verse 27, ‘In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house’. What does he mean?

Clearly, Jesus’ reference to ‘house’ in verse 25 is a house that belongs to Satan. He means by house, ‘Satan’s kingdom’. So here in verse 27 when he speaks of the ‘strong man’s house’ he means Satan’s house.


And what does Satan have in his house that is worth ‘plundering’? People! And who would want to plunder Satan’s house? God would!


So, if people are going to be rescued from the grip of Satan and brought into God’s righteous kingdom, how will it be done?

Jesus says, Satan will need tying up, and then the plundering can happen.

What is he talking about?

He’s talking about what Colossians 2:15 is talking about and what Hebrews 2:14-15 is talking about. Listen to these verses: Colossians 2:15, ‘And having disarmed the powers and authorities [tied them up], he made a public spectacle of them’. How? ‘Triumphing over them by the cross’.

Jesus tied up the strong man when he died on the cross because he took the charges that stood against his people - because of their lust for the kingdom of darkness - and nailed them to the cross with himself, thereby becoming sin for them so that they could be transferred into the kingdom of God.

That’s what ‘tying up’ looks like and that’s what ‘plundering’ looks like!


Here’s Hebrews 2:14-15 for extra weight (one of my favourite verses in the bible): ‘Since the children [slaves of the kingdom of darkness] have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power [tying up] of him who holds the power of death - that is the devil - and free those [plunder] who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’.


Ok, so now we’re seeing behind the scenes, how epic this conflict truly is. Jesus is saying, ‘I’m going to plunder the house of the prince of demons when I lay down my life willingly on the cross, and no matter how many evil spirits he sends out, and no matter how many plots he incites the religious rulers to make, my kingdom will prevail and he will be tied up and his house will be plundered’.

So that’s the fourth evidence. The fifth is seen in Jesus’ zeal for the honour of the Holy Spirit of God.

Back in verse 22 they said that he was ‘possessed’ by the spirit of Satan. And they said that because of the remarkable things he was doing.

It was by means of ‘spirit’ that he was driving out demons. But they chose to attribute that remarkable work to the power of the spirit of Satan, when it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that he was driving demons out.

They chose to attribute the gracious, kind and good work of the Holy Spirit to the evil, demonic power of Satan.

Jesus says, ‘Truly I tell you’. That means he’s about to say something that might be doubted - don’t, doubt it! ‘people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit [by attributing his work to the work of demons - which is blasphemy] will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin’.

In other words, conflating the work of the Spirit of God’s kingdom with the work of the spirit of Satan’s kingdom is so heinous that it represents a kind of sin that can never be forgiven. That’s a measure of how different these two kingdoms are.

And that brings us to the final evidence that Mark is using to draw our attention to the conflict that’s erupting as Jesus comes into the world.


The sixth evidence is surprising and it is very sobering. Opposition to Jesus’ kingdom comes finally from the unlikely, and I think unwitting, source that is his family.


Mary and Jesus’ brothers went to take charge of Jesus because of what he was doing and saying. In verse 21 they considered him ‘out of his mind’.

In verse 31, they came to a house where Jesus was teaching a crowd and they sent someone in to call him out - ‘get out of there, son, you’re giving us a bad name’.


And when Jesus received the news that they were looking for him, he made a radical statement.


It’s radical because we would not consider it normal, or perhaps even loving. He says, looking at those seated in front of him listening to his teaching, ‘Here are my mother, and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother!


Let me tell you, Jesus is always loving. But his family had a lesson to learn.

According to Jesus, in the kingdom of God, family looks different to on earth.

Family, according to Jesus, are those people who do God’s will.

And we might ask, ‘what is God’s will?’

In the context you would have to conclude that Jesus means God’s will is, longing to be where Jesus is and listening to his voice.

The kind of people who long for Jesus and listen to him attentively are Christians. So Jesus is saying ‘family, in the Kingdom of God, are your fellow Christians’.


Now, I do not think that Jesus thought his mother, Mary, who had received angelic visitations at his birth and who willingly embraced the message the angel brought, was wilfully obstructing the kingdom her son had brought in.

But I think that Jesus, as Mary and Joseph’s son, was giving their family a bad name and they wanted to minimise the impact.

They probably anticipated trouble with the Jewish leaders on account of Jesus or else, had already received trouble.


Satan can use very subtle means to obstruct the kingdom of God - even family members!

Jesus said, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters - yes even their own life - such a person cannot be my disciple’.

That’s a high bar for discipleship. But he means it.

He’s not saying that you have to forsake your family to be a Christian, but he is saying that if you have to choose between them and Jesus, you’re not a disciple if you wouldn’t choose Jesus.


His family were opposing his kingdom at that moment, and in thatmoment the strangers in front of him were more his family than his own mother and brothers. That’s how significant this kingdom-conflict, that’s still raging right now, really is.

So, now that we’ve seen those six evidences of Mark’s theme, I want to share with you 4 implications I’m taking away with me today. I hope you will too.


First, you need to know to which kingdom you belong. We have seen that those who belong to the kingdom of Jesus are those for whom Jesus died.

Did Jesus die for you?

You can know that the answer is ‘yes’, if you whole-heartedly believe he died for you and bore your sins away on the cross.

To as many as received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be counted children of God’ - the right to be counted part of his house; not Satan’s house. So, know which kingdom you belong to.

Second, know that belonging to God’s kingdom puts you at enmity and conflict with the kingdom of Satan.

1 John 5:19 says ‘the whole world is under the control of the evil one’, but Ephesians 6:12 says that ‘our [christian] struggle is against the powers of this dark world’.

Those powers are Satanic powers, because it’s the ‘evil one’ who controls this world, John says.


So, we’ve got to know that we’re in a struggle Ephesians says.

And no struggle is ever won by passivity. All struggles require active resistance of the enemy. That’s why James says, ‘resist the devil and he will flee from you’.

That leads to a third lesson which is that Satan’s activity comes mainly via his kingdom - not directly by demonic possession, or signs and wonders.

People don’t perish in the kingdom of Satan, instead of coming into the light, because they would just love to come into the light but Satan prevents them.

According to John 3:19, people don’t come into the kingdom of Jesus because they ‘love’ darkness.

People have a love affair with the kingdom of darkness. John says, because of their own evil deeds they hate the light and love the darkness!


But we who live in the light of God’s kingdom are not to be so easily seduced. John, again, this time in 1 John says, ‘Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the father is not in them’.

That’s a warning. The world is the kingdom of Satan. Everything that comes out of it is designed by Satan to seduce you.

He parades around as an angel of light because he can deceive people that way.

He drips sweetness from every worldly honeycomb you can think of so that we, like bears to the honey pot, might slurp it down.


But Mark shows us through this chapter the foulness of the kingdom of darkness and the weightiness of the conflict that’s going on between these two kingdoms.

And so, John says, ‘you’re a child of the kingdom of God, don’t love this world - see it for what it is‘.


You know, it’s attitudes are Satan driven, it’s culture is Satan driven, it’s songs, it’s literature, it’s films, it’s philosophies, it’s luxuries, they’re all Satan driven.

So we have to go about with our eyes wide open. We have to be in the world, but not of the world - don’t love it!

The last thing I take away is, remember what it cost Jesus to bring you into his kingdom.

Remember what great inheritance you have come into. And remember what great consequences you have been rescued from.

Jesus is your king. You serve in this world as an emissary of the risen king Jesus and he is coming again - soon - to realise his kingdom more fully.

And when he does, you’re going to participate with him in the triumph of the kingdom of God over the kingdom of the world once and for all.

Let the reality of who you are, and the house you belong to, wash over you every day.


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