People had strong reactions to Jesus’ claims and preaching. Even his own family thought he was crazy! So is he a liar, lunatic, or Lord?

Discussion Guide for Mark 3:7-21

One of the most influential books of the 20th century is C.S. Lewis’ short apologetic Mere Christianity. It was actually not written to be a book, but a series of radio addresses that Lewis gave during the second world war as a defense of the rationality of Christian faith. If you have never done so, I would highly recommend that you read (or listen) to this short book.

C.S. Lewis does not invent, but popularizes a logical sequence known as the Great Trilemma. He basically says that if you accept that the Bible is a faithful accounting of the things Jesus did and said on the earth, then there are only three options as to what kind of man he was: he was either a liar, a lunatic, or the divine Lord that he proclaimed himself to be.

See here how Lewis makes this argument:

Similar to The Great Trilemma, in Mark 3:7-21 we see four groups who respond to Jesus in four different ways. Only one of these groups at this point in the narrative is positioned to understand who he actually is.

A Great Crowd Follows Jesus
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

The Twelve Apostles
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot,[a] 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Mark 3:7-21

Four Responses to Jesus

  1. The selfish/foolish response of the crowds who merely wanted to see what Jesus could do for them personally
  2. The hate-filled but theologically correct response of the demons
  3. The ignorant response of the disciples who are committed to Jesus, but do not yet have a clear vision about who he is and what sort of kingdom he came to establish
  4. The cynical view of Jesus family that treated him as a crazy person who needed to be taken home and kept away from the public

It would be very common for us to identify with any of these four responses to Jesus at different points in our lives. Take, for example, the case of Jesus’ brother who went from thinking him crazy to becoming a martyr proclaiming his Lordship.

Being able to understand the ways that God works in our lives to give us a clear picture of the identity of Jesus is a key for us to be able to help other people to know Jesus. 

Discussion Questions

  • Can you explain the argument of the Great Trilemma (liar, lunatic, or Lord)? 
  • Have each person in the group who is willing to do his/her best to explain it.
  • Has the argument of the Great Trilemma had any impact on your own personal faith in Jesus?
  • Which groups in Mark 3:7-21 have you identified with at different times in your own life?
  • What happened to move you from one response to Jesus to a different response to Jesus?
  • Why did the demons react the way that they did to Jesus (verse 11)
  • How do you think the disciples may have felt when they received the authority to preach and cast out demons with authority? (verses 14-15)
  • Do we sometimes take lightly the authority that Jesus gives to Christians?
  • Why do you think Jesus’ family did not respond in faith at this time? (verse 21)
  • Is your extended family more of a help or a hindrance to your faith in Christ?
  • How can the church fill in the gaps left by your family and support your faith?
Jonathan Pugh
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