Chapter VII


From here until Mark 10:2, Matthew 19:2, and Luke 9:52 (which is the beginning of document P as Luke inserted it into his gospel), the order of events in Matthew and Luke is nearly the same as it's found in Mark, with only a few variations. Where Luke reports a different order, Matthew reports the same order; and where Matthew reports a different order, Luke reports the same order. Here are Mark's next 5 events.

44. His friends say he's crazy
45. He is called a madman
46. He redefines his family
47. Discourse on the kingdom of God
48a.More parables
48b.Parables from document M





The first of these paragraphs report that his friends came to take him home and said he was crazy. Nothing else is reported. This brief episode (Mark 3:19b-21) is omitted by Matthew and Luke. It seems to be a precursor to the later report about his family coming to see him, and Matthew and Luke didn't want to report that his family made this pejorative statement about him.


The previous paragraph in Mark flows into the next paragraph, where the scribes are reported as also saying that he has a devil, that being the way of saying he was insane. Jesus responds with another of his most famous epigrams, as below. Luke reports this event later in his gospel as part of document P.
(Mark 3:22-26;Luke 11:17-18;Matt.12:31-32)
        How can Satan cast out Satan? Think, if a kingdom be divided against itself, how shall that kingdom stand? Or if a house be divided against itself, then that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, then he cannot stand either, but he will come to an end.
(Luke 11:19-20;Matt.12:27-28)
        And if I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, then surely the kingdom of has come to you.
(Mark 3:27;Matt.12:29;Luke 11:21-22)
        But no one can enter into the house of the strong man, and despoil his house, unless he first bind the strong man, and then he will spoil his house.
(Matt.12:30;Luke 11:23)
        He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me only scatters everything.

The house divided is a famous quotation, and probably from Jesus; but the sayings about the strong man are not so clear; what is he comparing to the strong man, or to stealing his goods? The saying about being with him or against him seems to violate his earlier precept about not judging others. That sentiment also contradicts what Mark and Luke report later at Mark 9:40 and Luke 9:50: For he that is not against us is for us. We can't be sure which way Jesus said it. Jesus continues:
(Mark 3:28-29;Matt.12:31)
        Listen to me, all of you: All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies whatsoever they may utter; but whosoever shall blaspheme against the spirit of God shall not be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.

(Luke 12:10;Matt.12:32a)
        And whosoever shall speak a word against the son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall blaspheme against the spirit of God, it shall not be forgiven him,
neither in this world, nor in that which is to come.

The last clause, which speaks about a world which is to come, must be from Matthew and not from Jesus, since Luke doesn't have it. So this passage cannot be cited as evidence that Jesus believed in a future life. Matthew adds two more verses which are not found in any other gospel, about what we say to each other:
        I tell you all, that every idle word that men shall speak, they will have to give account of it in the last days. For by your words you shall be shall be judged, either to be justified or to be condemned.

But this too seems to be counter to the teaching about judging not, although Jesus may have said something about how what you say can affect other people positively or negatively.
Matthew inserts some more sayings at this point which are found elsewhere in Mark and in document P as transmitted by Luke. We shall consider them in the order in which they are found in Mark and Luke.


His friends have said he was crazy and tried to take him home; the scribes tried to say he was possessed of a devil but he refuted them neatly. Now his mother and his brothers came, while he is speaking in a house, and they called for him. And when he was told that they were waiting, he looked around at his listeners, and said:
(Mark 3:31-35;Matt.12:46-50;Luke 8:19-21)
        Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? Behold, you all: whosoever does the will of God, those are my brothers, and sisters, and mother.

None of the gospels reports what his family did; did they just leave? Were they upset? Anyway, Jesus' meaning is clear; the concern over living according to what he means by the will of God is greater than even the relation to his family.


In this next section, Jesus apparently tries to define what he means by the kingdom of God. Mark says that "he entered into a boat, and taught them, sitting in the boat". Mark also says that he taught them in parables. A parable is a brief story or telling of an event which is allegorical: it refers to something else other than the things mentioned in the story, and his hearers are supposed to figure out what that something else is. Matthew reports some parables which are not found in the others; presumably these were found in Matthew's document M. The first one is known as the parable of the farmer sowing grain, or the sower:
(Mark 4:1-9;Matt.13:3-9;Luke 8:5-8)
        Listen, everybody: There was a farmer sowing grain in his field; and some of it fell by the wayside; and the birds came and ate all those seeds. And other grain fell on rocky ground, and it sprouted, and it tried to grow, but there was no soil to grow in; and when the sun arose, it was scorched, and it dried up, because it had no root. And other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up, and choked it, so that it could not live. And other seed fell upon good soil, moist and well tilled; and it grew up and increased, and brought forth grain, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and an hundredfold.
        Who has ears to hear, let him hear!

This parable is also found in the gospel of Thomas, so we can regard it as certainly from Jesus. But what is it that he is referring to by telling it as a "parable"? Certainly not about how they should sow grain in their fields! We may conjecture that he is talking about spreading the teaching of the kingdom of God, that some will listen but be battered by other teachings, some will forget it, some will fail to practice it because of the trials and tribulations of the world, but some will hear it, understand it, practice it, and try to teach it to others.
The disciples ask why he is speaking in parables, and he tells them it is for them only to understand, and those that cannot understand, will not understand. He is credited with giving an interpretation of the parable to them, but we cannot be sure that it is from him, and not from some later follower who tried to explain it to others.


We might conjecture that he is saying that the kingdom of God will grow slowly, like grain in the fields, year after year; and that it is not like a sudden event, like a messiah arising and leading them to fight against the Romans and drive them out. But this is an important distinction, and some of his other parables seem to make the same point:
(Mark 4:26-29)
        So then, the kingdom of God is like a man casting seed upon the earth, and the days would pass, and the seed will spring up and grow, he does not know how. The earth itself causes the grain to grow, not man: first the blade, then the ear, and then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, then he gets his sickle and begins the harvest.
(Mark 4:30-32;Matt.13:31-32;Luke 13:18-19)
        The kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it is sown, it grows up, until it's greater than all the herbs of the field, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the sky can come and perch in its branches.
(Luke 13:20-21;Matt.13:33)
        To what else can I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took, and worked into three measures of meal, until it was all leavened.

The last two parables are also found in the gospel of Thomas; and we can take that as confirmation that they were spoken by Jesus. So we have three more parables emphasizing on slowness of growth, rather than a sudden or cataclysmic event.


Matthew reports several parables which are not found in either Mark or Luke. These, we may assume, he found in document M, or from some other source. The first one is the parable of the Wheat and the Tares, or the Wheat and the Weeds. It is also found in the gospel of Thomas.
        The kingdom of God is like a man that planted good seed in his field; but while he slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, and went away. And when the wheat sprouted and grew, then the weeds grew also.
        And the servants of the man came to him and said, Sir, didn't you plant good seed in your field? then whence came these weeds?
        And the man said, Some vandal has done this. And the servants asked, Then shall we go and pull them all up?
        But the man said, No; for while you are pulling up the weeds some of the wheat may be rooted up also. Let both grow together.

This is how the parable probably was when Jesus finished it. But Matthew must have been puzzled about the meaning of it, and so he must have extended the last sentence:
        .....until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will tell the reapers, First gather up the weeds, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.

Matthew's conclusion seems to express a belief in a final judgment, when the good grain will be gathered in one place while the bad weeds will be destroyed. We find many places in the gospel of Matthew where this outlook on the future, which is called "eschatalogical", or about the End of the World, shows in the editing he has made on Mark's writing or the language of documents G or P.
Matthew offers a few verses later his full interpretation of the parable, putting his words in Jesus' mouth, identifying the farmer as the "son of man", the field as the world, the good seed as the disciples and other followers of Jesus and their successors (whom he calls "sons of the kingdom"), the weeds as the "sons of the evil one", the harvest as the end of the world, and the reapers as the angels. All of these interpretations are clearly the result of later theologizing about Jesus, and present concepts which Jesus has not yet uttered at any time, and represent ideas about a coming end of the world about which Jesus has never spoken.
Jesus' conclusion seems to be rather, Do not worry about evil; just keep working to build the kingdom of God; the weeds can be destroyed when harvest time comes. And the reference to "harvest" is to something which happens every year, not a cataclysmic end of the world.

The other parables which Matthew apparently got from his own document M are:
        The kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field; which a man found, and and hid; and joyfully he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.
        Again, the kingdom of God is like a merchant seeking goodly pearls; and having found one pearl of great price, he sold all that he had, and bought it.
        Again, the kingdom of God is like a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; and when it was filled, the fishermen pulled it out, and sat down, and picked out the good fish and put them into pots, but the bad fish they discarded.

All three of these parables also appear in the gospel of Thomas. The first two of them appear to describe the inestimable worth of living in the kingdom of God; the third appears to describe the fact that in the crowds that listen to his preaching and of theirs, some will be naturally open to those teachings, and others will be naturally not so open, but just let them go. Then Jesus asks the disciples, Have you understand all these things? and when they all said Yes, he went on:
        Therefore every scribe who has been made a disciple to the kingdom of God is like a householder, who brings forth things both new and old out of his treasure.

After this, the narrator says that when Jesus had finished telling these parables, he departed from that place.


Some people found Jesus and his teachings hard to take; some said he was crazy or a madman; even his family seemed not to catch on, and Jesus clearly stated that it was more important to follow the will of God than to maintain relations with his family. His visit to his home town comes later, however; so we do not know if these events are told in the right order.

At one point in his career, Jesus made an attempt to describe to the disciples his conception of the kingdom of God, but in parables or allegories, so that the meaning would not be evident on the surface. So we may ponder, what do these parables really mean, and what do they really tell us to do? Should I sell all that I have, and then, buy what? When I see weeds growing in my garden, should I let them alone? Should I spread the seeds for my garden just anywhere, without regard to where they land? Should I just tell people what my beliefs are, or what Jesus' teachings are, and just go away while the leaven rises? or the grain grows out of sight? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus appears to be teaching us to be non-judgmental, sincere, and universal in our love; perhaps that's the best we can do.