Thoughts on Mark 3:23-27
Written by, Michael W. Pursley
“And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” Mark 3:23-27
There are two definitive objects in this passage that Jesus would like us to consider: Namely, the “strong man” and the “house.”
In dealing with the last object first, we notice that the house has ownership. We notice that the ownership of the house belongs to the strong man. We are given to understand that the house does not belong to itself; the house does not claim self-ownership, it is not viewed as an independent identity; it is an owned identity; it is the strong man’s possession.
In case some might wish to be strictly literally minded about this passage, the real context to which Jesus was speaking, is not in regards to a physical house, but about a person’s heart, your heart. And one of the implied questions to which he is addressing is not about the inherent characteristics of the house but about the definition of ownership. As we shall see later, the characteristics of the house are defined by, and flow from, who owns the house, that is, who is the strong man that is in possession of the house.
Therefore, to understand this passage deeply, we need to interpret who is the strong man. For in digesting this passage we realize that Jesus is really asking, who is the strong man in your heart? And interestingly, we find that Christ does not lay out three choices. He does not say, here are the three choices for the strong man, and the choices are, God, Satan, and You. No, instead we find that for Jesus the choices are only two, God and Satan.
Now this is an interesting proposition, for the implications are significant and deal directly with those dominating souls who feel that they are “the captain of their own ship.” And while not abrogating one’s personal responsibility, Christ does address heart and life ownership; for he calls it the “strong man’s house.” What is being said is that the individual is owned, possessed, even controlled and that there is never a lack of ownership. So we see from first to last, that the house is owned by someone. That the house, which is representative of our heart, is never left on its own; and it is never abandoned. But interestingly, we find that the heart may be taken by force.
The question that now comes to mind is; can Satan take the heart by force?
But in the passage, Jesus discounts that idea, “How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.” The implications here are staggering, for in the passage we see that Satan is both the original and residing owner. Also, we see that Satan is “bound” to the house, or heart; he cannot cast himself out; he cannot become divided… or he “hath an end.” By even a casual reading, we see that Satan already has the house (heart) of the person, and interestingly there is no mention of Satan taking it back again by force from Christ in this passage, and importantly, it is also not found elsewhere in the whole of scripture either. (see also Romans 8: 35-39) So we find in this passage the evidence of a strong internal theological consistency.
Notice also, that the house or heart does not have an end to its existence, only that Satan or his kingdom has an end, and even that is tied to ownership of the house. Another implication is that the heart which was once Satan’s, can now belong to someone else. But how is this to be accomplished? The passage gives both an answer and another implication. First, it is Jesus himself, who points out that the transference of property (the house or heart) cannot be accomplished except by force. “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.”
Christian, this language speaks to you.
You are the house in this parable. You are considered valuable both to Satan and also to Christ. Each of the parties have, and will fight for control of you. Satan owned you first, and he still fights for control today, for you were his and have “spoil” or value to him.
But there is another important consideration to be taken from this passage; in no sense does the “house” rise up and bind the owner. Your house, or heart, does not have that power. You cannot “bind the strong man.” In short, you cannot not own your own soul; it simply will never belong to you. Nor can you give it to Christ, for your heart is an object that must be taken by the force of another, stronger, party.
For some, these thoughts will be debilitating.
They have always believed that they would eventually be strong enough to someday bind the strong man, or Satan, by themselves. Others believe, that they were destined to bind the strongman, but with some help from Jesus. But what flows from the passage, is that each of those considerations are wrong. The house is both stationary and helpless, subject to spoiling, pending of the binding of the “strong man.” The house is subject to the work of alien, outside forces, it does nothing in the story, but holds intrinsic value to the opposing forces. In it we hear ringing in our ears like a clarion bell the voice of Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” –Romans 7:24-25.
Let’s address one final aspect of the passage, though not quite as clear, it is implied none the less; that is the binding of Satan by the other “Strong Man,” Jesus Christ. We see this worked out more clearly, when we understand that the passage itself is part of an extended declarative statement by Christ, namely that the “Kingdom of God has come.” Here, as part of his argument with the pharisees, we see Jesus proclaiming the binding of Satan, his conclusion to the pharisees is that their arguments are completely stupid, Satan cannot bind himself. But that his own actions, the miracles, the healings, the repeated feedings of the multitudes, all clearly show that he is here personally to bind Satan, and that he was here as the Messiah, the I AM, the Son of God, as God himself, and as Son of Man, etc.; and that he alone has the power to do so; and he is doing it by force of power, for the kingdom of God has come with power.
Boiled down, the argument is essentially this, only someone who can do these things, these miracles, can be strong enough, has enough power to bind Satan. BELIEVE IN ME, Jesus says, because of the Miracles, if you cannot see ME in scripture, if you cannot see God in my life… at least believe in ME because of the miracles…. This is a plea, as heart-felt from Jesus as if he was already dying on the cross. It is also a plea to us as well, “Believe in Me.” For he has already made it clear in this passage, you will remain helpless, you WILL remain a child of Satan, for he is the original strong man of your house unless the strong man, Satan, is bound by a stronger Strong Man.
May God give us the grace to believe today, and may Satan be bound in your life. Amen