Just calling yourself the next president of the United States doesn’t make it true. And plenty of people will argue about whether you’re fit for the job. It’s the same case if you claimed to be the Messiah in first-century Israel.
Lots of spiritual leaders had made the same claim before, and many have since. Not all of them could be the Messiah. Obviously, it was a grandiose statement to announce and worth evaluating critically. Even though Jesus had already associated himself with the Messiah, there was a lot of debate about who he was really. The rest of chapter 3 describes the growing controversy surrounding Jesus.
Read Mark 3:7-35.
Different groups of people took sides on who they thought Jesus was. “Unclean spirits” (demons) possessing people called Jesus the Son of God. He didn’t deny it, but he did tell them to shut up about it (vs. 12). A normal human being claiming divinity amounted to blasphemy, which was punishable by death. So calling yourself the Son of God was much riskier than claims to being the Messiah.
The religious scribes knew the messianic prophecies forwards and backwards. When they saw Jesus banishing unclean spirits, they deduced that he must be Beelzebul, the prince of demons. How else would he have power over demons? Jesus told them their logic was flawed. If he really was on Satan’s side, then he would be a double agent. Ordering demons to leave weakens Satan’s kingdom rather than strengthens it. Then he turned the scrutiny around and accused them of blasphemy for slandering the Holy Spirit. Basically he said, “I have the Spirit of God in me, not a demon, and you are liars to say such a thing.”
The family of Jesus came forward with a third explanation. Jesus finally returned home with a huge following, like a superstar who needs a cohort of bodyguards just to get from the hotel to his car. Imagine if your brother or son with no political or legal background decided to run for president. He started a viral social media campaign and a national tour. People would pack stadiums to hear him speak. He promised to save the country. Like Jesus’ family, you might say he’s crazy. For goodness sake, this is little “JJ”, the boy you watched play in the sandbox. He’s no president, let alone a savior. Since Israel was a communal society, where everything you did reflected on who you belonged to, Jesus’ family was probably shocked and ashamed. So they physically attempted to “seize him”.
When that didn’t work, they returned later and called him outside for a talk. Jesus said something really crazy in a communal society. He denied his family waiting outside and instead called the people around him and anyone else who obeys God part of his family. It’s like saying, “If my mother and brother don’t support what I’m doing, then they don’t really love me and I’m going to keep doing God’s work anyway.” Could you imagine being the guy who had to give his family that message?
So we see the demons, the scribes, and even his own family speaking out. None of them are on his side. I think it’s interesting that the only people who would claim him were his disciples and the people who wanted to be healed. These followers benefited from his miracles and teaching while everyone else argued about his identity. At this point, his apostles may have had some ideas about whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, but I think they were more concerned with the amazing things he did and said. They were busy watching and listening to him.
Jesus wasn’t telling them, “Here are the things you must believe about me to follow me.” He was again pointing to his words and actions and letting his apostles think for themselves about what it all meant.