Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
A house divided against itself cannot stand. This profound statement has three different uses in this passage. The first and clearest is how Jesus uses it in order to show He isn’t possessed by the Devil. Why would the ruler of demons want his demons cast out? That doesn’t make sense. If Satan were to cut his legs out from under himself like that it would mean his end had come. Satan would not do that to himself. Therefore Jesus can’t be casting out demons by the power of Satan. (Side note: the only option left is that He is doing so under the authority of God.)
The second meaning is less clear because Jesus doesn’t really mention it, but we can and often do apply it anyway. A church divided against itself cannot stand. As a church we are a family, as Jesus says in verse 35. We have to stick together and work together. We might not always agree with one another, but fighting amongst ourselves keeps us from doing the work of God. That could be applied specifically to division within your church (which, I can tell you, is a HUGE problem in my church right now, sadly), or to the bickering between denominations.
Denominations fighting with each other is, in my opinion, one of the biggest problems of the modern church. First of all, when we fight with each other like that, we don’t act like Christians. And everyone can see that, and it’s frequently used as a reason that non-believers don’t like the church. How can we be letting that happen? But it’s also pointless. Let’s be honest, who really cares whether we are baptizing babies and confirming teens or dedicating babies and baptizing teens? Are we not really doing the same thing? And, more importantly, are we not all just doing our best to show our love for Jesus? Like I said before, we’re not always going to agree about everything. That’s why we have denominations. But that doesn’t mean we need to treat each other with derision and contempt, or claim the other group “isn’t even Christian”. We need to treat each other with love and respect, and look past our differences to what we have in common so we can do God’s work in the world! We are a family, and we need to start acting like it.
The final meaning is, I think, directed at Jesus’s family. In this version of the story I think Jesus is a little angry at them for trying to get Him to stop teaching. He knows they mean well, but by their actions they could have kept Him from doing God’s will. His house was divided against Him, and I think He wanted them to know that. We can learn from their mistakes too. We need to let our loved ones do God’s will, even if it means putting themselves in harm’s way, doing something “embarrassing”, or any other thing we might want to protect them from. But, how do we tell if they are really doing God’s will? Surely we don’t want to advise them against doing something stupid if it is, in fact, stupid. I think we just have to pray about it, encourage them to pray about it, and make sure they don’t rush in to any big decisions. God will guide them and us if we are just willing to listen to Him.