Musing on Mark 3, 20 to the end

family matters

When I told my mum that I was giving up my architectural practice and entering the ministry full time, she thought I was mad to give up  the ‘safety’ of a profession (this quite overlooked that this ‘safe’ profession had been through a period of over 50% unemployment less than 10 years previously from which I had been extremely fortunate to survive with only small debt). ‘Can’t you do it in your spare time like you are now?’ (I was a reader) she asked. But as some of you will know, when God calls you, there’s little choice but to follow your vocation.

Has your family ever told you that they think you’re crazy, an extremist, taking things to far as you try to live as a follower of Jesus?

In the first couple of chapters of Mark we see Jesus response to his vocation. He tours through Galilee healing the sick, driving out demons, teaching his radically new interpretation and response to the scriptures, playing fast and loose with the accepted ‘rules’ such as Sabbath regulations, and generally drawing himself to the frowning attention of the religious and secular authorities by drawing huge crowds to hear him and receive his healing. It was like a celebrity mania.

I imagine that word soon reached his family in Nazareth – ‘Hey Mary, have you heard about your son? He’s doing that crazy prophet thing all around the lake.’

Naturally Mary is now a very worried mother. To get on the wrong side of the authorities was a very bad move in those times. It put your life in great danger. People were saying he must have gone mad! This was bringing shame on the whole family.  So Mary goes, along with her daughters and her other sons , to try to ‘restrain’ him (‘krateo’ to take control of someone, by force if necessary).  But they can’t get near him for the crowds.

At the same time the religious authorities, in the shape of scribes from Jerusalem, turn up to accuse him of being possessed by the devil, that he has an unclean spirit (demonising an opponent being a classic smear tactic).

Jesus points out that not even Satan would spend his time undoing his own work. ‘Can’t you see I’m taking people away from Satan, tying him up so I can release people into Gods kingdom?’ (people understood that when Satan was thrown out of heaven, he usurped possession of the earth. Jesus ministry is about reclaiming Gods creation, restoring the true king and the true kingdom on earth). Jesus restores people back into Gods family, as brothers and sisters of Christ. He warns the scribes that in accusing him of being the devil, they are committing the ‘unforgivable sin’, blaspheming against the Holy Spirit (for if you accuse Gods son of being evil, who can you ask for forgiveness!)

When Jesus is told that his family were trying to get into the house social custom demanded he should treat his mother as a VIP and give her honoured passage through the crowds. But, outrageously, he ignores them (it seems his mother may have forgiven him as she was at the cross, but his brothers and sisters were not). Instead he uses their arrival to illustrate his ministry.

He redefines family as those who believe in him and follow his way. We are all his family, brothers and sisters.

In a society where everything was defined by kinship (even your place in God’s favour) Jesus teaching is a radical break with the tradition that taught that God’s favour was only conferred on Abrahams descendants, the children of Israel, the Jews. He abolishes the idea of a the religious family and proclaims that all can be part of God’s intimate, relational family.

Instead of being like members of a club, Jesus makes us like blood relations, with all the joys and difficulties this entails. And we’re like a reality show on tv – people look at us, how we get on with one another, to make a judgement about God, about Jesus. We’re part of a family on show. Our behaviour with one another will affect for good or ill the proclamation of the good news of the Gospel! In this family we receive amazing blessings but we also face greater challenges of our attitudes and behaviour! Thank God we can receive forgiveness through his Son and help from his Holy Spirit!