Hello, and welcome to the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Mark with you this week.
This week we will be looking at materials from chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Gospel according to Mark. The Gospel of Mark is generally known as a fast moving story where Jesus hardly finishes doing one thing before he has started the next. Today, as we finish chapter 3 of Mark we see Jesus in a rather heated discussion with his own family members.
Let’s be honest: Mark’s Jesus is not a soft, cuddly, teddy bear Jesus. Mark’s Jesus is a bit harsh; he does not often seem patient, and he certainly does not suffer fools. For some of you, that will be a welcome portrait of Jesus. For some of you, this might be much, much more challenging. Perhaps it is not at all like the Jesus you’ve heard about prior to today.
In this passage, Jesus’ family are worried about the impact he’s having on the massive crowds following him. Indeed, they are so massive and so willing to stay to listen to him that now they’re missing meals. Something, they think, must be done. They are not the only ones worried. The Scribes from Jerusalem are also worried about Jesus, but in their case because they think he must be demon-possessed to do the things he is doing. Jesus is not impressed with either group.
For the Scribes, Jesus has a short, pithy, and merciless argument proving them wrong. For his family, he is somewhat less harsh, though hardly warm and welcoming. When Jesus is told his mother and brothers are there asking for him, he denies their special relationship. Rather, he claims that anyone who ‘does the will of God’ has this same sort of special relationship to him. For those of you working out what to do for Mothering Sunday in a few days time, needless to say, this is not a model I’d recommend.
So, what do we do about this portrayal of Jesus? I don’t think we should be apologetic about it, but we should realise it is one of 4 portraits of Jesus we have in the Gospels. Matthew’s Jesus can be harsh too, but he is the one who gives us the vision for the future of the Church, making disciples in all the world (Matthew 28). Luke’s Jesus shows a care and concern for women and the marginalized that is fundamental to the Church and its mission. John’s Jesus is sometimes hard to understand, dispensing wisdom in impenetrable statements like Yoda; John’s Jesus is also the one who washes the feet of his disciples and performs the simple act of making breakfast for them after his resurrection. The four gospels offer four perspectives on Jesus of Nazareth, giving us a fully rounded, living colour picture of Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God who redeems us and calls us to follow him. That is something to be thankful for, even if it isn’t always comfortable.
When Jesus denies the special place of his mother and brothers, it is in order to do the radical thing of welcoming others into a community. For many of those people, such a sense of belonging might have been entirely new to them, and maybe beyond anything they thought possible. Jesus declares their value to him without hesitation or reservation. That is a powerful, positive, uplifting message for anyone, and especially for those rejected by so many others.
Perhaps we can see what Jesus does as a radical act of inclusion, not one of rejection. Like the family that welcomes in a lodger and treats them as their own child, so are we called to welcome in those beyond our existing special relations in order to build the community of God, the people of Christ Jesus, this thing we call the Church.
Lord, thank you for including us in your family without condition. Your love and willingness to include us is a gift we can never truly repay. Teach us how to offer such radical inclusion to others on your behalf. Amen.
READING: Mark 3:20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’
So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’
He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting round him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’
‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’