Here are my mothers and brothers

June 10, 2018

Summary

Throughout the gospels Jesus declares whom he is with a great variety of different statements, for instance he declares at various times, “I am the good shepherd.  I am the bread of life.  I am the the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Jesus also uses parables to try and illustrate, either the Kingdom of God, or himself.  From the parable of the Prodigal Son, to that of the Mustard Seed, Jesus paints pictures using words to tell us about; God the Father, faith, the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s love, and amongst other things, himself.

In today’s gospel from Mark, Jesus uses a parable in order to describe himself, and his mission on earth.  It’s a parable that we almost pass over, because he does not introduce it, in his usual manner, with words like, “The kingdom of Heaven is like…”

Rather, the parable he gives is stuck within a string of utterances giving his audience, including the teachers of the law, snapshots of what the present, spiritual reality, actually is, which is a struggle, a conflict between the forces of evil, and God.

Like when Jesus says, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand.”  He is referring directly to the kingdom of evil, that of the devil.  He is speaking this way to point out to the theologians that he cannot be from Beelzebub, from Satan, for he is acting counter to, or, directly against the desires of the evil one.  Satan does not try to defeat himself, the Scribes argument is ludicrous.

To prove this point further, Jesus shares a parable that is but a sentence long

“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.”

Did you hear that?  Let me share it again.

“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.”

With this parable lying in between, these other teachings, we can easily pass over the fact that Jesus is speaking of what he has done to the devil, the strong man, and what he is doing within the devil’s kingdom on earth.

This violent little parable, describes the spiritual struggle in which Jesus and the devil are engaged.  And, it is an engagement that the devil is obviously losing. If Jesus describes Satan as, “the strong man,” and yet the “strong man” is tied up, what does that tell us about Jesus?

Jesus is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Think of it.  Each time an unclean spirit, a demon, encounters Jesus, it acknowledges who he is, and is overpowered by him.  The demons know that Jesus is from God, and yet the religious leaders, and Jesus own family cannot accept him, for who he is. It is this fact that Jesus is pointing out in contrast to the theologians’ accusations that Jesus is not from God.

Think about it.  Each time Jesus casts out a demon, or heals a sick person, or calls a person to faith in God, the devil loses a skirmish, and each day that Jesus preaches and heals, a battle goes his way.  The crowds instinctually understand this struggle, for they pursue him, like the teenage girls did the Beatles, or little boys today scream for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Yet, it is a struggle that not all of the people are understanding, for they are not seeking healing, but their understanding of the truth.  These doubters of his power, be them his family, or the teachers of the law, the scribes, are the ones being ‘called out’ by Jesus in this passage.

What I mean, is that the teachers of the law are only seeing and understanding what they want to see, what they already, “understand.”  Jesus either fits into their preconceived understandings of whom God is, and what God does, or if not, then he must be of the devil.  The old American phrase, “You’re either with us, or against us.” seems to fit perfectly, the Scribes attitude towards Jesus.

The ‘Teachers of the Law,’  the Scribes, the Pharisees or the Sadducees, most of these men never allowed themselves to step out of the theological stance which they had been taught, and which, for them, was comfortable and safe, because it was known.

Since Jesus was not easy to categorize, and place within their theological framework, their only option was to place him, and tag him as one of the enemy.  This is the very thing that they were doing in today’s gospel.

If Jesus did not join them, and declare their teachings and understandings as correct, and if he did not listen to them and adhere to what they said, then he had to be against them, and thus against God.

What a dilemma they created for themselves.  A dilemma which found them trying to declare Emmanuel, God with us, as on the side of the devil!

What craziness?

Yet, it’s not just them.  We also meet those doing the same sort of thing, in a slightly different way, from a familial perspective.

Jesus’ mother Mary, and his brothers James, Joseph, Judas and Simon, and sisters have come to fetch him home, ‘cause they think he is, ‘beside himself, ‘gone crazy’, or as the NRSV translation puts it, “Gone out of his mind.”

I am sure that his mother Mary, upon hearing all of the hype, and watching the mobs pursue her son, is in fear that he will be in trouble, either with the Pharisees, or the Sanhedrin, which he is, or with Herod, or the Romans, which he will be.  She must be worried out of her mind, for her special boy.  Perhaps she fears that he does not know what he is doing, or that what he is saying is really the wrong thing.

We can also take some hints from the Bible and tradition, that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were not early believers in him as the Messiah.  After this passage we do not read of them again until after their brother’s resurrection and ascension to heaven.

We know, first from the book of Acts, and then from the books of Jude and James that they, or at least a few of them do, eventually, come to believe.  In fact his brother James, is understood to be the James that becomes the head of the early church in Jerusalem.

But here, in the first half of Mark’s gospel, it is not so.  They may or may not believe, in some way, but they definitely do think, that Jesus needs to be ‘reigned in.’

Yet, as we see, it is not what the, ‘Teachers of the Law’ think, nor what his family believes that is important to Jesus.  Rather, what is important is what he has come to be, and to do.  He is the Messiah, the ‘Strong Man’ whom has the power to defeat the devil, once and for all.  And, so, Jesus did come to plunder the house, and take what he found most precious, God’s beloved creation, God’s children to be his own.

So, you might say, “Jesus came, and Jesus conquered.”

Jesus came so that all people may have the opportunity to believe in him, and to understand that God wants to claim each of them as his own.  As Jesus says to the crowd at the end of today’s scripture, “Here are my mother and brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

God wills that we believe in Jesus the Christ as our Savior, and love him as our Lord.  Then Jesus wills that we love one another as sisters and brothers.  Jesus knows that we need each other on this road that we call life.

The world tries to teach us its way…its self-centered, and lonely way.  But, Jesus has other plans for us, other realities to live into.  There is a reason that Jesus uses the terminology of the family in these verses, because as God’s beloved children, that is what we are called to be, a family, an ever growing family.

The strongest man, has defeated Satan, and taken us for his own.  Jesus claims us as his family, and gives us one another to love, to forgive, to care for, and to work together to do God’s will.

We must try and live into the reality that Jesus calls us into, not the theological ideas, we want, but God’s will instead.

Look around you…no, I mean really look at one another.  Here are your sisters and brothers, given to you by Christ Jesus, to love, and be loved by.  To forgive, and be forgiven by.  To care for, and be cared by.  Love one another, as Christ has loved us!

Amen.

Bible References

  • 2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1
  • Mark 3:20 - 35

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