Mark 3:20-35 (NRSV)
20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 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.
28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
This text strikes so close to home, I cannot be silent. Today its message for unity against division is so loud and clear to me. Jesus’s ministry provokes resistance from his family because it is spinning uncontrollably, expensively, and far beyond the vision that his contemporaries had for the Kingdom of God. Jesus oversteps the boundaries they have drawn for what is acceptable and respectable, for what is NORMAL. Healings, exorcisms, controversial teachings, and outright rebellion against the rules (e.g. healing a man on the sabbath 3:1-6 – how dared he!) – Jesus is doing too much and going too far, so he must be stopped and silenced. In hindsight, we see how wrong Jesus’s opponents were. It is so much harder to pass such judgement as the events are unfolding around us.
Let’s halt here for a second. Today, when we read the Bible, we look down on Jesus’s family and their close-mindedness, their inability to recognize the Kingdom of God manifested right before their eyes. But what about us? History has a funny way of repeating itself over and over again. So I pose a question to MYSELF first, before anyone else – what part of God’s Kingdom manifested today I absolutely cannot handle? Which side of God’s vast love and grace I cannot fit into my limited and biased worldview? I am looking for the answers to these questions by going through Mark’s checklist of accusations presented to Jesus. Here is goes:
Who do I see as:
- being out of their mind and/ or being possessed by demons?
- acting against God’s will?
- needed to be restrained and/or stopped?
I will be honest, my list runs long. What about you?
WHAT IF WE ARE WRONG?
Let’s turn now to Jesus’s response. When he is accused of acting on the side of Satan and working against God, Jesus teaches about divisions. Division makes you weak, while unity makes you strong. And then Jesus jumps to the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Before today, I have always felt like Mark changed the subject here. But what if he did not?
What is being divided is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which could not be forgiven?
Now I look around. The news and social media are filled by the divisive language. We constantly are pushed to take sides, decide who is right and who is wrong. We label people, actions, events and then assign them to the favorable or unfavorable boxes in our neatly organized idea of what the world around us is like. We are convinced that we can tell the difference between black and white and are absolutely shocked that others do not see it the way we do. They must be out of their minds! – or so we conclude.
Just imagine for a second, what if
…………………….are all forms of unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit?
I am overwhelmed and crushed to my knees…
Today I am turning for wisdom to Mark’s gospel. I acknowledge my limits and my nearsightedness, my ignorance, and my arrogance. I repent of the divisions that I have created and the labels I have assigned to whoever and whatever. I am praying for God to widen my vision of the Kingdom of God so that I can recognize and welcome all my brothers and sisters.