McFarland

Wednesday Bible Study by Pastor Kelli

Light a candle

Read Mark 3:20-35

If you were tuning in for a happy, lovely, fun little Bible story, you may want to skip today’s devotion.  We aren’t given a story focused on a miraculous feeding of thousands or an impressive healing story.  So, again, now’s your chance to step out.  I won’t judge.  If I could, I’d rather talk about loaves and fishes or bodies being freed from what holds them bound, but here we are.

If you’re still with me, I’m presuming you’re willing to wade into the depths with me.  Even if we don’t fall in love with this story, let’s see if we can’t put some of it in context.

We’re only in chapter three, but it’s been a busy three chapters.  John the Baptist heralded Jesus’ coming.  The heavens were torn apart over the Jordan as the Spirit descended like a dove.  Jesus with wild beasts and tempted in the wilderness.  He proclaimed that the kingdom of God has come near and encouraged all to trust in this good news.  He called fishermen to follow him and healed multitudes of people from unclean spirits, fever, paralysis, leprosy, and more.  And right before we jump in today, he appoints the twelve to proclaim the message and cast out demons – including Judas who we learn will betray him.

Jesus has been teaching and offering astonishing, mind-blowing, and incredible healings, all of which create suspicion which is what we see on full display today.  Jesus is back home, surrounded by a crowd, and his family comes forward.  Out of deep concern or embarrassment – maybe a little of both – they come to take him away because he has clearly lost his mind.  But before they can talk to Jesus, scribes from Jerusalem confront him.

Professor Matt Skinner explains who these scribes were and the significance of their presence.  “Those scribes were theological heavyweights. They represent the authority and theological wisdom of the temple establishment […] We should understand those scribes’ credentials as impeccable. Their pronouncement, that Jesus is a satanic agent and not a divine one, recognizes power at work in him. He is no charlatan or illusionist. But they decide the power is perverse.”[1]

It’s incredible that the scribes witness what Jesus does, “recognizes power at work in him”, but they conclude that it couldn’t possibly be from God.  It must be from the devil.  It doesn’t match what they think it should look like.  It doesn’t follow what they expect.  It isn’t what they think should happen, so it can’t be good.  It can’t possibly be the work of God.

Then Jesus says that his mother and siblings aren’t his family, but those amongst him are his family.  That is a shocking statement now, but possibly even more so then.  The family was the basis for the social structure.  The family system impacted most elements of daily life.  So to shift the concept of “family” from bloodlines to something bigger, different, and unexpected would create a huge shift in how the culture, society, and world was organized.

Debie Thomas highlights the disorientation this new structure would cause.  She details how those typically considered insiders are physically outside while those typically cast aside are in the house with Jesus.  She writes, “Outside the house stand the insiders — the family, the religious folk, the pious, the careful.  They think they have God pinned down.  They know what the Holy Spirit is supposed to look like, and Jesus doesn’t fit the bill. Inside the house sit the outsiders — the misfits, the rejects, the tax collectors, the prostitutes.  They’re not interested in dogma or piety; they just need love and they seem to have found it in a man who heals the sick and feeds the hungry. And in the midst of them?  Smack in the center of the sick, the insane, the deviant, the hungry, the unorthodox and the unwashed?  There sits Jesus, saying, ‘This. This is my family.’”[2]

Jesus is upending how things are supposed to be done, subverting the expected, changing all expectations and familiar systems.  While this is incredibly comforting, empowering, and humanizing for some, it is obviously disorienting, uncomfortable, and hugely unwelcome for others.  Dr. Matt Skinner points out that this upheaval, this reframing, this new way of living runs so contrary to what is familiar that it becomes – in part – the catalyst of Jesus’ own death.[3]  Jesus’ actions of healing and feeding are making people in positions of power and authority feel so threatened that the groundwork for Good Friday is already being laid…and we’re only in chapter three.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.  There’s plenty more of the story to explore.

[1] Matt Skinner, “Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 10, 2018, Gospel Reading, Commentary on Mark 3:20-35,” Working Preacher from Luther Seminary https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-10-2/commentary-on-mark-320-35-3 (accessed June 1, 2021).

[2] Italics hers.  Debie Thomas, “A House Divided”, Journey With Jesus: A Weekly Webzine for the Global Church, Since 2004, June 3, 2018, accessed June 1, 2021, https://www.journeywithjesus.net/essays/1805-a-house-divided.

[3] Matt Skinner from: Working Preacher, “Brainwave 787: Second Sunday after Pentecost (Ord. 10B) – June 6, 2021,” May 29, 2021, video, 30:35, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTGdnBikaUc.

Reflection Questions

1) What structures or expectations might Jesus be trying to upend today?

2) When have you felt like an outsider? When have you felt like an insider?  Have those moments ever happened at church or in a religious setting?

3) How is the idea of family being a group that includes those we may not want included – how is that a good thing? How is that a challenging thing?

4) How might God be calling you to respond to this passage?

Extinguish the candle