Second Sunday After Pentecost – Dealing with Troubling Passages (The Gospel Passage)

. . . and the crowd came together again, so that they [ Jesus & his disciples ] could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 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. Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:20-30)

The gospel of Mark tells a heart-breaking story. Jesus is with his disciples, teaching them, and ministering to the people that have been drawn to him. He is accused of many things – some of the accusations made by his family and some made by the scribes from Jerusalem. You get the idea that Jesus is misunderstood by a great many people. The gospel of Mark tends to showcase the hardships of Jesus’ ministry; or at least that is what it seems like from this short vignette.

What especially hurts, I would imagine, is that his family does not seem to understand him. And yet, that does not seem to ring true. Mary and Joseph (his mother and father) at least should have understood that Jesus would lead a different life from what a normal Jewish boy would do. Perhaps “his family” was not his close nuclear family, but extended relatives.

Furthermore, in the gospel of Mark, Jesus does not seem to be acting as we would expect the Son of God to act.

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Verses 31-35)

It would seem the “brush off” from the first passage cited from chapter 3 in Mark is meet with a “brush off” by Jesus in this second passage. It raises a question that has been often asked . . . What does one do with scripture that seems at odds with other scripture passages? It has been a question asked for centuries, and not just in the Christian faith. Jews have a long history of discussing (quite fervently at times) troubling passages. It is helpful to know a little about the background of such tumultuous passages. Mark was thought to be an oral telling of Jesus’ ministry and therefore subject to “drift” in the exact details. But each gospel carries out its intended purpose.

We, that is those who minister and teach in the Christian faith, also carry out our intended purpose in the Lord’s purpose for humanity. And we must not lose sight of that when our Christian lives and faith journey do not go as we plan and think they ought. God is God, Christ is Christ, and the Spirit is the Holy Spirit – no matter we might muddle things up. And if the gospel of Mark shows a faith journey that sets one’s teeth on edge, it is a reminder that sometime the Christian path is not an easy one to walk.

May our Lord God, who blessed us with the presence of the Holy Spirit, guide and support you in your Christian journey. Selah!

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About Carole Boshart

I have two blogs on WordPress. "A Simple Desire" which is based on the daily "Sips of Scripture" published and sent out by Third Way Cafe. "Pondering From the Pacific" is based on my reflections on the world - sometimes religious/spiritual, and sometimes not so much.

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