Mark 3:7-35, NRSV
Jesus departed with his disciples to the lake, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they 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.’
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.’
Preached Sunday, August 20, 2017 at Westfield Church by the Rev. Jamie Harrison.
I am certain Jonathan has already told you when he introduced this “Year of Mark” the Gospel of Mark is the shortest of all the Gospels in the Christian scriptures.
He may have also already suggested to you that one of the things you can do for yourself to participate in this “Year of Mark” biblical literacy project of his is to take an hour or so and read Mark’s Gospel from beginning to end in a single sitting.
But if he hasn’t made that suggestion I would offer it to you today.
When you go home, sometime this week, get out your Bible and read the Gospel of Mark (without trying to figure stuff out) from beginning to end—to get the overall story of Jesus’ life (as told by Mark) imprinted on your mind and spirit.
It’ll be good for you to do that.
I think you will discover as you do so, that Mark was in a hurry.
Mark skips right over the birth of Jesus; doesn’t even mention it.
He starts with the baptism of Jesus, which is an adult baptism.
Jesus is fully grown, and Mark jumps right into Jesus’ public ministry.
So even before the end of chapter one Jesus is teaching and healing and the crowds are growing.
Jesus teaches with a new authority, unlike anything the people have heard before.
Then in chapter two he heals the paralytic and everyone is amazed.
He invites Levi the tax collector to follow him (the story we heard last Sunday) and gets into a confrontation with the religious elites—the Pharisees.
Then in chapter three the teaching and healing come together as Jesus enters the synagogue and heals the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, and in the aftermath of that incident we are told the Pharisees and the Herodians begin to conspire to destroy him—to kill Jesus.
That’s where we are picking up the story this morning.
In just two brief chapters Jesus is a wanted man.
A plan is afoot to eliminate him.
So, what’s the reason for this?
Why is he in so much trouble right here at the start of Mark’s story?
Why this plot right at the beginning of Mark’s gospel to get rid of him?
Alan Storey, a South African Methodist minister (the last conscientious objector to be brought to trial in apartheid South Africa in 1990) points out the inevitability of that outcome.
He suggests that there was a bounty on Jesus’ head primarily because he didn’t know his place.
He didn’t know his place in the social and religious hierarchy of his day and age.
He wasn’t constrained by the regulations and rituals of his religion and culture.
To make matters worse, not only did he not know his place, but he kept on rubbing out and blurring the lines of the boundaries of others knowing their place too.
As we heard last week, he was doing a brand new thing.
As because he broke down the fixed place for himself and others he made those who were further up the ladder on the social hierarchy very nervous and uncomfortable.
Why do you suppose that was?
Because the kind of fixed social strata that was the standard in First Century Palestine benefited those who were on top more than those at the bottom.
And we know Jesus and his Galilean follower were certainly on the bottom.
They were considered riffraff by the religious and cultural elite in Jerusalem.
Those elites didn’t take well to anyone messing with their system.
Which is the short explanation for why Jesus had a target on his back right from the beginning in Mark’s story.
But, evidently, that didn’t stop the crowds from following him.
Because, as we heard this morning, a great multitude from Galilee followed him wherever he went.
And he continued his ministry of healing as those crowds pressed in around him simply to touch him.
Evidently it didn’t stop the recruitment of disciples either.
Because Mark goes on to tell us that Jesus “called to him those he wanted and they came to him.”
Which makes me wonder why anyone in his or her right mind would choose to follow a wanted man.
But Jesus signed up twelve that day to be his apostles.
So either those twelve weren’t pay attention, or they were more courageous than we generally give them credit for.
And, by the end of Mark’s tale we do know that they all eventually did fall away.
But not right here—not at the beginning.
Jesus calls the twelve and sends them out to proclaim his message.
Then, we are told, Jesus went home.
It is about that homecoming and his reception there and what he says about his real family that I would like to focus in on this morning.
Because as I read this passage that’s what speaks to me.
[I’ll leave it to Jonathan to explain to you all those words about the unforgiveable sin of slandering the Holy Spirit.
About that I will only say there is nothing I could do that God cannot forgive.
But because God has given us the freedom to be in loving trusting relationship with God or not (we are not robots); because we have freedom as a gift from God, we have the freedom to receive or not to accept the forgiveness of God.
But, as I said, I’ll let Jonathan explain all of that to you when he gets back.]
So, when he gets home Mark tells us the crowd gets to Jesus and tells him his family is looking for him because his family has heard that people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”
Now whether or not the crowd said that or someone in Jesus’ family said that, those close to him were concerned that Jesus’ spectacular ministry was getting out of hand, and they wanted to restrain him.
Jesus’ family is either frustrated with him, or just plain worried about him.
That’s what families do.
They worry about us, right?
The other day we got a call from our oldest son, Christopher.
Somehow he had heard there was going to be a gathering in Putnam a couple nights ago to peacefully stand with the people of Charlottesville.
After the violence there last week he warned us that we shouldn’t go.
He was concerned for our safety—in Putnam.
We assured him that we weren’t worried about that and he shouldn’t be either.
Unfortunately, we ended up not attending, but not for that reason.
Families worry about each other.
So, Jesus family hears that Jesus is drawing crowds again they go to restrain him—because people are talking.
His family is or worried about what might become of him.
It doesn’t always end well for such people.
But, Jesus doesn’t seem to mind all that much.
After all, he already knows how badly it’s all going to turn out.
So what does he do?
He opens up the tent and allows everyone who wants to enter the chance to enter.
And Jesus replies to his family’s worries by responding with the words, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
In other words, “My family.”
Now, please notice what a large families that family might conceivable become.
Notice how unrestricted that family is.
Please note that Jesus does not say anyone who sings my praise is my family.
He doesn’t say anyone who prays in my name is my family.
He doesn’t say anyone who confesses me to be Lord and Savior is my family.
He doesn’t say you have to believe the right doctrines to be my sisters and brothers.
He doesn’t say any of that.
But he basically says, “Whoever does what God wants doing is my family.”
Whoever does what God wants doing is my family.
Think about that.
That means even if Jesus’ blood relatives don’t get special privileges, even those of us who call ourselves Christian don’t get privileged places inside the family of Jesus either.
It’s a big wide open tent.
It all comes down to those who do what God wants doing.
When you do what God wants, Jesus says, you’re my family.
God isn’t a God to only the people who believe in God in a certain way, or who may not believe in God at all.
The God who created everything that is, is also the God who calls all people family who do what God requires to be done
And, do you remember what Micah said about that?
-To do justly,
-To love mercy,
-To walk humbly with your God.