Week of Sunday July 5 2009
Bible Reading: Mark 6:1-13
He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offence at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.' 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.' 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Before considering Mark 6 above, consider the text in Mark 3:20-21 and 31-35.
Then he went home 20and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.' 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.' 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But 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; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin'- 30for 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. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.' 33And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?'34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'
Mark is the gospel in a hurry. I mean there is no padding. There are no long reflective shots from the camera in this movie. Jesus is on the move. He is a man of action. His effect is immediate and powerful. The crowds flock to him; (Mark 3:20) "the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat."
In the midst of this power and success, which has healed people and cast out demons, his friends decide he has gone mad, and try and "restrain him." Even his family were worried, it seems. (3:31-5) He set himself apart from them.
"Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
Notice that just before this section, Jesus also appoints 12 disciples. (3:13-19)
In the drama of Mark, what happens? It's as though he half listens to his family and friends in chapter 3. He goes out again, teaching in parables. He calms the storm. He heals the man with in gentile territory and raises the dead in the leading families of the synagogue. In the midst of that last raising he also heals a nameless woman; Jesus is for everyone.
He shows us all, again, his works of power. And then he comes home again, which has brought us into the reading of this week. And again, even though they recognize his power, they still take offense at him.
On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offence at him.
(In one case he is in Nazareth and in the other in Capernaum (about 2 days walk), but the emphasis is on home. In the first case it is "to the house," and in the second "to the place of his father.")
The parallel between chapters three and six continues, as Mark immediately has Jesus leave his home, and gather the disciples together. It's as though he has decided there is no future in the old relationships of family and synagogue. He has come to them and been rejected. He has demonstrated even more power, and still been rejected. So he leaves home and family. He builds a new community.
The power of the kingdom community which he has been talking about, and demonstrating, is not to be found in family. The power is in another community, the twelve, his followers, who go out and make a new home in those places where they are welcomed by people of like mind, people who will listen to the message of the kingdom. These are the people who repent; the ones who turn to a new way of living.
There is huge emotion in this reading of the gospel. Think of the turmoil that occurs in a family when we think a member is "going off the rails." Remember the pain and offense that we feel when one member of the family rejects "the way we do things," and goes on another course. Jesus calls us to a complete realignment of our loyalties. I think this is the last we hear in Mark, of Jesus being in Nazareth or Capernaum. He does not enter a synagogue again, either.
The enormity of this realignment of loyalties is evident from one of his instructions to the disciples.
6:11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.
This action is so powerful that it is part of our cultural lexicon. People who have never read the bible use the term.
We could read this week's lectionary as just one more little story from Mark, and remain disconnected from it. But this is the gospel in a hurry; the gospel of urgency. It does not simply tell stories. It exhorts us to action; time is short! How much are we bound to our families, and the mores of the "place of our fathers," and how much have we aligned ourselves to the gospel?
The idea that there are times when we should make this choice, and that we should choose the community of Jesus over family, is offensive. It causes us to stumble at him. Does that mean he will be able to do no deed of power where we are?
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!
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