Mark 3:1-6: Here again is a combination of a healing story with a controversy story, continuing a discussion of what kinds of actions are appropriate on the Sabbath. Please see the comments on Sabbath controversy in the previous blog (Mark 2:23-28). Mark’s use of “immediately” in verse 6 is ironic. Some of the leaders are upset by Jesus doing good on the Sabbath, but they can plot his demise on that same day.
Mark 3:7-12: This is a nice summary of the ministry of Jesus and of the popular following he was gaining. Part of the way our churches grow is by being places where people encounter Jesus in ways that provide for their healing and well-being.
Mark 3:13-19: Twelve apostles (meaning “one sent”) are chosen by Jesus from among his followers. They are to have a special relationship with Jesus. They will be sent out to teach and will have “authority” to cast out demons. Peter, James and John seem to be especially important in this group. As Christians, we are to be “apostle-like” in our lives. We cultivate a relationship with Jesus and then go out in his name to share good news and to help touch people’s lives in a positive and healing way.
Mark 3:20-30: Crowds continue to press in upon Jesus even as he is at home in Capernaum. But not all the reports about him are positive. Some say that he has gone out of his mind, and that rumor gets to his family. They seek to restrain him. Scribes who are in town from Jerusalem accuse Jesus of being possessed. Mark tells us Jesus responded using parables. In Greco-Roman rhetoric, a parable was a brief comparison or metaphor used to illustrate an argument. In the Hebrew tradition, parables could be brief writings/sayings in the forms of riddles, proverbs, fables, symbolic acts. Here Mark seems to be using the word in the Greco-Roman sense. Jesus uses images of a house divided, a kingdom divided, and of plundering the house of a strong man to illustrate the foolishness of those who attribute his work to the very forces he is working against. When one attributes positive action of God’s Spirit to something evil and negative, one cannot be open to that movement of God’s Spirit. That is the primary meaning of the caution about sinning against the Holy Spirit. Remember, that the first announcement here is that all will be forgiven. One needs to be open to that forgiveness.
Mark 3:31-34: These verses are quite challenging for people who want to simply equate Jesus and Christian faith with country, family, home and apple pie. In Mark’s gospel “kin and blood family are generally presented in a very negative light” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible). Remember we have already read that Jesus’ family is concerned about him, wondering if he has indeed gone out of his mind in some way. Could this reflect some of the concerns present in Mark’s Jesus community. If Mark’s “church” is primarily Gentile, the families of those in that community may have thought their relatives had gone out of their mind to associate with this Jewish sect. Sometimes following Jesus can be difficult, even within families. Being a person of faith is about having one’s life transformed, and sometimes our families like us better if we don’t change.