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Thought for the week - 7 June 2024

St Mark tells us in today’s Gospel that Jesus came home with his disciples. Which home is he coming to? What does St Mark mean by home. He belongs everywhere and he is rooted in the Father’s love, as we belong anywhere that we find our Christian family, but most of us have a mental image or place memory of a home of some sort. Mark tells us that when Jesus came home the crowd gathered together there ‘again’. This crowd was not just composed of inquisitive neighbours or curious locals. It was drawn from Galilee and from Judaea, and as far away as Jerusalem. The bounds were even wider since some came from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon. These people were not just pious, respectable Jews; they were not just eager suppliants hoping for something from Jesus, they were Gentiles as well as Jews. Some came from beyond the Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon. They were a mixed bag. Jesus has already begun the construction of his new Israel. He is building his new house which will become the new temple, the temple of his body. He is redefining the meaning of the concept of ‘home’ while standing in the place that even his own family think is his ‘home’. It’s only chapter three, and he is already set in defying expectations!



Jesus’s home in Capernaum is probably the home of Simon and Andrew. Jesus is building a new house, an alternative to the Temple of Jerusalem. There access was restricted, but this new house is open to the great crowds who have come in search of him, as well as the tax collectors, sinners, scribes and Pharisees. In the midst of all of this Jesus’s relatives come in to ‘seize’ him. The word is a very strong one. It is used again in the Gospel to describe the action of the guards when they come to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mark suggests that Jesus’s family did not understand the nature of his mission, they come to him out of love. They want to prevent him from being hurt by failure. These disciples have begun the journey away from their own homes and families. Later on, they will say ‘we have left everything to follow you.’ To leave family means to leave security, to leave those who care for you, who will tend you when you are sick and when you are old. The ones who hear the word of God and do it are his disciples. They have begun this journey. Just how much of a sacrifice this family life is can be seen at the end of Jesus’s life. His brothers abandon him in the Garden of Gethsemane and leave him to his fate. In that dreadful human solitude it then becomes obvious to whom he belongs.


Those scribes who arrive today and were behind his arrest in Gethsemane were theological heavyweights. They represent the authority and theological wisdom of the temple establishment — the same establishment whose leaders will ensure that Pilate crushes Jesus at the end of the book. 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. They offer the most damning assessment they can.


Once the three groups — crowd, family, and scribes — have found themselves brought together in the same narrative space, so to speak, in these interwoven scenes, Jesus speaks. He has a few declarations of his own. Jesus spends little time refuting the scribes’ assessment. He indicates the absurdity of their reasoning, for he says that satanic power never shows an interest in loosening the screws that hold oppression and indignity firmly in place. We also read implied pronouncements from Jesus about the state of the world. The reign (“kingdom”) he associates with Satan is a formidable, coordinated power. It enforces a fearful hegemony. It retains that dominance because it is ruthlessly unyielding. Jesus’ comments suggest that the scribes appear to grasp all of this very well, since their accusation ironically exposes them as having succumbed to that kingdom’s inflexible logic.


Mark is, therefore, a story of redemption from a “house” of oppression that manifests itself on many levels of human existence. There is no escaping this Gospel’s accent on conflict and clashing powers. Finally, the focus returns to Jesus’ family, the ones who have come to spirit him away from the crushing crowds, the consequences of the dangerous criticisms he levels against the religious leaders, and his dangerous visions of a battle he fights for the sake of the world. Not only does Jesus resist the intervention of his mother, brothers, and sisters; he renounces their claim on him. They remain “outside” while Jesus embraces those encircled “around him” in the crowded house.


Scribes and relatives cannot figure him out, and so they attempt to quarantine him. He seems rather willing to write them off for the sake of achieving something great. Only three chapters into the narrative, and a lot of people are understandably worried. In many ways, we still should be. What’s certain here is this: the reign of God Jesus keeps talking about is certainly not going to be about maintaining business as usual.

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