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  • Michael Minch

Good News from Mark

The most recent passage our study group has discussed is found in Mark 3. For the purposes of this essay, I want to focus on Jesus’ use of a “parable,” i.e., a metaphor, and the response to Jesus by his family and by the religious authorities. In his explanation of his mission, Jesus says that “no one can break into a strong man’s house and make off with his goods unless he has first tied up the strong man” and only then “can he ransack the house” (Mark 3.27). Jesus is at this point elaborating on his response to the scribes or “doctors of the law” who have accused him of “driving out devils by (the power of) the prince of devils” (2.22). Jesus’ reply is that Satan has no interest in defeating Satan, but that only a force utterly different than Satan (“the Accuser”) would do this. Jesus identifies himself—and his followers— as the power (“regime”) bent on defeating Satan.

This is a wild way to identify people like you and me: thieves! Jesus calls us to join him in the ministry of theft and destruction. What should we steal? What should we destroy? I am thinking of institutions, traditions, and practices built on, promoting, and producing: alienation, greed, inequality, injustice, violence, and more. Our political system, our economic system, and in many ways, our religious systems need to be stolen away, “ransacked,” defeated.

As Jesus confronts and challenges the religious authorities and the settled and sacred institutions of his day, both the religious authorities and his own family worry about what he is doing (and how it will affect them). His family says Jesus is “out of his mind” (2.21) and the authorities say that he is “possessed by Beelzebul” (2.22). To his family he is demented and to the scribes he is demonic. (“Beelzebul,” by the way, was an obscure name probably derived from a Hebrew idiom meaning “Lord of the dwelling” (or “house”) with reference either to the air, or to the possessed, in whom he, the demonic, dwells.). The religious authorities accuse Jesus of being driven by the Accuser. But Jesus turns the tables on them. It is they who are aligned against God’s purposes. They are captive to the way things are. They resist criticism and change. They brutally suppress efforts at humanization. Jesus tells them he will bind the homeowner and release the captives. His is a rescue mission.

For their part, his family tries to “seize” Jesus. This is a kind of family intervention. He was courting danger and disaster, and they must have wanted to protect him, and themselves, at least their reputations. Jesus has scandalized them. Kinship was the axis of the social world in antiquity. Mark’s Jesus attacks this institution too. Notice that Mark does not offer genealogies as do Matthew and Luke. He is not interested in Jesus’ family line or In Jesus’ culture and society, one’s identity was all about family connections and to be severed from family was social suicide. Jesus’ challenge to the traditional family and the “family values” of his time is revolutionary and shocking. It should motivate us to ask what about our family traditions and values might incur the same judgment.

Jesus’ challenge to the traditional authority structures, the religious, social, and political orders of the day has by Mark 4, cut quite deeply. He has repudiated the “old fabric” and the “old wine” to make way for a new regime, a new reign, a new order. The fundamental unit of resocialization into the new society, new politics, new order, will be the new family, the community of disciples and discipleship.

Thanks for reading,


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