Mark 3

20The 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.’

One of the facts of psychology is that once one can name a problem, it loses power over us. It does not mean that it goes away but it powers decline because we have been able to name it.
Perhaps that is the reason that God is the I am, because anything more would be an attempt to control God. And perhaps that is also why there are so many euphemisms around: To keep us from naming a problem.
When we can name a problem we are able to understand it, and therefore devise strategies to address it.

We can’t do anything about global warming if we don’t recognize it.
Or we may not be able to stop drinking if we do not recognize the pain we are trying to drown.
Or we may never learn to speak in public if we don’t remember the time we were ridiculed or that when we were growing up no one cared about our views.
You get the idea.

In our Gospel reading Jesus names the problem.
It is one thing to name your own problem, it is quite another to name someone else’s.

I remember a student job I had in an industrial plant that manufactured all kinds of springs. From one of the machines I was assigned to I could see my foreman go to his locker and drink half a litre of beer, several times during a shift.

I was wondering whether I should tell someone. In the end I decided not to because I thought it would likely get me fired, even though I only wanted to help. The truth was that I was the outsider and some things people don’t want to talk about.

In Mark’s Gospel Jesus draws attention by healing people, by casting out demons, and by teaching “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27b-28)

His family is concerned about his mental health and the religious establishment confronts Jesus for stirring the pot and accuses him of being Beelzebul, of being Satan.

This may sound strange to us only because Beelzebul, the prince of demons is not our common parlance. We are much more familiar with demonizing opponents, political opponents or minority groups. The more outrageous the accusation the harder it is to disprove.

Jesus answers with a parable. “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.” (3:28)

Jesus affirms whose he is when he states that whoever does the will of God is his brother, sister, or mother. He will neither let the establishment nor his family keep him from the mission he is on.

In the way that at the beginning of the Gospel, Mark declares that this is the beginning of the Good News which stand in opposition to the empire, so Jesus identifies the empire as the strong man that must be bound by not letting it engage us, because our loyalty belongs to God.

Yet our loyalty belongs to God in such a way that our loyalty is not a purely personal or religious matter but in a way that may lead to conflict with the empire, as it did for Jesus.

Amen.