Proper 5, Year B: Mark 3:20-35: Calling Good Evil and Calling Evil Good

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 5, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Today’s passage can seem kind of weird. Jesus is in his hometown and he’s surrounded by so many people that he and his followers can’t even eat. Then his family head to get him because people are saying he is crazy. Meanwhile some teachers of the law from Jerusalem claim he is using the power of Satan to cast out demons. Jesus points out what a nutty idea that is–saying there’s no way Satan would cast out demons–it would be like fighting against himself.

“I want you to know that people can be forgiven for all the sinful things they do. They can even be forgiven for the bad things they say against God. But anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. They will always be guilty of that sin.” 

Mark 3: 28-29 (Easy-to-Read Version)

Forgive me for mentioning both politics and Facebook (sometimes there is just too much of both), but my politics are deeply informed by my being a follower of Jesus, so I can’t help that they sometimes intersect. I recently posted this on Facebook, and it seems relevant to this scripture passage.

I’ve been thinking about blasphemy. As a young evangelical, I thought blasphemy was putting a cross in urine or maybe dressing up like Jesus and doing the polka. But now I believe blasphemy is to proclaim God while doing evil–like Jeff Sessions smirking as he quoted the Bible to defend yanking children from their parents. I also remember that “taking the Lord’s name in vain” seemed to mean you shouldn’t say “Goddamn” or “Oh my God!” (Honestly it was still hard to type that.) But taking the Lord’s name in vain is more likely to mean saying God is on your side when you are oppressing people and trampling the poor.

I had forgotten that I just heard this in the Gospel reading a couple weeks before I wrote that, but maybe that was part of why it was somewhere in my mind.

So here in the original passage it was that the teachers of the law were calling the good Jesus was doing in the name of God evil instead. I still think the reverse is also true–doing evil and calling it good and Godly.

Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B: Mark 1:29-39: Jesus Heals and Prays

Bible.

Source: iStockphoto.com

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Today’s passage follows right after last week’s story. Jesus leaves the synagogue with his followers. They went to the home of Simon and Andrew, where Simon’s mother-in-law was ill in bed with a bad fever. They told Jesus about her, so he went to her bed, took her hand, and helped her stand up. At that moment she was healed and the fever left her.

Then, that night, people came to the house, bringing many sick people to be healed. They also brought the demon-possessed. Mark says everyone in the town gathered at the door. Jesus healed the sick and forced the demons out. The passage also says, “he would not allow the demons to speak, because they knew who he was.”

The next morning he got up very early and left the house in the dark to be alone and pray. Some of his followers came to find him and said, “Everyone is looking for you!”

He tells them it is time to move on to share God’s message with other people in other towns. “That is why I came.” So he traveled all over Galilee, speaking in the synagogues and healing.

The takeaway from this passage is much like last week and other Epiphany readings. Jesus is unique as a teacher and healer. He draws crowds wherever he goes and does wondrous things. Also, he is doing the work that characterizes the rest of his ministry–teaching, healing, casting out demons. He also takes time to go off alone and pray. He makes that time, even though people are constantly seeking him out. His time with God is a priority. Again, I see this also as a lesson for us–our ministry is also to help others, but not to neglect our own spirituality in the process. Love others, love God (like Matthew 22:36-40).

Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B: Mark 1:21-28: Called to Teach and Heal

Jesus Drives Out a Demon

Source: iStockphoto.com

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

In today’s passage, Jesus and his friend arrive in the city of Capernaum. Jesus goes to the synagogue to teach people on the Sabbath. They were amazed by him. The Bible says, “He did not teach like their teachers of the law. He taught like someone with authority.” A  man possessed by an evil spirit is also at the synagogue. The man shouted at Jesus:

“Jesus of Nazareth! What do you want with us? Did you come to destroy us? I know who you are—God’s Holy One!”

Jesus, his voice full of warning, said, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” The evil spirit made the man shake. Then the spirit made a loud noise and came out of him.

Mark 1: 24-25 (Easy-to-Read Version)

Pretty dramatic stuff! Mark says the people are amazed as this is something new happening and at his authority to command even evil spirits. Again, the idea of him having authority unseen before. So the news about Jesus spreads all through Galilee after this.

 

I struggle with reading about demonic possession in the Bible–like what does it mean in our more scientific time? As a college student,  I actually attended a service where the leadership started to attempt to cast out a demon, but I found it disturbing and weird, so I got up and walked out and didn’t go back to that church. What was actually happening when Jesus cast out demons? I don’t know. Perhaps it was just a first-century understanding of a severe mental illness and that’s what Jesus was healing.

I think there are two important elements in this story that explain why it’s part of our Epiphany readings, which have so far all about how special Jesus is and about calling us into following him. First, note how the people marveled at his authority–he was not like other teachers, because he taught and acted with authority–Jesus was unlike anyone else. Like the rest of the Epiphany readings, we see Jesus as unique and set apart.

Second, this story is about Jesus beginning his ministry and a major part of his ministry was going out among the people, teaching and healing–in this case a spiritual kind of healing. Our work in following him is also a ministry of teaching and healing. We are called to go out into the world to share the good news of his kingdom and to bring healing and love with us to help his kingdom come.