June 10, 2018 – 3 Pentecost B – Proper 5
Genesis 3:1-21; 2 Corinthians 4:13-18; Mark 3:20-35
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” “Here are my mother and my brothers!”
In Mark’s Gospel, a huge crowd has begun following Jesus as we come to the lesson we read today. So many had been following him that Jesus had to get into a boat in order not to be crushed by the masses. The reason they are rushing him is that he has already done some remarkable healing. The first healing reported in Mark’s Gospel involves a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus casts out the demon and frees the man from a life of oppression and misery. The people take notice. Then he heals Simon’s mother-in-law. All mother’s-in-law could use a little healing. Later that same day Mark reports that the whole city gathered at the door where Jesus was staying, some to be healed, some to watch and see just who this miracle worker was. Jesus moves to another town and heals a leper. Then a paralytic is brought by his friends. So many people are clamoring around Jesus that they have to cut a hole in the roof and lower their friend down where Jesus is. Jesus not only heals the paralytic but proclaims his sins are forgiven. Not too long after that Jesus is in the synagogue and sees a man with a withered hand. Jesus heals him. Some of the people are upset that Jesus has done this on the Sabbath, violating the law, and they begin to plot how to get rid of this guy. Many more others, however, press closer to be healed. That’s when Jesus has to get into the boat, as so many people press closer.
Mark then reports that Jesus goes up on a mountain and, in what looks like an ordination of sorts, he chooses the 12 Apostles and shares his spirit with them so that they too may heal and cast out demons. “Then,” in our lesson for today, “he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”
The Blessed Virgin Mary it seems is embarrassed that her son is raising such a ruckus. I’m sure she’s concerned for his well-being but she also seems to be worried about the family’s reputation. “Jesus, can’t you just hush for a while and hold back on all this healing stuff?” Mary and her other sons try to get to Jesus but the crowd is so large they can’t. The crowd tells Jesus his family is looking for him and he replies, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Here are my mother and my brothers!” “You are my family. You are the ones hungry for healing. You are the ones I have come to be with.”
In some odd kind of logic the religious officials speculate that Jesus is doing all these good works because he is evil. Jesus basically tells them the proof is in the pudding. He also makes it clear that goodness cannot be restrained, even if the religious officials are uncomfortable with it. Even if his own mother wants this goodness to slow down, it will not slow down. His statement about who his family members really are isn’t so much a put down of his mother and brothers as it is a huge statement of inclusion.
First of all Jesus proclaims the great goodness of God and all the healing that goes with it cannot be restrained. And then Jesus begins to make clear the message that this goodness and healing is not limited to those born into the faith; it is open to all who want it. This crowd, so hungry for healing and goodness, is included. The grace of God cannot be restrained. The grace of God is open to all who hunger for it. “Who are my mother and my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers!”
In some ways I am reminded of the miracle at a wedding in Cana in John’s Gospel. There a huge crowd has gathered and the wine runs out. There his mother is not the one trying to restrain her son; she’s actually the one that gives him a little shove. “Come on, Son, open up the gates. Let it loose. It’s time for your kingdom to be proclaimed.”
In today’s lesson, Mark uses Mary’s reluctance to show that the gates are fully open, that grace is now let loose. Both stories involving Mary, one with Jesus being reluctant and one with Mary being reluctant, both stories show that the grace and goodness, the healing and forgiveness of God cannot be held back or measured. The kingdom is huge, larger than the crowd pressing around Jesus. The kingdom is good and goodness cannot be defeated by evil. The kingdom is wide open, so wide open that the closed-mindedness of those who want Jesus shut down can’t hold it back.
Today the gates of grace are burst open. There’s no stopping that grace. Anyone who wants it gets it. Anyone. And now, every Sunday from today through the rest of the church year we will hear story after story of how grace abounds, how grace changes lives. Any reluctance you have, a reluctance to believe the undeserving are included, or a reluctance to believe that you are included, any reluctance you have will be washed away by the sheer power of grace that is let loose by Jesus Christ.