Today’s gospel is, in its own way, part of a thread in Mark’s gospel in which the nature of the family of God is slowly revealed.
- In Mark 3:7-12, Jesus is calling and appointing 12 as apostles, the foundation of the family of the Church
- In v.21, Jesus’ biological family arrives on the scene: “When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
- In v.35, we hear Jesus proclaim: “Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
- And in between all this we have today’s gospel (vv.23-30) in which the opposition charges: “‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘By the prince of demons he drives out demons.’” – assigning Jesus to a family of the damned.
The narrative dealing with Jesus’ family is interrupted by the account of the Beelzebul controversy. The insertion is deliberate. It suggests that those in Jesus’ family who declare that he is mad are not unlike the scribes who attribute his extraordinary powers to an alliance with Beelzebul.
But here’s the thing. Both groups think they are doing good. The family is concerned with all the craziness surrounding Jesus. The officials/opposition are likely sent from the Great Sanhedrin to examine Jesus’ miracles and to determine whether Capernaum should be declared a “seduced city,” the prey of an apostate preacher. If so, Jesus would not be the first nor the last. Seduced cities tend to lead to civil rebellion which Rome extinguishes swiftly and with cruelty.
Yet we look at all this and wonder, “Wow, how could they witness this and not think the Spirit of the Lord is upon him!?” A little easier when you already know the answer.
It is a cautionary tale to pray for discernment about the movement of the Spirit in our lives. Lacking that discernment can impact the family in ways never anticipated.