Over the next 6 weeks I’m going to be preaching from chapter 3-8 in the Gospel of Mark. To cover these chapters in 6 weeks I’m going to focus upon one word from each chapter. In chapter 3 I’m providing the summary word “Priorities”.
This passage in Mark has a “sandwich” structure. Verse 21 tells of Jesus’ family coming to confront him about his health and well-being. Verses 22-30 describe a debate between Jesus and the Jewish scribes. Then verses 31-35 pick up with Jesus family approaching him.
This literary style uses two stories to emphasise a central point. It then becomes our task to identify the commonalities and learn from that point.
Here are a couple of themes that overlap:
Discipleship – In verses 13-19 Jesus calls The Twelve. These twelve disciples are appointed to “preach and cast out demons”. The calling of the Twelve provides a vital context for examining verses 20-35.
In verses 21 and 22 we meet two groups of people who do not accept the call to discipleship: Jesus’ family think he’s crazy, and the scribes accuse him of being possessed by the Prince of Demons! So when Jesus identifies his “family” as “whoever does God’s will” he is describing disciples. This combination provides a stark contrast. While some sit back and throw stones, even calling the work of the Holy Spirit demonic activity, Jesus’ loyalty is to those who accept the call to discipleship.
Unity – The central point of Jesus’ response to the scribes argues how illogical it is that Satan would cast out demons. That would indicate division in Satan’s kingdom and predict its resultant implosion. Satan wouldn’t do that. Jesus quotes or creates this proverb in v25, “ If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
With that rebuttal ringing in our ears we turn our attention to v31-35. Although Jesus’ statement that his true family is not his biological family seems harsh, it emphasises the unity of God’s kingdom. Jesus will not desert his new disciples and his ministry even for some of his mother’s famous chicken noodle soup. Having called the Twelve to abandon everything he demonstrates a reciprocal commitment to them.
When I think of all the ways churches divide themselves and the little issues that become big issues I think it makes God sad. It certainly undermines the power of God’s kingdom. While Jesus gave his disciples priority over his family to encourage unity, too often Christians seem more willing to promote division than unity. We would all do well to remember that “ If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
What do you sacrifice to promote unity in the body of Christ?