Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Genesis 42:1-17; Psalm 68; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8; Mark 3:19b-35

What are we to make of Jesus? Much in our culture, in our churches, and in our lives seeks to domesticate him. We want to make him a conventional, respectable figure. We try to tame him into being just a good person, a wise teacher, worthy of a respectful nod now and then, should we pass him in church, in the family Bible, or in a class on ethics or history.

Many people who knew Jesus firsthand in his day must also have wanted a containable holy person, a manageable Jesus – good but not perfect, pious but not innovative or driven, liked but not compelling. Yet this was not the Jesus they encountered. Consider what occurred prior to today’s gospel reading (Mark 3:19b-35) in just the first two and half chapters of this book. Mark began his narrative about Jesus on the run: a flat-out proclamation of Jesus as God’s special agent, God’s own Son, empowered by God’s Spirit – all to transform people’s lives, even the whole world. Then Mark propelled the story along with Jesus preaching repentance, healing people, subduing evil spirits, befriending disreputable people, and gathering followers – crowds of followers!

Neither Jesus’ family nor Israel’s religious leaders knew what to make of him. His family wondered if he had lost perspective. They thought he verged on mental and emotional unhinging. The religious leaders went further. They accused him of being an agent of the evil one, of Satan himself. Jesus rebuked both his family and those leaders. To his family, he made clear that his true family consists of those who pattern their lives after the will of God. Blood kinship is secondary. To the religious leaders, he warned that resistance to God’s Spirit, to God’s holy presence in the world, is to alienate oneself from God at the deepest levels of spiritual life, in this world and the next.

Neither Jesus’ family nor Israel’s leaders could domesticate him. Nor can we. We must not try. Jesus breaks our categories of conventionality and respectability in his utter devotion and commitment to God, to God’s will and action in the world. May we follow this untamed Jesus out of our tidy religious categories and into God’s true goodness and holiness in the world!

Gregory Strong

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