Archive for December 9th, 2009

Unfaithful Mary

John Barach has an intriguing post on the passage in Mark (3:20-35) which speaks of Jesus’ “own people” wanting to lay hold of him because they believed Him to be “out of His mind.” John points out that this story is interrupted by a second story, Jesus’ confrontation with the scribes from Jerusalem who claim that he casts out demons by the ruler of the demons (3:22-30). Then, in verse 31, the original story picks up again with the identification of those referred to as “His own people” (v. 21) with His mother and brothers (v. 31).

There is an interesting play on words here as well. The word translated “out of His mind” is related etymologically to the word which means “standing outside.” John writes, “So Jesus’ ‘own people’ think Jesus is the one ‘standing outside’ (= crazy). But Jesus’ family members turn out to be the ones literally ‘standing outside,’ while Jesus identifies those who are sitting inside as his true family, those who, in obedience to God’s will, are ‘sitting around him’ (3:32, 34). To be his true family — his true mother and brothers — his natural mother and brothers ought to come inside instead of calling him out.”

Jesus goes on (3:24-25) to declare that divided households cannot stand. If His own family (Mary and His brothers) oppose Him, then they will be “outsiders” and not members of His “true family” — those who sit around Him and receive His word. Barach observes, “If Jesus’ family thinks Jesus is ‘standing outside’ in the sense of being insane, then their household won’t ‘stand.'” As Jesus says (v. 35), His true family consists of those who do “the will of God.” If Mary and His brothers desire to be acknowledged as His “own people” they must trust in Him and obey just like the rest of the Family.

Thus, we see that Mary joined with Jesus’ brothers (who at this time were yet unbelieving) against Jesus Himself. All of them repented of opposing Jesus later of course. But here we have more evidence of the reality regarding Mary. Rather than being the unfailingly faithful woman who never wavered in doubt or unbelief, we see that Mary too, like the rest of us, had moments of weakness and failures of faith. She was a sinner and had to experience the forgiveness of her Son just like the rest of us.

And, that’s no insult nor is it a derogatory judgment. It’s the truth that Mary herself acknowledged from the moment we first see her in the gospels. The angel declares that Mary had “found grace” with God. Mary was delivered from the consequences of her father Adam’s sin in the same way the rest of us are — not by an immaculate conception, but by the grace of God which forgives us and delivers us from all sin.

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