When Jesus returns home, he is confronted first by his family and then by the religious. His family come out to restrain him because they believe he is beside himself, there is just something not right. The religious legal scholars from the center of power Jerusalem, say he is actually a demon and that is how he is able to get rid of demons. On two different fronts a personal and professional Jesus is being accused of either being crazy or possessed by evil.
The Call to Discipleship in The Gospel of Mark, Day 18Then he went home; 20and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28 ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— 30for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ Mark 3:19b-30
So how do you respond to an accusation like this. Jesus introduces his approach to teaching. He answers their accusations with parables. Jesus uses parables, as he explains in chapter 4, so that for outsiders they may see and not perceive, may hear but not understand, unless they turn back to God and are forgiven (Mk 4:12). So in these parables on the surface you can read them as being about unity. They appear to say we should stop fighting with ourselves. Within our family, within our church we should work together.
But these parables are also a critique of their argument and an explanation of Jesus' ministry. Jesus based on his history has bound the strong man and continues to bind evil with each encounter he has with a demon. The demons, the evil so far in the Gospel of Mark are the only ones who truly recognize him, who call him the Holy One of Israel and the Son of Man. He has been confronting and challenging the powers of evil and one who is evil would not be doing this. But he is also critiquing the religious authorities and questioning what side they are on: Are they working for God? Jesus knows that he is here to bring forth and point out God's dawning kingdom. The religious leaders are becoming more aggressively opposed to his actions and are therefore opposed to God's purposes. As he ends this encounter, he says: you can be forgiven anything but saying the Holy Spirit is unclean. So they are calling him a demon, the demon, crazy, so can they be forgiven?
So where does this place us on our discipleship journey? Where do we stand in this critique? Do we need to be near the surface of the parables and work on Christian unity? Do our churches need to stop fighting within themselves and start building the kingdom? Do our different flavors of Christianity need to start seeing how each is working to build the kingdom of God and not condone the one you consider as evil just for practicing the faith out of a different tradition and history? Do we personally need to look at how we are acting internally within our own faith community and externally with other Christians?