Who is my mother?
1 Samuel 8.4-20
Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
That’s what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11.14. In other words, sometimes it’s hard to tell right from wrong. Paul was talking about ‘false apostles’ who boasted about the great things they did for the Lord. These false apostles seemed to be the real thing. Today, in the Gospel According to Mark, it’s the other way around: we have the Truth in human form who appears to be a false prophet. Or just crazy.
Is Jesus an angel of light, or under the influence of demonic powers? That was the question the religious leaders had been asking themselves. There was one sure way they could tell if someone was ok; they could see if he followed the ancient ways, protected the traditions, upheld family values.
But Jesus failed the test. They thought, He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy! (Apologies to those who don’t know Life of Brian!)
The Gospel of Mark is a story of conflict. And right in the very middle of that conflict is Jesus himself. And it seems to the authorities that he’s the problem.
Let’s refresh our memories of Mark and look at some of the conflict so far:
- Jesus threw an ‘unclean spirit’ out of a man on the Sabbath day in Capernaum. You weren’t supposed to do any work at all on the Sabbath, even healing work; (1.21-28)
- Jesus touched a leper, which made him unclean according to the laws of Moses; (1.40-45)
- He announced to a paralysed man that his sins were forgiven; the scribes accused him of blasphemy. They said, Only God can forgive sins; (2.1-12)
- He had a meal at Levi the tax collectors’ house, causing raised eyebrows among ‘the scribes of the Pharisees’; (2.13-17)
- People couldn’t understand why he and his disciples didn’t fast—Jesus as much as said, Who can fast while I’m still here? (2.18-20)
- The Pharisees criticised his disciples for plucking grain on the Sabbath; Jesus said that laws are made to serve the needs of people; (2.23-28)
- Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath. By now, the Pharisees and the Herodians were watching him to gather evidence to use against him. The Pharisees and the Herodians didn’t normally see eye to eye; it was a case of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. (3.1-6)
Things were getting dangerous.
And why not? Jesus was a troublemaker. He’s changing things, he’s not following the ancient ways or protecting the traditions of the past. Well, that’s not quite true. Jesus is centred upon the kingdom of God—but he’s not doing things the way people expect. He’s not observing the Sabbath in the expected ways, he’s claiming to forgive sins, he’s keeping bad company. People are worried about him.