in the third chapter of mark, the conflict between jesus and the religious establishment continues. in the act of jesus healing the withered hand of a man on the sabbath, jesus deliberately provokes them, asking, "is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” when the devout around him remain silent, jesus is angry that keeping the sabbath rules is more important to them than aiding the man with the injured hand and proceeds to heal him.
jesus continues around the countryside teaching, healing, and calling more disciples before returning home, one supposes to capernaum, but perhaps he is in or near nazareth since his family is nearby. here, he is confronted by his family and by "scribes who came down from jerusalem." these scribes accuse him of using the power of "beelzebul" and "the ruler of demons" to heal and cast out demons. jesus asks why these dark powers would wish to attack their own minions, in effect dividing their house or kingdom against itself. he goes on to suggest that the scribes are committing an "eternal sin" by attacking the work of the holy spirit that resides in jesus.
when he is told that his mother and brothers are outside the home wishing to see him, he asks, "who are my mother and my brothers?” continuing, he indicates that those seated around him "are my mother and my brothers! whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” earlier, mark says that the members of jesus' family wishes to "restrain him" because people are saying that "he has gone out of his mind.” perhaps jesus is offended that the members of his own family are more concerned with gossip rather than they are with supporting the work jesus is doing.
it seems that jesus is making it clear that he has no use for the opinions of the devout proponents of the religious laws and that he will not be hampered by the seeming embarrassment of his family who are concerned about their own reputation. the attraction to jesus continues to center around his ability to heal the broken in body and spirit, with people coming not only from the immediate vicinity but also from "judea, jerusalem, idumea, beyond the jordan, and the region around tyre and sidon." by stating the widespread fame of jesus, mark lets his readers know that the final conflict with the religious powers is inevitable. jesus refuses to back away from his questioning of their oppressive laws or to modify his work among the people so as not to offend, though it is clear he knows that the more people are attracted to him the less secure the power of the religious leaders over the people becomes.
may we, like jesus, be fearless in "speaking truth to power." may our compassion be greater than our love for standing in the community. may we not be passive conformists in order to get along. may we act and speak wisely, living skillfully, embracing our common humanity. may we follow the path that does the most good and the least harm. shalom.