Genesis 3:8-10 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 Mark 3:20-35
The Genesis passage opens with the setting of a cool evening breeze in the garden of Eden. It is the end of a day and God is coming ‘home’ to creation, anticipating the company of Ish (man) and Ishah (woman); Adam and Eve. In this intimate moment in Paradise, God calls out the first question to humanity “Where are you?”. They are hiding, afraid, because of what they had done.
The first question the Gospel of John records Jesus asking is related. The narrative setting is something like this: After baptising Jesus in the Jordon, John the Baptist declares openly concerning Jesus as the Lamb of God, how the Spirit of God in the form of a dove rested on Jesus, and how Jesus, the Son of God will baptise with the Holy Spirit. Hearing this, two of John’s disciples turn to follow Jesus, and Jesus asks of them: "What are you seeking?”.
What do these disciples see in Jesus? What do they experience? Do they feel the presence of God? Can they feel the renewing Power of the Holy Spirit?
We find out later one of the disciples is Simon Peter’s brother Andrew, but at this point of the narrative the unnamed disciples represent disciple of all ages. Disciples who seek to follow Jesus ‘home’, to spend the night, and be able to then declare: “We have found the Messiah”. (John 1:29-41).
Jesus asks :“What are you seeking?”, and I propose disciples of all ages are
Seeking for renewal & restoration, searching for Love Joy, & Peace.
Yearning for what we lost when humanity was separated from God.
Seeking to return home.
But what happens when our earthly ‘Home’ is not a place of rest, renewal and restoration?
The sad reality is many children (as well as many adults) do not feel safe at home. Statistics tell a fearful story that many cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse are perpetrated by someone who is trusted, or part of the family. Gender based violence has the same narrative. The victim often knows the abuser intimately: a boyfriend or husband, a father or brother, a trusted member of society. In this sinful world, our homes can easily be turned from a place of rest, renewal and restoration into a place of brokenness.
In Mark’s gospel, verse 20 opens with He (Jesus) went home.
Jesus had been busy, powerfully healing and teaching which resulted in the leaders of the Temple being irritated and angry. Jesus had been challenging the sabbath laws, teaching great crowds, and appointing apostles. Jesus was going Home, anticipating the ‘cool evening breeze’ of fellowship, security and peace. Jesus went home. Other translations don’t use ‘home’ and refer to the place he was staying, or use ‘house’ instead of home. Wherever he went- home or a house or a place where he was staying- his family were near enough to want to stop what he was doing, to seize him, believing he was out of his mind.
It seems Jesus’ home wasn’t always ‘peaches and cream’.
Then Mark uses one of his common techniques of making a sandwich story, one story interrupts another then circles back to the story he started with, interweaving the meaning of both. Jesus came home, but instead of finding R&R he was inundated with great crowds of people ‘so that they could not even eat’. Now Jesus was not a stranger to great crowds. He had been teaching and healing in unconventional places. His influence went outside traditional Jewish areas, healing people from as far as Tyre and Sidon. He had defended his followers for plucking grain on a sabbath. He had publicly performed healing miracles on a sabbath, and had attracted the notice of all who were seeking healing (a short summary up to Mark 3). Jesus may have come home to put his feet up, but crowds of people seeking healing and teaching followed him. His family go out to stop Jesus, intending to save him from himself. The story jumps at this point, but will return to the issue of family.
We now realise the synagogue leaders were spreading rumours amongst the crowd that Jesus was possessed, and not of God (Mark 3:22). Jesus tells the parable about the ‘strong man’, which in its positive form is a parable about unity and the power of a kingdom and household standing together. He warns the scribes about the consequences of claiming he, Jesus, has an unclean Spirit. Mark’s readers know (we know) the Spirit in Jesus is not evil, but refers to his baptism and the Holy Spirit descending while God speaks (Mark 1:10-11).
The other side of the Marcan literary sandwich comes back to family, and home.
As we said, Jesus comes home wanting some R&R. He has been keeping company with crowds of people, probably from the ‘wrong side’ of town. If we were in India they would be called the ‘untouchables’. In Jewish stereotypes they are the unclean, the amaharitz. His family are none too pleased about the company Jesus is keeping, and they plan to intervene. They refer to Jesus as being ‘out of his mind’. In the parable Jesus has just illustrated to the antagonistic scribes, a household is strongest when united. When Jesus ignores the appeal of his family, he is reacting to his household who are divided and working against him and his calling to ‘the sinners’ (Mark 2:17). Their plan to seize Jesus away from the crowd divides his home, weakening the united front, and is paramount to re-enacting the divisive parable of plundering the strong man’s house. Jesus says no.
“Whoever does the will of the God is my brother & sister & mother.”
Home is a place of safety, love, joy and peace.
It is a place of renewal and restoration.
It is a place of unity.
Jesus looked around him at a an eclectic crowd and called them his family.
Look around you. This church, the people of God, are your family.
No matter the state of your ‘home’, you have a place where you can find renewal. The Holy Spirit at Pentecost equipped and enabled disciples to become one family, one body, one people.
We never give up hope for our households.
Jesus did not disown his mother and siblings. In the end they will be the ones who support and proclaim him as God. Mother Mary at the foot of the cross, brother James writing to believers after Jesus has died, and the Pentecostal Spirit had come on people of all nations.
We pray for those of our family who are lost and hiding from God.
We pray they will answer as God calls out the intimate question “Where are You”.
We pray that we will witness to the Holy Spirit and seek to ‘Go Home’ with Jesus, to a place of restoration and renewal.
We hold onto the hope that we can return ‘home’ in the fullest and truest sense of the word.