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Mark's Sandwiches

Mark 3:2035

Jesus' nuclear family
20 and 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."

scribal opposition
22  And 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.

28Truly 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" 30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

Whose our real family?
31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." 33And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

We often hear talk of what is called the "sandwich generation," those of us who still have living parents to care for as well as children. That puts us right in the middle, which can be a precarious place, having pressure and responsibilities all around us. It reminds me of a song from the early '70s whose refrain is:
          Clowns to the left of me,
          Jokers to the right, here I am,
          Stuck in the middle with you.

We can look at Mark's writing in a similar fashion. Instead of clowns and jokers being on the right and left, it's family and real family, with Jesus stuck in the middle with the scribes. This is typical of Mark's writing-it starts out with one story, which in this case is his family's concern about his actions and what that might mean regarding his mental health. Before the story is completed, something else is talked about. Here it is the scribes accusing Jesus of being in league with the devil. Then the other part of the sandwich is back to Jesus' nuclear family and what family looks like for followers of Jesus. The bread part of the sandwich goes together thematically, then the filling is seemingly unrelated--hence, the Markan Sandwich.

Everyone seeks to have control of Jesus. His nuclear family wants him to leave the crowd and to regain his composure. The scribes want him to be their pre-conceived idea of the Messiah.  The problem is, you cannot put Jesus in a box (or in the middle of a sandwich) because he will break out of the box of our preconceived ideas about what the Son of God should be and do. Then back to family pressure and Jesus' declaration about who really is Jesus' family.

Where are we in all of this?  It depends. Are we going to force our ideas on God concerning the way he should act and interact with people? Are we going to accuse anyone and anything that doesn't fit our paradigm of God, to be from the devil? Or are we going to be among those in the family of God with Jesus as our brother? Jesus said, "Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother" (v. 35). Thank God for this spiritual family that is ours forever.

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