Reflection "Binding the strong man"
Jesus’ ministry after the wilderness experience invokes conflict. Our lives are full of conflict. Todays gospel reading is one example of many that illustrate the conflict that he endures. Marks gospel is like a manifesto. It is about good news, a good news that is subversive to the powers that be whether religious or political not like the Roman propaganda. Don’t trust political rhetoric from the state. Trust in Gods good news.
Jesus gets the good news from God
Mark gets the good news from Jesus
Readers get the good news from Mark
The life of discipleship entails conflict. Mark’s gospel is about repentance and resistance. Repentance from all that which prevents us from living as God wants us to live, and resistance to the powers and principalities, the ideologies that set out to thwart ours and Gods task, namely to build Gods kingdom on earth. It is a call to justice to compassion and liberation. For the religious aristocracy or the sign seekers Jesus has nothing.
Marks gospel is a call to discipleship. Jesus disciples have already upset the Pharisees by eating grain from cornfields on the Sabbath, the holy day. Also he has upset them by healing a man with a withered hand in the synagogue on the holy day, the Sabbath, because he had 6 days to heal on! As a result of both his actions the Pharisees have a plot to kill him. I think its an unfortunate human attribute that we often hate good people who bend the rules.
And then the religious authorities call him Beelzebub, the fly carrier (a word I cant use here!), the prince of demons. In other words he is demonic. The initial enthusiastic response to Jesus ministry, the adulation, prompts a resultant negative reaction from Jesus' family and Israel's religious officials. This is double conflict, double trouble.
1. Jesus' family said he had gone out of his mind.
2. The religious authorities accuse him of being possessed.
He is mad!!
So Mark now has Jesus answering the charge that he is acting under the power of Satan. Is response is, to reject them both and bring a counter charge. Jesus says if Satan has moved against himself then he is finished! Divide and fall! And he points out that his miraculous works, particularly exorcisms, happen because Satan, the "strong man", the psyche/our soul is, "bound" and needs to be set free. How many of us are bound by demonic forces?
If there are internal divisions in a household, it is impossible that such a household wont disintegrate, "no one is able to enter a strong man's house and to plunder his property unless, he first ties up "the strong man's then he can rob the house. This is about us as Christians, What is our strong man that we need to bind before Jesus can minister to us? But its also about our communities, our countries our world. What demonic forces bind us collectively and are against Gods will?
The scribes have suggested that Jesus is an agent of Satan. Addressing the issue of slander (blasphemies) Jesus says that we can be forgiven all sort of sinful slanders, except a slander against the Holy Spirit, Gods work.
Jesus says he intends to overthrow the reign of the strong man, by binding him, and robbing his house, like a thief in the night. He is talking about the religious authorities!
The chapter ends with his family calling to him from outside the house. The family was central to Palestinian society. But there is a serious rift between Jesus and his family. He says "Whoever does the will of my Father is my brother and sister and mother!" Even our families wont understand us.
Conflict is a sign of maturity. It can also be an increasing sign of separation. As a Christian on our journey, we will not grow until we learn to accept conflict and trouble as part of life’s journey. We mature as we face it and those we admire are those who in the face of adversity have matured and wisened . Unless you can face conflict people can buy you!!! So in our lives, what do we need to bind so that God can work in our lives? What do we need to confront?
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me …to proclaim release to the captives” Luke 4