Today’s reading comes early in Jesus’ ministry and so far in Mark’s Gospel Jesus has been in a whirlwind of preaching and miracles. He has driven out ‘unclean spirits’, Jesus has cured Simon’s mother-in-law, cleansed a leper, healed a paralysed man and a man with a withered hand.
His magnetism and charisma are as astonishing as His miracles. Huge crowds have been gathering around Him and, at His command, people are leaving everything to follow Him, including the fishermen Simon and Andrew, and the tax collector Levi.
If you read the first three chapters of Mark you can see that there is a sense of excitement, bewilderment, and fear. For some people it’s an opportunity to seek healing, while for others, particularly the Jewish “establishment”, it’s very alarming.
Jesus has started to meet the authorities head-on, challenging their entrenched ideas about the sabbath.
By the time we catch up with Him in this reading, the beleaguered scribes have started a whispering campaign, saying “He has Beelzebub”. If you know the translation then you know that Beelzebub means, “Lord of the Flies”.
Often when we read the Gospels, we characterise the authorities’ attitude towards Jesus as a simple power struggle. It is indeed true that, through heavy-handed application of the laws and petty bureaucracy, the scribes and Pharisees had carved out for themselves a cosy little niche, which brought them a sense of moral superiority and financial benefits.
Do we see that in our own society today, where just because someone has money they assume themselves to have authority as well?
But there is much more to it as Jesus represented a threat to them on many levels. He had become dangerously associated with the underclass, with madness, with demons, with the poor, it’s terrifying stuff if you want to hold onto power.
So not only are the scribes afraid of having the power balance disrupted; they’re also downright terrified of the turmoil that Jesus is unleashing.
Then they do what many of us would do, they went into defensive mode. So desperate are they to hang onto the ‘civilisation’ that they have created around them, that their response is to become even more controlling and authoritarian. Ignoring the evidence and facts they start to whisper lies about Jesus.
But Jesus rounds upon them and refutes every lie with the stark truth.
That is often what happens in a community when someone starts to sow lies and discord. They are always found out and shown up for the fools that they are.
If we are truly followers of Christ then we fight for truth and for justice for all people within a community, not just for those who assume that they have power and want to maintain the status quo for their own benefit.
We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and therefore we have a responsibility to look after each other.
We have a responsibility to stand together, as a community and as a family; just as Jesus, the only power that really matters, has instructed us to do.