A Clear Rejection Is Better than a Fake Promise

A Clear Rejection Is Better than a Fake Promise

Perhaps you have noticed that some portions of this week’s Scripture seem more familiar than others. Some of this is due to sheer repetition—as in the case of John 3:16 or Psalm 23. Other occasions are due to certain material actually being repeated in the scriptures. Our passage on Sunday has two very instances of this!

Mark 3:20-35 (NRSV)

and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But 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.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters[a] are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

The first instance is Mark 3, verses 28 and 29—blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This particular caution can also be found in Matthew 12:30-32, Luke 12:8-10, and the Gospel of Thomas 44. Similar formulations, but different verbiage and approaches.

The second instance is Mark 3, verses 34 and 35—that family is not blood, but is those who share in doing the will of God. This saying is also found in Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 8:19-21, the Gospel of Thomas 99, and (as some scholars argue) John 7:3-8. Again, although these passages share similar formulations; they utilize different verbiage and approaches.

Although both of these sets of passages share ideas, they are framed differently. For example, pay attention to all of Matthew chapter 12. Matthew includes a few extra illustrative teachings (in a similarly logical argument style) before ending with the saying contrasting blood family with spiritual family. The surrounding material is not a carbon copy from one gospel to another. In some ways, that surrounding material can completely change the emphasis of each of these sayings. Of course, on Sunday we will focus our attention on Mark. Nevertheless these sorts of comparisons raise some interesting questions for scholars and readers alike.

  1. What do you make of these different framings? What point do you think each gospel writer is trying to make?
  2. Both of these sayings are included in the Gospel of Thomas. Does that legitimize them or somehow make them stronger? Does that cast any form of doubt?
  3. How do these parallel readings (between different gospels) inform the way you approach the New Testament, Kings and Chronicles, or the Bible as a whole?

Note: The Gospel of Thomas is not a “gospel” of the same genre and variety as Christians commonly think – i.e. a narrative about the life of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. Thomas is really just a collection of Jesus’ teachings that the author felt were important. “Jesus said this, Jesus said that, Jesus said yet another thing.” The Gospel of Thomas was given its title and it just stuck.

All are welcome to join us for worship on-line or in the Fellowship Hall. No reservations are required to attend but all will be asked to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines, including masking and social distancing, and if we have more people than can safely be in the Fellowship Hall, we’ll seat people outside with an audio feed of the service. Our Church Council will be discussing changes to the California and local guidelines set to go into effect on June 15th and how those changes might impact us as a faith community.  We will modify safety precautions carefully and intentionally.  We want all who choose to come onto campus, from the youngest to the oldest, to feel welcome and safe.  We’re looking forward to being with you on Sunday, on-line or in person, as we worship God and open our lives to God’s grace, peace and invitation!

Rev. Lori will be on vacation with Erich Grimm-Schmitt and Adam Marshall-Lopez leading worship for June 6 and June 13.  We will continue our in-person communion on Sunday, June 20th for this month.

One Comment

    David DeBus

    Dear Adam,
    I am so happy you are taking the Gospel of Thomas into account. I am happily persuaded that the scholars at the Jesus Seminar are onto something. Their main books, The Five Gospels, and The Acts of Jesus, remain important guiding poles for my faith life.

    I was given The Gospel of Thomas by my gay youth director at First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica when I was 15. I ate it up. It struck me as much deeper than most passages of the Gospel.

    Thank You!
    David DeBus

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