Rejection abounds – Monday, 3rd Week in ordinary time – Mark 3:22-30
To understand the background of the text we need to step out of this passage beginning chapter 3:7 which deals with the rejection of Jesus . We will continue to see this rejection of Jesus all the way down to chapter 6; but for now let us pick up on the last line of the previous section.
Mark 3:6 reminds us that the Pharisees joined hands with the Herodians in a plot to ‘destroy’ Jesus. When you can’t attack a man on his good works then you have to resort to the dirty tricks department; make personal accusations. This is their first attempt to do so in the Gospel of Mark but certainly not the last.
We are told that the relatives of Jesus have already been influenced by the powers that be. The had come to take Jesus away because they thought that he was ‘besides himself’. In short they thought he was losing it. Now we are told that the Pharisees come down from Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the ‘Vatican’ of the Jewish world. Descending from a position of authority they come with a clear agenda that we have seen earlier; ‘destroy Jesus.’ But this is easier said that done. Chapter 3:9 and 3:20 tells us that large crowds have been following him and while the ‘Jerusalem theologians’ think little of him, Jesus is hailed as a the most sought after rabbi in Israel by the masses.
The Pharisees decide to throw a cat among the pigeon by sowing the possibility of doubt. Just what IF Jesus was satan himself? What IF he was disguised as a ‘good rabbi’ to draw the unsuspecting masses from the ‘true faith’. What was now a whisper campaign is now escalated to headline news with the Jewish establishment declaring publicly, ‘He has Beelzebul’ and by extension Beelzebul has him under his power and together they cast out demons. They seek to discredit him in the eyes of the people by planting the idea that Jesus is working by Satan’s power instead of God’s power. If the scribes can succeed in making their charge stick that Jesus is working by demonic power, they can bring legal action against him
Before we get to the absurdity of their reasoning , notice, that the Pharisees admitted that the demons were cast out by Jesus. There was never any attempt by the religious leaders to deny that the miracles happened; and how could they? They saw the miracles with their own eyes.
But who or what is Beelzebub? Beelzebub is the Greek form of the word Baal-zebub. (2 Kings 1:2-3) or may mean “lord of the flies”. In Hebrew and Jewish literature, the name is translated to mean “lord of dung” or “lord of filth.” In any event, the scribes are accusing Jesus of accomplishing his healing miracles by the power of “the ruler of the demons” (v. 22). There are strong connections to Baal worship in conjunction with the worship of Beelzebub. Baal was a Canaanite fertility god in the Old Testament. The term ‘zebub’ means “exalted dwelling.” When we put those two terms together, we have the name prince of demons.
Jesus demolishes their silly contradictions. If he was working with or for satan why would their mission be directed to destroying their own interest? Jesus now reveals his mission and this can be seen all through the Gospel of Mark; he is here to destroy satan and not make an alliance as alleged by the religious establishment. Jesus has come to plunder Satan’s household and bring about his end, not by division from within but by stealth and force from without. Jesus, who was stronger than John the Baptist (1:7), is stronger than the strong man Satan too.
In all of this, the humanity of Jesus should not allude us. It is clear that Jesus did not fit in; his mindset and those of the religious establishment was like cheese and chalk. The loneliness of isolation from what should have been his own fraternity, was starkly evident. We see Jesus cope not only with opposition from scribes and Pharisees but also disbelief from his own family.
Pause for a moment as you speak words of comfort to the Lord. His loneliness will follow him to the cross; “ My God, my god why have you forsaken me.