Summary: This sermon describes the opposition Jesus faced from both his own family and from the Scribes. It attempts to highlight how Christians today can face similar accounts of rejection by both the world and from family.
Schisms with the Scribes and Factions in the Family
I would like set before you a couple of stories in order to illuminate the background to this passage.
Scene 1: A Carpenter Shop in Nazareth
The road for Sepphoris to Nazareth consisted mostly of rolling hillsides. It was a small goat track and slowly wound its way eastward into the Galilean pastures from the low lying coastal lands of the west. And on this particular day Tobias was set on a journey to Nazareth with his donkey in order to purchase a new banqueting table for his master. Tobias arrived in the town after a three hour walk and promptly walked into the Carpenter shop he had heard of. He met a man called James and they exchanged greeting with the traditional “Shalom”. Then it was down to business and after finding a suitable table Tobias and James haggled over the price until an agreement was reached. Eventually a table and a price was found and they loaded the small table onto the donkey. Just before leading the donkey off back towards Sepphoris Tobias had one last look around and he said to James, “So this is Nazareth, this is the town where Jesus is from.”
At the mention of the name ‘Jesus’ James grinded his death and clinched his fists and he replied, “Which Jesus are you talking about?”
“Oh, you must know. Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth!”
“And what do people say about this Jesus?” James asked.
“Well some say he is a miracle worker like Honi or a prophet like John the Baptist. And some, and some even say he is the Messiah, the chosen one of God.”
James looked down at the dust on the ground gently blowing in the wind trying to contain his nervousness, “And where exactly is this Jesus the Prophet nowadays.”
Tobias sighed, “About a day ago a Merchant told me he was in a town in Capernaum, of course he moves around so much, it is always hard to say.”
The men said their farewells and James marched hurriedly back into the shop, and walked into the back room where he saw his Mother Mary sitting on the floor mending some clothes. James said loudly, “Mother, I know where he is.”
Mary looked up with her face tired, warn, empty and gaunt. She said nothing and looked back down. James breathed out loudly frustrated by her lack of response.
“Mother”, he said loudly, “He has to be stopped. He’s destroying our family name. Even worse, he’s gonna get himself killed. The Herodians are already after him!”
But Mary remained still, and continued her mending. James rubbed his face with his hands, kneeled down in front of Mary and said softly, “Mother, you know what we have to do. It’s for his own good.”
Mary looked up, her eyes moist with welling tears. She nodded her in agreement and looked down again at the garment she was mending. James stood up, “So it’s decided then. We bring him back!!”
Scene 2: The Banqueting Room of Caiaphas the High Priest in Jerusalem.
Caiaphas sat at the table with his guests. With him were a couple of Priests, a Merchant from Gaul and three Toparchy leaders from Galilee. The food was brought out regularly and the men discussed everything from Roman power to mistresses to Jewish scruples. Caiaphas stuffed his face with a blend of olives, bread, corn and lamb when a messenger came in and whispered something into Caiaphas’ ear. His face went burning red and he spat the food out of his mouth, coating one his guests with a mixture of corn and saliva. He pleaded their forgiveness, rose from the table hurriedly and gestured for the two Priests to follow him into another room. Once in the room he slammed his fist into the wall and turning around to the Priests he exclaimed, “It’s worse than we first thought. The Galilean. The one called Jesus. His popularity with the crowds grows every day. His fame and honour increases and ours decreases. We know where this is going. The same way it did with Hezekiah, Herod’s steward and Judas the Galilean. He must be stopped now.”
One of the priests asked cautiously, “Shall we kill him then?”
Caiaphas paused and stroked his bearded chin, “No, death will only make him a martyr. We don’t need to destroy him. We need only humiliate him in public. Disgrace him thoroughly. Then he won’t be worth following. You know what to do. Make it so.”
The two Priests nodded and left the room at a frantic pace.
Scene Three: Mk 3:20-35 [Read].
A Question of Honour
The confrontation that Jesus has with his family and the Jewish leadership revolves fundamentally around the question of honour. The reason why Jesus’ relatives try to seize him and why the Scribes attempt to discredit him is because honour is at stake.