What do a Gucci chainsaw and Jesus have in common?
There’s a lot of emerging conversation about re-working the whole “who’s in? who’s out?” construct. I think this is a good aspect of the conversation. Do some think the whole question needs deleting? I think so. Yet, I was jolted into thinking some more about this issue as I encountered Jesus in Mark 3: 31-35.
The Gucci chainsaw is not really “in.” I got this picture off of “google images.” And I’m not convinced it has anything to do with Jesus. I was just amazed that such a thing exists. Maybe it will be purchased by Elton John. Who knows?
Jesus was about redefining some long-held, almost irrevocable traditions in his 1st century, Second Temple Judaism culture (as many of you know from reading Tom Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus). Jesus dared to redefine “family” in a centuries-long, patriarchal society. Mark makes this crystal clear in Mark 3: 31-35. It is worth reading…verse at a time.
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!
35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Why were his family looking for him? Mark 3:21 reports that they wanted to “seize” or “take custody” of him because they said, “He is out of his mind.” This not a flattering picture of Mary and Jesus’ brothers. They wanted to stop what they thought was an obsessed son and brother. Jesus was looney tunes.
After the classic Markan “interruption” to build the story (of the deep misunderstandings about Jesus), we pick up on the family’s arrival in verse 31.
For me, Mark 3:34 is a case study in centered-set thinking. Mark writes that Jesus looked around (??????????????). This is a deliberate 360 degree gaze. How do we know? Because Mark adds that the crowd was “in a circle” (?????) around him. This detail is important.
Who is in the center? Bingo. Those on the “outside” were natural family–”your mothers and your your brothers.” Jesus takes the opportunity to redefine family as those inside who are accepting of and attentive to him and his word. Being accepting of Jesus and attentive to his word are those “who do the will of God” (verse 35). Did you hear the grenade explode? This is radical, scandalous talk!
Why? No longer is Abraham’s blood in the veins a family identity marker. No longer is Jewish circumcision an identity marker. No longer is eating Moses’ menu an identity marker. No longer is being a Jewish man the identity marker. “Whoever does the will of God is my family,” Jesus declares. This opens the door to women, Gentiles, Samaritans, the poor, lepers, outcasts, “people of the land,” slaves, whoever! The old stand-by markers are old wineskins exploding as the new wine of Jesus’ Way is poured into human lives and relationships.
Centered set. You could be a diligent Jerusalem scribe in the lineage of Abraham and be guilty of the sin that is never forgiven (verse 29). You could be a marginalized, needy Samaritan woman who is a true worshipper of the Father in spirit and in truth. It depends on your response to the Center, the one in the middle of the circle.
There are those who are “in” according to Jesus. And those who are “out.” Jesus will later say, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables…” (Mark 4:11). Those on the outside (?? ???? ???). Those on the outside seem to be those wanting to ignore, defame, detract from, even destroy Jesus. They are neither accepting of nor attentive to Jesus and his word.
The emerging conversation cannot shake the need to discuss “who’s in? who’s out?”
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