15 January 2016

Mark 3:20-21

“When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’” (v. 21)

Psalm: Psalm 11:1-5


The setting of the narrative changes again, moving away from the open countryside and to an episode inside a house or even the home of Jesus and his disciples. However what hasn't changed is that the crowds are still close by, so much so that Jesus and his close followers are neither given the time nor opportunity to eat. Perhaps they'd thought that by going home they'd be able to find a bit of peace and quiet, with time to rest for a while. But Jesus' popularity meant that there were no places to get away from the incessant demands of the large number of people who had flocked to the area to see, hear and even touch him.

Returning home also meant returning to Jesus' family and perhaps some home truths. They were clearly anxious about what they were hearing. The observation that some people thought he had "gone out of his mind" suggests that there was a wider concern about their local man. Maybe they thought he'd been carried along too far on this wave of popularity that seemed to be sweeping the area; perhaps they held the same traditional views of the religious teachers and authorities and were surprised, embarrassed and upset by the conflict that Jesus seemed to be creating, or could they be getting fed up with the impact a big crowd of outsiders was having on their daily life. Whatever the reason, Jesus' family tried to take action to stop him and to protect him from himself.

We have to wait a few more verses before the encounter with his family is concluded (Mark 3:31-35) as the story moves on to another dispute with the religious authorities (Mark 3:22-30). But by interweaving these two incidents, Mark's Gospel appears to be comparing the similarities between the two groups and demonstrating that in both cases they misunderstand what Jesus is doing. Remarkably neither those closest to Jesus nor those with the greatest religious knowledge can be relied upon to see the truth of his message and actions.

To Ponder

  • How do members of your own family view your religious and spiritual beliefs? Pray for those whose faith brings them in to conflict with their family.
  • In some parts of the world, relatives can physically restrain family members who have a mental illness in so-called 'prayer houses', because they are thought to be demon possessed. What should be done to stop this from happening?

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.