June 6, 2021
Have you ever been involved in an intervention?
The occasion to help someone see the brokenness around them can be uncomfortable. Yet, it is also a reminder to the person they are loved and cared for deeply. An intervention is a useful tool to help a person come to terms with a particular challenge and acknowledge it instead of ignoring it. It is used in hope of getting someone to make a positive change in their life. When we think of interventions, our minds may go right away to substance abuse. Often, it is acknowledging that which has power over us. Jesus intervenes for us and goes right to the front line and does not back down.
One of my favorite sitcoms is How I Met Your Mother. The long running series follows four friends in their various struggles and challenges of life. It is a comedy and yet there are points of seriousness and even revelation. Throughout its nine seasons, they used interventions in both serious and absurd ways. An intervention was called for in countless episodes. On the serious side, they dealt with depression after the loss of a father, rushing into a relationship, and pushing to connect with a biological father. The absurd included the overuse of magic tricks, an obsession with spray tans, use of a fake British accent, and even an intervention for having too many interventions. A banner was even created so the person knew it was an intervention. While absurd at times, to see a group of friends help another friend acknowledge a challenge (even if it appeared silly), revealed they loved and cared for one another.
I bring up the notion of intervention because we read about one in the third chapter of Mark. The third chapter of Mark has Jesus’ family concerned. They want to shield him from any retaliation or harm those in authority may cause him. His family wants him to be careful. His family loves him and believes they are caring for him by showing such concern. This is not substance abuse we are talking about. There is a concern Jesus has lost his mind. He is speaking and teaching about things totally different from the current understanding of the Jewish people. He is turning everything upside down. It appears to Jesus’ family, he is deluded.
The authorities have something completely different in mind. The authorities seem to think he is demonic. Jesus is unlike any other prophets who have come before him, and the scribes simply do not know how to handle him. They attempt to handle him by discrediting him. A common tactic played out today in all areas of life.
The love and care of Jesus’ family means little to him at this point because they are the ones that are yet to fully understand. While the questioning of his family probably comes as no surprise to Jesus, there still must be a twinge of hurt. Think of those times you are trying to share something serious with your family and they write you off as being deluded. Jesus does not let us in on this concern if it is there. He is preparing to teach and knows exactly what he is doing.
We hear in Jesus’ dialogue what he stands for. He is seeking unity among God’s creation, and in his teaching, Jesus points out how a divided house or divided kingdom cannot stand on their own. And if Jesus is Beelzebul, how can he still be casting out demons like he has been doing? Satan, or the evil which exists, cannot stand when it is divided. Satan is the “strong man” in which Jesus refers. It is the strong man who is really doing the dividing and causing derision among the people of God. By Jesus healing the people of God and performing exorcisms, it prevents the evil from fully taking power.
It is Jesus who is in the fight for the world. By him being born as an infant, he is fully in the world and can tie up the “strong man” and perform healings, exorcisms, and many miracles. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. He has come into the world to confront our demons alongside us. When we do not let Jesus walk alongside us, we can get in trouble.
It can be difficult to acknowledge you are struggling and ask for help. We become independent and want to do everything on our own because we don’t want to show any sign of weakness. Yet, the “strong man” still attempts to get in and take control. The “strong man” can reveal itself to each of us in various ways. It could be through our own weakness of not wanting to ask for help. It could be in an addiction of one form or another. It could be in our own mental well-being.
This is no different from the people Jesus was teaching nearly two thousand years ago. His teaching stated so much, if a house or kingdom was divided it cannot stand on its own. I would say we can extend it to the individual. When we allow the “strong man” to confuse and misguide us, we cannot thrive. This is why Jesus is such good news! Jesus is in the fight for us. Jesus has gone to the front line and is not backing down. Jesus does not need anyone intervening on his behalf. Jesus is intervening for all of creation.
Through our baptisms, we invite Jesus into our lives to help us. Sometimes we forget the declaration at our baptisms, “you are marked with the cross of Christ forever”. We are gathered as friends and neighbors. Yet, more importantly, we are gathered as family. As we gather around Jesus and open ourselves with his teachings, we too are his sisters and brothers. How much different our community, the church, and the world could be if we all lived into Jesus’ vision of the family.
Mark’s Gospel begins Jesus’ ministry at a breakneck speed. We barely have time to stop and take a breath. As everything seems to be happening so fast, Jesus’ family wants to intervene for fear of his life. This is of no concern for Jesus. His concern lays with the communities and houses that are divided. Jesus is concerned for each and every one of you. Jesus comes to preach unity among the divided. These communities and houses are divided because they have entertained evil and let evil manipulate decisions and interactions. Jesus goes to the front lines for you to fight the strong man, as he calls it. Jesus brings light to the evil and hope for our future. Jesus embraces us as family.