“Jesus will no longer battle a religious system… He will define God’s faithful people as those who gather around himself. A religious system gives way to a spiritual family.”1
- In Mark 4:37-39, Jesus falls asleep while the disciples are worried about drowning. If one thinks about it, sleep can be the wrong response in a crisis or it can be a sign of trust.
- For first century Jews, the sea was a place that represented chaos and demons. It was seen as a threat.
- In the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:26-29), it is not specified which part of the growth is supposed to be compared to the kingdom of God.
Institution or Family?
Over the years, the church has struggled with the balance between relational family ties and spiritual family ties. On one side, many boundaries have been crossed in churches misusing the concept of family. On the other side, people are strangers to each other in many churches that lean more towards being an institution. Anabaptists have stressed the importance of a spiritual family. In some cases, this has been to the detriment of natural families (ie. Men and women being separated). Finding a spiritual family within a church is a balance of forming close relationships with our fellow worshippers while maintaining a sense of openness to the outside, diversity, freedom and growth so that boundaries do not become closed.
Jesus teaches us about spiritual family (Mark 3:34-35). As Jesus redefines his spiritual family to be those that are gathering around him, they are not confined to one building. They do not stay in the synagogue or in a house. They maintain their familial relationship in boats, on the shore and while walking along.
The spiritual family that Jesus teaches about is not defined by law or tradition. It is defined by gathering around Jesus to hear God’s will. It is not tied to the synagogue or the religious leaders, but by following Jesus. These words of what Jesus’ family was like was powerful to the readers of Mark who found themselves separated from the traditions and religious heritage of their communities.
Spiritual warfare has been a discussion in many church denominations and cultures. The reference to demons cannot be avoided in Mark. While the topic of spiritual warfare provides many diverse theological views, the fact that Jesus came to defeat the power of evil is clear in Scripture (Mark 3:27). It is less clear to how the evil is meant to be viewed. Opinions vary from a personal devil, a host of demons, evil through violence and oppression, combination of these or others.
Mark’s gospel finds Jesus in conflict with both demons that afflict individual and the evil of powers of oppression. Jesus fights and delivers people from both of these situations to bring an alternative way of defeating these powers of evil through means of nonviolence.
Questions for Reflection
- Where have you seen the church function more as a spiritual family? Where have you seen the church function more like an institution?
- How do you think the parable of the growing seed speaks to the kingdom of God?
- Mark 3-4 are filled with parables. Does one parable reach out to you more than the others? Why do you think Jesus told so many different types of parables?
1Geddert, Mark, 77-78.
These additional notes on the Gospel of Mark are taken from the Believers Church Bible Commentary written by Timothy J. Geddert.
Geddert, Timothy J. Believers Church Bible Commentary: Mark. Herald Press: Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 2001.