Mark 3:29

but whoever slanders the Holy Spirit remains unforgiven to the end; he has to answer for an enduring sin.”

what spirit worthy
of an adjective holy
takes an insult as final
and so unforgivable

holiness claims a bigger picture
understanding past limits
and overly idealized futures
messing up present trust

to invest one event with eternity
loses track of a growing wholeness
and reduces G*D to score-keeper
with no next season to prepare for

this raises every play
to Super Bowl significance
which turns bitter in the mouth
when a false start occurs

finally a connection is made
prevenient grace and preemptive mercy
meet at universalized salvation
wholeness beats holiness paper takes rock

Those who intentionally “demonize acts of healing and justice” (Myers, et. al.) may leave Jerusalem, but carry its power and privilege with them wherever they go.

Juan Luis Segundo writes in Capitalism and Socialism, “The real sin against the Holy Spirit is refusing to recognize with ‘theological’ joy, some concrete liberation that is taking place before one’s very eyes.”

The consequence of no change lasting eternally, is a state of unassailable certainty that we easily wrap around our lives to be able to keep whatever advantage we have over another. If station is no longer connected with some divine right, “common good” will arise as a primary consideration in decisions to be made. This common good is not a promissory note to come due somewhere down the line, such as a payoff for the poor from a mythical trickle-down economy. There is an immediate result of reordering the present and building on in it the future.

The indiscriminate nature of the healings that Jesus is doing will soon turn to clearer teachings that will reveal the bondage of the powerful to their center of power: heads, I am advantaged; tails, you are disadvantaged—and it is all because G*D wants it that way.

The repudiation of Samuel and the institution of kings (1 Samuel 8) will always lead to the little those have who have but little being reallocated to those who already have much. Unforgivable.

Mark 3:28

I tell you that people will be forgiven everything – their sins, and all the slanders that they utter;

categorical statements
belie messiness in actuality
we come up with umpteen theories
of forgiveness requiring much
from a forgiver and forgivee

what sacrifice or penance required
is laid out in great detail
forgiveness is not just forgiveness
but earned or a heap of coals

relationships turned transactions
count ways of love too often shorter
than a count of wrongs and forgiveness

there may be nothing unforgivable
but multiple ways to avoid forgiving

overstatement underwhelms

We begin here with an affirmation of Truth, with a capital “T”—Amen! Having to aver something as true is always a bit problematic since it doesn’t just raise awareness of a significant point but often is a sign of an inveterate liar trying to hypnotize their mark.

In the midst of a deepening division between Jesus and religious/political leaders, this verse brings us back to people coming to John to be baptized. They desire their sins to be released and, like Mark, are not caught with fine distinctions between a general state of “sin” or its specific incidences.

Those coming to John from Jerusalem, seat of the economic and military power, religion and politics, desire forgiveness for the actual and worsening hurt carried by systems and structures that too easily exceed their bounds to claim ultimacy.

Whether we talk about an endemic or specific choice of sin, we can get bogged down in creedalism or minutiae and so miss the “Amen” point regarding the availability of forgiveness as a constituent part of a creation called from but never separable from chaos.

In a context of those now coming to Jesus from Jerusalem in a manner we might see as slanderous, libelous, or in some other way defaming his character, this continues to be a generous affirmation. Simultaneously, to be a part of Jesus’ context is to know that forms of argument are never done in discrete moments—they are as holistic as any positive quality.

The “Verily” that forgiveness is always available leads to a kicker to come—an on-going Prophetic tradition of non-negotiable care of the intentionally disadvantaged.

Mark 3:27

“No man who has broken into a strong man’s house can carry off his goods, without first tying him up; and not until then will he plunder his house.

Mission Impossible and MacGyver
employ all the technical tools needed
follow in the shadow of The Shadow
without a radical cloud of unknowing

in a world unable to suspend disbelief
we set up surveillance of our perimeter
our common defense at the expense
of strengthening the general welfare

only too late we become smart enough
to see we’ve tied our own hands
indentured servants see the situation first
and open a door to our projection

“The social context reflected in Mark’s narrative may be alien in form from our own, but not in substance. Our world is hardly free of systems of domination. Today the free market has become the strong man.” ~Say to This Mountain: Mark’s Story of Discipleship, Myers, et. al.]

James Carvelle’s slogan, “The economy, stupid,” has had many other identifiers of what is seen as the issue at hand. It has been used to justify enough discontent to overlook negative characteristics in elected officials. As this is written, the latest to take advantage of the insecurity felt by many below the usual social markers is Donald Trump.

Using brute force to plunder a strongly gated community doesn’t work well. First the center must be weakened, tied up with its contradiction in terms. Whether it is Rome, Temple, Market, or Tribe, each is done in by its own rules privileging power over mercy, independence over compassion, and freedom over community.

Burglary is nothing compared to razing and salting by oppressors, no matter their compassionate conservatism or dictatorial divinity. Such an overthrow is hard on everyone, but hardest on the least, whether that be native people overcome, working class slavery in a variety of guises, women as women, racial, religious, sexual orientation minorities, children, or the land.

Bottom-line: Not only does Satan not destroy Satan, but, if you look closely, the part you are playing in binding others is going to be overthrown and thrown out.

Can you feel the conspiracy against Jesus and yourself growing by the moment? An authority of belovedness is not widely embraced.

Mark 3:26

So, if Satan is in revolt against himself and is divided, he cannot last – his end has come!

the easiest argument to hand
slips from our grip
as soon as we apply it

those nuclear option either-ors
positing only one correct answer
can’t stand multiple responses

bringing G*D or Satan or Nature
too soon to an investigation
hides the deeper presence of each

we set G*D against G*D in details
are too broad in applying Satan
blind ourselves to Nature’s multiplicity

our easiest attack our anger
doesn’t convince everyone to follow
all that’s left is our basest power

Matthew and Luke record this same series, but end with a question rather than a statement—“How then can Satan’s reign endure?

It is for this same reason that literalistic leaning expressions of faith are so hell-bent on uniformity of belief. If there is a chink in the armor of dogma, creed, or jot/tittle of scripture, then all is lost. This everything or nothing approach appeals to a top-down authority system.

Mark’s Jesus’ visits to the wilderness have acquainted him with all manner of tests beyond the three Matthew and Luke identify. In this it is understood that there is no literal temple or tower that can stand without eventually falling or turning into babble.

This makes it easier for Mark to simply make a statement that is very much in keeping with the Hebraic understanding of Satan as a servant of YHWH—always and already “done for”.

A distinction between rhetorical question and statement is one that comes around in every generation. How far do we sense that we can go when it come to announcing a message beyond the demonic?

Salmon Rushdie had a conspiracy raised against him for the publication of Satanic Verses. Jesus had a conspiracy raised against him for these sorts of satiric verses that poke fun at trying to figure out reasons and rationales to hold the present moment in stasis.

Relief from wilderness captivity by disease or demon or any other category our fertile minds conjure is release. Jesus’ focus seems to be on a return to health of body, mind, and community, not the assigning of blame. [Note: this is not anti-science or knowledge—when something can be done, waiting to assess a cause is for another time.]

Mark 3:25

and when a household is divided against itself, it will not be able to last.

load bearing walls
carry removal consequences

simple houses are clear
remove a certain wall and all collapses

those which have lasted a while
cannot easily tell essentials any more

historians and structural architects
are called to put their skills to use

is this plank in a creed now needed
what about the whole of the doctrine

a beautiful wall covering
claiming structural authority

confuses DIYs and professionals
about options helpful and disastrous

who can tell truth from falsehood
asks cummings’ Santa Claus

to which comes our fatal flaw
saying more than we know

with load bearing language suspect
all falls down

In good Hebraic fashion the effect of a divided land is put in parallel—kingdom and house.

Myers sees Mark’s use of these terms, here and elsewhere, to turn the tables. “Kingdom” is equated with a centralized state and “House” or Temple its symbolic center.

This far removed from the debate means we need to engage our imaginations to begin getting a better flavor of the vigor of the argument. This is not just a fine point being made, but a broad stroke aimed to take off a head.

If we were present at the time we may have heard in the original complaint that Jesus was taking orders from Beelzebul. That title can be seen as “Baal-zebul”, a Canaanite deity translatable as “Lord of the House”.

Again we have come around from an accusation playing on an image of a “house” to moving toward a response both dividing that house and re-assigning it to the defendant, Jesus. This rapid-fire response builds through parallel referents as though it were a flash flood washing away all in its path.

First, division is not being is at stake here, but a reordering of all.

Second, a kingdom divided is now or soon will be at civil war.

Third, a house empty on the inside will fall down.

Mark 3:24

When a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot last;

o confusing satan
what a brilliant
simple strategy
get a word
to fight itself
meaning this and that
until fist finds nose
and we can’t go home again
a little mix-up here
a small misusage there
sibboleths and shibboleths
of their own design
a backward hat or tiara
signs without words
all get in the act
yes quite brilliant
justified rightness
so easily exploited
so many mini-explosions
teeter relatives
totter nations
until common good
whimpers away

Suppose that the leader of a nation, even a nation of apprentice demons such as Wormwood, would collude against its military arm.

In such a kingdom, this traitorous act would bring about a civil war as demons desire presence as much as you or I. No one wants to simply be cannon-fodder.

This point is one made long ago with writing on a wall (Daniel 5). Daniel dealt with a divided kingdom. Here the allusion comes around as more than a one-to-one rebuttal, but is deep irony.

The words on the wall—MENE, TEKEL, PARES—means your days have been numbered, your significance come up short, and you are divided.

Philip Carrington, According to Mark: A Running Commentary on the Oldest Gospel, states “pharsin [pares] means ‘divided’, and is identical with the word Pharisee, the ‘separated’ sect.” He follows this with two questions you may hear under Jesus’ response to the Pharisee Investigation Team from occupied Jerusalem: “Has Satan’s kingdom gone ‘Pharisee’? Is the writing on the wall?”

This is word-play with a vengeance. A nice, quiet parable this is not. When listening in to Mark, the urgency felt is of life-and-death quality. Whether doing good and receiving a conspiracy or gathering internal leadership that contains a betrayer, paying attention to the little things begins to reveal significant considerations: where is a good message grounded? What resistance will it face? How best can it be implemented in a trickster or adversarial setting?

Mark 3:23

So Jesus called them to him, and answered them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan?

when backed into a corner
it is always good to have
a storyteller on your side
for mute facts and figures
are ripe props for ventriloquists

a prayer has it easy
a quickie to St. Jude will do
after all god’s in charge
bring attention to a need
and leave it in good hands

but a storyteller o a storyteller
I wouldn’t want to be one
has to dive into their wilderness
of more stories than prayers
to find which fits the crime

is it a riddle this time
a shaggy dog tale
an ancient myth recast
what vehicle could possibly carry
my heart within your heart

Parables come with explanations and without. There is a tendency for them to be presented as though a lawyer were using them during a trial.

It is important to not simply take them as tales or morality plays, but as organizing principles.

The accusation has been made in the public arena: Jesus can deal with demons because he is a confidant of the chief demon.

This is not a matter that can be volleyed back and forth among surrogates but needs a face-to-face encounter. So those who are accused need to find a debate forum where this can be dealt with. Jesus calls people, including his accusers, together to make his case.

Ched Myers says, “Parables were understood in Jewish tradition as metaphorical stories with thinly veiled political meanings (see Numbers 24; Ezekiel 17)”. Piece by piece Jesus will begin constructing a political response to a political accusation.

“You have been heard to say that I cast out demons because I have demonic power. This cannot hold together without explaining how it is that a Screwtape by any name can do a good that would undermine its basic mission to foul life up. So, in your own words, how does a Satan destroy a Satan?”

Here you might begin to hear a variety of responses. To each one a persistent reply can be made: “The question is, ‘How does a Satan destroy a Satan?’.

This is but prelude to a cascade of observations that will become a key metaphor of Jesus work—assurance of abundance.

Mark 3:22

The teachers of the Law, who had come down from Jerusalem, said, “He has Beelzebul in him! He drives the demons out by the help of their chief.”

commitment signatures
a needed legal nicety
for a final solution

familial support broken
official arbiters engaged
it won’t be long

there’s always a diagnosis
devil is as devil does
an unbreakable tautology

Oops. Another quick shift that sandwiches in a related scene. This is a common Marcan technique, so always be ready for a story within a story.

Since Jesus’ larger family is Israel, this continues and expands an intra-family argument.

The House Un-Pharisaical Committee has sent a sub-committee to Capernaum to investigate extra-regular healings. This exacerbates the situation through accusation and provocation.

Jesus is out of his mind—possessed by the chief of the demons he is exorcising.

This accusation is not made once, but repeated and repeated as the concept of a Big Lie told over and over is as old as Eden. Just as in any other time of post-truth where anything can be made up without fear of challenge, life is about being the first to blame. In contemporary terms, Jesus is charged with having the mind of a terrorist for an amorphous terror is one that cannot be rationally rebutted.

In the polarized times of the late first century or here in the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is a typical power play to play one another off against the rest, weakening everyone. An early accusation to provoke a response of outrage is only too expected.

Without any notice we are back in the wilderness with a testing of a good message in a world for whom Jesus’ way is sheer insanity. Here only an authoritarian can oust an authoritarian, only political power will counter political power, and only a stronger military can defeat a strong military. While each of these are demonstratively false, they carry the weight of our fear experience to mean we will be one of the first to be destroyed unless we will excuse standing up for ourself or someone else with a claim that our use of power will put us in a better position to be kind later.

In the introduction of official investigators with an agenda that will justify their presence, we see a key element to making change—telling a better story by taking such entrenchment quite lightly.

Mark 3:21

When his relatives heard of it, they went to take charge of him, for they said that he was out of his mind.

sometimes a family runs away
from one who cannot be explained

such a secret always weighs
awaiting inopportune revealment

until the only choice is to run nearer
to attempt an intervention

from both sides crazy is untenable
no wonder murder and suicide abound

“Those along with him” can connote “followers”, “friends”, or “family” come to seize Jesus. This sounds very much like where we left things on the mountain—with Judas who would betray.

Such betrayal comes along when one controversy too many arises for our comfort. This is an everyday betrayal that stands right up there with an extra-special betrayal into the hands of an enemy. It can show up with singular or repeated denials of affirmation, association, or support. Just a little argument about position with someone else within the ranks can also turn out to betray a good message we would otherwise ally ourselves with.

When we are out of arguments to support our desire to have things and others go our way, one of the first logical fallacies we fall back on is argumentum ad hominum, making the other into a straw-man or caricature and debating against this illusive someone rather than consider our own greed. American politics has devolved to this state as its standard.

We know all about comment trolls and if we have not been one, we have received messages from one or many more.

A clearer message here is not that “he’s out of his mind” but that “he’s not in our mind”. We see what we see and claim it as the best way to look at a situation. Were we to look back at the track record of our claim to insight and wisdom, we would, hopefully, be a bit more circumspect and humble.

Lines are being drawn within the followers and families of Jesus, following the explicit beginning of a conspiracy to rig things against him by the religious and political leaders a mere fifteen verses prior.

Whether people are concerned about Jesus not having time to eat or with the style of his messaging, we are well into an inappropriate response of power (cultural) to power (individual).

Mark 3:20

Jesus went into a house; and again a crowd collected, so that they were not even able to eat their food.

every house
carries a wilderness
under its slate
or roof of fronds
exorcism and blessing
a daily need

a nightly dream
lingers through the day
a tired response
forgotten thank you
a guest or party

in some room
another encounter
with too much or
not the right enough
scarcity can be dealt with
but o that abundance

one healing
or seventy
sets a center
disrupting stasis
circling outward
to an emperor

We have quickly changed locale from lake to mountain to a house. Surrounded by a great cloud of need, the gathering of an inner-circle comes back down the mountain to find the never-ending work as present as ever.

When a crowd “again” (palin) gathers it gives opportunity to reflect on what has happened every other time a crowd gathered around Jesus and those who responded to his call to follow.

Not only is there no rest for the weary, the wearying task is ever the more wearying with a lack of time to breathe quietly or eat leisurely or converse convivially. There is only a proto-Protestant Work Ethic to attend to.

There is a sense in which we are in a Groundhog Day cycle of repeating the same old pattern.

“House” and “Crowd” can act as a relief for each other. A house is simply not zoned for business. The scale of intent and lack of resource is too large to overcome. A house is a suitable setting for hospitality and clarifying relationship, though there is nothing automatic about a setting and a result.

Though the energy seems to be with the crowd, the arc of Mark’s announcement continues on with questions about house and home. The crowd will become a witness, not an initiator of action.

Some leadership issues have been dealt with on the mountain—who is the Rock and who the Betrayer. We are about to further clarify family/communal relations in a house—what breaks us apart and where is our solidarity located.