Mark 6:3

Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters, too, living here among us?” This proved a hindrance to their believing in him;

political campaigns innuendo filled
child’s play compared to G*D debates
a thousand paper cuts are employed
because we’re too nice to kill outright

every war advantage applied to love
reveals well-practiced generals
killing softly with well-honed expectations
beyond which angels fear to tread

sophisticated bullies never lift a hand
wedded to a support system
gives license to sweetly abuse
psychically stonily publically privately

Mention of family brings to mind a previous reference in 4:31–35 wherein Jesus redefines family away from tribal blood. One rejection leads to a next.

If Jesus is going to redefine who his “family” is, it soon comes to a time when his previous life can, in turn, be rejected by an extended family or hometown.

The avoidance of rejection is not a reason to avoid the difficult work of understanding where one is grounded: by what characteristics will I be known?

Some details to attend to here include:

  • Mark begins with Baptism, not Birth. Mark cannot be appealed to as a reference to a much later tradition of Virgin Birth.
  • Lists of family members are as difficult as lists of disciples. Linguistically, “brother” can be a generic term that includes cousins or extended tribal members. Is the addition of “younger” in Mark 15:40 a second James? In that same verse is Salome the only named sister or is this a different Mary? What about Matthew 13:55 that adds Joseph and does not mention Joses, Judas, or Simon?
  • “Carpenter” is too loose a translation of τέκτων (tektōn, builder) which indicates a skilled craftsperson a notch above an ordinary carpenter.
  • In a patriarchal society to call someone by their mother’s name and not their father’s is a common insult form that has come down to us in the form of, “Your mother is ….”

Mark 6:2

When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue; and the people, as they listened, were deeply impressed. “Where did he get this?” they said, “and what is this wisdom that has been given him? And these miracles which he is doing?

questions carry
tentative ideas
further questions
raise suspicions

rather than attend
count ceiling tiles
note character flaws
pass a note

sacred teaching space
time stands still
sculpting repeated lives
allowing no mutation

beginning wonders
permit quenching
active danger
wrapped responses

When the next Sabbath comes around, Jesus is “teaching” in a place where faithful descendants of Israel (G*D Wrestler) honor one another with honest responses to the impact and importance of his teaching.

The journey thus far has included several synagogue scenes with disputes with the Scribes and Pharisees (people of the rules) and now we are facing an intersection between Jesus and regular synagogue attendees.

Things seem to be going well for our hometown boy. The phrases that are both question and exclamation seemingly burst forth in all their positive and negative tones of voice.

“What kind of thinking is this?”

“This is Wisdom!”

“How accomplished!”

The adulation and dismay of all the crowds encountered come together in the special caldron of home territory. This is the third engagement with a synagogue. As in all good fairy tales the third time is where the change happens. This will be the last time Mark reports Jesus in a synagogue

For the moment things seem to be going swimmingly. Jesus’ healing fame has preceded him. His telling the story of Creation continuing to be present and changes needed to keep up with a Living G*D was captivating. It engaged the whole life of individuals and the community. There is something for every-one and everyone to be working on. For some this is energizing; for some this is enervating. Some were honored by his presence and words; some were shamed by both.

Attend to this turning point and learning from it. There will be more decision points built on past scenes and preparing for a next.

Mark 6:1

On leaving that place, Jesus, followed by his disciples, went to his own part of the country.

brokenness takes its toll
if you are the broken
if you are the repairer
both and each
carry residual effects

home has its appeal
comfort food
flowing through the body
carrying caring kisses everywhere
enough and more
releasing free breaths

home carries old tapes
injured siblings discounted self
disappointed parent lost best friends
scrapes and scares
reenacted without release

hometown as wilderness
horror multiplied
center of frozen fantasies
forgiveness forever needed
wonder and fear
approached ambiguously

A hometown can be a wilderness place where there is a temptation to fall back into old familial patterns, taking your place in the family pecking order. Home is also a place of retreat and further formation after a most busy time of intense scenes of healing. This is a time of particular tension following 3:21, 31–35 where Jesus redefines family.

Note that the Greek might better be translated as the disciples coming along with Jesus rather than the call language of following.

Here is Swanson on home and coming of age:

European Americans expect that one comes of age by leaving home and journeying off to adventure, hence the drive to “go away” to college. For Lakota young people, they come of age by growing up among their family, their parents and grandparents, to be sure, but even more so their aunties and other relatives who have known them long enough not to be fooled by anything. In the scene in Jesus’ hometown, European Americans hear Jesus pushing against exactly the force they themselves had to fight in order to become a person of integrity, an adult. Native Americans hear something else. They hear Jesus resisting those people who have the right and responsibility to remind him that they know his brothers and sisters, and that they knew his parents when they were his age as well. This string of small scenes in Mark’s story plays better, and more truthfully, if the hometown people are played the way Lakota culture would understand them.

Mark 5:43

but Jesus repeatedly cautioned them not to let anyone know of it, and told them to give her something to eat.

it is enough that it happened
to know a magician’s simple how
is best kept under wraps
so mums the word

she walks it happened
this much is undeniable
more would be TMI

the practicalities of life happen
ground us in a next best choice

feed this potential mother-in-law

We have previously heard injunctions to not tell about a dramatic change in life. Between the last such charge in 3:12 addressed to “demons” identifying Jesus as “G*D’s Partner” and before that, in 1:44, to a person whose flesh was cleansed, there have been two recent times when a command to silence did not happen—the Geresene in 5:19 is instructed to tell his own people and the Hemorrhaging Woman in 5:34 is simply sent off with a blessing.

LaVerdiere140-141 suggests that context (spiritual maturity?) of the person healed is the deciding factor in keeping their story quiet.

The skin-diseased man dared Jesus for a healing and a healing qua healing came. There is not a good way to tell this story without saying more than can be claimed.

The demons were upset about their being silenced and were revealing relationships before their time was ripe. This leads to questions for which there is no good response and subsequent confusion.

Here a faithful synagogue leader will be put in an untenable position should he speak favorably about his daughter’s healing. He won’t have the required two witnesses (only a spouse).

On the other hand, the Geresene desired to follow Jesus (to learn more) and is instructed to set up next visits to the Decapolis by telling his story. He had a call to meet and silence would not facilitate it.

The Hemorrhaging Woman started with faith that a healing could be accomplished and quietly claimed it without publicly daring Jesus. To “Go in peace” is different than leaving in silence.

Today there are still those who claim more than is helpful to say about Jesus and Church and those who don’t say what they do know. This is a question of discernment for any claiming to be Christian for it affects ecclesiology, discipleship, and missional extension.

Mark 5:42

The little girl stood up at once, and began to walk about; for she was twelve years old. And, as soon as they saw it, they were overwhelmed with amazement;

she walks around dazed
as uncertain as new sight
confused about people and trees

a sleepwalker pleases us nonetheless
even as any between-state scares us
better than a zombie but still disturbing

amazement at a moment of quickening
hopes and fears jostle with one another
until one mostly settles into our life

one such occurrence can last a lifetime
what are we to do with so many surprises
coming our way overwhelming our day

This verse is doubly Markan with two, count them, two “euthys” (immediatelies). To return to Swanson’s translation: “BANG the little girl rose and walked around (she was, after all, twelve years old). BANG: ecstasy beyond ecstasy.”

The girl (or, depening on perspective, young woman) had been invited to rise. In less than a heartbeat, she rose.

With a healing claimed or grabbed by an older woman and requested on behalf of a young woman we are reminded that there are no formulas for healing. Is healing connected with the faith of the person in need of a healing, the need of a community for a tangible sign in their midst, the loosing of power on its own terms, or just because. Whatever the circumstance it seems clear that magical words in another language is not at the heart of healing. Sometimes just a declaration (“Take up your mat.”) or the gentle taking of a hand while softly crooning a lullaby will do—

O little one, precious young one, we bid you rise.
Come back to us from dreams afar, we bid you rise.
Join in this song sung just for you, we bid you rise.
Help us extend this song to all, we bid you rise.

When this daughter rose (to dance?), those present are described as amazed, astonished, overjoyed, shocked, or surprised. Merriam-Webster gives a derivation of the Greek ἔκστασις (ekstasis): “from existanai to derange, from ex- out + histanai to cause to stand”. With an invitation to rise accepted, “ecstasy” is a preferred descriptor here. Barnstone161 holds both, “They were amazed and in great ecstasy.”

Mark 5:41

Taking her hand, Jesus said to her, “Talitha, koum!” – which means ‘little girl, I am speaking to you – Rise!’

Tentative and provisional
A single life or all society
Learns to be on guard
In defense against unknown danger
That slouches in shadow almost here
Hand outstretched toward our heart
Asserting breath’s frailty word’s silence

Kindness is not protective or victorious
Of or over existential threats
Under a shroud of ever-increasing sleep
Merciful kindness invites us to dance

An unnamed woman reached out to touch Jesus. Jesus now reaches out to touch an unnamed girl. We find responses to calls and calls expecting a response. We are to hold our call and response lightly lest we get trapped in a bygone call or a compulsive response.

These two are related to one another in a larger rhythm of ministry. Myers puts it well:

The healing journey must, however, take a necessary detour that stops to listen to the pain of the crowd. Only when the outcast woman is restored to true “daughterhood” can the daughter of the synagogue be restored to true life. That is the faith the privileged must learn from the poor.

Touch is basic ministry, even more basic than conversation. Touch connects and raises partners who had not previously seen one another in this fashion. Touch is basic from G*D working clay to what it means to fish for people.

In Mark the result of touch is an arising, a great getting up moment (ἐγείρω, egeirō, arise!). This same word is used with Simon’s mother-in-law (1:31), a paralytic (2:11,12), and Jesus after death for teaching the good news of change in hearts and lives through partnered mercy (14:28; 16:6).

If arising does not happen, it may well be that our touch was more about ourself than another. This is a time to revisit a wilderness retreat with a question about our own privilege and blindness to the depth of need of the poor and dispossessed.

Try using Mark’s Aramaic and Hebrew words to make a poem: Boanerges (Thunder, 3:17); talitha koum (arise, 4:41); corban (gift, 7:11), Ephaphatha (open, 7:34); Hosanna (save now, 11:9); Abba (daddy, 14:36); Golgotha (Skull Place, 15:22); Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani (My G*D, my G*D, why have you left me, 15:34).

Mark 5:40

They began to laugh at him; but he sent them all out, and then, with the child’s father and mother and his companions, went into the room where she was lying.

we shake our heads in derision
at those so out of touch with reality
they are not worth a superior chuckle
we would laugh them out of town
if this were a laughing matter

when responded to in such a manner
there is no pushing an argument further
sides will only harden positions
needed is a waiting a demonstration
revelation’s own sweet time

a strategic huddle and retreat
is missed by closed eyes and ears
as a shift from impasse to direct action
builds quietly underground off stage
to surprise as retreat whirls to charge

In the laughing, ridiculing, jeering, scorning we find a clue to the connections between the synoptic gospels. The word κατεγέλων (kategelōn) is only found three times in the whole of the official Christian scriptures. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this same word at the same place in the story of Jairus’ daughter.

I still remember being laughed at and expect that such an experience is close to the top of most people’s memories and is easily joggable.

When derision can’t be dismissed it can become accepted and used as an inside word of identity by one member to another, but woe to the one from the outside who uses it. It can also become a badge of pride as followers of John Wesley turned the word “Methodist” from a slur to an affirmation. We might even remember that it was after Stephen’s stoning that we first hear about Antioch where the use of “Christian” is first noted in the bible. Josephus nearly dismisses Jesus’ followers, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man…. the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII 3:3).

Here the tables are turned. The one laughed at, banishes those who jeered at him and continues on his way.

This moment is a failure, as there was no reason to have others leave if there is a separate room to enter to complete his task. Such escalation or payback is all too easy for us to identify with and to have to later repent. Recent American leaders have acted this way.

This moment is also a triumph. No matter the resistance, when something is needed we don’t let petty laughter get in the way.

Mark 5:39

“Why this confusion and weeping?” he said on entering. “The little child is not dead; she is asleep.”

viewing circumstances differently
from those on the scene
seems strange to those on either side
how is it such contrary analyses
take root in lives
ignorance can be blamed
stupidity accounts for some
habits and practice enter in
hopes fears assumptions ever present

raising questions about other’s responses
raises hackles and defenses
already heightened emotional states
are inflamed by appeals to alternatives
sleep as death or death as sleep
works well in Metaphorland
when their Venn diagram comes apart
all the king’s men fail again
ever present relational fractures raise fists

Angels would fear to tread on the open wounds of the mourners. Yet, here is a bald statement of an alternative perspective: “Not dead; sleeping.”

From a reader’s position we can’t know whether Mark was asserting some special knowl­edge Jesus would have that she was not dead or theological claim that death does not have final dominion over her/our life. καθεύδει translates as “sleep”, no matter what sense Jesus meant.

Matthew (9:18) and Luke (8:53, 55) both indicate clearly that death has occurred. Mark is much more ambiguous.

Whether we are talking literal death or coma-like sleep, at issue is the good news measuring rod of being awake. This has overtone of Jewish prophets confronting rulers and societies. It also sounds a lot like further East traditions such as Buddhism where meditation and mindfulness are rigorous lest our monkey-minds blur our awareness and we sink into dozing and snoring.

To claim we are dealing with sleep masquerading as death is a minority report as “dead is dead” is familiar to us, no matter how we attempt to put it off through one technological trick or another. Even if we die while appearing healthy by all standard markers, we still are dead.

It may be that a part of becoming familiar with wilderness space is simply being able to ask, “What is all my internal commotion about? Will awakening to commotion’s presence assist in seeing through it? Does a reframing bring freedom or delusion?”

Mark 5:38

Presently they reached the leader’s house, where Jesus saw a scene of confusion – people weeping and wailing incessantly.

commotional chorus deafens eyes
too many pitches timbres times
block wisdom from every other sense
every accumulated wilderness scream
echoes in an empty shell of self
internal and external cacophonies burst forth

the worst seems truest
finding a new normal is missing in action
dread touches and then clamps on
dampening down any glimmer of otherwise
choices evaporate leaving toxic minerals
cries are louder than everything else

when every wrong only gets worse
our sense of conspiracy expands
weakening everything under the sun
turning mere vanity to hard rain
we wail and flail closed-eyed
our agreed upon reality blinds ears

In some cultures the appropriate response to death does not involve the more common response of wailing. The same is true for some people.

One reason given for a deep quiet at a time of death is to allow the passage of a spirit to move from this world to whatever is perceived as next, even if that next is a silence of its own.

In Jesus’ day, wailing would be expected. For the poorest funeral there would have been a minimum of two flutes and a wailer. This grieving would not have been among the poorest—a commotion is to be expected.

It is difficult to hold one’s trust level when the behaviors of those around are giving testimony to a contrary reality. Death must be true if there is this much expressed dismay. Do you see Jesus and Jairus continuing the “all will be well” mantra as they come to and enter a mourning space? Is Jesus still holding to this on behalf of those who can’t?

There would be no way to have a teaching at this point for the strongest parable would crumble in the face of such loss. If a story won’t have an impact, a rational discourse or even holding open the possibility of an alternative outcome would only inflame the situation.

The wilderness has invaded the city and, in particular, this house. Here there is temptation and yet unrecognized resources. Just because Jesus is here doesn’t mean that all the uncertainty generated by a wilderness isn’t powerfully present. And so we wail and wail.

Mark 5:37

And he allowed no one to accompany him, except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.

round up your Peter James John
your Mary another Mary Salome
it’s trust practicing time
wonder and witness is at hand

there are yet stadia to travel
before we are readied for sleep
along the way we’ll practice trust
undercutting surprise in the end

stories wrapped in stories
will prepare our eyes
for seeing more than light shows
to see what a word can reveal

Except for Peter, James, and John, the crowd is dismissed. The show is over; the girl is dead.

Well, Jairus and those from his household who brought the message about his daughter, are also in the remaining contingent.

Each reader will need to fill in this small lacuna in Mark’s fast-paced tale. What might they have talked about on the way? Or was there silence? Did they stride along or stumble their way?

As readers we are able to reflect beyond a literal jumping from scene to scene. We are not bound by author’s telling. In a sense there is no author’s tale until it is read and in every reading there is an alternative tale received. This partnership of author and reader is a part of the good news Mark is telling from the immediacy of his beginning to his abrupt ending.

As you have experienced the disappointments of life, what combination of silence and reflection assists you?

Here we might catch a glimpse of being eased into the mystery of trust. Jesus might be relating some of the woman’s story of her twelve years and asking the age of the daughter. “Twelve, you say.”

He might even go on to reflect, “Hmm, twelve years of bleeding and menopause was her healing. No more children from her. Then, as she was being healed, your twelve-year-old daughter died just as she was about to enter into her grand-child-bearing years.

“It must have taken quite a bit for you to have initially come to me to assist in her healing or it was another set-up to show me up as a charlatan. I’ve had to trust your heart was true to your daughter. I’m wondering if you still have your heart set on her more than on yourself. This is part of the mystery of your asking, the woman’s touching, a word from afar about death, and our walking in trust that all will be well again, all manner of things will be well. That’s a good line, let’s repeat it as we go. [Later] Can you feel your heart-trust changing?”