The Gospel of Mark is at this point only 3 chapters into the story but already there are forces trying to destroy Jesus. Harrodians and Pharisees have decided to destroy him. Maybe not by killing him though that option is open. No, they have decided to discredit and marginalize him. “By the prince of demons he drives out demons,” is meant as an announcement to everyone else that he is to be shunned.
Modern day politics does much the same thing these days. It is not as important to have a good platform of ones own as it is to have a good way to make the electorate think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the other candidate that makes voting for the opponent an act of insanity and a vote for oneself the only sane response to save a nation under assault from the self evident evil of the opponent.
Jesus is not alone anymore by this time in the story. He has a faction of 12 followers but what use will they be against a system of Pharisees and courtiers of a brutal king? His family is showing up as well to collect him. They know that they themselves have to continue to function in this society. It is safer for them to tell everyone that he is crazy and take him home where he will be considered the town fool until his death. (Pilch) On the other hand, both family and Jesus would be protected from harsher consequences like having neighbors refuse to cooperate with them or killing Jesus outright.
It is no wonder that Jesus must now make a defense of himself against just about everyone. Pitch outlines his defense strategy: Jesus points out that if he is reclaiming souls from the evil one then he must be the enemy of the evil one. The poor ones healed are benefitted by Jesus ministry and Satan is diminished — he is being “bound,” and can do nothing about Jesus robbing him of those his minion are possessing. Therefore Jesus must be one who is or is serving the one more powerful than Satan. Is God more powerful than the fallen angel of light or not? To say that God is not more powerful insults God. To say that is to separate oneself from God. Not only that, saying that the good done by Jesus is not done by God but by the evil one deepens the blasphemy committed because it calls good evil. So Jesus is really explaining how the authorities are the ones guilty of blasphemy.
They have already charged that he is blaspheming in 2:7 when Jesus forgave the paralytic’s sin. But, so goes the reasoning, if Jesus is doing the will of the Father by plundering the house of the evil one then he is speaking for God and the absolution is valid. To deny that he speaks for God is to deny ones own absolution and separate oneself from God permanently.
I was leaning against my car looking up. I had pulled off highway 2 somewhere between Williston and Minot. It was June. No one was on highway 2 right about then as is often the case west of Minot where not too many have reason to roam, even in June. The sky was not entirely dark yet, even though it was well after 10PM. It is North Dakota where such is the norm. I was leaning against the car gazing into the sky. Why? A Long story:
June is the month for the northern lights to appear in the northern skies. Aurora Borealis is God’s reward for those who are crazy enough to live in Nodak. Yes, God rewards the geographically insane. From October until well into May the winter coats hardly ever come off North Dakotans’ backs unless you find yourself on a rare day in late December or early January and it is 40 degrees outside. Yes, that happens and those 40 degree moments signal only one thing: A blizzard will be here in a few hours and the temperature will plummet 60 degrees in 4 hours and the wind will drive the snow hard and pack it in drifts as hard as concrete. Enjoy the warmth, shovel the parts of the driveway you have neglected because it was too cold to finish the job right last week, and then go inside and stay there.
Yes, the Northern Lights are God’s reward for norse nutcases for living in insane climates like that. June, July, and August are the greatest months on earth in North Dakota but they have little competition from the other months. September will bring the first hard frost and snow, sometimes as early as Labor Day. September is strange dance between warmth, harvest and life and frost and a cold reminiscent of the grave, as if to say: “I am a parable of life. I give and I take. Rejoice, the Mosquitoes are dead. I did that for you. You are welcome.“
Anyway, I was leaning against my little white car. Yes, I was living in snowbound, snow blown North Dakota with a snow white car. Sometimes I question if I did not make many decisions in life under the influence of a low-grade fever.
I was leaning against the side of the car and gazing up at heaven where the Aurora Borealis was filling the sky in subtle movements that seemed to be a ballet set to the subtle music of a quiet organ played in a secluded chapel.
The Northern Lights are somewhat hypnotic. North Dakotans will spend June nights in the yard on good watching days, lying on their backs in the grass — covered in bug repellent — and staring at the sky. Sounds nuts but then nuts is what it takes to live there.
I was staring up at the lights looking for peace. I had not pulled over for the lights. I had pulled over because I needed to think and not drive and the northern lights had just been there and captured my attention.
I was looking for peace that night. Jesus had died, had been buried, had laid in the cold tomb for three days, but was raised by the grace of the Father to meet his own and to ascend so as to intercede for his own and to grant them all the gifts needed, any gift needed, to do everything merciful and life giving here on earth that they could imagine. Jesus had suffered all that and made that promise and all he got in return was us. Yes, I had been on my way home from a synod assembly. I had spent two days talking church with the rest of the synod and I was truly wondering if Jesus was crazy.
The sky lit up as if the unheard song had intensified and the dancer, the light, was responding with grander movements. A graceful green curtain magically crossed the sky west to east in meandering waves.
Was Jesus nuts? He left us here to get things done? Have you met us?
The story goes that rescuers arrived at a deserted island on which was a single marooned man. They led him to their boat. On the way to the shore, he made them stop at the church he had built for himself to give thanks for his rescue. As they were casting off one of the rescuers noticed that there was a second little church building that seemed to be peeking through the jungle down the shore. “What is that” he asked. The marooned man replied: “Oh, that is the church I USED to go to.”
Is Jesus insane? We are his plan to reconcile the world to the Father? Have you met us?
The Aurora Borealis was bending in on itself in large flowing swoops. Bows filled the sky. The natives say that if you whistle a random tune, the lights will follow your song. A crazy thought but as soon as someone tells you that story, you will try it the next time you see the lights. But then somehow, though it is in the eye of the beholder, it works. Maybe it is a matter of watching the lights dance and subconsciously catching the groove, and the two become one.
Here it is, the church. Was Jesus wrong to give us the mission of reconciliation? The task of mending the bent parts of a creation gone off rail? One of us, I realized for sure gazing up at the North Dakotan sky in June, was insane: Jesus or us.
I began to pray that it be us and not Him. “I am not the one who is whistling at the Northern Lights thinking they’ll dance to your tune,” was God’s answer.