Good morning. Let's get right to work this morning as we continue looking into the Gospel of Mark. I'm not necessarily going verse by verse, nor chapter by chapter in dealing with this Gospel. Today, I want to explore some of the important topics in this gospel. The first topic: Women. How does this gospel portray women? Oh I know how some denominations view women and their roles in the kingdom. We will deal with this a lot when we get to the letters of the Apostle Paul. But what about women in the gospel of Mark?
"Simon mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. Se he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them." (Mark 1:30-31)
Matthew offers the same account as Mark, with the only difference being that she was said to have served him (Jesus) while in Mark she served them. I think this is a big deal in Mark. Why? Well, because of an underlying theme in the Gospel. Later we hear Jesus say to the disciples: "...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..." (Mark 10: 43-45) I said in while looking at this account in Matthew that the Greek word from which we get our word serve is "diakanos" which is the word we get our word deacon, or deaconess. A deacon in the United Methodist tradition (I can't speak for other denominations) is one who is called to serve.
So, we have discovered that Peter's mother-in-law served Jesus and the disciples. The Son of Man (Jesus) came to serve, and we also find that the angels served Jesus: "At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels attended (served/ministered to) him." (Mark: 12-13) So, in Mark the women, Jesus and the angels are placed in the same category. They understand the call to serve, while the disciples don't. The disciples are jockeying for position within the kingdom of God.
What else does Mark say about women? In chapter seven, verses twenty-four through thirty Jesus encounters a Gentile woman. Her daughter was possessed by an evil spirit. We are told that "she begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter." (Mark 7:26) Well, this is one of those problematic passages where it is difficult to accept what Jesus is saying. He calls the woman and her daughter dogs. Yes, he does indeed: "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." (Mark 7:27b) Jesus, of course is referring to the Jews as being the children. He came for the house of Israel. Well, this mother is portrayed as persistent. She even argues with Jesus until he heals her daughter.
Jesus defends a woman who anoints him with expensive perfume in Chapter fourteen. In fact, Jesus basically tells the disciples that she has much better insight than the disciples do. We even discover that there were many women who had followed Jesus and served him. (Mark 15:40-41) In Mark's gospel women are portrayed favorably.
Then there is another topic to look at. This is the matter of Insiders verses Outsiders. "Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, 'Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.' 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.'" (Mark 3:31-35) This is another strange saying from Jesus. In this passage the family becomes the outsiders while the outsiders become the insiders. The roles are reversed. Jesus redefines who his family members are. His family members are those who obey God, and those who follow him.
Of course we know that Jesus called the twelve disciples. Even within the group of disciples there seems to be an inner circle. But, the call to be a disciple came with a cost. The invitation "Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men," (Mark 1:17) really was another way of saying "follow me or stay put!" To follow Jesus meant leaving behind everything, including one's own family. It cost them something to be an insider.
Well, I invite you to join me next time as we continue looking at the Gospel of Mark. -Pastor Rick