Scripture Reading                            
Jesus came with his disciples into the house.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, 
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
(Mark 3:20-21)


Scripture Study

3:20 One of Mark’s signature techniques is to “sandwich” one story inside another so that each sheds light on the other. In this case, he arranges the three scenes in vv. 20–35 into one block of material. In the first and the third units Jesus is misunderstood by his own family; the second (vv. 22–30) involves a far more serious charge from the religious authorities.

After the appointment of the Twelve, Jesus comes home to the house of Peter and Andrew at Capernaum, which he had made his home base (1:29; 2:1). This time the press of people is so great that Jesus and his disciples find it impossible to care for their own needs, even to eat (as will happen again in 6:31; 8:1).

3:21 To understand the reaction of Jesus’ relatives, it is important to recognize what family bonds meant in the social context of the time. For the ancient Jews, as for many non-Western cultures today, an individual existed only as part of an extended family unit, whose authority structure, obligations, and customs governed every aspect of life. Any action by an individual was a reflection on the whole family, and any breach of family honor would usually meet with severe discipline. Since Jesus’ foster father Joseph was presumably no longer alive (see 3:31), Jesus’ uncles and senior cousins would have considered him under their charge and answerable to them for his conduct.

Hearing of all the commotion surrounding him, these relatives feel duty bound to set out, probably from his native village of Nazareth twenty miles away, to seize him—the same verb used later for his arrest (14:46). From their perspective, Jesus ought to be back home making tables and chairs instead of attracting throngs of sick and demon-possessed people, not to mention arousing the hostility of the religious leaders. Their action was probably motivated in part by a desire to protect him. For they said is better translated “for people were saying” (RSV), since the subject is left vague. Word was getting around that Jesus was out of his mind (or “beside himself,” RSV), meaning that his wonder-working activity seemed evidence of mental imbalance. Since mental illness was often associated with demonic influence (John 10:20), these suspicions could be seen as a lesser version of the charge leveled by the scribes in the next episode.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel, relatives of Jesus claim that he is mad, and scribes blaspheme him, charging that he is possessed by Beelzebul. You know, in cases like this, the basic problem is always the fearful ego. Ego-addicts know that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you want to protect the ego and its prerogatives, you must oppress and demoralize those around you.

There is a very unsubtle version of this method: you attack, put down, insult, undermine those around you. This is the method of the bully. But the religious version is much subtler and thus more insidious and dangerous. It takes the law itself—especially the moral law—and uses it to accuse and oppress. “I know what’s right and wrong; I know what the Church expects of us; and I know that you are not living up to it.”

And so I accuse you; I gossip about you; I remind you of your inadequacy. Mind you, this is not to condemn the legitimate exercise of fraternal correction or the office of preaching. But it’s to be sucked into the slavery of ego addiction. We must stay alert to this and avoid it at all costs.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.



[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 74–75.