These few verses of the gospel are linked to the debate that follows concerning the origin the Jesus’ authority specifically at this point to cast out demons. During Jesus’ time, there was thought to be a link between demonic possession and insanity. Often they were understood in similar ways and the terms could be interchanged. The result is that two groups of people, his relatives and the leaders of the Jewish people, speak about Jesus as insane and/or possessed by demons. Attributing a negative motive to Jesus’ positive actions will continue to arise as the gospel narrative progresses.
Why does Mark present a harsh treatment of the family of Jesus? We could gather the responses to this question into two basic groups which are a concern about leadership in the early Church and the cost of discipleship. Proposed is a leadership of the early Church heavily influenced by the family of Jesus (for example, his relative James) who supported the observance of the Torah and some Jewish practices which Mark and his community would not support. Alternatively, the description of the intention of Jesus’ family indicates the familial persecution which may arise when one commits to following Jesus. Positively, the Marcan community firmly believes that Jesus was vindicated by God who raised him from the dead. Therefore, enduring the persecutions are a consequence of discipleship, even when it is from family members. If the Christians follow Jesus’ example they will receive the same result. There is a clear intention to associate clearly the disciples with Jesus. Most translations harmonize the text. In the Greek text Jesus alone enters the house (He entered the house…). However, all of them did not have time to eat because they were caring for others (“they were not able to eat…).
In the call of the disciples, emphasized is the abandonment of a way of living as well as leaving one’s natural family in order to be a part of Jesus’ family. Today’s gospel immediately follows the verses about Jesus, in prayer, calling and naming the twelve. Jesus appoints them so “that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have the authority to drive out demons (3:14-15).” As they are empowered by Jesus for his mission, so too will they be treated as he has been treated. Persecution becomes a part of the identity of Jesus’ family because he himself suffered and endured it. Therefore, his disciples should not be surprised if they find themselves persecuted even by family members which is often a characteristic of the end time. As a matter of fact, Jesus tells his disciples of this possibility: “And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death… (13:12).”
The sternness of the presentation of Jesus’ relatives points to the familial persecution, which the Marcan community must have been undergoing due to its emphasis here. Perhaps, there is also the link between Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom of God and then calling this particular group of men together to be with him and carry on his mission. If this were the case, then we can almost here the relatives of Jesus saying, “Are going to do what? With these people?”