As we transition into the summer months of Ordinary Time, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Binding The Strong Man, Ched Myers’ extraordinary political reading of Mark’s Gospel. Each Sunday, we will post excerpts from Myers’ comments on the lectionary reading of the day. Today’s passage is Mark 3:20-35, the episode in which the book is named after.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. (Mark 3:27)
Mark has come clean: Jesus (a.k.a. “the stronger one” heralded by John, 1:8) intends to overthrow the reign of the strong man (a.k.a. the scribal establishment represented by the demon of 1:24). In this parable the oracle of Second Isaiah lives again: Yahweh is making good on the promise to liberate the “prey of the strong (LXX, ischuontos) and rescue the captives of the tyrants” (Is 49:24f). Imperial hermeneutics, ever on the side of law and order, will of course find this interpretation of the strong man parable strained, offensive, shocking. Yet Mark drew the image of breaking and entering from the most enduring of the primitive Christian eschatological traditions: the Lord’s advent as a thief in the night (Mt 24:43 par; I Thes 5:2; 2 Pt 3:10; Rev 3:3, 16:15).
As if to underscore the seriousness of what he has just said, Jesus concludes with a solemn “Amen” saying (3:28). He now deals the final blow to the debt code: blanket pardon. But there is one exception: mistaking the work of the Holy Spirit for that of Satan. As Juan Luis Segundo puts it:
The blasphemy resulting from bad apologetics will always be pardonable…What is not pardonable is using theology to turn real human liberation into something odious. The real sin against the Holy Spirit is refusing to recognize, with “theological” joy, some concrete liberation that is taking place before one’s very eyes.
This is what the scribal class cannot “see.” Thus by the close of his defense, Jesus has turned the tables completely upon his opponents: it is they who are aligned against God’s purposes. To be captive to the way things are, to resist criticism and change, to brutally suppress efforts at humanization–is to be bypassed by the grace of God.