Joseph Francis Alward
In the book of Luke, the writer tells us that Mary knows that Jesus is the son of God, but the writer of the book of Mark makes it clear that Mary does not know Jesus is God, because she thinks her son is a misguided nutcase who needs to be taken care of. Either the first writer was mistaken, or the second one was, or both were; whichever is the case, the Bible is in error.
Here are the relevant verses:
In the sixth month, God sent the angel to...a virgin [named] Mary...and said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God....You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus...the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
He appointed twelve--designating them apostles--that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons....When his family [Jesus’ mother and brothers1] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." (Mark 3:14-21)
Abandon Family to Serve God
One of the more important themes of Mark’s gospel is the need to abandon family to serve the Lord. This teaching is articulated in Luke 14:26, where the writer has Jesus tell his followers,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
The first example of abandonment of family is found in Mark 1:19, where at Jesus’ invitation, John and James suddenly leave their father Zebedee to become his disciples. The next occurs when Jesus family arrives at the house in Mark 3:31-35 to take charge of him; rather than going outside to greet them, or inviting them inside, Jesus instead explains that his real family are his followers inside the house with him, the ones who do God’s will, not his unbelieving mother and brothers outside. With this act, Mark has Jesus practicing what Luke said Jesus preached: abandonment of family in order to serve God. Now we can better understand why Mark had Jesus’ mother and brothers reject Jesus' divinity earlier in Mark 3:21: It made it easier for the readers to accept Jesus’ rejection of his family waiting for him outside the house.
Rejection of Jesus by Those Who Knew Him Best
Rejection of Jesus by those who knew him best is another important theme in Mark’s gospel. It occurs first with his mother and brothers, who declared him “out of his mind,” and again three chapters later, when Jesus is rejected by the folks from his hometown. There, the townspeople mock him as a simple “carpenter” who pretends he can work miracles. (Mark 6:1-4) It occurs once again, of course, when one of Jesus’ disciples--someone who obviously doesn’t believe he’s the son of God--betrays him.
1. “Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived.” (Mark 3:31)
Notes added later:
Let me summarize my argument that Mark’s view of Jesus and his mother is different than Luke’s:
1. Luke begins his stories about Jesus by telling us that the virgin Mary was visited by God’s angel, Gabriel, who told her she would give birth to the son of God (Luke 1:34-35).
2. Mark begins his stories with an adult Jesus, and never has anything to say about Jesus’ birth. If he knew that Mary was told by God’s angel that Jesus was the son of God, he said nothing about it.
3. One of Mark’s themes is the abandonment of job and family to serve God. Jesus enticed two separate sets of brothers away from their families, and later set the example for others to follow, by himself abandoning his mother and brother. These events are recounted below:
The fishermen Simon and Andrew left their trade and, presumably, their family, to follow Jesus (Mark 1:16-18).
Later, James and John did the same thing, leaving their father behind (Mark 1:19-20).
After his mother and brothers had said that he was “out of his mind,” and appeared outside a house to “take charge of him (Mark 3:21),” Mark does not have Jesus invite her inside, nor does Mark have Jesus go outside to greet her. Instead, Mark has Jesus makes it clear to his followers inside the house that he does not regard the woman outside as his mother. He explains to his followers what his definition of a “mother” is: A “mother” is whoever does the will of God, (Mark 3:31-35), with the clear implication being that one who didn’t recognize Jesus as the son of God was obviously not in tune with the will of God.
Thus, Jesus effectively abandons his mother to serve God, thereby setting the example for the readers of Mark’s gospel to follow should their families, too, not believe that Jesus was the son of God. Thus, almost two thousand years before the practice of shunning of unbelieving family members was put into practice by Jehovah's Witnesses, the precedence for this behavior was established by Jesus himself.
4. Mark loves to use irony in telling his stories about Jesus. One of his ironies is the rejection of Jesus by those who knew him best. Surely, readers would expect that those closest to Jesus would be the first to recognize his divinity, but that was the opposite of what Mark has happen; therein lies the irony.
The first instance of rejection by those who knew him best is the one just described, in which Jesus’ mother and brothers declared him to be out of his mind and in need of care. It is obvious that if they knew he was God’s son, then they would have deferred to him Jesus. It is virtually absolutely clear that--according to Mark--Jesus’ mother and his brothers could not have known that he was the son of God. Mark’s readers knew about God saying that Jesus was his son (Mark 1:11), but his mother didn’t. More irony.
The failure of Mark’s Mary to recognize that Jesus was the son of God is totally at odds with Luke’s Mary, who knew even before Jesus’ birth that he was the son of God because God’s angel told her so. Thus, either Mark’s “Mary” is the false Mary, or else Luke’s is, or perhaps both are false Mary’s. Either way, the Bible is in error.
The next instance of rejection of Jesus by those who knew him best occurred in his hometown, where he was ridiculed by those who referred to him as a common carpenter, and one whose mother, sisters and brothers were ordinary townsfolk (Mark 6:3). How could a god be related to mortal and quite ordinary common folk? Mark’s readers knew that Jesus was God, but the people who rubbed shoulders with Jesus did not know. More irony.
The final rejection of Jesus by one of those who knew him best is the one best known to readers: Judas, who dipped his bread into the same bowl as Jesus did (Mark 14:18-20), betrayed him to the Romans.
Other irony by Mark include his tongue-in-cheek naming of the man chosen by the crowd: As it was customary at Feast time for a prisoner to be released, Mark had Pilate give the crowd a chance to release Jesus, who the readers know is the son of the Father in Heaven, but instead they choose to have released another man whose name means, “the son of the father”--Barabbas (Mark 15:1-15). Mark just loved inventing incidents which dripped with irony. But it was irony which he hoped would serve him well: the message to the readers of his gospel was, Don’t you be as foolish as those in the crowd.
Yet another contrived irony occurs when the mocking soldiers pretend to crown a “king” by putting a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, and calling him “king of the Jews.” Little did the foolish soldiers know that they actually were crowning the greatest king of all time.
It is very interesting that Mark has Jesus try to hide his divinity, but the reason for this is less Mark's tendency to embellish his stories with irony, and more for his need to have the readers believe that Jesus determined that his life live out that life which Mark believed was preordained for the savior written about in the scriptures. Repeatedly we find Mark having Jesus refer to those things which were "written" about what would happen to the son of God. When Mark has Jesus try to keep his identity a secret (cautioning those he healed to tell no one), Mark is having Jesus make sure that those who would reject him and kill him would have the opportunity to do so: if they found out he was God, they would love him, not kill him. But, that wasn't supposed to happen, according to Mark's view of the scriptures. Thus, Mark has Jesus talk in parables so that people who otherwise would be saved by his words of salvation, would not be saved (Mark 4:12). That's a pretty bizarre theology, but evidently Mark believed that God wanted some folks not to accept the word of God, so that they might perish.