Although we finished Chapter 1 of Mark with a declaration that Jesus was going to head out for other parts to spread the good news of the kingdom of God, Chapter 2 takes us right back to Capernaum, and the house where Jesus has dinner in this story is called “home.” It’s probably Peter’s mother-in-law’s house again, although she is not named as being there. (Someone fixes dinner, though.) I looked this up, because my Greek is pretty minimal. “oikon” is the word, variously translated as “house,” or “in the house,” or “at home,” or just “home.”
It’s a strange contrast with the idea that the Son of God has nowhere to lay his head (see Matthew and Luke), this place so welcoming that even after the roof gets lifted in Chapter 2 will still be home for them in Chapter 3.
That’s a place I’ve tried to make for others in my life. The house in Portland where the kids and I lived for 14 years could withstand almost anything; indeed, it did. We made a new life, and played, and studied, and worked, and graduated, and grieved, and grew up and grew deeper, and suffered heartbreaks, and brought home new loves.
We gathered, and we regathered, and we went out to face the world again.
As for me and my house, I have a different one now, and the cast of characters has shifted, but the feeling is the same. We keep that lit-up tree in the window of the Manse, and it never fails to make me feel the … something … that lets me know I’m home.
What made that house in Capernaum the one where people said Jesus was “at home?” It’s more than just somebody else’s house, that seems certain, and yet it’s not what we think of sentimentally as home, either. It wasn’t a fortress or a retreat. He never wanted the former, and he had to escape to find the latter. It wasn’t a Cone of Silence, where it was safe to say whatever he wanted only to the people he trusted. I always picture people pressed against the windows, standing in the doorway, trying to listen from outside, crowded into whatever space might have been available in the room where he ate his meals.
Maybe what made it home was the same thing that made my home feel that way. Jesus and his friends gathered, and they regathered, and then they went out to face the world again.
Maybe Peter’s mother-in-law kept a lamp burning at the window.
Thank you, Holy One, for the places that are home to us. Amen.
Full disclosure: this is my favorite Bible story from childhood, so I worked hard to approach it from a different angle than I have in the past. I’ve written about it here – Jesus Will Mess You Up (one of my favorite sermons I’ve ever written – I hope I get to use it again someday) – and here – They Removed the Roof (a reflection on healing later woven into a sermon that was not one of my best, ahem).
I’m reading and blogging about Mark for Lent. Want to read along? I’m using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I am also referring to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible. Tomorrow I’ll be reading Mark 1:29-45. You can find the full schedule here, including links to earlier posts.