According to Mark: Act 1, Scene 3 (Beelzebul and the Exorcist)

Joel Michael Herbert
5 min readMay 14, 2024

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The next Shabbat, Y’shua once again was speaking at a synagogue, and there was a man with a withered hand in attendance. There were some there watching him closely, if he would perform a healing on the Sabbath day, so they might have some ammunition to use against him.

Y’shua said to the man with the withered hand, “rise and come forward, friend.” He pulled the man to his side, and asked the gathered assembly, pointedly directing his question to the group he knew opposed him, “is the Sabbath day a day for doing good, or for doing evil? For saving a life, or destroying one?”

When they stayed silent, Y’shua became angry, deeply troubled by their callous hearts in the face of suffering. He turned to the man and said simply, “stretch out your hand.” So he reached out his hand, and immediately it was restored, identical to the other. From there the party of the Perushim who had been looking for an opportunity against Y’shua left and took counsel with the spies of Herod Antipas against him as to how they might bring him to ruin.

Y’shua, for his part, retreated with his students to the Sea of Galilee. An extremely large crowd began to gather — not just from the area of Galilee, but also pilgrims from Judea, including from Jerusalem, from Idumea east of the Jordan, and even from the majority-Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon. Word had spread like wildfire about him, and people were flocking to the area to hear him teach and see for themselves what he was doing.

Overwhelmed, Y’shua instructed his cohort to prepare a boat for him, because the crowd was so unruly they were threatening to crush him. His healings had been shared far and wide, so all the ailing folks from the whole region, it seemed, were there, all of them desperate just to touch him. And anytime someone with various forms of madness would come into his presence, they would sometimes collapse at his feet and start wailing, or just as often rush toward him as if to attack him, always screaming, “you are the Son of the Holy One!” Each time, he would reprimand them harshly and command them not to say anything.

Finally, Y’shua was able to retreat to a mountaintop, bringing only those with him that he had recruited as devotees, sincere disciples who had shown a faithful heart toward the good tidings of the Divine Kingdom. He formed a group of twelve of them — these he also pronounced emissaries and messengers of the Divine Kingdom — to live and travel with him, to study Torah with him, and to be sent out as his own envoys, especially to help take some of the pressure off from those caught in deep madness that seemed to always find him.

He appointed The Twelve: Kepha (in Aramaic), or Petrus (in Greek), the name he had given to Shimon; Ya’akov and his brother Yohannan, the sons of Zebedee — he nicknamed these two Boa-Neyrges, meaning Thunder Brothers; Andreas, Philippos, and Nathanael called Bar-Tholomaios, all childhood friends from the village of Beth-Saida; Matteo and Tomas and Ya’akov, sons of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon “the Canaanite” (a Jewish nationalist political activist), and Yehuda Sicarius, the one who ultimately sold him out.

The next time Y’shua came back home, the crowds were so overwhelming that they couldn’t even sit down and eat a meal in peace. Some of his friends and family heard about this, so they came down to take charge of the situation, saying, “this is ridiculous! This is going to drive him insane!”

A group of scribes showed up from Jerusalem and were trying to undermine him with the crowds, saying, “the spirit he carries is a foul, loathsome one, not a Divine one!” and “the only reason he is able to drive out the evil madness is because he himself is evil and mad — the Prince of Darkness himself is controlling this man, that’s why his minions obey him!”

In response, Y’shua called everyone together and began to speak to them with stories, metaphors, and parables, “how is it even possible that the Accuser could drive out the Accuser? Remember the civil war between Augustus and Antony? Any kingdom divided against itself cannot possibly last! Or recall the Hasmonean infighting between House Hyrcanus and House Aristobulus that paved the way for Roman rule and that bastard Herod? A house divided cannot stand either! The same is true of the Accuser — if he starts fighting among his own forces, he is sure to quickly fall. Or which one of you is going to try to attack a fortified stronghold like the palace at Sepphoris and rob it? Not with the commander and soldiers running around! First you have to disable the defenses, then you can clean the place out.”

Then Y’shua turned toward the group of scribes, still eyeing him with contempt, still whispering amongst themselves about how wicked they thought him to be. “Listen to me carefully,” he snapped at them, “all will be forgiven of human beings — all of their brokenness and wicked ways and even the various blasphemies that come out of their mouths — in the age to come, all of that baggage will be left at the door. But when you slander what is holy, when you spread lies about the very Spirit working to bring about your healing — this is the heaviest blasphemy of all. Beware, for this one great sin will keep you outside the gates in the Age to Come.”

Someone in the crowd interrupted him just then. “Rabbi, your mother and brothers just got here, and they are looking for you!”

Jesus whipped his head toward the man and fired back, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” He looked down just then at the devotees sitting closest to him, gathered in a circle around him, and his expression softened, their hope and the light in their eyes pulling him back to the moment. “Ah! Here they are,” he proclaimed, smiling broadly. “I count these dear ones as my family — my sisters, my brothers, yes, even my mother — because they delight in living into the design of the Divine Way.”

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Joel Michael Herbert

Husband. Father. Artist. Storyteller. Armchair Theologian. Advocate, activist and politician. Gryffindor. [neuro]Divergent.