“Even Jesus Was Bullied”

Kurt Jacobson
5 min readJun 9, 2024

June 9, 2024

Mark 3:20–35

Context: Jesus is causing a stir by preaching, healing the sick and casting out demons which causes some around him to call him names to question his sanity and demean him. But Jesus is not letting the bullies deter his mission.

And the crowd came together again, so that they (Jesus and the disciples) could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain Jesus, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 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.

‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ — for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

It has been a long time since I was on a playground or in school hallways, but I clearly remember the name calling that happened in those places. As kids we hurled names at others not knowing what we were saying, but simply shouting the words provided a sense of superiority. There were sing-song names for the girl deemed boyish and the boy deemed girlish. A classmate with a speech impediment or physical limitation was tormented routinely. Kids were taunted for being in the slow reading group, as were the kids who did not have money for lunch.

Perhaps you remember the insults. They are painful to the ear, humiliating to the memory, destructive to the one at whom they were launched.

Concerns over bullying and name-calling today are far more significant for kids than in the 1960s. The statistics are shocking. One out of every five (20.2%) students report being bullied

About 16% of students ages 12–18 are cyberbullied. Six out of 10 teens witness bullying at least once a day. For children in grades 6–10, estimates are 3.2 million are victims of bullying each year and 3.7 million are bullies. The reasons for being bullied most often by students include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019)

Name-calling is as old as the human race and a sign of low emotional intelligence.[i] There is agreement this behavior is now worse than ever. A 2010 report entitled, “Nastiness, Name-calling & Negativity” from The Allegheny College Survey of Civility and Compromise, includes a remark from a Brookings Institution scholar named Darrell West suggesting Americans have entered an “arms race of incendiary rhetoric, and it’s quickly reaching the point of mutually assured destruction.”[ii]

This story of Jesus that Mark records is one of childish, fear-filled name calling. As the hometown crowds call him crazy, insane, and beside himself, Jesus’ mother and siblings rush to his defense. They wince at the disrespect from the scribes who go so far as to call him Beelzebul (“the prince of the devil.”)

Only three chapters into Mark and Jesus has already bested Satan, cast out a couple of demons, cooled a fever, healed a person with leprosy, given motility to a paralytic, and rehabbed a withered hand. All this and a preaching tour that drew thousands.

All these miracles and exorcisms rile up the religious leaders. They recognize that Jesus must be drawing on great power to perform exorcisms. But they cannot identify its source because he does not behave as they expect a righteous person to behave, which is to say, that he is not one of them. He associates with the wrong people, breaks Sabbath laws, and blasphemes by forgiving sins.

With his demonstrated power and authority, the enlivened crowd and the suspicious scribes have no defense against one such as Jesus. It is impossible to challenge his knowledge. There is no way to reenact his miracles. They cannot draw his crowds. He terrifies them. So they bully him by calling him names in an attempt to demean him.

It is already clear early in Jesus’ ministry that he is inviolable. If he had a weakness, an Achilles’ heel, the jumpy religious leaders would exploit it, manipulate him, and close the book on his ministry.

However, there is no weakness, no fatal flaw. They cannot dismiss him. So they call him names in hopes of diminishing him and the divine power that is being used for good.

We live in a world where power seduces. Unfortunately, there are some who internalize the quest for power and believe that using aggressive behavior and hurtful names and words to knock other people down is the most effective way to build themselves up. The extent to which they fight off challenges to that power is extraordinary, detrimental, even deadly.

Jesus never used his power or name-calling to build himself up. His power was always for doing good, for showing the human family the qualities, intentions and benevolent ways of God.

As Mark tells it, the crowds and scribes who seek to diminish Jesus by name calling and pasting labels on him accomplish exactly the opposite. Jesus’ fame and fan base grow daily, until the day when the weapons are drawn, the soldiers commissioned, the cross erected.

There on the cross, Jesus has mocking names hurled at him once again. But it is too late. The bullying is silenced by a single voice at the foot of the cross. The names of those who kill Jesus are lost to history, as is the name of the soldier who speaks. Jesus’ name, the name above all names, is whispered on a lonely hill: “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Mark 15:39

When we call that name, we are strong.

Images: From Bible Art “There came also a Multitude”

[i] www.ei-magazine.com/post/name-calling-a-sign-of-low-emotional-intelligence




Kurt Jacobson

Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.