Construction of the Idaho Statehouse began in 1905, a decade and a half after statehood. The architects, John E. Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel, chose a mixture of materials and techniques—the massive pillars that ring the interior of the central portion of the building are made from a combination of marble dust, plaster, and scagliola—a material that mimics the texture and look of quarried marble. The exterior is made from local sandstone on granite. Tourtellotte and Hummel used four different true marbles in the floor of the building—red from Georgia, gray from Alaska, green from Vermont, and black from Italy.
Stepping into the entry of the Statehouse, you might notice that the marble floor is a bit uneven. The red Georgian marble apparently is a harder material than the surrounding stone, and the inlaid strip stands a little proud of the rest of the surface. It’s fascinating to think that in just a little over a hundred years, countless feet that have passed through the doorways have eroded the stone floors enough to show the difference between one type of marble and another. We know about the principle of erosion, but we normally think of it as happening over thousands of years as a stream wears away a boulder. But it can happen much quicker than that.
I’ve always been a little troubled by the account of Jesus’ family in Mark 3, particularly His mother. Jesus’ ministry is in its full swing, with healing and teaching and the calling of the Twelve. In verse 20, Jesus heads back home, and the crowds are so thick that He and His followers can’t even find room to eat. Verse 21 is where I start to struggle. It says that His family heard about all that was going on, and their first inclination is to go to Him and try to restrain Him—they think He’s gone crazy. To be fair, it’s the neighborhood folks who say Jesus has gone crazy, not Jesus’ family. But their action shows who His family was more willing to listen to.
Later, beginning in verse 31, Jesus brothers and His mother come to where He is, and call to Him. His brothers I can understand. They all came after Jesus—Jesus is the oldest of the siblings. So they missed out on all the stuff that happened around the time of Jesus’ birth. They didn’t witness the angelic visitors, they didn’t hear the testimony of the shepherds, they didn’t watch the Magi offer their gifts. They weren’t on the trip to Egypt, fleeing the crazy wrath of Herod. To them, Jesus was just an older brother—probably one they struggled to relate to, and had a hard time living up to. But Mary…I don’t know what to make of her response. What role did she play in this attempt to restrain Jesus?
In Luke 1, after getting confirmation from Elizabeth that her child was special, Mary sings: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” At least at this point, Mary is aware that there is something unprecedented going on. And then she witnesses all the miraculous stuff that underscores the message Gabriel shared with her—that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Mary starts off with such strong evidence, it’s hard to come to terms with her apparent doubt in Mark 3.
I don’t want to read too much into Mark’s account—which happens to be echoed in both Luke and Matthew. He doesn’t say anything about Mary’s state of mind, so for me to try to sort through what she may have been thinking is a little presumptuous. It just seems like we’ve come a long way from the manger in Bethlehem to this room in Nazareth and Mary standing on the edge of the crowd calling out to her son, worried about his mental stability. Mary started off with the greatest evidence of the wonder of Jesus, and the song she sings in Luke 1 illuminates her conviction. But had her faith eroded?
Maybe this is a little hint of the way we all can have our faith eroded. Regardless of the power of the proclamation, regardless of the strength of the evidence, the daily pressures of the world that surrounds us can wear away, like countless footsteps, even the hardest of convictions. The day-by-day press of “reality” can grind the miraculous right out of us, until we fail to recognize the wonder of Jesus. What we need is a constant renewal, we need consistent reminders of the deeper truth. These daily disciplines—things like prayer, reading the scriptures, fellowshipping with other believers—reinforce our initial convictions, they harden us to the wear of the mundane. We protect ourselves from the erosive tendencies of the world by remaining close to Jesus. Who was it, by the time we reach the events of Mark 3, that was most convinced about Jesus? Those out on the edge of the crowd who thought they knew Him, or those in the center, closest to the Messiah?
We know that by the end, Mary is back in the center circle, the one closest to Jesus. At the foot of His cross, Mary is one of those who witnesses His passing, and Mary is among those who see Him after His resurrection. So somewhere along the way, Mary reclaims her conviction, she rebuilt the parts of her faith that had been eroded away. Again, my speculation is a bit presumptuous, but I’d like to think that Mary regained her place as a member of Jesus’ family, not because she gave birth to Him, but because she did the will of God. And I believe that if our faith is a little worn, a little eroded, that we can rebuild it, too. All we need is the will to do it, and the promised Spirit to complete it.