June 6, 2021 Second Sunday After Pentecost The text is Mark 3:20-35.
[Jesus went home;] 2 0and the crowd came together again, so that [Jesus and the disciples] could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 2 2And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 2 5And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 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. 28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus has been preaching and healing throughout the towns of Galilee. He taught in the synagogue in Capernaum; healed the fever that had stricken Simon’s mother-in-law; cleansed a leper; enabled a paralyzed man to walk; healed a man with a deformed hand; all the while provoking anger and resentment among the religious authorities. The Pharisees have scolded him at every turn and criticized his teaching and healings.
And now he has come back home, and the crowd has followed him into the house; in such a multitude that he and the disciples didn’t have enough elbow room to eat. And if it wasn’t enough that the Pharisees have repeatedly confronted him, now even the scribes have traveled from Jerusalem to find fault with Jesus’ words and actions. And, in what seems like an extremely hurtful act, now the members of his own family jump on the bandwagon, going so far as to agree with some observers that Jesus has lost his mind. Jesus was engaged in speaking words of truth to the people, curing the sick, proclaiming God’s intention for the world, and preaching love, grace, and mercy for all people. And for this he was branded a demon in league with the devil by the scribes and declared mentally incompetent by his family.
What would cause so many divergent groups to find fault with what Jesus was saying and doing; what drove each to so strongly oppose him, why were they threatened by this man who was engaged in purely selfless behavior toward the sick, the poor and marginalized? Well, for one thing it’s likely because each of the groups upset by Jesus’ words and actions would prefer that things remained just the way they were; why would Jesus need to change the religious, societal, and cultural norms that were in place? The Scribes and Pharisees understood Jesus’ message of the coming of the kingdom of God as a threat to their power and authority. In Judean faith and culture every aspect of peoples’ behavior was regulated by the Law of Moses as defined in the Torah. The last thing those who derived their authority from their interpretation of the Torah needed, was some rebel preacher who dismissed adherence to the Law on a consistent basis. This Jesus was upsetting their apple cart in a big way and he must be stopped; they thought, “we Pharisees and Scribes are the bosses around here and this troublesome Galilean needs to be put in his place!” Those in authority do not relinquish their hold on their power without a fight.
But why would his family want to “restrain him” as Mark tells us? Well, while the Scribes concerned themselves with matters of religion, we mustn’t forget that the culture of the ancient middle east was one based on shame and honor.
Jesus’ family was fearful that if he were truly out of his mind, that they as his relatives would be publicly disgraced. Let’s not forget that there was still the matter of Mary being pregnant before she married Joseph. The last thing this family needed was another public scandal. So, everyone had an agenda and what they held in common was a sincere desire that Jesus would stop preaching and quietly return home and embrace the life of an unassuming carpenter.
But he didn’t do that, did he? No, he kept on healing, preaching, and proclaiming that God’s kingdom was coming; and that it many ways it was already here. The more you think about it, the people that thought Jesus was crazy for saying the things he said and behaving the way he did, they may have had a point. Nearly all of Jesus’ behavior was contrary to what was considered right, appropriate, acceptable. Flaunting the Sabbath laws, forgiving sinful women, confronting demon-possessed men, dining with sinners and tax collectors. Let’s be honest, the entire sermon on the mount is an exercise in opposites; the dispirited will acquire the kingdom, the earth will be inherited by meek people, those in grief and mourning will be comforted, and in an ancient world wracked by war, peacemakers will be the blessed children of God. These do sound like the kinds of things a crazy person might say, no? But crazy as they sound, these and everything else that Jesus taught are in fact examples of God’s will for the earth and its people.
But, we’re not there yet, are we? The radical ideas that Christ espoused remain for the most part unrealized. The world is filled with people who are poor in spirit, the earth remains in control of the confident, aggressive ones and the meek wait submissive and timid. We still mourn the dead, and peace seems something we’ll never attain. If the peacemakers are to eventually be blessed, they had better get a move on; of the 194 recognized countries in the world, fewer than a dozen are not currently involved in some form of conflict. Perhaps it’s time we recognize that when Jesus told the family that whoever does God’s will are his mother, brothers, and sisters. They were the crowd pressing in so tightly that Jesus and the disciples weren’t able to lift food to their lips.
They were those who understood that no matter how mad Jesus may have sounded, his supposed craziness made sense when his preaching pointed to the way things were meant to be, when viewed from the perspective of the God who desires love, peace, and mercy for God’s children. The ones who were willing to align themselves with this so-called crazy person in his mission and ministry; because they knew that the One turning things upside-down was the very Son of God.
Michael B. Curry is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and he preached a sermon in 2012 that addressed in part the perceived craziness of Jesus Christ. Bishop Curry noted that, like the crowds that flocked to Jesus 2,000 years ago what is desperately needed today is a bunch of crazy Christians. People who acknowledge that Jesus’ words are the truth of the way things are meant to be, and who are willing to act as outrageously as he did in an effort to help usher in the kingdom which Christ promised. To quote Bishop Curry, “We need some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God — like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something close to the dream that God dreams for it”.
And we are called to do just that, we who are the current “crowd”, just like the earlier ones that desperately wanted to be part of the craziness that Jesus preached. We ought to be so desirous of loving, giving, and forgiving like Jesus that we too press in so closely on him that he can barely lift his arms to eat. We have been invited to join with him, even when what he has called us to do in his name seems crazy; especially, when it seems crazy. When Jesus gazes at the world these days may he find us among those who dare to follow him by doing the will of God. And may we rejoice when he proclaims us as his mother, brothers, and sisters. Welcome to the family!
Will you pray with me? Good, and gracious, and Holy God, we desire to be counted among those who are summoned to do your will. Strengthen us when we falter, when we grow too concerned with how the world views us; when others think we are crazy for following Christ. And we pray these things in the name of Jesus, the One who cannot be restrained. Amen.
God is Good, all the time. All the time, God is Good. Amen.