In the quiet of the morning, I took a moment to ponder the gospel for today. Today is one of those days I wonder why this particular reading – with its start and end – was chosen. No need to link you to today’s readings online, the gospel is only two verses: “Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” (Mark 3:20-21) Of course one could simply open the Bible and pick up the flow of the gospel and understand the context, but… As one who appreciates good story telling, to my mind this is a bit brief.
Mark is a gospel whose pace moves along. There are very few moments of wandering off the main track and little need to burden the narrative with discourses such as the “Sermon on the Mount.” So, Mark just puts it out there: people think Jesus is out of his mind. The Greek expression could mean his family, his associates, or his friends. His mother and brothers will arrive on the scene in v.31; perhaps they had heard all the details from relatives. In any case, they think he is out of his mind.
Jesus has been on the move throughout Galilee since the middle of chapter 1. When he was last in Capernaum the crowds were overwhelming in size (1:31-32) and when Jesus tries to get away for some quiet and prayer, his disciples “hunt him down” because the people are clamoring for him. It is not hard to imagine the frenetic pace driven by Jesus’ desire to proclaim the kingdom and that it entailed. I can easily imagine his urgent drive to minister leading to a failure to properly eat and sleep. If we were so driven, missing meals, sleep, and socialization – or when we were so driven – I suspect our friends had similar thoughts about us. There were likely days when we caught our haggard look in a mirror and wondered about ourselves.
The family’s conviction about Jesus is caring, but it reveals both misunderstanding and possibly unbelief in the face of the many miracles already taken place. The entire incident calls to mind passages in which the man of God is despised by family and contemporaries who mistake his zeal for God as “madness.” The Old Testament does not lack for similar circumstances. In Zech. 13:3–6 the family of the prophet turns against him. Verse 6 sums it all up: “And if anyone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your chest?’ he shall answer, ‘With these I was wounded in the house of my dear ones.’” In Wisdom 5: 4-5, the scripture paints a picture of a family’s response to a righteous relative: “This is the man whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproach-we fools! We thought that his life was madness and that his end was without honor.”
OK, so there was a lot in two verses.
So… if your family thinks you spend too much time in prayer, at church, volunteering, reading the Bible, going on short or long-term missions, maybe they think you are “out of your mind.” Perhaps that is a good thing. Maybe the problem is that no one thinks we are out of our minds.