When Jesus’ family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”
Do you blame them?
Think about what has happened over the last couple of months, think about it
from the perspective of the family. Jesus grew up in a small village, the oldest son of the family, a good Jewish boy. He was living what probably looked to everyone like a normal life, when for some unknown reason, he left home and went off into the wilderness. There he was baptized by John, had a powerful, mystical experience of God and spent forty days fasting in the desert.
When he re-emerged he was a changed man. He took on the role of prophet. He proclaimed the kingdom of God. He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and began to heal people and cast out demons. He traveled from village to village, and crowds swarmed him wherever he went, not just Jewish people, but foreigners too, not just good people but the wrong people too, sinners, tax-collectors and the like. He started breaking the rules, crossing boundaries, criticizing social structures and provoking conflict with the authorities. He claimed authority for himself, pronounced himself as Lord and called out the religious leaders for their callousness and hypocrisy.
When finally he gets back home from his travels, his family want to see him. But he is swarmed by crowds of strangers who rush into his house and are packed in so tight that Jesus can’t find the time or space even to eat. And his family, his mother and brothers and sisters, when they come to visit him at his home, as families do, they can’t even get in to see him because of the crowds.
This is crazy. People are telling them he’s out of his mind. And because they are good people, good family, they figure that it’s time for an intervention. They decide to take him away, by force if necessary.
They come to save him from the crowds, including the deplorables and undesirables who swarm him, threaten his health and security and prevent him even from eating.
They come to save him from the authorities, the powers that be, from the Romans who would see these huge unruly gatherings as a threat and from the Jewish leaders with whom Jesus is in deliberate, escalating and deadly conflict. The authorities will surely crush him if this present situation continues.
They come to save him from his dangerous vision of the kingdom of God and the battle that he’s engaged in with evil forces.
The family has come to restrain him and take him away, for his own good.
If he had been your son, or your brother, wouldn’t you have done the same?
Because from the perspective of the family, surely what Jesus is doing is crazy.
Because it’s normal to prioritize family, to invite them to your home for dinner.
It’s normal to be careful around people who are sick, especially if they’re contagious.
It’s normal to be cautious around strangers, just to be safe.
It’s normal to hold people to account, to not dish out forgiveness too quickly, to expect people to be responsible and accept the consequences of their actions.
It’s normal to express disapproval for people who behave badly, people like sinners and tax collectors back in the day.
It’s normal to establish borders and boundaries so that we know who’s in and who’s out, it’s a way of keeping ourselves secure.
It’s normal to put our own people first, to buy Canadian, America first, to have a government that represents our interests in the world.
It’s normal to keep the rules, those written and unwritten rules that keep life organized and predictable.
It’s normal to have social structures and authorities, and to respect them, otherwise it’s chaos.
It’s normal to reward people who work hard and deserve it.
It’s normal to spend time with the right people.
But the kingdom of God revealed in Jesus blows apart every single one of these norms. It blows wide open our systems, structures, boundaries, values, hierarchies, securities and priorities. Its arrival in the world is an incursion which leads to resistance and conflict.
Because grace, truth, love, compassion, forgiveness, healing, and justice, the very things that Jesus embodied and proclaimed, these can never be contained and controlled by our structures, rules, systems and boundaries. That’s a scary thing for us. Because it is precisely our structures and rules and systems and boundaries that make our lives predictable, that give order and meaning to our lives and that help us feel secure.
So when Jesus comes and blows them all apart, we don’t like it. And we resist - especially if we happen to be people who are benefiting from the status quo.
To blow apart everything that’s normal is crazy. So maybe it is time for an intervention. Time to put some structure around Jesus, at least make sure he’s eating right and getting enough sleep. Maybe a week at the Royal Ottawa would help. We’re all in favour of healing people and casting out demons, but can’t we have people line up in an orderly fashion, and maybe we should be doing a little triage to establish some priorities. Maybe bring our own folk to the front of the line, and then look after the foreigners?
So they try to intervene. But Jesus will have none of it. He’ll even redefine family if he has to, if that’s what it takes to get it through their heads that God’s love is for everyone. Jesus is the love of God in the flesh, and that love will not be contained or controlled or slotted into what’s normal.
Of course it’s crazy. You know that, because you know how the story ends. The crowds that swarm Jesus won’t save Jesus. When Jesus persists in his mission to show people what God is really like, when he persists in opening God’s love up to all, when he eats with the wrong people, when he proclaims good news to the poor, when he frees the oppressed, no matter their nationality or gender or social status, the powers that be will become more and more offended, the will see him as an increasing threat, they will label him as demonic, they will conspire to destroy him and they will put him to death.
Yes it’s crazy. The family got that right.
But here’s another crazy thing. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we’re going to have to be crazy too.
We’re going to have to be crazy enough:
to see God’s kingdom when others don’t
to love people who don’t deserve to be loved
to forgive people who don’t deserve forgiveness
to cross boundaries that prevent us from showing compassion
to break down the walls that separate us from people we are called to help
to give up the security of family in order to tend to the needs of stranger
to defy authority in order to pursue justice
to pray for our enemies
to love one another the way Jesus has loved us.
If we are to truly follow Jesus, people will call us crazy, and that’s okay. Because a way of life based on grace, truth, love, compassion, forgiveness, justice and healing will never ever be considered normal. A way of life that follows Jesus will never ever be contained and controlled by the systems and structures that are normal in this world.
So if we want to follow Jesus, we’re going to have to be crazy too.
Homily: Yr B P10, June 10 2018, St. Albans
Readings: 1 Sam 8.1-20, Ps 130; 2 Cor 4.13-5.1; Mark 3.20-35
Image by Thomas Hawk, Creative Commons