You know that one family member that is always getting into trouble or always saying crazy stuff? A lot of families have a crazy family member. We all have that one person in our families who causes everyone else in the family to roll their eyes, hide their face, and give lengthy explanations about how they are kinda sorta, but not really, related.
I actually have a distant cousin that evidently loves to draw attention to his strangeness. I’ve heard it told that he once entered a family dinner wearing a cowboy hat. Normal enough, I guess. But then he took off the hat to reveal his bald head with a long flowing mullet racing down the top of his back. Oh, and when he smiled he had an awesome story to tell about how he lost four of his front teeth.
To say the least, Jesus has been drawing a lot of attention to himself. He’s been bashing the religious leaders. He’s been authoritative over disease and demons. He’s calling people to leave their jobs and families to follow him. And he’s making claims to deity and receiving worship. Although his family surely admired Jesus’ ministry, he was potentially bringing a lot of trouble down on himself and his family. Let’s be frank: Jesus was that relative; saying and doing wild, radical, and seemingly crazy things (Mark 3:20-21).
The religious leaders just knew there had to be something evil inside Jesus since he seemed so intentional in his blasphemy. So, they accused Jesus of being demon-possessed. Because when all else fails, pointing your finger and shout, “He has a demon!” always gets you the upper hand on your opponents.
Jesus’ family thought he had a few loose screws. You can almost hear his brothers: “Now, how exactly is Jesus my brother?” Jesus was saying and doing things that could get him killed. He had no friends in the high places of Judea. In fact, he was alienating them. Jesus’ family probably feared for his safety and definitely didn’t really understand what he was doing.
These two responses to Jesus are common throughout Mark’s Gospel. People who knew Jesus either thought he was an evil blasphemer or a wild spiritual maniac. Of course, there is one other, and only one other, response to Jesus–worship. As much as modern Westerners try to see Jesus as an admirable teacher and religious leader, the Jesus of the Gospels actually doesn’t allow that.
Jesus was a guy who claimed to be God, disrupted the religious frameworks of his day, didn’t have his own bed, cast out demons, healed people by touching them or being touched by them, and hung out with the society’s rejects. In the eyes of his contemporaries, Jesus didn’t walk like a Messiah or talk like a Messiah, so he couldn’t possibly be who he said he was. That leaves two options. Either Jesus is a demonic liar or a raving lunatic. Unless assumptions and presuppositions are off-base.
Jesus faced opposition not only from religious leaders (Mark 3:22-30), but also from his own family (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35). Both of these groups had their own interests in mind and lacked the eyes to see Jesus’ mission and how he was ushering in his kingdom.
We must be careful not to interpret Jesus and his mission and providence in our lives according to our own selfish desires. Our selfish desires cloud our judgment and interpretation of reality.
Sometimes our families will oppose God’s work in our lives. Some of your family members may view your obedience to Jesus as foolish or crazy. They may want to seize you and say you are out of your mind. Jesus never calls his followers to sever ties with their natural families. He does, however, exhort each follower to place the call of Christ above all ties to the natural family (Matt. 10:35).
Our loyalties should lie primarily with the out-of-his-mind Jesus who turns our lives upside down. Living in obedience and submission to Jesus means we have entered into an eternal family where foolishness is wisdom.
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.