A Sermon for Year B, Proper 5
“The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind!”
This week I want you to imagine yourself in this really strange scenario from the Gospel of Mark. I want you to imagine yourself as one of the many characters in today’s narrative. Who would you be? With whom would you identify? Or which character is difficult for you to understand?
Are you a member of the crowd, gathering outside the house, craning your neck just for a glimpse of Jesus? Or are you one of the disciples, ready to sit down for a meal with your friend and teacher when you are so rudely interrupted? Or are you one of the Pharisees, the religious elite, there to question this healer, this man who is turning your worldview upside down? Or are you a member of his family? Those individuals who have come upon their relative snd want to bring him home and restrain him.
Are you Jesus’ father or mother? His sister or brother? Nephew? First cousin once removed? Aunt Miriam? Or Uncle Abraham? Nanna Deborah? Or Papa Hezekiah? Who would you be in relation to Jesus?
If he was your own family member, how would you respond to him? ‘Cause let’s be real, we all have that relative who tends to embarrass the family on a regular basis; who we might want to reel in at times, restrain, control, get them back in line.
No wonder! If we take today’s Scripture—Mark chapter 3, v. 21—and study various translations, Jesus’ behavior becomes a little clearer. In the King James Version, which some of you grew up with, we politely hear: “He was beside himself.” Our in the NRSV translation, which we read today: “He has gone out of his mind.” But probably the most fun, the Good News Translation reads: “He has gone mad!” Jesus is absolutely, 100%, certified crazy!
And if we take the Gospel as a whole, this is not the only time we have seen Jesus a bit off his rocker. For he has been acting more than a little off kilter these last few months—since his baptism in the River Jordan and wandering in the wilderness. He’s been claiming his got a direct pathway to the Divine. He’s been healing people on the sabbath. He’s been calling some rowdy disciples to follow him around the Judea. Is he hearing voices? Is he pretending he has magical powers? Is he trying to commence a cult following?
It seems like Jesus’ family sure thinks so. They are so concerned about him (worrying about him day and night) that in today’s Gospel they are trying desperately to bring him home, to restrain him, to control him, to get him back in line with the status quo. Jesus is the black sheep of the family, the odd man out, the relative his relatives would rather not recognize.
Jesus doesn’t help his crazy case by hanging out with other outcasts as well—with tax collectors and sex workers, with people of different races and religions with the mentally ill and the physically disabled. Jesus’ companions and his behavior are unsettling, disturbing, disruptive. Jesus is really, really good at making people really, really uncomfortable. He has an uncanny way of doing it with some proverbial wisdom or problematic parable that may make us squirm in our pews.
Like that time Jesus said in Matthew 19:24: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Or John 8:7: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Or Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Jesus causes us to take a hard look at ourselves, to examine our hearts, to search our souls and discern where we are in need of transformation, of conversion, of holy disruption in our lives.
I bet like us at times, his family was sick of hearing this stuff. His family was rightfully resistant. His family thought they needed to get Jesus and his crazy under control. Not only was Jesus disrupting the family system, but he was disrupting the societal system as well. Jesus had gone too far! It is one thing to act out in private, to keep it in the family, to keep it all hush hush. Yet it is another thing all together to go wandering about the countryside preaching and teaching, healing and calling more and more disciples, and therefore drawing more and more attention to himself.
This is our God—a God whose family struggled with his antics. A God who came not to completely crush the system but to disrupt it. As Jesus said, “I came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it.” A God who turns the world upside down for the betterment of all. A God who says blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted. And blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied. As Bishop Michael Curry once preached, over and over again Jesus disrupts our preconceived notions naming those whom society would call as wretched, as those whom God deems as blessed.
Such disruption—althought uncomfortable on our end—is a healthy and necessary thing—for a family, for a community, for our country. For disruption brings to light the dysfunction in our midst. Instead of viewing such disruption as bad or negative—as something that needs to be restrained, controled, brought back into order—, maybe today’s Gospel is an opportunity to see the world through Jesus’ eyes, to open our selves up to loving others like never before. To witness rampant racism in our country, and like the Civil Rights protestors disrupt and declare, “No more!” To behold political divide across our fifty states, and disrupt both party lines by exclaiming, not only “love your neighbor,” but “love your enemy, and pray for those who persecute you!” To hear of too many stories of suffering and suicide in our midst, and look to disrupt this unrealistic societal system that has cause so much unfulfillment and unhappiness.
My friends, if Jesus is our rabbi, our Teacher, our God, our friend, our family, then that disruption that makes us uncomfortable may be a healthy thing, for a families, for our churches, for our communities. Without it how can we hope to break out of a broken human system? To liberate ourselves and others from the bondage of the status quo? To see the world through Jesus’ eyes and love others with no hesitation, no control, no restraint?
I pray that when the time comes for our souls to be stirred, that we will be ready for some shaking up and some of that holy disruption. Let us not restrain our Jesus, but let us liberate our Christ for the entire world.