Last week, my wife came home from a women’s Bible study group where they are going over Beth Moore’s interpretation of James (the name of the study escapes me at this moment).
She was excited about the study and the discussions and shared with me a few things Beth Moore said on the DVD, particularly regarding the passage from Mark 3, where Jesus’ family were telling people that Jesus was “out of his mind.” (v. 21).
She (the wife) went on explaining how Beth Moore tied this in with James, Jesus’ half brother, and it was really good. How the family wouldn’t believe Jesus’ claim of himself and how James wouldn’t believe until the very last possible moment of who his brother (half-brother…?) claimed to be. If he, Jesus, was who he really claimed to be, then he should prove it– to James and the rest of the family. But Jesus came, not to be a “showboat” or a public figure or run for a political office, but that he came to be a personal savior. Or something along that lines. I can’t quite remember my wife told me– I may have just filled in some of the large gaps in my head (perhaps I need more coffee/caffeine as I am writing this… or less).
But, that verse has been stuck in my mind.
One, there are moments when I call(ed) my brother (and friends and family) crazy. Sometimes the best explanation or interpretation of someone’s words/actions is: S/he’s out of his mind. C’mon. You’ve all used the “s/he’s crazy” sentiment to explain your loved ones behavior.
The other thing that struck me was how fast we label someone as ‘crazy’ when they do something that we do not comprehend. I do not mean to make light of this tragic event, but it was fascinating (mind-boggling?) how the media kept saying the Dark Knight Rises shooter in Aurora “snapped”; “lost his mind”; “went crazy.” And how often the media uses those kind of terms when an Anglo person does something horrific. I know I’m walking on thin ice — and making a HUGE, sweeping generalization– with this next statement: but if the suspect is not white, they don’t throw the words “snapped”, “lost his mind”, “went crazy” as generously.
But we are really quick to dismiss someone’s actions as “crazy,” even if s/he is in the sanest frame of mind. Because we are the sanest people we know, whoever thinks far differently than we do, whoever behaves far differently than we do, they just have to be crazy to think/do/be that different from us, right?
From my loose recollection and my own gathering of my wife’s explanation of Beth Moore’s teaching (whew, it’s a good thing that the Bible translations aren’t this far removed from the original source………), the family of Jesus deemed Jesus crazy to separate themselves from Jesus. For starters, they didn’t believe in Jesus’ claim. So they wanted to separate themselves from Jesus’ outrageous teachings and claims and not be associated with such a crazy teaching. (I think that’s what the wife said. I could be wrong).
I think I ended up with a slightly different conclusion: They weren’t trying to separate themselves from Jesus or disowning Jesus because they didn’t believe Jesus. I mean, yea, they may not have believed him (or in him), but I think they were trying to protect Jesus more than themselves.
By chapter 3 of Mark, Jesus made it known that he wasn’t going to be quiet and already challenged the religious establishment a few times. He healed someone on Sabbath (beginning of chapter 3), undermining the authority and teachings of the Pharisees, and the plot to (possibly) murder Jesus had started. On top of that, everywhere Jesus went, “impure spirits” starting shouting weird stuff like, “You are the son of God.” Something I’m sure that the Pharisees did not want to hear or have people hear– something that Jesus’ family knew would result in death. After all, it’s a form of blasphemy. And the Pharisee were a power hungry, power tripping, insecure and jealous bunch of men (my interpretation) and anyone who would displace them from their high horse would be met with fierce oppostion and punished by death.
At this point, the damage is done. Pharisees are waiting for the “right” moment to kill him. Jesus is not backing down. The family could probably see that this would end in the death of Jesus. (And perhaps, there was a fear of what would happen to them if Jesus was killed).
The only way to lessen the punishment (and tension that surrounded Jesus) was to say that “he is out of his mind.” The same way one might plea “insanity” after a horrendous crime: it may lessen the punishment.
All these people have gathered to hear Jesus teach– so many people that Jesus and his boys didn’t have a place (or time) to even eat. The family knew that Jesus wasn’t going to play nice or mince his word– that he was going to go on preaching and teaching. The teachers of the law were present. The Pharisees and the Herodians have already talked about offing Jesus.
“Don’t pay attention to his words. He’s out of his mind.”
“Yea, my older brother? I think he was dropped on his head. Don’t pay attention. He’s one fish short of a lunch, if you know what I mean.”
“He always said weird things as a kid. I’m pretty sure that my “brother” is adopted. Don’t listen to him.”
And it’s in this passage where Jesus is told that his family is summoning him and he tells his listeners, “Who are my mothers and brothers? Here are my mothers and brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (v.32-35)
Was he hurt or felt betrayed by their telling people that he was crazy, which was what may have led him to say that? Was he making a point that he wasn’t crazy (don’t listen to them. They’re not really my family. You’re my family)? Was he shocked (disappointed?) at their lack of faith, not in him, but in God? Especially after the experience Mary went through in bearing Jesus?
And what happened afterwards, with Jesus’ family? Did they feel betrayed by Jesus’ refusal of acknowledgement? Did they feel guilty of telling people that Jesus was crazy? Did they continue to follow Jesus around? And if they did– was it to listen to his teaching? Or to diffuse the tension and undermine his words so that he wouldn’t face death by stoning? Where were they when he went back to his hometown and the towns folk completely rejected him and his teaching (one Gospel saying that the people wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff. Talk about a homecoming).
I have no answers to my questions. But that’s okay.
Rabbis often didn’t want answers to questions, but they gauged someone’s grasp of scripture by the questions they asked. I don’t know what my questions say about my grasp of scripture. I know I’m always guilty of reading between the lines and adding my own personality in intrepreting. But hey, who doesn’t do that? How can you leave out your worldview, your thoughts, your experiences when trying to understand and intrepreting things? Does that make it wrong? Or right? I don’t know.
What I do know, though, is that the Bible is filled with fascinating stories.