People Are Talking
When the status quo gets disrupted, people talk. And Jesus was disrupting the way things had been before. He has been healing many and casting our demons, and Mark tells us that whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down at his feet and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” A great multitude has started following him, and his reputation was growing. He went up on the mountain and called twelve to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
And then Jesus and the disciples went home to Capernaum. The crowd followed, and so did the commotion. Two groups came to try and stop him – his relatives from Nazareth and the scribes from Jerusalem. Lamar Williamson, an Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary, points out that “the two groups who should have recognized Jesus first, his own family and the teachers of the law, are both blind to his true identity.”
His family thinks he is out of his mind. Mark is the earliest of the Gospels to be written. The writers of Matthew and Luke both tell this story, but they leave out the being crazy part. Mark records here the raw story, with all its challenges, because it is not the kind of portrayal that you would make up. There is not any motivation, no reason, for Mark to make up that Jesus’ family thought he was crazy.
The literal translation is that his family thought he had “relocated outside of himself.” They have come to seize him – it’s the same verb used when you arrest someone. Mary has come with his brothers from Capernaum to Nazareth – about 20 miles – to take Jesus into their custody. He is embarrassing himself and his family, and they are not going to stand by while he acts like a madman and quite possibly gets himself in serious trouble with the authorities in Jerusalem.
The scribes from Jerusalem, the teachers of the law, get there first. They have traveled 85 miles to confront this healer and exorcist who has attracted this following. It is their job to uphold the laws of Judaism; they are the preservers of the status quo Jesus is disrupting. So, they come and accuse Jesus of being possessed and in collusion with Satan. Strategically, it makes sense – neutralize Jesus by accusing him of being the agent of everyone’s arch enemy.
I just imagine Jesus looks at them with one of those looks that makes you feel like you have no secrets…like the other person is looking right through your eyes and into your thoughts…and says, “Truly, all sins will be forgiven except the sin of calling the work of the Holy Spirit the work of evil. You know that I have healed people and cast out demons – you aren’t denying what I have done – you’re saying that I am of the Evil One. You are denying the very one who heals and forgives. You can’t be restored when you reject the one who restores!”
Then, Jesus’ family arrives, and they send word in for him to come outside. Jesus’ response is scandalous in 1st Century Judaism. Sons grew up and learned their father’s business. They raised their family either in the same house as their parents or nearby. They often shared everything in common with their relatives, all living together and working together. Jesus’ words were shocking, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
These two groups, Jesus’ family and the teachers of the law, should have been rejoicing! They should have recognized Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. They should have been inside, but they are outside. “People are talking!” is their rallying cry. People are talking, and the status quo is threatened.
The status quo that people who are sick or disabled or possessed deserve their physical condition is being threatened as people are being healed…and people are talking.
The status quo that accepts injustice as necessary for peaceful lives is being threatened…and people are talking.
The status quo that is unmerciful, allowing suffering to continue, is being challenged…and people are talking.
The status quo that cares more about power and reputation than love and service is being challenged…and people are talking.
The status quo that values comfort over righteousness is being challenged…and people are talking.
The status quo that values doing “my will” over doing God’s will is being challenged…and people are talking.
Are they talking about you? Are they talking about Farmington Presbyterian? Are they talking about the church? If they aren’t, then we are not Jesus’ family.
God calls us and equips us to do justice and bring healing, and it’s not easy or safe to disrupt the status quo. The situations in our world are complicated and political. We know that a toddler refugee from Syria lying lifeless on a beach is wrong, but we don’t know what to do about it. We know that children separated from their parents at borders is wrong, but we don’t know what to do about it. We know that a teenager filled with rage enough to stockpile weapons raiding a school is wrong, but we don’t know what to do about it. We know that more than 40 million men, women, and children in the world today have been sold into lives of forced labor and prostitution, but we don’t know what to do about it. We know that people dying from hunger, or thirst, or exposure is wrong, but we don’t know what to do about it.
Or do we? And the cost is too high. Our status quo too comfortable? Answering God’s call is not easy. We are like Henny the chick with arms instead of wings and everyone around us wonders why we are different, and maybe we do too. We are different so that we can catch the falling.
Let’s give them something to talk about. Jesus looked at those who were with him disrupting the status quo and said, “Here is my family. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”