20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
(Mark 3:20-21 NIV)
Yesterday we looked at the entire story of Mark 3:20-25. Mark masterfully weaves these simultaneous events into one story, with Jesus’s family providing the “bookends” of the story, and the confrontation with the legal experts from Jerusalem in the middle.
As we observed yesterday, Mark has fast-forwarded us from the peace and quiet of the small group gathered on the mountain to the crushing, demanding crowds back in Capernaum. The NIV says that Jesus “entered a house”, while other translations say that Jesus “returned home”, presumably to Capernaum, and most likely to Peter’s home.
Today we begin looking at the individual parts of the story, the details that comprise the whole.
As Mark opens the story, Jesus and His disciples are back in Capernaum. The crowds have gathered to have their needs met – physical healing, spiritual healing (demons cast out), emotional healing (Jesus’ message of repentance and hope).
The crowd is so great and pressing in on Jesus and His disciples that they don’t even have time to eat. Word travels to Jesus’ family of origin back in Nazareth (25 miles away) about Jesus’ preaching, His clash with the religious authorities, and the crushing crowds that won’t give Jesus a chance to eat or sleep.
Jesus’ family is concerned about His welfare and safety. They fear that Jesus has lost touch with “normal” life and is on the path to self-destruction, maybe even a psychotic break with reality. So they decide to walk from Nazareth to Capernaum (about eight hours’ walking distance), stage an intervention, and take Jesus home to rest and recover.
Let’s step into Jesus’ family’s dilemma for a bit.
Their first-born son, the one that could do no wrong, has suddenly left the family business to become a poor, vagrant, itinerant preacher, with no place to call His own. Jesus, as the first-born son, according to Jewish custom and God’s Law, was supposed to become the family patriarch and provide for the family when the father (Joseph) was gone. Instead, Jesus takes off and is not even able to care for Himself (or so it seems).
Granted, Jesus is clearly gifted – no one has seen the miracles that He is able to do. His family had observed that Jesus had special talents growing up – He was both smart and wise, and everyone liked Him (Luke 2:52).
And now, in the family’s eyes, something had gone terribly wrong. Stories were coming back of Jesus taking on the religious authorities, challenging the status quo, and breaking the Jewish traditions regarding the Sabbath. This was serious stuff.
On top of that, Jesus is hanging out with the “wrong crowd” – tax collectors, uneducated fishermen, hot-tempered guys that are ready to fight at the drop of a hat. In fact, Jesus’ family has heard that Jesus has taken these men on as “students”, teaching them His radical ways (we would call them a “cult” today).
From Jesus’ family’s standpoint, there is no way that this will end on a positive note. This is way beyond an embarrassment to the family’s name and reputation – they are concerned for Jesus’ life.
So what can we learn from these two verses, from walking in Jesus’ family’s shoes for a bit?
First, Jesus’ own family did not understand His calling and purpose. The fact that they made the trek from Nazareth to Capernaum to stage an intervention was evidence of their misunderstanding, lack of faith, and unbelief in who Jesus was and is.
Simeon’s prophetic words to Mary at Jesus’ baby dedication must have been burning in her heart and mind as all this was taking place (Luke 2:34-35).
Jesus was, in fact, fulfilling all of God’s Law required of a first-born son, not only for their family, but on a scale they could not wrap their mind around – for the whole world.
Second, Jesus’ value system was antithetical (the opposite) to what the value system of their day established as the “norm”.
Jesus gave up His security – He risked everything to proclaim the message His Father had given Him. He gave up His financial and material security, His social standing in Jewish society, and even His health.
Jesus also gave up His safety, risking everything to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. Jesus knew that the oral traditions of the Pharisees had taken God’s people far, far away from the original intent of God’s Law. Jesus was willing to stand up and call them out and offer a new way that led the people back to the heart of God.
Jesus also gave up His reputation – what others thought of Him. This included the religious leaders, Jewish society in general, and even His own family. Jesus never considered the question, “what will the neighbors or my family think?”.
If you and I were Jesus’ family, what would we do?
As Jesus’ followers, are we willing to risk everything – our security, our safety, and our reputation – for His sake, to follow Him?
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
– Jim Eliot – follower of Jesus, missionary, martyr