Mark 3. 20-35
It’s not the crowd that makes Jesus crazy … but just the opposite!
As the theory goes, Mark’s gospel was the first written. Matthew and Luke came later. But each used Mark’s as the foundation, as the framework, for their work. Half of Mark is used by Luke. Ninety percent by Matthew. And John? Well, John is, as usual, odd-man-out. Marching to a different beat. But there’s a part of Mark – a small part to be sure – but a part, nonetheless, that is Mark’s and Mark’s alone. This morning, the gospel reading is one of those! Mark. Chapter three. Especially, verse twenty-one. Jesus comes home and the crowd comes together, again, keeping Jesus and the disciples so busy, they don’t have time to eat. Jesus’ family hears about it and goes out to restrain him … “for the people were saying he has gone out of his mind.” It’s little wonder the other gospelers didn’t claim that verse for their own. It’s the last thing you’d want to say about your Lord and God. “He’s gone out of his mind.”
The greek word is ‘eksistemi.’ Literally, ‘to stand outside.’ It’s where we get the word ‘ecstacy.’ Frenzied. Turbulent. Chaotic. Jesus’ family hears that he’s all these and they go out to restrain him. So he doesn’t get hurt. So, he doesn’t hurt someone. And frankly, I couldn’t figure out what the fuss was all about. After all, this is just chapter three! Jesus has been “Jesus” for only two chapters, so far. Teaching. Preaching. Casting out demons. Healing the sick. Fixing the broken. Cleansing the lepers. It hasn’t, even, been a hundred verses. How much trouble could he have gotten into? But he comes home, the crowd gathers, and the family comes to his rescue. All because they heard he’d gone crazy. And no matter how many times I read it. No matter how many angles I’d looked at it. It didn’t make sense.
Well, round about Thursday, I still didn’t have any idea for the sermon, here, this morning. And I was starting to sweat, a little. So, I went back to a commentary, one more time. And there, in the small print, was the seed of a sermon. I missed it, the first couple times through. But this time, it was the title of an article cited by the commentator that caught my eye. “Was Jesus Out of His Mind?” The author said that it wasn’t a matter of mistranslation. Not exactly. It was more an alternative one. You see, what Mark wrote could be taken in more than one way. One option was that it was Jesus who was out of his mind. But the other was that it was the crowd! It was the crowd! Jesus’ family wasn’t coming to save him from himself. They were coming to save him from the crowd! From the crowd who had gone mad!
And that makes sense! Mark used the word ‘eksistemi’ three other times in his gospel. The first time is in chapter two. When a hole is dug in the roof of a house where a man is lowered to Jesus. The man is healed and the onlookers are all amazed! It’s the same word. In chapter five, Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter. And again, the people are overcome with amazement! It’s the same word! And then, in the chapter after that, Jesus walks on the water and the disciples are utterly astounded. Same word! What Mark is saying is “And the crowd went wild!” They were out of their mind! They were beside themselves! And maybe it’s the same thing, here, this morning. Maybe it’s not Jesus who’s crazy. Maybe – just maybe – it’s the crowd! The people! And lo, a sermon is born …
Most of us, nowadays, believe the gossip. The church is dying. Especially Lutheran ones. And it would be so easy, just to give up. Turn off the lights, lock the door, and walk away. It would be easy to believe we have something no one wants. Like a friend of mine told me, early on in my ministry. The only people who want to be Lutherans are those who are born that way or those who marry into it. Otherwise, we think most people could care less. If they aren’t here, they, probably, never will be. And they, no doubt, think they’re not missing anything. So, our mission – should we decide to accept it – is to figure out how to convince them that this – that all this – matters! And that they need it! And like the good fisher folk we are, we do our best and we try our hardest, to find just the right bait. To attract them! To lure them! To seduce them! Into becoming something they don’t really want to be!
Contemporary worship? Traditional worship? Something in between? Saturday night? Sunday morning? Nine A.M.? Eleven? Reserved parking near the front door for first-time visitors. Arrows hanging around the campus to make sure everyone knows where to go. We organize Mother’s Day Outs and give discounts to those who join the church. We sell Jesus, the gospel, like we sell everything else. With discounts and rebates. and loss leaders.
But what this passage, this morning, reminds us is that people want what only Jesus has! People want what we alone can give them! They want a place to belong! Even more, they want something – someone – to believe in! We assume people don’t want to believe. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! They hunger for it! Thirst for it! And when they find it – or rather, when it finds them – they go out of their minds! They’re beside themselves!
And that’s when Jesus’ family comes to save Jesus! Save him not himself! But from them! From us! Jesus didn’t have to rouse the rabble. The word did that! Does that! What he said! What he did! What he still says and continues to do! And the crowd comes together! Again and again! Over and over! Time! After time! After time! They find that something – that someone – they never thought existed! That something – that someone – they never thought they’d find! Jesus! Love! And they go out of their mind! All the crowd needed was Jesus! And a hundred generations later, that’s what they still need! Jesus! His love! Inspiring them!. Moving them!. Even here! Even now! They’re ready to listen, eager to believe! Wanting to hear the story just one more time! And when they do, when that happens … ‘eksistemi!’ They go out of their minds! Believing the incredible! Trusting in someone too good to be true! The church dying? Hardly! The crowds moving on? Not! My friends, they’re just looking for Jesus, again! They’re just looking for Jesus and they’re waiting for us! And that, too, is the gospel of the lord!