A friend of mine and I are going skydiving to celebrate our birthdays—his fiftieth and my forty-ninth. We will put on parachutes, be strapped to an experienced diver, get on an airplane, fly up to fourteen thousand feet, and then launch ourselves out into thin air. We will free-fall for sixty seconds and then pull the rip cord and glide down to the earth for a hopefully uneventful landing. Some of my friends and neighbors will think this makes more sense than being a disciple of Jesus.
Today’s scripture reminds us that it’s countercultural to follow Jesus. Jesus’ family has come in an act of intervention, “to restrain him.” Do they worry what the neighbors think or do they themselves believe Jesus is not quite right? Obviously, following the crazy man from Nazareth won’t help our respectability. We won’t receive heaps of praise from our neighbors. In fact, they may snicker at us behind their hands.
Following Jesus means daring to include the people our neighbors would leave out, serving those who can’t pay us back. It means loving our enemy and forgiving those who hurt us. It means not caving in to the pessimism of our age or the false optimism based on nationalism or nostalgia. It means knowing deep in our bones that our value comes from our creation in God’s image. Following Jesus means not fearing death because we know that we trust God with everything. We know the source of Jesus’ power and continue in the sphere of its influence.
God, whose voice was heard through prophets we today would call crazy; whose love was made visible in Jesus of Nazareth, a man whose own family suspected he was not right in the head, set us free from the need to conform to our community, to our context, and to our generation so that we may go a little crazy in love with those you love. Amen.
We sometimes struggle to believe in the power of a God we cannot see. The psalmist declares that God is greater than any earthly king and will preserve us in the face of our enemies. However, in the time of Samuel, the Israelites demanded a human king to lead them into battle, as other nations had. God was not enough for them. Paul admonishes the Corinthians not to repeat this mistake. We should not think that what we can see is the ultimate reality. What we see is temporary; what cannot be seen is eternal. Perhaps Jesus is teaching a similar idea in this somewhat troubling passage in Mark. Jesus is not against family, but he is emphasizing that human families are temporary; spiritual family is eternal.
• Read 1 Samuel 8:4-20. How influenced by culture and neigh-
bors are you? How do you attempt to keep your priorities aligned with God’s reign?
• Read Psalm 138. How do you evaluate the “gods” in your life? How do you recognize when those gods have gained control of your life?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1. When life’s circumstances over-
whelm you, how do you avoid losing heart?
• Read Mark 3:20-35. Who is your spiritual family? Whom do you identify as your brothers, sisters, mother and father?
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