Genesis 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1; Mark 3:20-35
He’s out of his mind. Yeah, he’s had some success, but it’s deluded him. He needs to be restrained. And that’s what his friends and family are saying!
What’s happened? What has Jesus done to make even his own family think he’s become unbalanced? Whatever he’s been doing is seen as “abnormal.” However they were defining normal, usual behavior, Jesus is operating outside of that.
That makes me wonder . . .
Do we consider the activity of Jesus “normal”? Do we think of not only his earthly ministry then, but what he calls us to do as the body of Christ today, as usual behavior?
If we get serious about Jesus, I’m pretty sure we’d answer a very clear “no.” But we rarely do. Here’s why. We want Jesus to be normal. We want to see him as being like us—because we want to be normal. If we see him as normal, that validates us as normal too.
What that sometimes means is that we pay more attention to the ways his behavior is like us, and less attention to the ways his behavior is different. Sometimes we just ignore some of his more controversial actions. Or if we’re forced to look at them, we might think he’s gone off the deep end a little too.
But what we’re doing is assuming we know what normal is. We assume that our beliefs, our experiences, our attitudes are perfectly, centrally normal. We judge everyone else by that definition. In most of our opinions and values, don’t we all consider ourselves to be in the center? If anyone strays in any direction too far from our perspective, don’t we think of them as a little closer to radical, crazy, needing to be restrained?
Isn’t that starting in the wrong place? We seem to begin with where we fit with the people around us. Not only are we influenced by what people around us consider normal, but we’re judging Jesus by those same, pretty flimsy standards. That’s what bad politicians to be re-elected. (See how normal I am? I’m just like you. Can I have your vote now?) The Lord of all heaven and earth really doesn’t need our vote to be re-elected as Lord and Savior. He’s pretty much got a lock on that job. But also, when you get down to it, isn’t Jesus the one that ought to define “normal” rather than be judged according to a cultural definition of normal?
For him, normal looks quite different than it does in our world. Normal for Jesus is a deep and full relationship with the Father and a whole life being lived out of that relationship. Normal for Jesus is standing with those things that support this full life relationship with God. Normal is standing against those things that inhibit it.
That’s why Jesus has been doing some things that some people considered abnormal, delirious, or even crazy. He heals people, even breaking the Sabbath law to do so. He casts out demons, even if the religious authorities think he’s a chief demon because of it. He makes friends with the unacceptable, even if that means he’s labeled an outcast. He forgives those furthest away from God, even when doing so means he’ll be accused of blasphemy—and put to death for it. He calls for people to give up power, give away money and possessions, and treat the most undeserving people with love, generosity, and compassion. He even forgives his enemies while they are in the very act of killing him.
These aren’t normal actions. But they are actions that take on powers that get in the way of a relationship between us and God. Sin, illness, demons, abusive power, even religion when it robs humanity of life with God. That’s normal for Jesus, and it should be normal for us. But it’s not, is it?
Admit it, when you see someone doing these kinds of things, you think of them as a little bit out-of-touch, don’t you? The Amish community that completely forgave the man who killed one of their kids made huge news. Abnormal. Someone who gives away more money than they can afford is extreme—not normal. Let’s face it; Jesus isn’t normal, and he doesn’t want us to be either.
Look at this another way. When we’re honest, who among us really thinks of ourselves as completely normal anyway? We may want to be, we may try to be, and we may even pretend to be. But deep down, we all have secluded parts of ourselves that we know don’t fit in.
So here’s a proposition. In our most honest moments we recognize our own abnormality. So as long as we’re abnormal, why not be abnormal in a way that gives us life, connects us to God, and benefits the people around us? Why not let Jesus define our abnormality? Why not claim our abnormality—own it—and recognize it as a way Jesus can relate to us? It’s difficult to trust our culture with our abnormalities, but we can trust Jesus with them. When you feel alone, unacceptable, don’t fit in—Jesus understands and stands with you. And it’s through his own abnormality that he gives us life.
To be honest, the closer we follow Jesus the more abnormal we will probably be perceived. Embrace that. Let Jesus’ abnormality fill you up, let it give you life, let it call you into giving life to others. They’re feeling unacceptable too. That’s probably where we’ll connect with them anyway. That’s where Jesus seems to spend his time. Perhaps we should too.
“When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”
Jesus isn’t normal, and he calls us to a life that isn’t normal either. There’s life in Jesus; full, real, authentic, honest, gracious life with God. That’s not normal. But thanks be to God Jesus give provides it for us.