From the Gospel according to Mark:
Then [Jesus] went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Mark 3:19b-21 (NRSV) – January 22, 2013.)
Mark, Matthew, and John all report that on another occasion Jesus commented, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” One can’t get much more dishonored that being accused of being crazy!
I was at meeting today where the issue of evangelism was discussed – we were being honest, I think, in referring to it as “marketing” and using a marketing analysis of how we can go about putting the gospel before others.
At one point during the discussion, one of our number referred to a part of the market as “the crazies,” by which he meant those going through crises in their life: divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job, alcoholism or other addiction (their own or someone else’s), etc. There are numerous disruptions, dysfunctions, crises, tragedies, and catastrophes that can lead to craziness in a family. What, he asked, can we offer to those facing “the crazies”?
We can offer Jesus whose family and friends thought he was “out of his mind”; we can offer the Jesus who is crazy! We have a crazy savior who is with us in the midst of the craziness. Of course, by calling Jesus “crazy,” I’m not saying Jesus was insane. C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, addressed that issue when he suggested that in thinking about who Jesus was and is, we only three choices — (1) Jesus was mad. Only a madman would make some the outlandish statements Jesus made; (2) He was lying. He might or might not have believed what he said about himself, but regardless they were not true; or (3) What he said was and is true and he is the Son of God, the Incarnate Lord who came from heaven to live among us, who died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven opening the way of salvation to us. This is how Lewis makes this profound logical argument.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
No, when I say that Jesus is “crazy,” I’m not thinking he was nuts. Rather, I’m remembering a character from a television show from my childhood – The Life and Loves of Dobie Gillis. Bob Denver played the beatnik character Maynard G. Krebs. When Maynard really liked something, he would say, “That’s like crazy, man!” That’s what I think about Jesus; he’s like crazy, man. And he’s with us when things go crazy!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.