Summary: Some thought Jesus was either crazy or possessed? did that include Jesus' own family?
Is He Crazy?
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus had just finished calling the twelve for the ministry. Matthew gives a little more information including a long sermon to prepare the disciples for opposition which would eventually come to them on account of Jesus even though the tour they went on went pretty well. Matthew also places the Sabbath controversies as coming after this preaching tour, whereas Mark shows that the passage we will be discussing came right after the commissioning of the twelve. The order Matthew has makes more sense in interpreting this passage, but we really cannot be sure of the order of events.
Verse 20 states that Jesus went into a house. It probably wasn’t just any house. It was a place which he called “home” as this is what the Greek means. Home is a place where one can relax and destress. We know that Jesus had been plotted against by the Pharisees. He also attracted the attention of the sick and possessed. Instead of Sabbath which Jesus and the disciples needed, He was soon surrounded by a large crowd demanding His attention. They could not even find time to eat. So I can only think that Jesus appeared worn out.
Verse 21 reads that when those “from Him” herd that Jesus was home, they came with the intent to seize him. The Greek says that these people thought Jesus was insane. Insane people were shielded from public exposure, as they were seen as a source of shame to the family. These who came were going to take Him away. A little aside here is that the Greek word for “crazy” is the word we get “exist” from, but I digress. But just who are those who were “from Him”? The term is used for those in close relation to Jesus. Could it be that the disciples thought Him crazy? This seems most unlikely as the disciples were already with Jesus and these came from outside. Could it be the people from His home village who were loosely related to Him? No, the text will show that it was Jesus’ own brothers accompanied by His mother who came to take Him away. We know from John 7 that His brothers were unbelievers. It would not seem odd that they would have come to take His crazy brother away. But what about Mary His mother? Surely she knew better we would think.
Some who hold that it was Jesus’ brothers are referred to here hold that they kind of dragged Mary with them. Surely Mary would not think Jesus crazy. After all, is she not the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin? I can’t say for sure what the truth is here, but it is interesting that John the Baptist in prison had a moment of unbelief where he sends his disciples to ask whether Jesus was the Christ or whether Israel should look for someone else? This is John whom Jesus says that none other who had been born was greater. Yet John the Baptist has a moment of personal doubt because Jesus did not follow the script that John had assumed He would follow. Even Jesus’ brothers when they ask Him in John seven to reveal Himself in Jerusalem as Messiah showed the same misunderstanding. Could Mary also had a moment of doubt, at least enough to listen to her other sins.
It was not long before the Scribes from Jerusalem spotted the crowd and began to work doubt in the crowd. They kept insisting that Jesus was demon possessed and was doing His miracles by Satan. “He has Beelzebub, and this is how the demons are cast out.” Jesus’ response was to gather His accusers together out from the crowd. He then started to address them in parables which indicated He might have spoken more than what is recorded here.
Jesus responds by an argument from common sense. If the devil was casting his own devils out of people, he would be fighting against himself and his own. If this were true, Satan’s kingdom would soon fall. Kingdoms and empires in history have often fallen victim to internal dissention. For since Satan is purely evil who is out to destroy the human race and usurp God’s throne, such division would be welcome news indeed. Why would the scribes and Pharisees hinder it? Jesus strongly says in Greek that if this were true, Satan’s kingdom has an end.
The next parable Jesus speaks is a little more difficult. A strong man is quite capable of defending his house. Not only is he on his own turf, but he is mighty. If someone wanted to break in and plunder him, he would first have to be incapacitated. The question is who is the strong man? Some see Jesus as the strong man whom the devil tries to bind in order to plunder God’s house. Even though Jesus would be led away by the devilish act of Judas and bound and crucified, this was not the end as Jesus who lay in death’s strong bands would rise again on the third day. So it seems better to take the strong man as Satan. Jesus binds Satan to free men from Satan’s power and demon possession. This Jesus can do with a single word or movement of His finger. Jesus is plundering Satan’s kingdom.