Summary: How do you respond to Jesus? Like the Pharisees who want everything to be neat and tidy within clearly defined parameters? Like Jesus’ family who are embarrassed by him and doubt him? Or like those who followed him, even at the risk of their lives?
How much is too much? I’m not thinking about chocolate here. That’s an easy one. No, I’m thinking about ministry effort. When do you say enough is enough? Is it OK to say “I’ve done my 40 hours this week; now I’m going to stop and have a rest”? Or should you work flat out all the time for the Lord? Alternatively, when you see someone in ministry seemingly working their fingers to the bone, should you tell them to stop and have a break?
I’ve known people who from my perspective seemed to be workaholics, never stopping, always looking for another opportunity to minister, to help someone out. And I’ve thought they should look after themselves more. It’s a fine line isn’t it, between being a workaholic, and working flat out at serving God?
But of course it’s much easier to make a judgement like that from the sideline isn’t it? If you’re not the one actually engaged in that ministry it’s hard to know what’s the right thing to do.
Well, in today’s passage we see two different sets of onlookers watching Jesus and judging him. They both think he’s not quite right, though their conclusions as to the cause are quite different.
What do you think’s going through Jesus’ family’s mind as they hear about what Jesus is doing? They’ve heard that he’s under such pressure to teach and heal that he isn’t getting any rest and in fact he doesn’t even have time to eat. You can imagine, everyone’s talking about him and some are even suggesting he’s losing his mind, going too far in his willingness to give them what they want.
Could it be that they’re embarrassed by him? Embarrassed that people might think this is what his family is like?
Some of us get embarrassed by Jesus or by God at times. When we read passages like this where Mary and Jesus’ brothers don’t look good. Or worse still when we hear some of the stories in the Old Testament, particularly, where God exercises his judgment on nations or people who oppose him. When we heard the story of Miriam 2 weeks ago we might have been embarrassed at the way she celebrated the death of hundreds of Egyptian soldiers. When you read the story of God striking down Ananias and Sapphira because they held back a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their land, in Acts 5, do you worry that God seems too harsh?
If Jesus’ family are embarrassed it’s because they’ve decided he’s going too far. As I thought about this it struck me that I need to be careful that I don’t fall into the same trap as Jesus’ family did here, of judging Gospel ministry (gospel priorities) by the standards of the world. The person who works flat out preaching the gospel may be different from the person who never stops working at their secular job. Can you see how? Ask yourself, how was it that Jesus could keep going even though he was so pressed by people that he didn’t even have time to eat? Do you remember that incident in John’s gospel when Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman by the well. What did he say to the disciples when they came back from the town with a basket of lunch? They were concerned that he must be hungry and they urged him to eat something. But he said “I have food to eat that you know nothing about... My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Jesus’ preaching and teaching were sustenance enough for him. God’s Spirit bore him up as he taught and healed. There was an inner strength given to him by God that kept him going. That’s one of the reasons of course that he spent time alone in prayer. Because in communion with God he was strengthened and empowered to go on. This was the hidden source of strength that his family failed to see. They thought he was neglecting himself when in reality he was doing the very thing that gave him strength. He was doing the will of God. He was experiencing God at work in the lives of the people to whom he ministered.
But his family weren’t the only ones who failed to see the source of his power. Already in this gospel Mark has emphasised the power and authority with which Jesus taught and healed, but as we’ve seen before, the very people who might have been expected to recognise the source of this power and authority fail to do so. Both Jesus’ family who were closest to him and the religious leaders who should have been able to recognise the work of God, misunderstood him. The religious leaders have come down from Jerusalem to check out what was going on and they don’t like what they see. Look back at the start of the chapter, in v6. There we find them plotting with the Herodians how they might kill him. When they came down from Jerusalem it was with only one thing in mind and that was to discredit what Jesus was doing. Now this is important for what follows. They haven’t come to see whether what he’s saying is worth hearing, or to check on his credentials. Their minds are already made up. All they want is to undermine him in the eyes of the people.