Is it possible that the insults Jesus received caused him emotional pain? Was Jesus immune to that? Did the Divine insight he often seemed to have allow him to perceive people’s motives and never take offense?
I received some pretty direct criticism for this sermon not connecting with people. Naturally, that frustrates me. I have no interest in working for hours to talk for 30 minutes for people to think they wasted their time listening to me. I’m not about to tell anybody the sermon was better than they think. The sermon is only as good as they think. If it’s the preachers goal to connect God’s Word with the congregation and they don’t feel connected, then the preacher needs to do something different.
One reason I think the disconnect occurred arose from the application I made from Mark 3:20-25. I attempted to call upon my inner Max Lucado, and it clearly didn’t work. But I’ve heard it said that Max is a better writer than speaker, so maybe my inner Max also works better on paper… or computer screen.
In Mark 3 Jesus’ ministry gear up a notch when he appoints the Twelve in v13-19. He immediately begins to teach them. He gets so caught up in his teaching and the crowds are so big that v20 tells us that “he and his disciples were unable to eat.”
Somehow, Jesus’ mother, Mary, hears that he’s not taking care of himself. She takes her other children and goes to Jesus. This seems like a very natural and motherly thing to do. We probably imagine her wrapping up some bread, fish and carrot sticks planning to make sure he eats every bite before he goes back to teaching. But surprisingly we find a very different motivation in v21. The CEV state it this way, “When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.“
God blessed me with a supportive home environment. We didn’t have a lot of money. There were many things we couldn’t do. But my parents always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. During high school one year I decided I wanted to try ventriloquism. I had very little stage experience. I had never worked with puppets. But Mum looked around in various obscure places and found several books for me to study and work on. I didn’t have a teacher and it was more a whim than a dream, so my ventriloquism venture was short lived. But my Mum’s willingness to support my strange ideas meant a lot.
I took familial support during my upbringing for granted. In fact, I still do. I imagine that Jesus also expected his family, those closest to him to support his new ministry: Even if they didn’t understand it.
Instead Jesus’ family thought he was crazy, nuts, bananas. He’d lost his mind. They were so convinced of his insanity they were willing to take him by force. Jesus, who’d never sinned. Jesus, whom his mother had always trusted. Jesus, who left heaven. Jesus, who took on the form of a human. Jesus, carrying out the will of his Father. Jesus, accused of having lost his mind by those closest to him. Surely, if he has any shred of humanity this leaves Jesus hurt and confused.
At this point in the sermon some people may have experienced discomfort. After all, wouldn’t Jesus just take this in his stride? Didn’t Jesus know to expect opposition? Wouldn’t Jesus understand that their intent was to look out for him, to care for him? Surely he knew their motivations were good? Wasn’t Jesus tougher than that? Do you really think his emotions went up and down like ours?
The Bible doesn’t tell us a great deal about Jesus’ emotional stability. I guess it’s fair to assume that he was usually a pretty stable guy. We know he wept in the face of death (John 11:35). We know he became hot under when God was insulted (John 2:13-17). We know that throughout his ministry he was “moved with compassion” (Mark 6:34; 8:2). But it doesn’t tell us whether he was ever lonely. It doesn’t tell us if the insults he received made him cry, or made him angry, or whether he just felt pity for the people speaking them.
“…infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute…”
I don’t accept this description of God, but that’s a discussion for another time. I do think it’s difficult for us to draw the line between the divinity and humanity of Jesus. In this particular instance I’m very comfortable picturing Jesus emotionally wounded by the statements and attitudes of his family. Their belief in his insanity undermines his ministry almost as much as the Pharisees in the very next verse who argue that he’s demon possessed. I don’t think this makes Jesus a wimp, or even a SNAG. It seems to me that you’d need a remarkably cold heart to be unmoved by your mother and siblings seriously calling you crazy. I don’t believe Jesus ever had a cold heart.
I also believe that Jesus would have discussed and clarified these accusations with his family pretty quickly so as not to allow anger and resentment to fester. Consider his advice in Matthew 5:23-24 to settle disputes before worshiping God. Also in Matthew 18:15 he teaches that if someone sins against you it needs to be sorted out between the two of you directly. Only after direct communication has failed do you involve other people. It’s reasonable to believe Jesus followed his own directions.
Now, I think I lost my inner Max a few paragraphs back, but here’s my observation. There is a way back from hurt and insult. As devastating as it might be to have your siblings and mother lose trust in your dreams and abilities Jesus didn’t turn it into a family feud. Even while hanging on the cross Jesus made sure Mary wouldn’t be left alone (John 19:26-27). He certainly wasn’t vindictive. We also learn in Galatians 1:19 that Jesus’ brother James became a leader in the church after his death.
While it’s human to hurt we need to watch that our hurts don’t define us. Christ was defined by the forgiveness, grace and mercy he extends to all of us who wounded him. We should also aim to have grace greater than our hurts.
- Do you have difficulty picturing Jesus having emotions?
- Why do you think the Bible tells us that Jesus wept, but not that he laughed?
- Does it make a difference to you if Jesus was a “take-it-on-the chin” kind of guy or emotionally sensitive?