Have you ever told someone something, and their instant reaction is
You’re out of your mind!
You want to do what? Did you really say that? And they want to change your mind – talk some sense into you.
This seems to be the reaction that Jesus gets:
Jesus and the Ruler of Demons
20Jesus went back home, and once again such a large crowd gathered that there was no chance even to eat. 21When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.
22Some teachers of the Law of Moses came from Jerusalem and said, “This man is under the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons! He is even forcing out demons with the help of Beelzebul.”
23Jesus told the people to gather around him. Then he spoke to them in riddles and said:
How can Satan force himself out? 24A nation whose people fight each other won’t last very long. 25And a family that fights won’t last long either. 26So if Satan fights against himself, that will be the end of him.
27How can anyone break into the house of a strong man and steal his things, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can take everything.
28I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. 29But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.
30Jesus said this because the people were saying that he had an evil spirit in him.
He is going about his work, doing the new thing that God wants to do – and he is accused of being crazy, out of his mind, having lost the plot – all by his family! Their reaction is to want to get him under control. The “experts” come along and confirm their opinion. They, wrongly, think he is under the power of demons, and treat him accordingly. Jesus points out to them how ridiculous that would be, as what he has come to do is free people from what ties them, including demons. That would be nonsensical if he himself was under the control of those demons.
This is perhaps a tricky passage for us to get our heads around, but it illustrates how easily people misunderstand.
Do people who know that you follow God think you are out of your mind? Do they try to persuade you that it is all rubbish and you are wasting your time? Do they try to talk sense into you? Do you feel misunderstood? There has been so much talk recently about Richard Dawkins, and his ongoing claims that religion is a delusion. It is easy to feel bombarded and undermined in our faith.
Jesus shows emphatically that he is not out of his mind – and neither are you if you follow his ways – you are very much in God’s mind. Jesus was accused of many things throughout his ministry, and we will be too. But Jesus has come to break the power of evil (Tom Wright p 26), and we are invited to join him. Jesus won the battle over evil – and we can share in that too. People may mock and sneer – indeed they probably will. They may want to talk you out of it, and release you from what has “got into you”. That will be very hard, very hurtful, very tempting to follow – but we can lean on Jesus, who has won that battle.
Part of Jesus’ temptation battle was with the demons – the powers that threaten to hold and tempt us away, but Jesus shows us the one true way – and we can trust him – whatever others may try to shout at us.
One of the opportunities of Lent, as we take time out to reflect on our journey with Jesus, is to know where we are with him, to reinforce what we believe, and to be clear of the ground we are standing on. Then that may give us confidence when others try to get us under control. It may be a struggle, but Jesus knows that torment – and struggles with us.
Tom’s prayer for today (p 26):
Teach us, Lord Jesus,
not to fear the accusations of the enemy,
but to trust in your victory
at all times.