Crazy like Jesus
Mark 3: 20 - 22
Remember when you got your cross on Sunday afternoon on your Walk? Do you remember what was said to you as you received it? [Christ is counting on you]
And remember what you said in response? [And I’m counting on Christ]
I was thinking - for what is Christ counting on us - and for what are we counting on Christ?
We could probably run up a pretty good list. We count on Christ for grace, love, strength, mercy, compassion, hope, for his presence in our lives - we could go on.
And Christ is counting on us: for faithfulness, service, love of God and neighbor, obedience, compassion, forgiveness - again, we could go on.
But I wonder, no matter how long we spent coming up with things for either list, whether we would ever get to the point where we put the word “crazy” on the list. As in, Christ, we count on you to be crazy and you are counting on us to be crazy as well.
Here’s the thing - of all the things people have said about Jesus - about who he is and what he’s about, one thing that everyone around Jesus agree on was that he was crazy.
Here in Mark, his family and friends show up to restrain him - to grab him - Greek - to use physical strength - to drag his sorry butt home to shut him up. Why? Because they thought he was “existemi” - out of his mind. Crazy!
Then the scribes and Pharisees show up and add fuel to the fire. These are the professionals. They make a living making this call: Jesus is possessed. He’s got demons. He’s goofy in the head. Off his rocker. Today we might use nicer language - he is mentally ill. This accusation continues all through the gospels. Jesus, and by association his disciples, are out of their minds. Crazy. Even Paul - when he was brought before King Agrippa and gave defense for his actions, Agrippa said to Paul: You are out of your mind!
Biblical scholars tell us that when you run across something in the text that is both uncomplimentary and shows up consistently - it’s probably the closest you can get to the real story.
Why this accusation? What’s so crazy about Jesus?
Several years ago Len Sweet wrote a book called “Jesus drives me crazy” in which he rattled off a summary of what Jesus taught that was “crazy.” Jesus taught:
The way up is down.
The way in is out.
The way first is last.
The way to success is service.
The way of strength is weakness.
The way of life is the way of death - death to self, to society, to family.
Want to get even with your enemies? Bless them and love them.
[Explain “turn the other cheek.”]
Crazy. People called Jesus - and his first followers - crazy - demon-possessed - because they spoke - and lived a different way of life. A life Jesus called “the kingdom of God” - or “the kingdom of heaven” - the reign of God. It called into question almost every priority and every structure and every system around him.
- He challenged the temple system.
- He challenged the violence of the empire. (BTW: did you know that for first 200 years of the church, you couldn’t be baptized unless you vowed to never join the military? AND, if you made this vow, you were called an atheist by the culture around you?) What would the world look like if the 3 billion people who professed Christ still lived like this?
- He challenged the entitlement enjoyed by the rich and powerful.
- He challenged the disconnect between worship and service.
- He challenged the legalist ways religious people demonstrated generosity.
- He afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted.
- He hung out with the lowest, the least and the marginalized. If someone was considered to be on the fringe of society, he ran in their direction.
And they called him crazy. And eventually some people did lay hands on him. They did restrain him. They tried to shut him up. They tried to prove he was out of his mind and they were the sane ones.
That was Friday. But Sunday morning came. And on that day, Love won. On that day, crazy was shown to be the way of life God intended after all.
So what about us? For those of us who claim to follow this Jesus (and I’m not going to assume everyone here has signed up for this), if someone were to look at our lives - look at the rhythm and activities of our lives as followers of Jesus - is anyone calling us crazy?
I love coming to things like candlelight - but frankly, this is easy. Loving the pilgrims is easy. Am I also willing to love when it isn’t so easy? What about loving people I don’t like? What about loving that family member that drives you crazy, or maybe haven’t spoken to in years? What about Red Sox fans loving Yankees fans and vice versa? What about Republicans loving Democrats and Democrats loving Republicans? What about gay people loving straight people and straight loving gay? Of course, our primary identification is changed once we've given allegiance to Christ - no more Jew, Greek, male, female, etc. So shouldn't Christian be even better at this?!
If someone were to comment on the way you love neighbor and enemy, would anyone call you crazy? Are you running to stand by the side of those being pushed to the margins? I’m thinking I’m not crazy enough. How about you?
Most pastors today spend 80 - 90% of their time taking care of things related to church - mostly worship. Pastors - what if you adopted the ways of Jesus and investing your best time in raising up a group of leaders who can then raise up new leaders, and then spent a majority of your time in the community, creating new relationships? You know your getting crazy enough when you starting getting complaints!
What about resisting the ways of violence and refusing to support policies that continue to perpetuate violence, ever increasing budgets for the ways of war? It’s interesting that pretty much only the Amish and Mennonites offer a consistent voice against violence - and yet, how does the world see them? Heck, how does much of the church see them?
Let me really step on toes. If someone were to find out the level of your generosity when it came to your giving to God, would anyone call you crazy?
Earlier this year a report came out on the charitable giving trends, state by state. I just want to give you the bottom six, heading toward the lowest:
3% or less for each state. Doesn’t sound too crazy at all.
Len Sweet tells a story at the end of his book about a friend who helped lead music for a VBS. One song in particular became a favorite: Praise ye the Lord. You know - hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah, Praise ye the Lord.
So one morning this guy asks the kids what they wanted to sing and one little boy shouts out: Crazy the Lord. The guy was confused. “We haven’t sung a song called that this week.”
The boy answered, “Sure we have. It goes ‘Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, halleluhah, CRAZY the Lord!”
Here’s my challenge - my prayer - taht we let that become our song.
Crazy the Lord. Crazy about loving, crazy about caring, crazy about giving, crazy about loving our neighbor, crazy about non-violence, crazy for this Jesus who is absolutely crazy for us!