The day before, I preached from Mark 3:20-34, wherein Jesus’ family seeks to have him committed (for, they said, ‘he is out of his mind’). Knowing his mother and brothers stand outside, Jesus says:
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said , ‘Here are my mother and brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
And in the ensuing question and answer, the congregation suffered dissonance in as much they could not bring together their appreciation of Mary and my claim that Jesus’ family were closer to the “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” camp (3:29) then not.
I deflected their concern toward Mark, whose story I think I accurately related. His problem, I told them, is that he spares no one, let alone those close to Jesus. For some reason he alone knows, just about everyone (especially the disciples) drops the ball when it comes to Jesus. Mary gets as much positive press as any (so she is there with other women at his crucifixion and on Sunday, when the male disciples have fled). Yet even she (and the other women) are dumb with fear at the end of the Gospel (16:8) when they should be jubilantly vocal.
So what was Mary up to here? I suggested, in the sermon and after, that perhaps she was seeking to protect her son, that from her perspective he was at risk (3:6) and that he would only end up dead if he kept up this crazy course. Perhaps. (The only other option, it strikes me, is that the family honor was called into question by Jesus’ apparent lunacy.)
My sermonic move was to develop appreciation that doing God’s will, being apart of Jesus’ family, means likely appearing crazy to the world around. God gives the church each other because, as Mark’s Jesus shows, following God is a lonely business.
But what happens when Joel grows up and he takes up his own cross and he follows Jesus. Will his mother (or his father) stand by, watching him take the risks God demands or will they seek to protect him from himself (and from God)? And if he evades their efforts to save him, will they have the courage to stand there like Mary did, watching him – even if he yells out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani”?
I don’t know. I know Mark got me into this, but I still feel like I owe Mary an apology.
Sing the blues, boss…
Jesus was an only son
As he walked up Calvary Hill
His mother Mary walking beside him
In the path where his blood spilled
Jesus was an only son
In the hills of Nazareth
As he lay reading the Psalms of David
At his mother's feet
A mother prays, "Sleep tight, my child, sleep well
For I'll be at your side
That no shadow, no darkness, no tolling bell,
Shall pierce your dreams this night.
"In the garden at Gethsemane
He prayed for the life he'd never live,
He beseeched his Heavenly Father to remove
The cup of death from his lips
Now there's a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached,
A light you'll never find in another's face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached
Well Jesus kissed his mother's hands
Whispered, "Mother, still your tears,
For remember the soul of the universe
Willed a world and it appeared."