He Is Beside Himself!

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I friend of mine is something of a daredevil. He loves those extreme sports we see on the internet or on some special TV sports report about such daring do. He thinks its cool to jump off a high cliff and then open his chute right before he hits the ground. He thinks its great to jump out of a perfectly good airplane! But what’s worse, he wants me to do it with him. Uh, no!

We see folks do stuff like this and we think they’re crazy for risking their lives, but they talk about their exploits in glowing, almost mystical, ways. They love what they do! They don’t think they’re crazy at all. They think we’re crazy for depriving ourselves of such an exciting life.

Before we get too smug about our “sensible” way of living, it might surprise you to learn that the Lord’s family in His day thought He was “beside himself” (what a lovely way to say “crazy” or “out of his mind”). They thought He was too zealous for His new ministry of message and healing. They thought He needed to be rescued.

So what motivated these family members to think this way about the Lord? Well, I’m sure they thought it was only out of concern for Jesus’ safety and well being. But often, when we dig deeper into our motivations, we discover something else. And that something else usually has more to do with our own fears and insecurities than the concern we have for someone else. The maximum commitment shown by the Lord’s willingness to serve all who came to Him looked dangerous and crazy to those whose lives didn’t quite measure up to maximum commitment themselves. The Lord’s focused life made a stark contrast to their own lives.

Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in Mark 3:13-21: At that time, Jesus went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons: Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaios, and Thaddaios, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.”

The truth is all the lives of the saints accomplish this same uncomfortable task of revelation. Story after story of the behavior of the saints seem “crazy” to us. Just take one such story of the saint we remembered yesterday – St. Symeon the Stylite. St. Symeon lived at the top of a tall pole on a platform exposed to the elements. When we contrast the effort and work we put into our own lives to make our living conditions as comfortable as possible, St. Symeon’s choices seem crazy to us. But, perhaps, God gives us these stark contrasts to challenge the ease at which we set our priorities in life with little regard to our eternal lives.

What makes more sense? Pouring all our energies into a present life that will end at the grave OR giving our best energies to “laying up treasures in heaven” (look at Matthew 6:19) for a life that will never end? Put this way, it seems kind of crazy to invest all our best energies in such a temporary situation! So, in the end, who’s really the crazy one?

Today, please don’t be surprised when people call you crazy for believing in the Faith and actively practicing the faith. You are not alone. All the saints and even the Lord Himself was thought out of His mind for His focused and purposeful life. Don’t let these voices who are merely disturbed by the displayed realization that their lives lack this focus and purpose so they react by trying to pull you back to the mediocrity that comforts their conscience. Don’t do it! Dare to look crazy to a crazy world so shortsighted that they pour their life gift into a temporary world and ignore the eternal life lying at their feet!

That’s just crazy! Don’t you think?

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