So Jesus’ family thought he had lost his mind (Mark 3:21). They heard what people were saying, got worried, and went to rein him in. What was he doing that caused such a radical assessment? Mental illness is no joke. Misdiagnosis is just as dangerous today as it was back then.
So what was he doing? Healing the sick, consorting with the outcasts of society, and challenging religious rules and traditions, for starters. Then there’s the matter of the exorcisms. We might think that’s questionable behavior, but back then it wasn’t belief in demons that was certifiable, it was thinking there was any hope of relief for the suffering soul. Jesus also had the audacity to redefine family. When his mother and brothers came looking for him, he took the opportunity to proclaim to all the people, ‘‘Here are my mother and my sisters and brothers!’
Was Jesus crazy? I doubt we’d find an appropriate diagnosis for him in DSM-IV, and we should be careful about throwing around mental health terms – like the people in Mark 3 (people were saying, ‘Jesus has gone out of his mind.’).
Is it any better to appropriate a phrase such as ‘crazy like a fox’? That paradoxical idiom implies slyness and cunning rather than mental defect, which I don’t think quite gets at what Jesus was about either. But it does remind us that he was aware of what he was doing, why he was doing it, and the possible implications and outcomes. Obviously his challenge to the religious and political systems got him killed. Some might call his choice to take his stand all the way to death insanity. Maybe his family did just that. Maybe some of his friends did too; was that the conclusion that Judas reached?
So what about us, we who claim to be followers of Jesus? Are we out of our minds if we believe that we have a mandate for healing the sick and alleviating every kind of suffering? Is it insanity to believe that we can question religious rules and traditions, confront political systems, and challenge societal injustices? Are we crazy to believe that the circle of family can be drawn to include rather than exclude? Some – many – would say yes. It’s not the easy path, nor the path of success according to the usual definitions.
But it is the path of Jesus, which very clearly points to what we should be doing and why we’re doing it. And it isn’t hard to figure out what implications and outcomes are possible in our day. That means that we, too, must be crazy like foxes.
Maybe being out of our minds (spiritually, that is, not in a DSM-IV sense) isn’t such a bad thing, if it means that it gets us more and more into our hearts and our souls. So if that’s what Jesus’ family meant by it – then I guess I want to be out of my mind too.