Embrace Insanity: Jesus’ Family Thought He Was Crazy Too

Readings for 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time


It’s been a busy time for us lately. Since my last entry here, Peggy and I have moved out of our house in Berea, Kentucky. Our ultimate goal is to appropriate our new home in Westport, Connecticut, where we’ll be living down the street from our four grandchildren. But because a renter is still living in our new digs, we won’t be able to move in till after Labor Day. So, in the meantime, our stuff will be in storage somewhere. And we’ll be living at our summer cottage in Michigan.

In any case, we spent a week packing. We had a big going-away party including a Cuban band and dancing. Then the movers came and took everything. We journeyed to Westport for our granddaughter’s school concert (she’s in 3rd grade). Then, Peggy and I attended two days of the Left Forum in New York City, where I tried to peddle my new book (The Magic Glasses of Critical Thinking) and listened to the likes of Chris Hedges, Richard Wolff, Michael Hudson, Silvia Federici, and Bernie Sanders’ wife.

Suitably inspired, we traveled to our Canadian Lakes property in the center of the Michigan Mitten. Our sons came and will be with us here for visiting and golf till next Tuesday. Our daughter, her husband, the four grandkids, and Peggy’s best friend from college along with one of her grandchildren also came for the weekend.

It’s been a whirlwind of packing, driving, inspiration, eating, drinking, visiting, golf, and conversation – terrific in every way.

It’s the conversation, I want to focus on here, especially in the light of what I heard at the Left Forum – and of today’s Gospel reading. At times, our exchanges have been lively and confrontational. My sons, my son-in-law and I always end up disagreeing about almost everything having to do with politics and economics. According to them:

• The U.S. economy is fine.
• Poverty, especially in the United States is the fault of poor people.
• Capitalism is the best possible economic system.
• The failure of alternatives (as in Cuba and Venezuela) prove their point.

According to me:

• Our economy is a disaster, especially since it is intrinsically dependent on war, environmental destruction, and worker exploitation across the planet.
• Poverty is widespread in the United States, the richest country in the history of the world, where workers’ wages haven’t risen significantly in more than 40 years, while corporate profits have gone through the roof.
• Our unfettered version of capitalism along with our cult of militarism under the leadership of pathological criminals in Washington and state legislatures is leading the world to certain destruction.
• Countries such as Cuba and Venezuela demonstrate the success of U.S. policy towards the former colonies trying desperately to free themselves from imperial hegemony. That policy has the CIA, NSA, and the United States military:
o Repeatedly intervening in those countries’ elections, politics,
economies, and media
o Thereby creating inevitable havoc
o And subsequently blaming the chaos on the local leaders and the “failures” of alternatives to the U.S. version of white, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchy
• The pattern should be apparent to anyone with the least bit of historical awareness.

The men in my family think I’m crazy.

And that brings me to today’s Gospel. It comes from the pen of Mark the evangelist who invented the literary form we call “gospel.” Today’s selection offers us one of his characteristic literary “sandwiches.” That is, he introduces a story, inserts a seemingly unrelated filler, and then concludes the initial story to make its point.

In today’s version, the first piece of bread is his announcement that Jesus’ mother and brothers set out to rescue their son and sibling from himself; they believe he’s gone crazy. Then comes a long apparently unrelated piece about Satan and his house divided against itself. The final piece of bread has Jesus rejecting his family of origin in favor of those who follow his crazy teachings.

In Mark’s words, here’s the way the story goes:

“Jesus came home with his disciples. . . (H)is relatives . . . set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” . . . The scribes . . . said, “He is possessed . . .”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. . .”

His mother and his brothers arrived. . . A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply “Who are my mother and my brothers? . . . (W)hoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Do you see what I mean? Here’s the sandwich construction:

• Jesus’ family (along with the Jewish scribal establishment) think Jesus is insane and diabolical.
• Jesus declares that such accusations are themselves insane, since he is in fact working to subvert the Kingdom of Satan and establish God’s reign.
• So, he rejects his adversarial family (and scribal establishment) in favor of those who join him in undermining Satan’s rule.
• Those who embrace his “insanity,” Jesus asserts, constitute his true family.

Such teaching should encourage those who are trying to follow Jesus. Since the world’s wisdom is 180 degrees opposed to God’s wisdom, Jesus followers will always be perceived as subversive, ideological, possessed and insane. If we are not seen that way, we are, in fact, outside Jesus’ family whose membership is a matter of faith rather than blood.

Our task as Jesus’ family is to divide Satan’s kingdom and bring it to its knees, not to achieve reconciliation with it or its defenders.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

5 thoughts on “Embrace Insanity: Jesus’ Family Thought He Was Crazy Too”

  1. Hey Mike! I would recommend Ramp Hollow by Stoll for a treatise on capitalism and the poor (Appalachia)…Jesse recommended it and we are both working our way through it! It was so good to see the whole family! >


  2. And we divide Satan by forging common cause with those who are oppressed but are under the sway of Satan’s minions.

    Thanks, Mike.


      1. Hi Mike, I understand, all too well. I completed a move within Berea in May. Should you visit Berea and we get a chance to get together, that would be wonderful. If you’re able to drag yourselves away from the grandkids, that is. 🙂


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