Knee Jerk Devotional: January 19, 2021
Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered—so many making demands on him that there wasn’t even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was believing his own press.
The religion scholars from Jerusalem came down spreading rumors that he was working black magic, using devil tricks to impress them with spiritual power. Jesus confronted their slander with a story: “Does it make sense to send a devil to catch a devil, to use Satan to get rid of Satan? A constantly squabbling family disintegrates. If Satan were fighting Satan, there soon wouldn’t be any Satan left. Do you think it’s possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied man, and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first? Tie him up, though, and you can clean him out.
“Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.” He gave this warning because they were accusing him of being in league with Evil.
Just then his mother and brothers showed up. Standing outside, they relayed a message that they wanted a word with him. He was surrounded by the crowd when he was given the message, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside looking for you.”
Jesus responded, “Who do you think are my mother and brothers?” Looking around, taking in everyone seated around him, he said, “Right here, right in front of you—my mother and my brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.
Power is an interesting thing isn’t it? The religious scholars had the religious power in their community and they wanted to keep it. So, when they saw Jesus doing things to help people indiscriminately they grew worried. This upstart rabbi was gaining power and stature and respect among the people. There was an authority about him that they could not match. The problem with that is if he was gaining in power, they thought they were losing.
Too often those in power see things in terms of winning or losing. There are only two options.
You are either in power or you’re not.
You have control or you don’t.
You are the leader or you’re not.
You are winning or you’re losing.
Jesus, didn’t care about such things. What mattered to him was seeing all those around him flourishing even the expense of his own well-being. Did you catch that? He was doing so much for others that he didn’t have time to eat. We’ve also covered elsewhere that Jesus knew his limits and made sure to practice self-care. But in this moment we see his selflessness.
So what happens? The religious decide that he is evil and is an agent of the devil. This served to dehumanize him and make him into an enemy. Why? Because he was empowering people by graciously helping them flourish. I am sure that there was great fear that if the people were empowered to flourish then they would decide that they didn’t need the religious leaders.
We see this in our world all the time, don’t we?
Political opponents cast one another as the embodiment of evil. Religious folks on both sides of the political spectrum refer to one another’s leaders as, “anti-Christ.” We baptize our own people in God and our opponents in the devil.
Because we see the world through these either/or, good/bad, winner/loser scenarios. The world doesn’t work that way. We can all help one another become the best version of ourselves. We can help one another flourish. This really is possible.
Could you imagine if we moved beyond this dualism to something else? Could you imagine if instead we saw one another as family? What if we embraced neighbor and enemy as family? What if as a result of that we sought reconciliation and healing? How would the world change?
This is all easier said than done. But, could it be worth it?
I think it might be.