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A Crazy Man takes on the System

June 5, 2015

don-t-keep-calm-go-crazyMark 3: 20-35


Imagine for a moment, the frenzy that surrounded Jesus ministry. He is a rock star. Mark tells us:


Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat


It’s so chaotic around Jesus that his family can’t get into his house… so they take up a stand outside the house and send messages to him inside.

Even Jesus’ own family and friends are trying to restrain Jesus. He seems to be crazy. Verse 21 says

And having heard, his people came to take him, for they were saying that he was insane.


They are worried about the stir that he is creating with his preaching and his ‘news’ about God and God’s reign, and his power to heal and to break and change normal social relations. They fear it takes a crazy person to say and do these things. So they want to stop him… for his own well-being of course.


If his friends think he’s insane, his enemies have a more sinister take on it. The scribes are calling him demonic. He’s in cahoots with Satan. He’s a big demon with the authority to cast out smaller demons.


In response Jesus tells a parable (or better a riddle). “How can Satan cast out Satan?”


Some say that this is simply a rhetorical question. Obviously the answer is NO. So Jesus can’t be satanic (end of story).


Others say that this is too simple a reading. Jesus has a much more interesting understanding of evil. Satan is the Accuser. The satanic world is based in ‘casting out’. That’s how unity is maintained. So Jesus is asking a serious question in this riddle, not merely a rhetorical question. It really is a riddle. This is how the satanic works: You find someone to accuse, to blame for things and cast them out. So Satan does cast out Satan? But Jesus point is not that it doesn’t happen. Jesus point is that it is unstable, it won’t last – you can’t built a future on it. He says ‘A house divided against itself will not stand’. If our unity is based on the people we blame and cast out it will collapse. Jesus doesn’t play Satan’s game cause he knows it won’t last.


There’s a lovely irony in this context. The sadducees are trying to do precisely that… cast Jesus out. They accuse him of being a demon… they demonise him.


Jesus vision of the good news of the kingdom is the vision of a coming world where people love one another and even learn to love their enemies rather than cast them out… it’s a vision that includes the lepers and the crazy people that other people cast out. Jesus is trying to open up their imaginations and hopes to a new way of relating to God and one another. He comes with news of a new world coming. Luke records that Jesus at the beginning of his ministry telling his disciples “I was watching Satan falling like lightning” – a powerful image of the end of the world as he knew it.


But rather than being an accuser. Jesus sees himself as doing battle with the accuser, the Satan. He tries another metaphor, another parable. It’s not about casting out at all.

No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first trying up the strong man.


This one is tricky too. But perhaps Jesus sees himself as challenging the economy of his world. He’s the thief who breaks in. He’s disabling the ‘strong man’ – the powers that be. Binding the power of the Satan to control the way the world operates. Rather than playing Satan at his own game and casting him out, he sees his mission in terms of tying Satan’s hand – possibly something quite different.


Fascinating metaphors! Can you see how his family thought he was crazy. His vision of the kingdom of God is just too different. It is going to get him into trouble. You can’t just change the whole way the world works. You have to be realistic.


Last week I was writing a submission on behalf of the Presbyterian Church on the Government’s Carbon Emission Target. And the more I thought about the impact of our ‘carbon addicted culture’, our ‘growth-addicted culture’ on the Pacific Islands and on vulnerable places like Bangladesh, the more I thought about the destruction we are dealing to future generations the more I felt we had to have the courage to set an ambitious target for reducing our carbon emissions.


But as I was researching this work I came across a podcast from The Guardian in which they presented three alternatives – (1) the first is the do nothing alternative – just accept a world in which climate change gets out of control (I don’t know how you imagine that will be… but my image is of a world with 20% of the human world living in massive protected mega-cities of high-technology surrounded by enormous slums for the remaining 80%) (2) the light green response – live with the system that we have, the economic system, but modify it, constrain the markets… and hope that the system will correct itself (3) the deep green response – (these are the really “crazy” people, you know the ones the media calls ‘greenies’, the one’s who are completely out of touch with the real world) was one that interested me. Someone called Tim Jackson commented that the basis of our current system is the idea that prosperity means economic growth, growth in GDP and consuming more – consuming more in a finite world. Jackson says but that’s not what prosperity really is. Prosperity is about living well. Once we have the basic material conditions of shelter and food in place (as we have in the west since about the post-war period) real prosperity is much more about our social conditions, our sense of family, our community and the hopes we have for that. Rather than furthering our real prosperity the current system of economic growth based on consumerism is actually undermining our real prosperity. In other words the system that we think is making us prosperous, is actually destroying our real prosperity – the quality of our community together.


That’s the “crazy” green response. The kind that calls for a revolution in the system rather than simply tinkering or relying on salvation by new technology.


And as I thought about the ‘deep green’ views of Tim Jackson it struck me that he sounded awfully like Jesus

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God… and all these things will be added to you.”

“Take care and be on your guard against all forms of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.”


Jesus came with news of a world without covetousness. For those who live as ‘the body of Christ’ real prosperity not measured by GDP! How radical is that?! Funnily enough, even the Guardian economist who was part of this big project to address climate change. Concluded that the deep green position was a step too far. We’ve gone down this economic model too far to go back he said. Even for the Guardian, people like Tim Jackson and Jesus are crazy!


And I ask myself… are the followers of Jesus, those who carry his good news… are they always going to be a bit crazy? Is it our destiny to be the crazy people?


The first sermon ever preached after the resurrection is arguably the words of the women in Luke’s gospel to the other disciples, telling them that Jesus had risen just as he told them. Do you remember the response? “But these words seem to them like an idle tale.” Now I think Luke is protecting his listeners with a kind of euphemism. The word translated ‘idle’ (leros in Gk) is the word we get delirious from. In the eyes of the other disciples the women are clearly crazy. They have lost the plot.

Do we also need to be people who have lost the plot?


One Comment leave one →
  1. June 5, 2015 9:00 am

    very good read Bruce….gets you thinking ….never will i ever forget your bigger barn sermon …all part of this current tide …thanks so much ….

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