THE VERDICT OF HIS OWN
Jesus went into a house; and once again so dense a crowd collected that they could not even eat bread. When his own people heard What was going on, they went out to restrain him, for they said, “He has taken leave of his senses.”
Sometimes a man drops a remark which cannot be interpreted otherwise than as the product of bitter experience. Once when Jesus was enumerating the things which a man might have to face for following him, he said, “A man’s foes will be those of his own household.” (Matt.10:36.) His own family had come to the conclusion that he had taken leave of his senses and that it was time he was taken home. Let us see if we can understand what made them feel like that.
(i) Jesus had left home and the carpenter’s business at Nazareth. No doubt it was a flourishing business from which he could at least have made a living; and quite suddenly he had flung the whole thing up and gone out to be a wandering preacher. No sensible man, they must have been thinking, would throw up a business where the money came in every week to become a vagrant who had not any place to lay his head.
(ii) Jesus was obviously on the way to a head-on collision with the orthodox leaders of his day. There are certain people who can do a man a great deal of harm, people on whose right side it is better to keep, people whose opposition can be very dangerous. No sensible man, they must have been thinking, would ever get up against the powers that be, because he would know that in any collision with them he would be bound to come off second best. No one could take on the Scribes and the Pharisees and the orthodox leaders and hope to get away with it.
(iii) Jesus had newly started a little society of his own–and a very queer society it was. There were some fishermen; there was a reformed tax-collector; there was a fanatical nationalist. They were not the kind of people whom any ambitious man would particularly want to know. They certainly were not the kind of people who would be any good to a man who was set on a career. No sensible man, they must have been thinking, would pick a crowd of friends like that. They were definitely not the kind of people a prudent man would want to get mixed up with.
By his actions Jesus had made it clear that the three laws by which men tend to organize their lives meant nothing to him.
(i) He had thrown away security. The one thing that most people in this world want more than anything else is just that. They want above all things a job and a position which are secure, and where there are as few material and financial risks as possible.
(ii) He had thrown away safety. Most people tend at all times to play safe. They are more concerned with the safety of any course of action than with its moral quality, its rightness or its wrongness. A course of action which involves risk is something from which they instinctively shrink.
(iii) He had shown himself utterly indifferent to the verdict of society. He had shown that he did not much care what men said about him. In point of fact, as H. G. Wells said, for most people “the voice of their neighbours is louder than the voice of God.” “What will people say?” is one of the first questions that most of us are in the habit of asking.
What appalled Jesus’ friends was the risks that he was taking, risks which, as they thought, no sensible man would take.
When John Bunyan was in prison he was quite frankly afraid. “My imprisonment,” he thought, “might end on the gallows for ought that I could tell.” He did not like the thought of being hanged. Then came the day when he was ashamed of being afraid. “Methought I was ashamed to die with a pale face and tottering knees for such a cause as this.” So finally he came to a conclusion as he thought of himself climbing up the ladder to the scaffold: “Wherefore, thought I, I am for going on and venturing my eternal state with Christ whether I have comfort here or no; if God doth not come in, thought I, I will leap off the ladder even blindfold into eternity, sink or swim, come heaven, come hell; Lord Jesus, if thou wilt catch me, do: if not, I will venture for thy name.” That is precisely what Jesus was willing to do. I will venture for thy name. That was the essence of the life of Jesus, and that–not safety and security–should be the motto of the Christian man and the mainspring of the Christian life.
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