Mark 3:20-21,31-35

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 3

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

I think one of the greatest old Twilight Zone episodes ever to air was entitled “Eye of the Beholder.” Perhaps you will remember this episode. It begins with a woman in a hospital bed. She is referred to throughout the episode as “patient 307.” Her face is completely obscured by the bandages wrapped around her entire head. She talks with a nurse who is attending her and the conversation turns to her face under the bandages and what it will look like when they remove the wrappings.

Oh, please, one more thing, nurse.


When will they take the bandages off? How long, nurse?

Until they decide whether or not they can fix your face.

Oh, I guess it’s pretty bad, isn’t it?

I’ve seen worse.

Well, yes, but it’s pretty bad, isn’t it?

Oh, I know it’s pretty bad.

Ever since I can remember – ever since I was a little girl – people have turned away when they looked at me. Funny, the very first thing I can remember is another little child screaming when she looked at me. I never really wanted to be beautiful, you know. I mean, I never wanted to look like a painting. I never even wanted to be loved, really. I just wanted people not to scream when they looked at me. When, nurse? When? When? When will they take the bandages off?

Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the next day. Now hush. You’ve been waiting so long now. It doesn’t really make much difference whether it’s two weeks or days now. Does it?

Next we see the doctor receiving a report on the patient from a nurse.

Dr. Bernardi, evening report on patient 307: No temperature change, resting comfortably.

Thank you, nurse.

I’ll be down later.

We next hear two nurses speaking.

Ever see her face- 307?

Indeed, I have.

If it were mine, I’d bury myself in a grave someplace.

Poor thing.

Some people want to live no matter what. Cigarette?

Then we hear the iconic voice of The Twilight Zone host, Rod Serling.

Suspended in time and space for a moment, your introduction to miss Janet Tyler, who lives in a very private world of darkness, a universe whose dimensions are the size, thickness, length of the swath of bandages that cover her face.

In a moment, we’ll go back into this room.

And also, in a moment, we’ll look under those bandages, keeping in mind, of course, that we’re not to be surprised by what we see because this isn’t just a hospital, and this patient 307 is not just a woman.

This happens to be the twilight zone, and miss Janet Tyler, with you, is about to enter it.

We next move back into the hospital room. Eventually, the patient and the doctor talk.

We’ll have those bandages off you very soon. I expect you’re pretty uncomfortable.

Well, I’m used to bandages on my face.

I have no doubt.

It’s your ninth visit here.

It is the ninth?

The 11th.

You know, sometimes I – I think I’ve lived my whole life inside of a dark cave with walls of gauze, and the wind that blows into the mouth of the cave smells of ether and disinfectant.

Of course there’s a kind of a comfort living inside this cave – wonderfully private.

Nobody can ever see you.

It’s hopeless, isn’t it, doctor? I’ll never look any different than now.

Well, that’s hard to say. Up to now, you haven’t responded to the shots, the medications – any of the proven techniques. Frankly, you’ve stumped us, Miss Tyler. Nothing we’ve done so far has made any difference at all. However, we’re very hopeful for what this last treatment may have accomplished. There’s no telling, of course, till we get the bandages off. I’m sorry your case is not one that we could have handled with plastic surgery, but your bone structure, flesh type many factors prohibit the surgical approach. Your 11th visit.

No more after this, doctor. No more tries…

We’re not permitted to do any more after 11.

Now what, doctor?

Well, you’re kind of jumping the gun, aren’t you, Miss Tyler? You may very well have responded to these last injections. There’s no way of telling till we get the bandages off.

And, if I haven’t responded, then what? Well, there are alternatives.


Don’t you know?

Yes, I know.

You realize, of course, Miss Tyler, why these rules are in effect. Each of us is afforded as much opportunity as possible to fit in with society. In your case, think of the time and the money and the effort expended to make you look

…look like what, doctor?

Normal. The way you’d like to look.

Doctor, doctor may I walk outside? Please, may I? May I just go and – and sit in the garden? Just – just for a little while.

Just – just to feel the air.

Just – just to smell the flowers.

Just – just to make believe I am normal? If – if I sit out there in the darkness, then the whole world is dark, and I’m more a part of it like that, not just one grotesque, ugly woman with a bandage on her face with a special darkness all around. I want to belong. I want to be like everybody. Please, doctor. Please help me.

They talk further in this vein. Finally, the time comes for the doctor to remove patient 307’s bandages. He slowly begins removing them until there is just the lowest layer left.

All right, miss Tyler here comes the last of it. I wish you every good luck.

The last bandage comes off. There is an audible gasp in the room. The nurses recoil in horror in disgust. Somebody drops a pair of scissors on the floor. The doctor calls out anxiously, tensely:

No change!

No change at all![1]

The doctor and one of the nurses grab her as she screams out in despair and agony. The doctor demands that the light be turned on in the room. It is. Finally, the camera zooms in on patient 307’s face. It is…absolutely beautiful! Beneath those bandages is the seemingly perfect face of a beautiful woman. And then you realize if you have not already that we have never seen the doctor’s face or the faces of any of the nurses. The doctor now turns to the camera. His face his hideously misshapen and deformed. The nurse turns to the camera. Her face is likewise misshapen and deformed. In fact, all of the faces of all of the nurses are all misshapen and deformed. And they all gasp in terror at the beautiful face of the woman…which they see as hideous, misshapen, and deformed!

It is a profoundly unsettling moment, and one that needs to be deeply considered today. What happens in a place where the standard of normalcy itself has been so altered and degraded that that which is grotesque becomes normal and that which is beautiful becomes, in turn, grotesque by the measurements of the new standard?

In a world in which the grotesque is the norm, beauty becomes the ugly deviation.

In a world in which walking backwards is the norm, walking forwards becomes the ugly deviation.

In a world in which being upside down is the norm, being right side up is viewed as upside down.

In a world in which blindness is taken to be sight, true sight will seem like blindness.

In a world in which untruth is the standard, truth will seem like untruth and hence truth will be seen to be a lie.

Pervert the standard and beautiful deviations from the perverted standard will look like perversions.

The lesson must be understood if we are to understand what happened when Jesus bodily walked the earth, and it must be understood if we are to understand what happens when Jesus is present in the world today through His church and in and through the lives of individual believers as well.

The way of Jesus can be profoundly disruptive to what is “normal.”

What we, in essence, find in our text is a collision of two “normals.” The first kind of normal is our normal, the world’s normal, what we might call “normal normal.” The other kind of normal we will call “Kingdom normal,” this is what is normal to God and what should be normal to us. The crucial thing to understand is that normal normal has stood in fundamental conflict with Kingdom normal ever since the fall of man.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

The crowds continued to flock to Jesus and His family finally determined that something needed to be done. St. Jerome said that “even his kinsfolk desire to bind him as one of weak mind.”[2] It is easy for us to marvel at this, but do try to put yourselves in the shoes of Jesus’ family members. Not only are people flocking to Jesus, and not only is Jesus working works of power, but Jesus was drawing the wrath of the religious establishment, a fact that was not doubt causing some difficulty and embarrassment for his family.

Even so, the primary cause for his family viewing Jesus as out of his mind was the collision of normal normal and Kingdom normal. While Mary clearly understood that there was something unique and powerful about her strange son, and while even his brothers would come to believe in time, they were nonetheless sufficiently conditioned by the propagators of normalcy in their culture to view Him as perhaps dangerously abnormal.

Yet, like Patient 307 in the Twilight Zone, Jesus would have presumed to be abnormal only because the truly abnormal had become normal! When everybody in the world is crazy, the one sane person will be taken to be crazy. And this is where the necessity of self-evaluation and having a courageously critical eye concerning the true reality of our present circumstances is so very important. In point of fact, what we consider normal is anything but, and the fact that everybody considers the abnormal normal and therefore the truly normal abnormal does not make the truly abnormal any less abnormal!

For instance, while we consider our world and the way we do things to be “normal” and “just the way things are,” we must realize that it truly is not!

Our normal is backwards.

For instance, what if our entire supposed normal march forward is actually a terrible backwards regression? What if what we see as cultural and religious and spiritual and psychological advancement is really a weak and pitiful retreat? In Isaiah 55, the Lord says:

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Thus, there are, according to Isaiah 55:8-9, two ways:

  • “My thoughts…my ways” = Kingdom normal
  • “your thoughts…your ways” = normal normal

The scriptures delineate these two ways and then say that they are in opposition to one another. What must be understood is that “our thoughts” and “our ways” are those things that comprise our culture and that are taken as “normal” and “the way things are.” It takes getting outside of normal normal to realize how very abnormal it is! It takes stepping out of the herd and taking a courageous look at it to realize that the entire heard is actually charging the wrong way!

Our normal is degrading.

Not only is it charging the wrong way, it is also charging downhill. This is because our normal is actually degrading and dehumanizing and destructive.

In the space of three chapters, the book of Proverbs makes this point twice.

Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

Proverbs 16:25 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

Did you catch that? Our way seems right but it actually ends in death! Part of being a Christian then is developing the ability to see the inherent destructive properties in what the world touts as normal. Not only that, we must understand that the world views its destructive bent as “right” and will therefore defend it as righteousness. Remember: when unrighteousness is taken by all to be righteousness then righteousness will be taken by all to be unrighteousness. When the standard is corrupt so will all of its measurements as well.

That have been those who have grasped the destructive degradation of the world. Eustache Deschamps, a poet from the Middle Ages, wrote:

Now the world is cowardly, decayed, and weak, old, covetous, confused of speech

I see only female and male fools

The end approaches, in sooth…all goes badly[3]

Conservative Christians are often taunted for holding to a “narrative of declension,” a narrative of the decline of all things. To be sure, there is beauty in the world and, to be sure, there are times when the moroseness of some Christians keep us from seeing it. Even so, Jesus’ depiction of the end in Matthew 24 is not particularly optimistic.

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

There is, in fact, a backward decline to the tragic human story, and if you do not have the courage to see it you will mistake it for a healthy, normal, upward advance. Most people do mistake it for such.

Our normal is upside down.

But it is not just that we as human beings are actually moving backwards and downwards, we are also upside down, standing on our heads! We are actually disoriented and blind to the true nature of things, but have become so accustomed to being so that we mistake our disorientation and blindness for normalcy and righteousness.

Normal normal is actually an upside down, declining regression into further darkness.

In Umberto Eco’s novel, The Name of the Rose, Adso, the apprentice to Sir William of Baskerville, makes the following observations about the world:

In the past, men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an aging world. The young no longer want to study anything, learning is in decline, the whole world walks on its head, blind men lead others equally blind and cause them to plunge into the abyss, birds leave the nest before they can fly, the jackass plays the lyre, oxen dance. Mary no longer loves the contemplative life and Martha no longer loves the active life, Leah is sterile, Rachel has a carnal eye, Cato visits brothels, Lucretius becomes a woman. Everything is on the wrong path.[4]

That gets close to capturing the essence of the situation in which we find ourselves. It also describes the situation that those folks were in who considered Jesus crazy! You must imagine how frightening a right-side-up, forward moving, upward moving person is when you have come to see your upside down, backwards regression as normal!

The world considered Jesus ugly because it had only had ugliness to look at for so long that it mistook it as beauty!

The world considered Jesus crazy because it had itself been crazy for so long that it mistook it as sanity!

Who Jesus is is profoundly disruptive to normal normal and the guardians of our normal normalcy detest such challenges to it!

The way of Jesus redefines “normalcy” around the rhythms, mores, and values of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus was therefore a challenge to normal normalcy because He walked in Kingdom normalcy. Kingdom normal is always a threat to normal normal. But Jesus, as the King, exhibited the values of the Kingdom, including the Kingdom value of redefinition. We see this in his exchange with the crowd about the nature of true family.

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

So radically different was the way of Jesus from the way of the world that He even pressed against the world’s assumptions about family. In the wake of his family coming for their intervention, the crowd informed Jesus that His mother and brothers were here. “Looking at those who sat around him,” meaning those who were learning about the Kingdom at His feet, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” He then said that true family, Kingdom family, was defined as “whoever does the will of God.”

Do you see what is happening here? Jesus is inviting those trapped in the normal normal to come up with Him into Kingdom normal and learn the countercultural, redefining values of the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God, you are actually closer to a stranger who also loves Jesus than you are to your blood kin who do not! In the Kingdom of God, family consists of those who gather around the gospel instead of consisting of those who merely gather around a dinner table.

There is nothing in Jesus’ words to say that blood and family ties are not relatively important. He is simply saying that the redefining work of the Kingdom, as it breaks into the backwards, declining, upside normalcy of the world, extends even to the most fundamental unity of society: family.

Surely these words worked their way back through the crowd to Jesus’ family and surely they did not help the perception that He had lost His mind. But here is something that we must come to terms with: to be the Church is to invite the charge of insanity just as Jesus received the charge of insanity. In an upside down world those actually standing on their feet will be the ones who are condemned as crazy!

Erasmus of Rotterdam put it nicely when he wrote:

Those who spurn all earthly things, even life itself, and embrace the heavenly philosophy with all their heart appear insane to those who have a taste only for earthly things destined to perish. The man who lavishes his inheritance on the poor is mad in the eyes of the man who relies on his wealth for the protection of his life. The man who on account of the gospel willingly suffers exile, poverty, prison, torture, and death in hopes of eternal bliss is mad in the eyes of him who does not believe that after this life there is another more blest one for pious men. The man who spurns the honours bestowed by princes and populace to obtain glory with God is mad in the eyes of those who are truly mad when they seek with bribes and fraudulent action, by hook or by crook, a kingship and high office that they will soon lose.[5]

A few years ago, Stanley Hauerwas said the following:

My own view is that within a hundred years, Christians may be known as those odd people who don’t kill their children or their elderly. That’s a lot, too. And that’s what I mean by survival: maintaining everyday small lines of resistance to a world gone mad seeking perfection.[6]

I think that is the point: the Church must become an outpost of sanity in an insane world…but, in so doing, the sane Church that models the life of the Kingdom will be considered as insane by the truly insane world!

“Small lines of resistance to a world gone mad,” wrote Hauerwas. That is a great description of our task as Christ-followers. To follow Christ is to call the world to a better way, a higher way, a forward-moving way, a right-side-up way.

To follow Christ is to follow our King into His Kingdom…a Kingdom not of this world and a Kingdom despised by this world. Then, as we learn to do this, we can call others to join us in our journey with King Jesus. To do so is to receive the outrage and censure of the world. But dear Church, to be called crazy alongside Jesus is the greatest honor that a truly sane person can receive.

Embrace the “foolishness” of the cross of Christ.

Embrace the “foolishness” of the Kingdom.

For therein is life and that abundant.



[2] Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, ed., Mark. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Gen. Ed., Thomas C. Oden. New Testament, Vol. II (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p.43.

[3] Timothy George. Theology of the Reformers. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, Publishers, 1988), p.22.

[4] Umberto Eco. The Name of the Rose. (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1983), p.15.

[5] Desiderius Erasmus, Paraphrase on Mark. Collected Works of Erasmus. Gen. Ed., Robert D. Sider. Vol. 49 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), p.52.


3 thoughts on “Mark 3:20-21,31-35

  1. Pingback: Mark | Walking Together Ministries

  2. Your audio listing has it “Mark 2:20-21, 31-35” should read “Mark 3:20-21, 31-35……..just saying or wanting the best for tee

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