Now Jesus went home, and a crowd gathered so that they were not able to eat. When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” The experts in the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and, “By the ruler of demons he casts out demons!”
I’ve read that a certain amount of ‘stress & pressure’ is not merely inevitable, but actually healthy for us. What is less good is stress that is extreme and unrelenting. So learning to correctly judge the source of the pressure that we (or others) are facing, how to manage it, and when we need to seek relief and refreshment, this requires that rarest of spiritual gifts: discernment.
Jesus & his companions faced pressure from the incessant needs and demands of those around. And he knew when it was important to take a break; “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mk 6:31) But here, despite having no time to eat, it seems that Jesus simply accepts that this physical pressure was something they had to absorb.
If we are to serve the King, we will at times grow tired and face real stress. If you doubt this, I recommend pausing to read 2 Cor 11:23-29.
The human family of Jesus – genuinely concerned at the intensity of the pressure he was under – jumped to a different conclusion: “He is out of his mind.” Too much sustained pressure can indeed take a tole on our mental health. But in this case the family were wholly mistaken.
It does however make me pause & reflect that the sacrificial devotion of Jesus was so extreme that it could prompt others to question his state of mind. The apostle Paul faced the same accusation (Acts 26:24). Is the measure of my commitment ever likely to provoke similar concern?
The supposed ‘experts in the law’ – who had quite a different agenda – suggested another source to explain the powerful and unprecedented actions of Jesus: that he was actually demonised. Frankly, their assessment revealed more about themselves than about Jesus.
Certainly, pressure in our lives can arise – both directly and indirectly – from spiritual roots; our conflict is not merely against flesh and blood. But it is serious thing to attribute to unclean spirits what is in fact the work of the Holy Spirit.
Master, equip me today with humble discernment; the discernment to distinguish:
- What pressures are normal, and simply need to be endured as a faithful servants
- What pressures are unhealthy, and should rightly prompt concern for physical & mental wellbeing?
- And what pressures have deeper and polluted spiritual roots that need to be confronted & cleansed?
I sense we will likely need this discernment more than ever in the days to come.