Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.
And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind." (Mark 3:20-21 - ESV)
And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.
When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” (Mark 3:20-21 - NAS)
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 getting carried away with himself. (Mark 3:20-21 - The Message)
Καὶ ἔρχεται εἰς οἶκον· καὶ συνέρχεται πάλιν ὄχλος, ὥστε μὴ δύνασθαι αὐτοὺς μηδὲ ἄρτον φαγεῖν.
καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐξῆλθον κρατῆσαι αὐτόν· ἔλεγον γὰρ ὅτι ἐξέστη. (Mark 3:20-21 - GNT)
And they come to a house, and assembles again a crowd so that not able they neither bread to eat.
And hearing the ones of his, come to seize him, for they said that, He is startled. (Mark 3:20-21 - AP)
I have provided the above renderings of this passage to show the variation among translations, specifically in verse 21.
Back in Mark 2:2, we read of the crowd gathering so that there was no room left. Mark tells us that again the crowd has grown so massive and obtrusive that they can't even get a moment of peace just to eat some bread. Interestingly, we do not see Jesus trying to disperse the crowd, or attempting to get away from the people.
More on that later in Application.
Then verse 21 provides us with so much. We see "His people" have heard about what is happening and they've come to take Him away. They are just sure He is, in some way, crazy or at least "not well" mentally.
Two things: what did they mean by "out of his mind"? and who are "His people"?
Being a linguist would not be my first choice in a profession. A since I am not one, I rely on lexicons and concordances and online tools to try to understand Greek words/phrases. This is one that took a lot of time to study, and I'm not sure I have it down completely.
ἐξέστη [exestē] - apparently derived from two other Greek words, ἐξ [ex], and ἵστημι [histemi], which mean "out of" and "to stand", respectively. These two phrases combine to mean: "to stand out of"; and that becomes: "beside one's self" (as in standing outside of one's self); we're off with a hop, skip, and a jump to "amazed", which I guess is then a short jaunt to "crazy & insane". I'm sure that all makes perfect sense to linguists.
A form of this word was used in Mark 2:12, when they were ἐξίστασθαι "amazed" that the paralytic picked up his bed and walked out. Also, in Acts 2:7, during Pentecost, the people were ἐξίσταντο "amazed and astonished" to be hearing their native languages. Then in 2 Corinthians 5:13, Paul uses another related word ἐξέστημεν when he says, "if we are beside ourselves", to suggest for arguments sake that if they are a little crazy, then it's only for God's purposes.
In Matthew 12:23, when Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, the people “were amazed” or “stood out of themselves”, ἐξίσταντο. They were almost beside themselves with excitement. In Luke 2:47, when Jesus is 12-years-old at the temple with the teachers, those listening to his answers and how well He understood, "were amazed", ἐξίσταντο. One commentary mentions that this is a "common verb, ἐξἵστημι [existēmi], meaning that they stood out of themselves as if their eyes were bulging out".
Then in some other Greek sources, the word ἐξέστηχ᾽ means "disordered", as in Bacchae by Euripides, there is a scene where one character fixes another's hair that has come out of place, and refers to the lock of hair as "out of place". Another scene earlier in the same work, another form of the word, ἐξιστάναι, is used in the phrase "drive him out of his wits" :
First drive him out of his wits, send upon him a dizzying madness, since if he is of sound mind he will not consent to wear women's clothing, but driven out of his senses he will put it on.
In regard to the passage here in the 3rd chapter of Mark, I gather that it would be fair to describe this as someone having a nervous breakdown, or perhaps an anxiety attack. So, it seems that Jesus' friends and family were concerned that He was spreading Himself too thin - that He wasn't taking care of Himself. I imagine them talking among themselves,
"I've heard that He's going out of His mind over there."
"Yeah, I'm afraid He's making Himself crazy with all of the work He's taken on helping those people."
They cared about Jesus and had genuine concern for His welfare. From a human perspective, they could not reconcile letting their Friend neglect His health and safety for a bunch of strangers that only wanted something from Him for selfish reasons.
His Own People
οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ [hoi par' autou] - The phrase means "of his own side" or “the ones from the side of him".
Some of the commentaries draw on the larger context to interpret this phrase by pointing out a form that Mark uses a few others times. Mark employs a kind of literary "sandwich", whereby he inserts a second related event in the middle of the first one. We see this here when he shows us the friends/family of Jesus showing concern, then inserting this confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 12:24) where they accuse Jesus of being possessed by Satan, and then finishing with the family showing up to speak with Him. When you put all of this together, it makes sense that verse 21 is referencing the mother and brothers that we see in verse 31.
I looked in the rest of the New Testament to see if the same or similar phrasing was used elsewhere. In John 7:29, Jesus says, "I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me." That phrasing, "for I come from him", is ὅτι παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ εἰμι in the Greek - literally, "for from Him I am". It's not exactly the same phrasing, I know, but it's close. Take it or leave it, but I see some similarity with perhaps, "issuing from" as a possible connective phrase.
The question has been whether this phrase means close friends, or family. I fall on the side of family on this one. The context along with the wording tell me that we're looking at his family hearing about what's happening.
What am I learning from these two verses? First, the crowd and how Jesus is not dispersing it. I mean, read that part again. The crowd gathers; sure, we get that... but Mark puts that phrase in there, "so that they could not even eat". He didn't just happen to throw that in there because he was hungry at the time and was thinking about food. He's painting us a picture of how large and how much of a hindrance this crowd is to Jesus and the 12 disciples. In Mark 2 the crowd was so impenetrable that people started taking the roof apart to get to Jesus. This time, it's so massive that Jesus cannot rest long enough to grab a bite to eat.
If there are any mothers reading this today, are you identifying with this at all? How many days have you fallen into bed and realized that you didn't have 1 minute of privacy all day to do anything for yourself? Every moment was spent performing some kind of service for your children, your employer, or your husband. Have you ever thought that it was possible Christ completely understood how you felt? Here's just one time where God's Word tells us that He knew all about it. And that crowd was looking at Him the same way those kids look at you - like there is no one in the world that can do what you can do for them, and they don't care how much it takes out of you, they want what they want, and they want it now.
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:17-18)
Tempted? "He is able to help those who are being tempted"? How does that apply to today's passage? The first part says, "For because he himself has suffered when tempted", meaning He was tempted. We often only think of His temptation in the desert. But He was fully man, while being fully God, which means He was tempted often... He just responded perfectly, without sin.
So, is it unreasonable to imagine that Jesus was tempted to take a break from ministering to the people in the crowd? His stomach most likely rumbled and His feet probably hurt from being on them all day. It's entirely within reason to suppose that He was tempted to take care of Himself - not pamper Himself, but attend to those things His body needed: food, water, and rest. Yet even He tells us that "Man shall not live by bread alone" (Luke 4:4). In fact, He shows us here in Mark 3:20, that He placed His ministry above that of His own well-being.
Then we read that His family has heard about this, and they conclude that He must be "beside Himself" or "losing His senses". Again, they are perceiving events from a humanistic, experiential point of view. They imagine that they themselves would be pulling their hair out, flat-out exhausted, and wanting to get away from the crowd and take a break. In their minds, they were seeking what was best for Him, but they were blind to what God was doing there.
I am reminded of something I once heard. A pastor was relating what happened at a service at which he had preached. It was a powerful sermon, one in which the Gospel was presented clearly and effectively. Several people in the congregation had approached the altar down front, and were visibly and audibly shaken, having been apparently confronted with their sin, and seeking their God for mercy and comfort. The man relating the story was the guest preacher that day, and as he looked on at this, a few people on the church staff began to get up from their seats to offer comfort to those at the altar. He put his hand on the shoulder of one of them, stopping them, and said, "Don’t touch the ark of God. It is God who is wounding these people with regard to their sin. Do not comfort the soul that God is breaking. Leave them alone to God."
Often, we see things from a point of view that is very limited. We fail to account for God in those times when the Holy Spirit is working through the situation, and we instead perceive discomfort or pain that needs to be relieved. What Jesus' family saw in the situation was not what God was seeing. They figured He must have gone off the deep end and that He must need their help to get out of there. They were wrong.
You see, they said, "He is out of his mind." God's Word does not tell us that Jesus was "out of his mind". Which leads me to the closing application for today's text.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, if we are walking where He walked, then we will be perceived as "out of our minds" by family, and by much of the world around us. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Striving to love Christ among a culture that loves everything BUT Christ will most undoubtedly cause us to appear "crazy" and elicit comments about our having "lost our minds".
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:2-5)