Religion and Good Intentions: Embarrassed by Jesus

Good Intentions
Even Mary did not understand Jesus’ ministry.  How hurtful it must have been to disappoint her, and how lonely, but he knew his mission and remained focused.

Mary knew Jesus was uniquely chosen.  Even by the time he was a toddler, there was much that she pondered in her heart.  The words of Simeon and the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:25-38), the visit of the Magi . . . Yet, there was no precedent, and she was living in the midst of the story, not reading it or knowing how it was to unfold.

Likewise Jesus’ siblings might have perceived something different in him as they played together or as they learned their father’s carpentry trade.  But no one really understood.   They did not perceive him as “without sin” or as “anointed,” and when he began his ministry, they did not see God in his teachings.

They were embarrassed by him.  He had been raised in the Jewish tradition, regularly attending synagogue, but crowds were gathering to hear him question the religious authorities.  Rather than reiterating their judgments against sinners, he presented a message of love and forgiveness.  He challenged their legalism by healing on the Sabbath; and his anger was not provoked by those who broke the long Jewish list of sins, but by those who self-righteously used their authority to judge others.  The religious laws called for the woman caught in adultery to be stoned (but not the man); yet Jesus questioned not her, but those who held the stones.

“What is he doing?” his family must have asked each other.  “Our brother surely is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21)  He was becoming not only an embarrassment, but a danger to himself, angering the authorities to the point of wishing him dead (Mark 3: 6).  “The demons have possessed him,” the Jewish authorities were saying, because his teachings were not like theirs. (Mark 3: 22)

So his family went to step in.  Mary and his brothers.  Jesus and his followers had entered a house to eat, but they were unable to eat because of the crowds that gathered around him.  His family heard the stories and went to take charge of him (Mark 3:20-21).  Unable to get inside the house, they sent someone to tell Jesus they were there to see him.  “Who is my family?” he responded.  “These people gathered around me are my family.  Those who do God’s will.” (Mark 3:34)

Brave New Films

Good intentions were not enough.  Jesus’ mother and brothers were a deterrent to his mission.  Just as later Jesus’ rebuke of Peter to “get thee behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:23) was not a lack of love toward Peter, but an acknowledgement that even one’s closest relationships, perhaps especially one’s closest relationships, can get in the way of following God’s plan.

Surely Jesus loved his family.  We see his love for Mary even at his death, as he lovingly turns her care over to John.  “Mother, behold your son.  Son, behold your mother” (John 19:26-27).  Yet, as painful as it must have been emotionally, he had to separate himself from them, for they did not understand.  No doubt they meant well, but their lack of understanding was a hindrance to his very purpose for living; and had he chosen to be the perfectly obedient son and brother, the perfectly legalistic synagogue leader, the one who made his family proud and pleased the religious authorities, we would never have heard his name, and his life would not have revolutionized the world.

Where are we in this story?  Are we following the Church’s teachings more closely than we follow Jesus’ teachings?  Are we reading the Gospels at home, to know the difference?  Are we hindering those who are praying alone with sweat drops of agony, striving to follow God despite our opposition?  God, forgive us, if so, for we mean well and know not what we do.

Kathy Vestal is a college educator in Salisbury, NC. She has a Master’s of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master’s of Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. An avid writer, gifted teacher, and occasional public speaker/preacher, her passions include civil rights, social justice, church reform, and education. She has traveled to Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Ecuador, and The Gambia, Africa, and enjoys reading, nature, and history.

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  • otrotierra

    What a great commentary. Thank you Kathy Vestal!

  • Frank

    You wrote: “even one’s closest relationships, perhaps especially one’s closest relationships, can get in the way of following God’s plan.”

    How true, no more so in homosexual Christian relationships.

    • Drew


      Often we are tempted to get into the Satanic mindset that Jesus is talking about “other” people in the Bible and not about us or to us.

      Frank, Jesus was and is talking to you! When you read a Biblical passage, you should not automatically think of other people; rather, you should examine yourself. Instead of thinking how every passage can be bastardized and twisted and blown up to talk about abortion, voting, homosexuality… you should be seeing how the passage applies to you, Frank. That is the only way you will stay humble, love your neighbor, and be sanctified.

      • Frank

        Drew I can and do, do both, as we all should. Homosexual behavior is outside of Gods plan for sexuality and marriage and does cause people to value a relationship or a perceived identity over Gods will.

        There are many areas in my life, including lust that at times trumps my faith and I am painfully aware of them.

        Humility is acknowledging who we really are, not remaining silent over sinful behavior of ourselves or others.

        So thank you for the admonition but its not for a lack of humility that I speak.

        • Drew

          All I’m saying is that it is easy to read the Bible and say “yeah, I totally know people like that” rather than with the mindset “hey, does this describe me in any way, and if so, how can I repent?” This article could have been self-reflective; maybe there are relationships in your own life that are drawing you away from following Christ. Instead, you get on the soap box and talk about a sin that you have not and probably could not commit.

          • Frank

            Drew you are welcome to do the very thing that you accuse me of.

            Meanwhile, while my sins are many, no one is trying to say my sins are not actual sins. There is no one proposing laws that change the definition of my sins. You have the right to your own soapbox. Afterall that’s exactly what a blog is. I commented on this one with a relevant, scripturally supported and empirically supported comment. Whether you agree with me or not is not my primary concern.

          • Drew

            What I am saying is that it is Pharisaical of you to bring up homosexuality in the context of this article. The passages are not in any way, shape, or form about homosexuality, but rather, are part of a theme that Jesus develops throughout the Bible, and that is giving up everything for Christ, whether it be money, possessions, relationships. You can be a damned Pharisee and think that Jesus said these passages for 21st Century American Conservative Christians as a tool to use against homosexuality. Or, you can be a student of the Bible, study what Jesus was actually talking about instead of imposing your own views or hot button issues on the Bible, and reflect on what is keeping you from following Jesus more closely – love of politics, money, possessions, relationships. Despite your protestations, it is more humble to self-reflect than to read a passage and automatically point the finger. We need to stop thinking that the Bible is for “other people,” or “those people.” Again, Jesus was talking to you in those passages, Frank. What is standing in your way in following Jesus more closely? I’ll go first. For me, it is probably not the Church, as Vestal mentioned; my Church is amazing. It is not politics, as I do not worship any party, nor is it money, although it used to be something I was not as good about giving up for Christ. For me, it probably is my time – I am not very disciplined with how I use my time, using it for myself rather than for Jesus and His kingdom.

          • akiva

            Usually I find myself on the oppsite side of what you post but occasionally I find common ground with you. This is one of those times. I see this post as one of self reflection not one of accusation of others. I usually keep most of my opions to myself because I know that no matter how hard I argue about things most people will not change their minds on what they believe to be true so why add to the arguing. Like you I have things that stand in the way of being who I should be. For me it is the fact that I lack motivation and do not push myself to be (pardon the use of the army phrase) all I can be. and that is just one of my many faults of which I am all to painfully aware.

          • Drew

            The biggest problem with the Church today is people making the Bible fit into their current lives rather than letting the Bible radically change their lives. I try hard to let the Bible change me rather than to change the Bible for me. When Jesus challenges us, are first reaction should not be to think of all the people the passage could be about besides us.

          • Frank

            Drew you have a right to your opinion and the right to be pharisaical yourself.This blogger I believe in the past has posted things in support of homosexual behavior so it’s relevant to tie her own words back to a scriptural truth.

            People indeed do put their relationships, homosexual and heterosexual above Gods will so it’s perfectly appropriate to point that out. Whether you like it or not is irrelevant.

            I am glad you are open to self reflection and to allow Jesus to speak to you. I try to be as well. There is no conflict in that truth and the truths posted.

            And you do say something very truthful in your post below. Homosexual behavior is one way that people are approaching scripture to justify what they want as opposed to letting Gods word transform them away from their sinful homosexual desires. They don’t seem to want to be radically transformed. They wish rather to try and change the meaning of Gods word to fit the way they want to live.

          • Drew


            Don’t say “I know you are, but what am I.” It’s beneath you. Look, I know people don’t like to be rebuked, and you are no different. Instead of accepting my rebuke and being more humble, you have double-downed on your rhetoric.

            You either understand these passages poorly or you are imposing your own 21st Century American Politically Conservative viewpoints on these passages. These passages are not about homosexuality, and for you to make these passages a referendum on homosexuality speaks to the great arrogance and lack of humility you show, bastardizing Scripture so it is no longer about you but rather about “those people.”

            If you are reading Scripture so you can use it as a tool to beat down other people, rather than to look in the mirror, maybe you only believe in the Bible insomuch as you enjoy using it as a tool to beat down other people.

          • Frank

            Drew you fail to admit that you yourself are on a soapbox so….

            I accept admonishment fine but you assume that I did not let Jesus convict me first. You shouldn’t assume.

            Those passages relate to many things including sexuality. Maybe you should should expand your mind and heart.

            Homosexual behavior is a sin and people often put that relationship above Christ. That is a fact.

          • Knowing God’s “plan” and what’s on Her mind as you claim Frank must be very taxing on you. I’m sure we’ll all catch up in time. Please let us know when your next sermon in the parking lot is scheduled.

          • Digger

            Steve, you took this from a civil debate to a rude one.

  • Drew

    If you go to a good Church, you will be following Jesus’ teachings. If you find a big disparity between what Jesus teaches and what your Church teaches, you are in the wrong Church.

    I think the real question, rather, is this – are we following ANY teachings more closely than we follow Jesus’ teachings? Are we following what the world tells us to believe, or what our political party tells us to believe, or what our friends and family tell us to believe?

    This is why the Bible is so important, and I’m finally glad, despite your other articles, have finally admitted that the Bible is important. We know what Jesus’ teachings are because they are recorded in the Bible. We need to keep reading and studying the Bible instead of listening to the world, or an errant Church if we belong to an errant Church.

  • akiva

    I would like to point out that the religious laws of the time actually called for both of the man and the woman commiting adultry to be stoned to death not just the woman. as shown in the versus below. The law did not change by Jesus’ time rather the law was only applied in the same fashion as many do now when it comes to quoting the bible to support their beliefs. They choose to only apply the law as they want to not as it is written.
    Leviticus 20:10 states: And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

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