Yep, Jesus may have been a nutter. At least one enlightened rev thinks so. An English woman has made the claim that not only Jesus, but all sorts of biblical heroes, such as John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul, may all have been inflicted with mental illness.
But don’t take my word for it – let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. One news story explains: “A suggested sermon produced by the Church of England for clerics attempting to tackle the stigma of mental health pulls no punches. Written by the Rev Eva McIntyre on behalf of the Church’s Archbishops’ Council and the Time to Change mental health campaign, it suggests John the Baptist, St Paul, St Francis and other figures from the Bible may all have been mentally ill. It even asks followers to consider accusations made in the New Testament that Jesus ‘had lost his mind’. It reads:
“Many of the people we read about in Bible stories might today be considered as having mental health issues. For example, ‘Would Jesus’ family maybe on occasion have said, ‘Cousin John is a bit odd, bless him!’ when John the Baptist took to his eccentric style of life? It has long been thought that King Saul, in the books of Samuel, was displaying mood swings that suggest he had bi-polar disorder and some think that St Paul’s Damascus Road experience was the result of some sort of breakdown or psychotic episode.
“Even Jesus was not immune to accusations about his mental health: there is a story in the gospel that tells of his mother and siblings attempting to take him home because they are afraid that he has lost his mind. Many of the stories of the Saints, too, have led people to discuss their mental health. For example was St Francis suffering from a mental health title?”
“Acknowledging how shocking these ideas might be, Ms McIntyre, a member of the General Synod, adds: ‘Some may find these suggestions disturbing or offensive even. Perhaps we need to ask why it would be so terrible to think that some of our most inspirational forebears might have experienced mental health illness. Do we mistakenly believe that God cannot or will not work through people with mental health illness?’”
OK, so let’s just come back down to earth here. First, a few questions: Is there such a thing as mental illness? Are some believers suffering from mental illness? Is it something the churches should be aware of and dealing with? Yes to all three questions.
So far so good. But this rev and her committee are simply going off the deep end when they want to make their case by dragging Jesus into all of this. Not only does the New Testament nowhere provide any evidence or indication of Jesus being mentally unstable, but the very concept is theologically foolish.
Jesus of course was fully God and fully man. He was a perfect man, just like us yet without any sin. If he was in fact mentally impaired then we should have no reason to believe anything he said, including his claims to divinity. Such a view of him undermines the entire gospel message, and renders Jesus just another raving preacher to be ignored at will.
The fact that others accused him of being a nutter says nothing about who he was, but tells us everything about his opponents. They just did not get it – even his own disciples were often baffled as to who this man was and why he came.
As to the text referred to by the good rev, it is Mark 3:20-22: “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons’.”
The fact that his critics – and even his own family – did not comprehend what he was doing and saying of course is no proof at all that Jesus had mental health issues. He was accused of all sorts of things throughout his ministry, mainly by his many opponents.
But so what? He was the holy sinless Son of God, and his sinful, fallen and finite opposition were clueless as to who he was and why he had come. They missed out big time what he was all about, just as people today still miss out on who he is and what his mission is.
It should come as no surprise that the world would reject Jesus and his followers. That is exactly what Jesus himself said would happen. Consider just one text, Matt 10:16-25:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!”
Thus it has always been. Jesus was accused of all sorts of things, and Christians throughout the ages have always been thought to be flaky. As C. S. Lewis once remarked: “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”
As mentioned, the issue of mental health is a worthy one, and one which the church should be involved in. But to engage in theological suicide to champion such a cause helps no one. To drag Jesus into this issue, and make him out to be some mentally impaired human is not going to help the cause, and is going to simply massacre the biblical message.
Sorry, but this misguided rev is barking up the wrong tree. She is right to highlight the issue of mental illness, but she really is barking mad to suggest that Jesus was so afflicted. Please, promote your causes all you like, but do not decimate the biblical message in the process.