Thursday, November 27, 2014

Jesus was an Introvert

I've been studying the Book of Mark over the last couple of weeks (NRSV, with the KJV for comparison), and one thing that jumped out at me was that Jesus was an introvert. Not in the sense of being shy or withdrawn around others, (which from all accounts, he wasn't), but by the definition I've become more familiar and agree with: one who needs to "recharge" alone and is usually uncomfortable in large crowds. In this context, an extrovert is one who recharges in a group, who is nourished by the energy of a gathering of people. While I think most folks are somewhere on a spectrum in-between the two poles, I have known and lived with some true introverts - and by the same set of explanations, would define myself as more of an extrovert; but ok, I digress - other than to say that it puts me "on the outside, looking in", (ooh, for ten points - name that band!), which makes introverts somewhat of an enigma to me.

In Mark 1:34-35, after Jesus heals the many who have gathered around him in Capernaum (a city in Galilee which seems to have been his home), we read:
"Rising up a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." (King James Version - because I like the poetic feel of it. The NRSV says, "while it was still very dark" and, "a deserted place" - take your pick).
In and of itself, this could just be what it sounds like - a man who gets up very early in the morning to pray to his God in private. Not a bad idea and not an indicator of personality, so much as preference. When his companions come to find him and say that "everyone is searching" for Jesus, he tells them it's time to leave and go to other towns, to help people there. Not fleeing the crowd, just doing (in his own words), what he came to do.

In the beginning of Mark 2 we're back in Capernaum and another crowd has gathered around. After healing as many as he can reach, including a paralyzed man whose friends tore a hole in the roof of Jesus' house and lowered him down on a bed (!), he went out to walk by the sea (one of my favorite places to recharge) but was soon followed by a crowd, so began to teach them there while he walked. In the context of what follows in the next chapter (and in other books of the New Testament), I get the feeling that the rabbi was attempting to have some time to himself to re-group after doing so much with and for so many people, to get back some of the energy he had expended and regain some equilibrium.

Arial view of Capernaum - credit:
So what follows?

I offer you the book of Mark, Chapter 3. Again Jesus leaves the town to go walk by the sea with his disciples and teach them. A "great multitude" follows him, and the rabbi asks his students to have a boat ready so that he can teach from a safer location where he won't end up being crushed by a well-meaning crowd. Did he literally fear being crushed - or was he just feeling anxiety, having so many people surrounding him?

When he went back home, the crowd followed him and thronged around him so that he couldn't get inside his own house to have dinner with his family (friends in the KJV). It is then stated that his family or friends,
"went out to restrain him, for people were saying, 'he has gone out of his mind'"
Interestingly and as a side note, this is one of those passages that Biblical historians point to as making the argument for authenticity (not necessarily of the text verbatim, but more as a testament to the incident related). Why? They postulate that if a writer was making up tales to "glorify" someone or prove that person's import or gravitas, stories about the subject seeming to go mad so that parents and friends need to restrain him - would not likely be included. You wouldn't want this revered teacher to look unstable, so the editors would have edited and the redactors would have redacted. Hence, many feel that the fact that stories like this were left in the canon lends a bit of credence to the telling.

Right. Back to the scene in front of Jesus' house. I think I can see it pretty clearly - anxiety turns to panic, panic turns to a full-blown freak-out, so people think he's gone crazy - and all he wants is some quiet time around a family table. He is feeling drained and needs to recharge. Does he fear or hate the crowd that surrounds him? No; when told that his mother and brothers are trying to reach him, Jesus tells the crowd that they - his fellow believers and followers - are all his family, his "mother and brothers and sisters". He loves them - but he needs time away, space to breath, room to pray, meditate and be renewed.

I have made note of this theme in episodes throughout the New Testament where Jesus seeks a place of solitude up a mountain, in the woods or down by the sea, sometimes rising long before others and "sneaking away" as it were, to ensure he gets a little privacy and quiet.  Luke 5:16 may sum it up best:
"... he withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed"... 

Jesus was an introvert.

No comments:

Post a Comment