2nd Sunday after Pentecost - June 6th and 7th - Mark 3:20-35
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
So, what has Jesus been doing that has everyone so upset? I mean, He comes home, and we hear that His family, "went out to seize Him, for they were saying, 'He is out of His mind.'" Yep, Jesus' family thinks He's lost His mind, thinks He's gone loco. And then we hear the scribes from Jerusalem - the professional church people, the scholars - "He is possessed by Beelzebul." We, in our scholarly opinion, conclude that He must be possessed. So what has Jesus been doing that is so "crazy" as to get this reaction? Well, in the previous 19 verses in Mark, Jesus has (1) healed a man - but it was on the Sabbath. He has (2) healed many of their diseases. He has (3) cast out demons who declared that He is the Son of God. And then finally (4) He appointed the 12 disciples. A busy day, but nothing that we would think would bring out the reaction of "He's crazy - He's possessed!" He's healing folks and casting out demons - typical Jesus things, hardly shocking.
But to those who do not believe, who at this time includes Jesus' own family and includes the Scribes and hoity toity folks in Jerusalem, it is shocking. Befuddlingly. Just not the way things are done around here - harumph! And so the excuses are given - "by the prince of demons He casts out demons." There, we don't have to listen to Him anymore. But listen you will, because Jesus teaches and explains what is happening. First thing he does is call the folks on their foolish excuse - "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end." So basically, scribes, your argument is that suddenly Satan has become stupid and is self-destructing. That the old evil foe, who lured mankind into the fall, who has continually vexed and scowled and hounded us... is now an utter idiot and falling to pieces. Really? That's really what you think is going on?
And here we do get a lesson, a reminder for today. When folks want to reject Christ Jesus, they will come up with every stupid excuse in the book. It's never just bluntly that they don't like Jesus - it's always something else. I'm just so busy with this and that. Well, people were just mean to me. I don't like color of the carpet. I'm embarrassed because they aren't cool enough. They didn't eat all of the pie I brought, and it was my Aunt Betty's recipe. You know, those Christians are just lousy people and hypocrites. On and on they come (and if I hit any that you have used yourself - well, it wasn't intentional - it just means your old excuses were typical ones) - and the thing is, they have nothing to do with Christ Jesus defeating sin and Satan - they all are about something else. Something foolish. And just as Jesus calls the scribes on it, you know what? Every excuse you make, every excuse you are temped towards - they're just as foolish, just as dumb. That's the plain and simple truth - the excuses people make... the excuses *we* make regarding church, at their core, are all dumb.
All those excuses ignore the reality of what Christ Jesus is doing. Do you want to know what I'm doing scribes, do you want to know what is so embarrassing to you, family? "No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods unless He first binds the strong man. Then indeed He may plunder his house." This world, since the fall, has been Satan's domain, Satan's playground. Satan's house, as Jesus puts it. Or as Luther puts it, Satan is this world's price, or that line, "fast bound in Satan's chains I lay, death brooded darkly o'er me." We are those who need a Redeemer, for we are bound and captured by Satan and sin and death. That's the reality, that's the set up - and man, if people, if we don't like to duck and dodge the truth of our sin. Well, we're not that bad. Maybe I used to be bad, but now I'm a good little Christian. Poppycock. Saint Paul says that he is... not was, but is the chief of sinners, and there isn't one of us in this room who's better than Paul. We are sinners. Period. This is true, even when like Jesus' family we find that to be embarrassing, or when like the scribes we just want to pretend it away.
Jesus doesn't bother playing pretend. He comes to deal with Satan. He knows that Satan's kingdom won't just fall apart on its own... and so He comes crashing into this world in order to bring about Satan's destruction and work your rescue, your redemption. And He points out something simple - if I am going to defeat Satan and take you guys out of His Kingdom, rescue you folks - I've got to bind Satan, I've got to smack him down first. And yes, I do that now in part by casting out demons - messing with the Satan's guard dogs as it were - and I will do it in full upon the cross when that old viper bruises My heel in death but I crush his head and break his power for eternity. That is what is going on now, that is what is happening. The utter defeat of Satan, and the preparation of men to go and proclaim the good news of Satan's defeat.
But they didn't like that. And so Jesus gives a warning. "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin." In English we end up calling this idea of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit "the Unforgivable sin" -- which is really unfortunate. When we say "unforgivable" we tend to think, "It's so big it cannot be forgiven." Not the point. The point is this - Jesus comes to win forgiveness, forgiveness for all sins - even the family members calling Jesus crazy, or the scribes saying He's possessed. Jesus died for that - no problem. The problem comes in here -- we receive forgiveness, this forgiveness that Jesus has won for us is given to us by the Holy Spirit working through God's Word - whether that is the Word spoken, or tied to water in Baptism, or tied to Bread and Wine in the Lord's Supper. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and brings forgiveness to us. But when you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, when you call Him a liar and don't listen to the Word, when you refuse to receive the Word... you never get forgiveness. It's not that it's so terrible that it can't be forgiven, it's that it rejects forgiveness. If there is a feast with food a plenty, but someone refuses to come and eat... it's not that there wasn't enough food, it's that they didn't eat. The sin against the Holy Spirit is the rejection of the blessings and gifts that the Holy Spirit brings - it is "unforgivable" because it is in and of itself the rejection of forgiveness. Jesus says, "I'm here to defeat Satan, I'm here to forgive the sins of the world -- but if you want to be stubborn and reject forgiveness, reject the life the Spirit brings... then you can cling to your sin eternally and see where that gets you."
Which leads to the next little section of our Gospel. "And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him." Come back home Jesus - you're just upsetting the nice big wigs from Jerusalem. It's not good showing them up, and You're still embarrassing us. Think on that for a moment. The two groups that reject Jesus right now - His family and the best of the Kingdom of Israel. Instead of clinging to Him, they separate themselves off from Him. A house divided, a kingdom divided. Divided and cut off from Christ. And as the disdain of the scribes is there, as the echoes of the messages from His family to just quit with the preaching echo in His ears, what does Jesus say? "Who are My mother and My brothers?" And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, "Here are My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, He is my brother and sister and mother." Did you catch it? This is one of those verses that gets abused by the law preachers. Got to do God's Will -- so you folks better do what I tell you... whether that's more money in the plate or don't vote for this person, or do this social program... blah, blah-blah, blah-blah. What is God's will for you? That you be saved. And how does that salvation come to you? The Holy Spirit brings the Good News of what Christ has done to you. Jesus is looking at those sitting around Him... and what are they "doing" right then and there? They are doing the will of God - that is, they are listening to Jesus! They are believing Him. This is Mary and Martha again - quit running around trying to boast about what you do Martha - Mary has chosen the better thing in listening to My Word.
And likewise, my dear friends - I know you all have plenty on your plate. There are things that we have to do, business to conduct, our God given vocations to fulfill and live out. But even the pagans do stuff. Even rank unbelievers can do social acts of kindness. Some of the kindest folks I know are rank heathens. Your works are not what define you as a Christian. No, you are a Christian, you are part of the family of God because the Holy Spirit declares to you what Christ Jesus has done for you. This place is God's House -- do not let things divide you away from here! This is where Christ and His Kingdom comes to you - where the life giving Gospel is proclaimed, where His own Body and Blood is given to you so that just as He rose you too shall rise -- this is where the Kingdom is, even until that day it comes in full on the last day. Don't divide yourself away from here... because then you will not stand. Rather, dear friends, always remember that Christ has come to defeat Satan, and to defeat Satan for you. He has come to forgive all sins, especially your sins -- and it is here where He gathers us around His Word, here where He pours His Spirit upon us, here where He gives Himself to us, so that we would be part of His family, His House, His kingdom for all eternity. God defend us against any thought that would make us embarrassed of Christ, and bring us to repentance so that we would receive His love and mercy again and again. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +