Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
In the Family - June 10, 2012 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 05) - Text: Mark 3:20-35
Things are not always what they seem. Several weeks ago, on Picnic Sunday you had a bulletin insert which looked like an ink blot. After staring at the four dots in the middle of the insert and then closing your eyes you could see the face of Jesus appear. There is a saying in our world that goes something like, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” We live in a world in which we understand that things are not always what they first seem to be and too often what once was perceived as good is now said to be bad and what once was perceived as bad is now said to be good. It’s a crazy, mixed-up world in which we live today, but the same can be said about the world in the time of Jesus.
Our text for this morning is the Gospel reading and if we look real close at our text we will notice something interesting. The texts begins with Jesus’ own family who believes He is out of His mind. It is possible that they have come to this conclusion because Jesus has become so popular, so much so that He travels around a lot and has little time to eat, and possibly, they are thinking, this is causing Him to be delusional, thinking He is God.
Our text moves from this accusation from His own family to the accusation by the Pharisees that Jesus is of the devil. Certainly, if the family believes Jesus is “crazy” because He thinks He is God, it naturally follows that the Pharisees would accuse Jesus of blasphemy and the greatest blasphemy comes from the devil.
Our text then concludes with the seeking of Jesus by His mother and brothers. Which brings us back to where our text began. In other words, Mark brackets this confrontation of Jesus by the Pharisees and their accusations with Jesus having problems with His own family believing in Him. Of course, we are looking back at these events with 20-20 hindsight and we know how things really are, that Jesus really is God in human flesh.
Our text concludes with Jesus answering the question concerning His family seeking Him, and in essence, our text begs the question of “who is Jesus’ family?” Jesus answers that question by stating that all those who believe in Him, “who do God’s will,” are a part of His family. As we can see, the discussion of the identity of Jesus was going on before Jesus was born, during His life on earth, and that discussion continues still today. As the world today looks at Jesus’ life there is still the question of “are things what they seem to be?”
The Pharisees argued that Jesus was not God and thus was blaspheming by putting Himself forward as God. They cannot, however, deny the miracles, the signs and wonders that Jesus is performing. You might remember that last week one of the Pharisees, Nicodemus recognized, from the signs, wonders and miracles Jesus performed, that He was from God, because no one could do what Jesus was doing except that He was from God. As for the rest of the Pharisees, instead of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, they twisted what He was doing and contended that Jesus had to be a servant of the devil and that is how He can cast out demons and do the signs, wonders and miracles He is doing. Notice that at least they recognized that Jesus was doing signs, wonders and miracles.
The Pharisees are not unlike many religious groups, cults and sects today. They will say, or do, or try anything to discredit Jesus. If Jesus is who He says He is, that means the end of their power, fame and fortunes, thus it is imperative to discredit Him. And they attempt to discredit Him in the same way as the Pharisees and teachers of the law, attempting to explain away the evidence as being something it is not.
Interestingly enough, Jesus has to defend Himself and He defends Himself by pointing out the fact that a house divided cannot stand. We know the old saying, in trying to defeat an opponent, the best way to defeat an opponent is to “divide and conquer.” Jesus is simply pointing out that the argument of the Pharisees is illogical. A house divide, and in this instance, the house of the devil divided against himself, cannot stand. Even the devil is smarter than that.
In order for a person to overtake a house, the overtaker must overpower the owner. Of course, this overtaking is what Jesus has done to the devil himself. Jesus has overpowered the devil, He has overtaken Him through His death and resurrection. The eternal spiritual death penalty for our sins, the price, the cost for our sins, which the devil wants to hold against us so that we are his, the price has been paid by Jesus through His suffering and death. Thus, the devil no longer has any hold on us or power over us.
Finally, Jesus speaks about the unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit and really, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of this sin. What is the unforgivable sin? What is the sin against the Holy Spirit? To break it down into its simplest terms, “the unforgivable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit, is dying in unbelief.” To die in unbelief is to deny the Holy Spirit because the work of the Holy Spirit is to work in us and give us faith. The Pharisees saw, first hand, the signs, wonders, and miracles Jesus’ performed. They knew their Bible through and through. If anyone should have made the connection that this was the promised Messiah, it should have been them, and yet they continued to deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, all except Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea, again as we noted last week. The Pharisess even went so far as to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. The truth of the matter is that it is the Pharisees who are denying Jesus, denying the Holy Spirit, and are blaspheming against God.
As I mentioned earlier, this “attack” by the Pharisees is bracketed by an attack by Jesus’ own family. Here we see the struggle of answering the question of “Who is this Jesus?” “Are things what they seem to be?” Mary, Jesus’ own mother, had been told about Jesus, by the angel who announced His birth, who He was and is and what He would be and do and yet the text indicates that she was still “fuzzy” on the details. Perhaps she was still pondering all these things in hear heart. I would suppose that all of us understand a little about the competition among siblings, however, what we are seeing is that Jesus’ own family, at this time, is not so much competing with Jesus as they simply did not believe Him, that He was the Messiah.
Speaking of families, the Pharisees and Jesus had this discussion during one of their times of confrontation. The discussion was that Jesus told them the truth would set them free and they argued that they we children of Abraham and were never slaves of anyone or anything. The Pharisees were depending on being a part of God’s kingdom simply by blood, by genetics, by DNA, by being a member of the physical family of the line of Abraham. That, however, is not the way in which we are a part of God’s family. We are members of God’s family, not by blood, at least not by our own blood, nor through genetics, but by grace, by God’s grace, through faith, which is given to us by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, especially Holy Scripture and Holy Baptism.
Jesus’ answer to the question of family was, “here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” And we only do God’s will as a result of being filled with His Holy Spirit and by the spirit moving and working in us. We are members of God’s family by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus alone, worked in us and given to us by the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are blood relatives of Jesus, but it is not our blood, but His blood which makes us blood relatives. It is because He gave His life, He shed His blood, He died that we might have life. Our Old Testament lesson for today reminds us of our sin and of God’s promise to send a Savior. God’s promise was and still is to all people. God’s promise was made first even before there was a Jew and a Gentile, while there was simply people, Adam and Eve. Jesus is the Offspring who was crushed as He died on the cross, but in being crushed, in His dying on the cross He crushed the devil so that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
In our Epistle lesson Paul encourages us to look to Jesus and even more, to focus our attention, not on this world, but on the world to come, on our eternal glory. Paul is writing to people who are very much like us today. Too often we have our eyes fixed, not on the world to come, but on this world and on our lives in this world and we have become oblivious to the world to come or on getting ourselves prepared for the world to come. This world is temporary. This world is fast and fleeting. Our time in this world is but a breath compared to our time in eternity. The older you get the more you realize how temporary this world and our time in this world really is. Thus it is important that we fix our eyes heavenward and that we have an urgency about sharing the good news of salvation with others, so that they too might have a part in God’s kingdom. Yes, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians, we are saved by God’s grace, through faith alone, and we are also saved to do the good works which God has for us to do. We are members of God’s family, we are priests in the priesthood of all believers. We live our lives as living sacrifices, doing the things which He would have us to do. And what He would have us do is to be excited about being a part of the family, so much so that we would want others to be a part of the family as well.
You are part of Jesus’ family! By God’s Grace, through faith worked in us and given to us by the Holy Spirit, we are all a part of Jesus’ family! We are His brothers and sisters, because, and by faith, we do God’s will. May the Lord continue to strengthen and keep you in faith so that you might continue to do God’s will, so that ultimately we may all together stand before the Lord’s throne and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.