From the Pulpit

From the Pulpit 



Sermon on Mark 3:20-35
Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 13, 2021


You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. Amen.
 
            Dear brothers and sisters, you who call Jesus Lord. Have you ever heard someone say something like "Hey, I like Jesus! He stood up for the poor…he did a lot of good…he preached about love and tolerance and peace…" but then reject the truths he taught about sin and faith and forgiveness…and even about himself? Muslims, for instance, call him a great teacher, even a prophet. But it's not enough to respect Jesus or to admire Jesus. He claimed to be the Son of God! C. S. Lewis, whom you probably know as the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, was a Christian apologist. Now, apologetics is not apologizing for God, in the modern sense of the word. An apology is a response, a verbal or written defense of an idea or person. It is literally "answering back" to someone who has accused or attacked the idea or person being defended. Now, how does C. S. Lewis answer back for Christ? He says that when you consider the testimony Jesus gives about himself, you cannot call him a great teacher, or a prophet, and not also acknowledge that he is the Son of God. Because of his personal testimony, you must call him either a Liar, a Lunatic, or the Lord.
 
            Jesus was beginning to attract attention from a number of people, with a variety of intentions: sincere inquirers; bitter opponents; and curiosity seekers.
            His family was concerned about the attention he was getting. Jesus' brothers (half-brothers or cousins, the term used by Scripture can mean either) didn't believe in him at first. Later some did—you'll note that the holy writers James and Jude both call themselves his brothers. But at this time, when they heard about his miracles, about the people's desire to make him a king, and about the hostility of the religious leaders of Israel toward Jesus, they thought that he was, to translate it literally "out of it"—I guess we sometimes use the same term. They decided to take him home for his own protection.
            If you consider the content of his message, it's no wonder some earthly individuals, including his family, thought him mad. People accused Paul of being insane. Today, you as a committed Christian can expect to be called deluded, daft or worse.
 
The experts in the law who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He drives out demons by the ruler of demons.”
 
            Beelzebub was a pagan god, the "Lord of the Flies." The Jews mocked this false god and his worshippers by changing one consonant. Beelzebul means "Lord of Dung." Over the years, this name had become a nickname for Satan.
            The scribe from Jerusalem were "ringers," experts sent down to assist the local religious leaders as they challenged Jesus. Since they couldn't challenge the obvious and well-witnessed power of his miracles, they questioned the source of his power, accusing him of using the power of Satan to cast out demons. They were calling him a doer of evil.
            In a little side note, we should mention, with holy irony, that when Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin after his arrest, he answered "yes, I am" to the question "are you the Christ, the Son of the living God?" They accused him of blasphemy, then…yet here they are truly guilty of blasphemy, for associating the name of God's Son with the devil.
 
Jesus called them together and spoke to them in parables.
 
            Jesus loved—truly loved, as only God can do—his enemies and graciously tried to win them over. Yet he spoke to them with a parable or a comparison. Some have wondered why, if he was trying to convince them, he didn't speak more plainly. The answer is this: those who were honestly seeking the truth will find it in his parables, but those who were looking to trap him in his words would be confused and dumbfounded, unable to understand the point of his message.
            And their charge was plainly ridiculous. Civil wars don't make a country strong—look how long it took our own country to recover from our Civil War…some might say we still are. It's preposterous to suggest that Satan advances his kingdom by plundering his allies, the demons. When a ruler attacks his own army, as Jesus points out, his days are numbered. Satan would be, metaphorically speaking, cutting his own throat if he helped Jesus or anyone else cast out demons.
            And, friends, that's not the first time our holy and righteous God has been accused of doing evil, nor will it be the last. Evil is what some modern men, even under the auspices of Christianity, call the God who punishes every sin with hell and forgives every sin only through the death of his Son on the cross.
            Have you ever wondered how your God who is supposed to love you can use trouble or sorrow to bring good into your life?
 
On the other hand, no one can enter a strong man’s house to steal his possessions unless he ties up the strong man first. Then he can plunder his house.
 
            Strangely enough, Jesus compares himself to a robber—because he's plundering the house of Satan, who is "tied up," and powerless to resist. He's already doing it by his preaching and his miracles, but the final battle has yet to come: he will endure Calvary's cross and so destroy the power of sin, death and the devil. He did it, and Satan couldn't stop him. Humankind has been freed from the devil's hold through sin and the fear of death, freed by the Son of God, who robbed Satan of his victory.
            Think about that, the next time you feel the powerful temptation to sin: Satan is not powerful, he is power-less! Anyone who believes in the forgiveness and salvation won by Jesus has the power to resist every temptation of the devil, the world, and his sinful nature.
 
Amen I tell you: Everything will be forgiven people, their sins and whatever blasphemies they may speak. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
 
            Jesus' family had come to the wrong conclusion; they thought him a lunatic, but would come to understand the truth in time. But Jesus' enemies attacked him deliberately and maliciously. The Holy Spirit had testified the truth about Jesus to them, and his miracles were proof that he spoke from God. They knew it, but still spoke evil about him. So he warned them of the terrible sin they were flirting with. By calling Jesus a liar, they were blaspheming the Spirit who testifies about him.
            Now, why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable? It is unforgivable because it is a stubborn and willful resisting, even rejecting, of the very work of the Holy Spirit, who seeks to work repentance and regeneration in the hearts of sinners. It is a persistent sin against better knowledge—such a blasphemer knows the truth, but rejects it out of plain stubbornness—he doesn't want him, so he rejects him. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not only thinking evil of God, but continuing to speak evil of him until death. Such blasphemy can even end a person's time of grace before the end of his earthly life, and will guarantee his eternal damnation. You should note, friends, that if you ever worry whether you might have committed this sin – then you haven't.
            One part of this passage bears repeating. Even as he delivers this stern rebuke, our Lord reminds his hearers, "Amen I tell you: Everything will be forgiven people, their sins and whatever blasphemies they may speak." The graciousness of our God is so great, in fact it is without limit, that he forgives ALL sins, even the sin against the Holy Spirit. If one repents of it, it is forgiven; if it is not, it cannot be forgiven, because such blasphemy by its nature rejects the forgiveness offered by our God.
 
Then his mother and his brothers arrived.
He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He looked at those who sat around him in a circle and he said, “Look, my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
 
            Remember why the members of Jesus' family were coming. They intended to stop his work. Jesus wasn't disparaging the blessings of the family. He submitted to his parents' authority. He later provided for Mary's care from the cross. But no one, not his enemies, not Peter, not his own relative or mother would be allowed to interfere with his mission to save us.
            THAT is why we call him LORD, dear friends, because he wouldn't let anything stop him from saving us, and we know it—we believe it—we trust in him and his work. Jesus' real family are all people who do God's will. "You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus," Paul writes. Those "sitting around him" were those disciples who came to hear him, learn from him, believe him, and follow him. They were his real family.
            Those who do God's will are Christians. "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." By baptism, or by the working of the Holy Spirit through the Word, God has adopted us into his family. God's children, those who believe in him, will do his will as a natural outgrowth of their faith.
 
            So, Liar, lunatic, or the Lord? Jesus Christ is Lord, because he has bought you, me, and the whole of humanity by shedding his precious blood for us. We call him Lord because the Holy Spirit has created and sustained faith in us by the means of grace, the gospel in Word and sacrament. This is the truth that sets—makes—us free of the lies told by men and devils. This is the truth that will sustain us, until we stand, or sit, or kneel at the feet of our great teacher, brother, shepherd, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in his heavenly kingdom.
 
Amen.
 
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 
 

The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage VersionTM (EHVTM) copyright © 2016 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved.
Lectionary listings from Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal © 1993 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.