Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5
June 7, 2015, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Mark 3:20-35
Sermon Theme: “A Very Disturbing Gospel Text: There’s Nothing Crazy about Jesus!”
(Sources: Anderson, Cycle B, Preaching Workbook; Emphasis Online Commentaries; Emphasis Online Illustrations; original ideas; Online Christian Jokes; footnotes, Concordia Self-Study Bible)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Baptist Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.”
“I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy replied, “you don’t even know your way to the post office.”
The boy just didn’t get it, did he? The Jerusalem Scribes, along with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, just didn’t get it either. So much so they thought Jesus was nuts, — a crazy man. Jesus’ family didn’t get it either, did they? His mother and his brothers were about to have Him put in a strait jacket. They say in our sermon text, “He is out of His mind!”
It was as though at this point in His ministry, all the evil forces in the world had combined their opposition to the ministry of Jesus. The crowds were so demanding they would not let Him eat. Family and friends thought He was out of His mind, His family even pleading for Him to give up His ministry and come home. One set of religious leaders, the Scribes, were accusing Him of defeating demons by being in cahoots with Satan himself.
Not only that, He was forever saying illogical things and making illogical demands, such as, “Love your enemies,” whereas the world taught to hate your enemies. And such things as, “Don’t worry about the things of this world, — what you eat and what you wear,” – anyone knows that’s plain crazy!
At this point in time, the people watching and listening to Jesus just did not recognize the infallible truth spoken and demonstrated by Him. They thought what He was speaking and doing was just sheer nonsense, as though He was like the befuddled customer who ordered pizza.
The waiter brought the pizza to the customer, and asked, “Do you want your pizza cut into six pieces or eight?”
The man replied, “Better make it eight. I’m extra hungry!”
Even the Lord’s mother and brothers thought He was preaching nonsense. He had become an embarrassment to His family. That’s one of the elements in this story that makes it disturbing to us. Another disturbing element is the Scribes accusing the Son of God of being Satanic. Still another is Jesus’ announcement that there is one sin which is unforgiveable. And even His response to His family, as well as their attitude toward Him, bothers us.
When the Scribes accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of the devil, He responded, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” He, Jesus, is the one who is casting out demons in God’s name. Jesus goes on to say, “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.”
Abraham Lincoln, who knew his Bible well, applied Jesus’ words to the searing issue of slavery that was dividing the nation as he began his campaign to become a United States Senator from Illinois in opposition to Stephen A. Douglas. In his Springfield, June 16, 1858, address, he stated among other things: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”
Tyrants divide and conquer. During World War II, the various internal squabbles in our country ceased, and Americans pulled together as one people to achieve victory. In today’s world, however, society and church have become polarized, and so have denominations within the church at large. We can learn from Jesus and from history.
Another disturbing element in the text for us, and certainly related to the casting out demons accusations against Jesus, is that our wonderful Lord and Savior who preached love, redemption and forgiveness of sins, suddenly announces there is ONE sin which cannot be forgiven.
In light of the insulting and disrespectful things that have been said to Him, Jesus indicates that insulting the Holy Spirit will NOT be forgiven. Many folks have difficulty with that pronouncement, feeling that a loving God would never refuse forgiveness for any sin. However, the best explanation I have ever found regarding the unforgiveable sin against the Holy Spirit was given by William Barclay.
Barclay says, “If a man, by repeated refusals of God’s guidance, has lost the ability to recognize goodness when he sees it, if he has got his moral values inverted until evil, to him, is good, and good, to him, is evil, — then, even when he is confronted by Jesus, he is conscious of no sin; he cannot repent and therefore he can never be forgiven. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit.”
According to our text, the main reason Jesus brings up the concept of the “unpardonable sin” is to show that not only are the arguments of the Scribes illogical, but also these religious leaders are guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit. It’s safe to say that most of us have not committed the eternal sin and the very fact that it concerns us shows that God’s Spirit is still active in us.
The final disturbing element which bothers us is both his response to His parents and their attitude toward Him. His mother knew before His birth that He was to be the Messiah, and she was again made aware of the fact throughout His lifetime, yet His brothers rejected Him as the Savior of mankind, at least until after the crucifixion.
Our text shows a turning point in the relationship between Jesus and His family. At this point in His life, they still refuse to see Him in any way but the conventional relationships of blood ties. In spite of the miraculous things He says and does, they continue to relate to Him in the same old ways. But, being the Redeemer sent by God, He could not “live down” to their expectations. He refused to be the same old Jesus, son of Joseph, that He had always been. His divine call was far greater than merely helping Joseph in his carpenter shop.
When Jesus’ mother and brothers send word to Him that He should come home with them, He raises the question, “Who are my mother and my brothers? . . . . Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus is making the point that membership in God’s spiritual family, which comes through faith and obedience, is more important than membership in our human families.
This doesn’t mean that our human family isn’t important; after all, Jesus, at His crucifixion, made sure that His beloved disciple John would take care of His mother. It means that God is more important.
To be sure, Mark’s Gospel is very disturbing. But we need a disturbing Gospel text every now and then, don’t we? It breaks up the frozen seas of thought within us. It strengthens our faith and shores up our obedience. There’s nothing crazy about that, and there’s nothing crazy about Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.