The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 5B (6/7/2015)

Lessons:

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2nd Corinthians 4:13 — 5:1
St. Mark 3:20-35

Semicontinuous Series

1st Samuel 8:4-11 [12-15] 16-20, [11:14-15]
Psalm 138

Prayer of the Day

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory. Increase our faith and trust in him, that we may triumph over all evil in the strength of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text

3:20 …the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

St. Mark 3:20-35 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Responding to the Spirit; Doing the Will of God

I want to talk about Jesus’ relationship with his family this week. This, and his relationship with those who were listening to him, learning from him, and following him (as opposed to those who were thinking he was out of his mind, or in cahoots with Beelzebul) is the heart of the text. It is what I believe St. Mark is trying to help us understand in this section of the Gospel. The problem is, there is this little road bump in verse 29.

We’ve all heard it before, although I’d be willing to wager that few of us could actually find it in the Bible without a little help. In response to the charge that Jesus is doing Satan’s work and working under Satan’s authority, Jesus says, “…whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”

It is a frightening verse. When I was younger I occasionally found myself wondering if I had, in fact, blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. (I didn’t know what it meant, so you couldn’t blame for wondering if I had done it.) I grew up in the Lutheran church, and was exposed to the radical grace of Jesus as a young child. But we have, deep in the core of us all, this notion that everything is up to us, don’t we? If we get to heaven, it will be because we did everything right. And if we end up condemned, it will be because we erred in ways that can’t be fixed by faith. So a verse like this, which seems to suggest there is something we can do that can’t be undone, and ties God’s hands, preventing us from getting into heaven — well that just triggers all of our fears.

And prevents us from understanding the story. The story, of course, is about faith. There are many, already, who have been touched by the ministry of Jesus. They have experienced his power, and have received a glimpse of the kingdom of God breaking into this world. But there are also those who have rejected him. Some in the crowd think he is out of his mind. His family seems to agree with them. The Scribes from Jerusalem say he “has Beelzebul” — and it is a demonic power within him that allows him to cast demons out of others.

In other words, there are those who have been moved by the Holy Spirit to believe in him, and there are those who have rejected the Spirit’s work through him, instead offering their blasphemous claims that he is demon possessed (instead of Spirit possessed). Jesus’ response? If you’re going to oppose the Spirit’s efforts to draw you into a living faith, you had better know that this has eternal implications.

There, then… we’ve dealt with verse 29. Now we can move past it and work on a sermon that explores Jesus’ relationship with his family (and by inference, his relationship with us), right? Well, probably not. There still are those who haven’t read this message. But you and I are ready, so what do you think? Why does Jesus consider those who do the will of God as his brother and sister and mother, even as he seems to dismiss those who think he is out of his mind or in league with Satan? And the second question would be, “What would it mean for you and me to be doing the will of God?” I’d love to hear from you on this.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why does Jesus seem to dismiss those who think he is out of his mind or in league with Satan?
  2. Why does Jesus consider those who do the will of God as his brother and sister and mother?
  3. What would it mean for you and me to be doing God’s will?