Devotional Message: The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 5B (6/10/2018)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

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 for This Sunday

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: Brothers and Sisters of Jesus

Yes there is an elephant in the room: what in the world is the “unforgivable sin?” What does it mean to “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?” I don’t want to write about that this year. If you are worried about it: don’t let it keep you up at night. And if you are interested in pursuing what this means, you might want to take a look at what I posted in 2015 and in 2012 on www.OneLittleWord.org. (click these links, or search for “Proper 5B”)

This year, though, I want to address a different question: “Who are the members of Jesus’ family?”

It is, on one level, a surprising question. When we think of the family of Jesus most of us picture Jesus as an only child (especially those of us who have been influenced by how the Roman Catholic Church talks about Mary, the Mother of Jesus). And given the absence of any references to Joseph in the Bible beyond Jesus’ 12th year, by this time in the story his mother, Mary, may very well be a widow. So it is strange to hear in this week’s Gospel that his mother and brothers and sisters are outside his home in Capernaum asking for him (verse 32).

Regardless what we assume about his family of origin, Jesus stretches our understanding about what family may or may not have meant to him. His mother and brothers and sisters have heard the rumors. He has gone out of his mind. He is possessed by some evil force or being. He has an unclean spirit. So, either worried about his wellbeing or their own reputation, they make their way (from Nazareth?) to Capernaum so that they might deal with this situation. But in what may well be a bit of a jab at them, St. Mark tells us that Jesus looks around the room at those who were listening to him, learning from him, and favorably impressed with him, and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

The crowds think he is out of his mind. The Scribes accuse him of being in cahoots with Satan. Others conclude he has an unclean spirit. His own family shows up determined to restrain him. And Jesus declares that those who are gathered with him and doing God’s will are his family. Regardless how this might have affected his biological family, it is an invitation for us to explore where we fit in this picture. Certainly there are those in our world today who are convinced Jesus is not who he claims to be. And there are those in our world who are convinced that in Jesus we meet the fullness of God, present to draw us into eternal life. On which side of this line do we find ourselves standing? Are we outside, questioning his teaching and doubting his claims about himself? Or are we members of his family, learning from him and seeking to do God’s will?

C. S. Lewis once popularized the notion that Jesus is either a “liar or a lunatic or the Lord” (Mere Christianity in 1952, probably reflecting on Rabbi John Duncan’s 1859 “trilemma”). As Lewis’ argument goes, these are our only three options. We have to choose one of them. Which is it for you?)

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why is there such a wide range of opinion about Jesus in the Gospels?
  2. What convinces his family that he is a danger to himself and/or others and needs to be restrained?
  3. How does Jesus counter the accusations leveled against him?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. Do I think of Jesus as a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord?
  2. What experiences and insights have led me to this conclusion?
  3. What impact do my conclusions about Jesus have on the way I live my life?