Several weeks ago, we talked about how Jesus had left his family home and the carpentry business in Nazareth. No doubt it was a flourishing business from which he could have made a living. Then one day he quite suddenly walked away and became a wandering preacher. “No sensible man”, his family thought, “would throw away job where money came in every week to become a vagrant who did not even have a place to lay down his head”.
Up to this point, Mark’s gospel presents Jesus as an exorcist who also equiped his closest followers to cast demons out of people. This unusual, behavior alarmed his family and since they doubted his ability to do this, they decided that he must be crazy. Isn’t that our normal thinking when we don’t understand something?
In the description of Jesus’ family, Jesus is described as “son of Mary”, several brothers are named and a general references to sisters is included. What about Joseph? The simplest explanation is that Mary’s husband had died some time before.
Jesus’ family feared that he had lost his mind. While his family claimed that he is “beside himself”, the teachers of the law went a step further determining that not only had he stepped out of himself, but that's something else has stepped into Jesus and was using its demonic power to rule over demons Ancient societies often used charges like this to rein in people whose extraordinary position, gifts, or behavior challenged the established order. Many people prefer to maintain the traditional patterns in personal, family or social life rather than make radical changes that might bring greater health or happiness to a troubled situation.
The religious leaders did not doubt Jesus’ power to cast out demons. This was common in their days as it is today in South America, Africa and parts of Asia. But they claimed that he was in league with the demons. All exorcists call upon a greater power to throw out the demons. They assumed that he was using evil powers to do what he was doing.
Jesus’ family and the teachers of the law are not the only ones who are less than excited about Jesus the exorcist. Many modern Christians aren’t all that excited either. Jesus the exorcist embarrasses people; Jesus dabbling with the supernatural (Isn’t that what he’s about?). They are ok with his preaching, teaching and faith healing, but not this exorcism business. Didn’t demons go out with the middle ages? Aren’t there institutions for people who do crazy things like this?
Persons changed with having special powers that the religious leaders did not feel came from God could be either banished or executed; such suspicions could not be left unchecked. Jesus’ opponents claimed his power to cast out demons was a sign that Jesus had received his authority from the chief demonic power, Beelzebul. By coming to the opinion that Jesus’ work was animated and empowered by the demonic, the teachers of the law placed Jesus outside of the realm where forgiveness is possible.
Jesus points out that it makes little sense to think that Satan would cast out his own demons and then Jesus further observed that even if what the teachers of the law suggest about him was true, Satan would not be so confused as to be pitted against himself. This never the less would be an indication that Satan’s end was surely in sight since, As Jesus said, “A house divided against itself could not stand.”
Jesus speaks indirectly about his own activity. He is no agent of Satan. His actions demonstrate that demonic power are being broken up. Jesus is stronger than Satan and is able to bind Satan and raid his kingdom. The parable of Jesus the exorcist teaches us that Jesus has exerted his power over the powers of evil and tied up the devil and is busy robbing him of his hostages. Properly understood, Jesus’ exorcisms are evidence that God’s rule is becoming present in Jesus’ ministry.
The saying about the Holy Spirit reveals that more is at stake than Jesus’ own personal feelings of honor or shame. What is at stake is the truth about the saving power of God at work in the ministry of Jesus. Since the saying is directed against those who are trying to destroy Jesus’ authority with the crowds by typing him as “satanic”, the “sin against the Holy Spirit” is not a special, reserved class of sin. It occurs when we do not believe that God is who we proclaim God to be and who we know is able to do in our lives what we know God can and will do. Christians, who participate with the Holy Spirit from their baptism, should remember the words and example of universal forgiveness. People who feel cut off from God or even imagine that they have committed this sin need a word of healing.
The interpreters that believe that this passage indicates hostility toward Jesus’ family presume that tensions between Jewish and Gentile Christians were responsible for the judgment that Jesus’ family were “outsiders” in his mission. They also point to the fact that his mother and brothers must call to him from the outside indicates that his family were not disciples.
Mark’s narrative does not suggest a violent break between Jesus and his family. Jesus shows those who refer to his family’s presence that the authority of our family cannot be set above doing the will of God. Jesus says that kinship is not about flesh and blood. He insists that his true family members are those who do the will of God and that it has to do with people sharing experiences, values, goals, opinions, beliefs, and working together and serving together.
The issue is not opposition to Jerusalem but the danger of attachment to family, village, and traditional ties. Readers already know that Jesus’ first disciples left family and occupation in order to follow him. Jesus had recently started a little community of his own. The presence of women in Jesus’ description of his new family of disciples distinguishes his followers from those who surrounded other popular teachers of the law or popular philosophical teachers.
They were fishermen, a reformed tax collector, and a fanatical nationalist. They were not the people that any ambitious person would want to know. They were certainly not the people that who would do any good to a man who had set on a career. No sensible man would pick a crowd of friends like that. They were definitely not the kind of people a prudent man would want to get mixed up with,
Neither Jesus or any of his followers belonged among the powerful of their society, nor did they have religious credentials. They certainly lacked any ties to the powerful aristocrats like the king. Instead, Jesus drew on the proverbial wisdom and the religious instincts of very ordinary people. By watching Jesus unmask the authorities and the experts of their society, such persons learned their own value in the sight of God. They may have had a better understanding of what it means to do the will of God than the experts. In a society dominated by experts, people today constantly make decisions about how far they can trust authorities. Sometimes wisdom lies in everyday common sense.
The crowd had recognized that a new power of God was at work and praised God. But Jesus was on a head on collision with the orthodox religious leaders of his day. There are certain people who can do us a great deal of harm, people on whose right side it is better to be, people whose opposition can be very dangerous. No sensible man, they must have been thinking, would ever go up against the powers that be, because he would know that in any collision with them he would be bound to come out second best. No one can take on the scribes and pharisees and the orthodox leaders and hope to get away with it. When the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus, he became angered by their hard heartedness and pronounced a word of judgment against them.
We should not naively suppose that life ought to be like a leisurely afternoon at the beach and then blink in surprise when some sort of evil explodes in the middle of our existence. Jesus announced that we live in a world held hostage by formidable evil powers, powers always on the prowl.
There is only one condition of forgiveness and that is repentance. But if we refuse God’s forgiveness then it does us no good. As long as we love our sin (separation from God) too much to want to change and leave it behind, we cannot position ourselves to be forgiven.
Sins can be forgiven as long as people do not cut themselves off from the force of forgiveness
By his actions, Jesus had made it clear that the three laws by which people tend to organize their lives meant nothing to him: security, safety, and the verdict of society,
The one thing that people want more than anything is security in job and with new people and financial risks. Secondly, I think that the default response of most people is to play it safe. They are more concerned about safety sometimes than moral quality. People instinctively shirk from anything with risk. I also think that most people care more about what their neighbors have to say than God. Jesus had shown himself to be indifferent to the verdict of society.
Abraham Lincoln rightly applied the truth that Jesus shared here about unity to our nation’s life. It is always applicable. Take but one aspect of the nation’s life, the race question. The house of democracy cannot stand if divided between a profession of equal opportunity and the denial of rights to large groups of people. Every day we can see more clearly that a divided house in the international world cannot stand. Must we not also see, far more clearly, than we ever have, that a divided church, split into fragments, cannot stand, and cannot be the force it should be against the world’s evil?
Churches will never work together as long as they argue about the non-essentials such as ordination, church administration, sacraments, practices and customs. We need to gather around the goal of knowing God better, serving God better, and winning people for Christ. The building at Urbana First United Methodist, where I served before coming here, has about 45,000 square feet. They used to have 800 in worship but were down to about 50 when I began there. It wasn’t very long until God introduced us to a wonderful Korean congregation that needed a place to worship.
In the first 6 months they were with us, they grew from 40 to100, (mostly college students). Later we invited a non-denominational congregation that had outgrown their rented space to share ours. In three months, they grew from 150-225. Also, only about 10 were over the age of 30. The Urbana United Methodist Church had become an incubator where 135 new people came to know Jesus.
About 11 months ago I was told that I was moving. Remember 135 new people had come to know Jesus. But they had not joined the United Methodist Church. I don’t care what “flavor” of Christianity a person is as long as they seek to know, serve and proclaim Jesus. We need to think kingdom, not just congregation. If someone seeks a relationship with God through Jesus I call them brother or sister. My job is not just to serve two United Methodist churches, but to introduce everyone that I can to my friend Jesus. That’s your job too.