Saturday, June 24, 2006

Third Sunday after Pentecost, Mark 3:20-35, June 25, 2006

Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 25, 2006
St.  John’s Lutheran Church, Howard, South Dakota
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.  And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 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.  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.  Then indeed he may plunder his house.  “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.  And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-35, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.
How would you like your family to think you were crazy?  That’s what’s happing here to Jesus here.  His family is saying, “He out of his mind.”  Literally, they were saying he was “beside himself.”  “He’s crazy!”  It is kind of a strange expression, isn’t it, to be beside yourself.  But it means to be so greatly excited by something that we don’t know what’s going on.  To be so totally effected by what’s happening that we are out of control, or out of our own mind.  A person who is beside himself needs help, they need someone to come and take charge of them.  Someone has to step in and take over.
That’s just what the family of Jesus wants to do.  Just like we would do if we saw a member of our own family “beside himself.”  …they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”  But how can anyone take charge of Jesus.  How can anyone control his actions, his words, or his Spirit?  There are lots of attempts to do just that.  Ways to reduce Jesus to understandable categories, and a controllable size.  There are ways that people try to make Jesus fit into what seems to make sense and what’s logical.  Here in this text Jesus’ family tries it and so do the scribes.  And later on even his disciples even give it a try telling Jesus that he must not go to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again.  But all attempts to “take charge” of Jesus fail.  Weather we call Jesus words into question because we think they are crazy, or by trying to discount his miracles, as the work of the devil or even as if they never happened.  The truth is that no one ever takes charge of Jesus.  Jesus, through the work of the Holy Sprit, takes charge of us.
So here in our reading we see two groups trying to take charge of Jesus.  Up to this point in Mark’s Gospel, we’ve seen a lot going on.  Mark keeps the action moving, in the first chapter we see Jesus baptized, tempted, calling his first disciples, driving out an evil spirit, and healing a myriad of people.  In chapter 2, it keeps moving.  He heals, calls more disciples, and teaches.  In Chapter 3 he commissions his called disciples.  It’s a blinding pace.  It’s a page turner, but there aren’t many pages to turn because it’s a very short book.  One thing is certain as you read.  Jesus is in charge.  He’s in control of himself and He’s in control of everything that’s going on.  Up to here, everyone seems to be going along with Jesus in charge.  No one really makes a fuss; no one tries to set a different agenda.  It’s here in our text, for the first time in the book of Mark, that people begin to react to what Jesus is doing.  They start to react by trying to take charge.  They’re afraid Jesus is going off the deep end.  They act to keep him in line.  
So far with Jesus in charge, he’s causing an uproar.  Everywhere he goes there are crowds that follow him.  And they’ve grown so large and pressing that he and his disciples could not even eat.  They’ve pressed in and around the house that they’ve come to.  When his family heard about it they were concerned about his health so they start out to the rescue.  “If he doesn’t eat he’s going to get sick!  He’s working way too hard!  He’s not thinking clearly! Someone has to do something for him.”  In everything that’s happening around Jesus they don’t understand what’s really going on.  They don’t know who Jesus really is, and why he’s really come.  Jesus family wants to be in charge of Jesus, instead of Jesus letting him be in charge.
The second group that tries to take charge of Jesus is the scribes.  They arrive brewing for a fight.  They don’t like what he’s been saying.  He’s disrupting their “congregations.”  He’s getting their members to ask questions they can’t answer.  He’s drawing their attention away from the scribes.  So they start trying to discredit Jesus. “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” (That a name for a Philistine, prince of demons).  They want to be in control.  But Jesus stays in control by pointing out how illogical their statement is.  If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. That is to say “Satan’s not going to cast out his own demons.  That would be fruitless.”  Today he might say something like, “no batter is going to pick up the ball he just hit and throw himself out at first base.”  The scribes want to control Jesus because they don’t like what he’s doing, but Jesus stays in control.  Jesus’ family wanted to take control of him because he was embarrassing them, but Jesus stays in control.  Jesus is always in control.
But, people trying to “take charge” of Jesus isn’t limited to these examples in our text.  As a matter of course we see it every day.  It seems every Easter you find Jesus on the cover of Time magazine.  It’s usually a story about how “biblical scholars” explain away Jesus’ resurrection. What these scholars are really saying is that they don’t like what the bible says about Jesus.  The don’t like what Jesus says about himself, so they have to “take charge” and show that he didn’t say them or that they didn’t happen.  It’s a classic strategy, remember the scribes? Jesus is possessed by demons! Well, these scribes of the day like the Jesus who turned the other cheek but hate the Jesus who raises the dead and claims to be God.  
Jesus puts these critics in their place and we say, “Go get ‘em Jesus!”  But we maybe we might not speak so quickly.  We try to control Jesus, too!  We are really no better than the folks who went out to “take charge” of Jesus in the crowded house.  They were worried about his health.  We are just worried.  It’s easy to worry about anything, and everything.  We worry about the economy, the corn, the weather, or children, school, church… on and on the list goes.  What worry really does is gets Jesus down to our size, where we can handle him, where we can be in charge.  Worry is not being willing to turn troubles over to God, but wanting to hang on to them ourselves.  What we forget is that Jesus bound the strong man.  Satan causes us trouble, but Jesus has already done him in.  Satan doesn’t have any power over us, unless we give it to him.  The troubles of the world don’t have any power over us unless we let them.  When we worry about our troubles, instead of handing them over to Jesus, we hand them over to Satan.  We leave the door open for him to push his foot in and use our troubles against us.  He whispers into our minds that these things are too big for our God to take care of.  He tries to convince us that if God really loved us he wouldn’t let these kinds of things happen.  He tells us that we should be able to handle things on our own.  That’s what worry does.  It puts us in charge instead of Jesus.  It’s controlling Jesus instead of letting Jesus be in control.
Besides worry, there are other ways we try to take charge of Jesus.  We don’t like the picture of the dead Jesus on the cross.  We think that it’s just a little too much.  It’s not really a good picture to share with people who don’t know him.  So we try to introduce Jesus in other ways first.  We think that if we just tone down Jesus bloody death on the cross, he’ll be more acceptable.  One way we do this is to avoid talking about Jesus on the cross.  We like to talk about Jesus as our example.  In fact, most people like Jesus as an example.  That’s because we want to be in control.  If Jesus came to be our example, that leaves us in charge.  I’m the one who has to do the work then.  I work hard to follow an example.  I get to be my own savior.  The crucified Jesus doesn’t let me do that.  Jesus Christ didn’t come to the world and take up human flesh to be our example and show us how to live.  He came to pay the price for our sin.  He came to bring us forgiveness of sin and restore our proper relationship with God.  He comes in complete control.  He does it all, and that leaves nothing for us to do.  That’s Jesus on the cross.  St. Paul says the cross is “folly.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV)  It’s much easier to understand Jesus being an example.  It’s much easier to understand our responsibility to follow an example.  So we like it much better.  It put Jesus where we can control him.  But Jesus is in control.  He came and suffered death on the cross for your sin.  As long as you try to save yourself, you push your Savior out of your life.  
The worst part of controlling Jesus in this way is that so very often we speak to other people as if Jesus the example is all that matters.  We think that the cross is too bloody to be talked about.  We’d much rather talk about following Jesus than Jesus painful death on the cross.  Mostly it comes across in statements like, “all religions are the same.  The most important thing is how we live.”  In the end, there will be many very good people, people who followed Jesus example very well and cared for other people, gave to the poor, put lots of money into charity, gave their neighbors all the help they needed, visited prisoners, etc, who will suffer in hell eternally, because they didn’t trust Jesus for forgiveness of their sins.  They tried to earn forgiveness on their own.  Instead of letting Jesus be in control, they wanted to do it.  
St. Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV) In other words, people think God is “beside himself” while Jesus is bleeding and dying on the cross.  One feminist scholar accuses him of cosmic child abuse.  It’s doesn’t make sense that God would save the world that way.   That “in Christ God [would] reconcil[e] the world to himself, not counting [our] trespasses against [us].” (2 Corinthians 5:19, ESV)  Just as they doubt God would work through plain water.  Or that Jesus wouldn’t be present in bread and wine.  Or that Jesus would use a plain speaking preacher to carry his forgiveness into people’s hearts.  It’s not the way we would do it if we were in charge, if we were in control.  
Being in control leaves us “beside ourselves.”  Depending on ourselves.  Working out our own salvation by our own efforts.  But our own efforts will always fail us.  We can’t keep it up perfectly.  When we fail we hang on to our guilt.  When we fall short of the mark we try to blame someone else.  When we are in control we are alone and lost.  “Beside ourselves.”
Well, Jesus family couldn’t take charge of him, the scribes couldn’t take charge of him, scholars today, can’t take charge of him, and neither can we.  We don’t have the ability or the authority.  But Jesus does have the power and authority to take charge of us!  In spite of what the Scribes said, Jesus doesn’t work through the power of Satan; he works through the power of God, the Holy Spirit, who is present in Word and Sacrament for you.  That’s the power of the same one who created everything.  God’s house isn’t divided against itself, but working together to save us through forgiveness of sins, given in that Word and Sacrament.  Jesus has actually opened God’s house up to people who believe in him.  He’s opened to forgive all sins and reclaim all lost sinners.
Jesus took charge of our sin.  He was the one who came and “first binds the strong man” to reclaim what is his.  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection take charge of our sin.  As much as we would like we can’t take charge of them.  No one says it better than Isaiah.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; We’ve tried to take charge.  But, Isaiah continues, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:6, ESV)  Jesus says to us, “Turn over your sins to me.  I’ve taken them to the cross and to the grave.  I’ve done what you can’t do.  They don’t have to trouble you any more.  I’m in charge.”
Oh, but you don’t have to take my word for it.  If you want proof that Jesus is in charge, all you have to do is listen God’s own Words written by St. Paul.  He says the proof is in the pudding.  
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:12-28, ESV)
It’s silly for us to think that we can be in control of Jesus.  He rose from the dead.  He’s more powerful than even death.  Why do we think we can in any way be in control?
Being beside oneself must be an awful feeling.  If we could only rely on some person beside us, some friend, then we wouldn’t have to be afraid or in despair.  We do have someone to be beside us.  Jesus Christ is there, and he is more powerful than anything that faces us.  He has taken hold of us.  He has taken charge of us.  Jesus is beside us always.  Amen.  
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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