Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
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 were saying, “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! For 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.
In one of the translations of this text it says that Jesus' family thought that Jesus was “beside himself.” It is kind of a strange expression, isn’t it. 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 help.
That’s just what the family of Jesus does. Just like we would do if we saw a member of our own family “beside himself.” ..they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” But how can we take charge of Jesus. How can anyone control his action, 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. Way that people try to make Jesus fit into what seem 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 non-existent.
But the truth is that no one ever takes charge of Jesus. Jesus, through the work of the Holy Sprit, takes charge of us.
As I said in this text we see that two groups of people are trying to take charge of Jesus, but to set the stage we should remember what’s going on in the Gospel up to this point. Remember, the Gospel of Mark is the shortest of all. Jesus moves quickly from one event to another. In Chapter 1 Jesus is baptized, tempted, calls his first disciples, drive out and evil spirit, and heals a myriad of people. In Chapter 2 he heals some more calls more disciples and teaches about fasting and the Sabbath. And here in Chapter 3 he commissions his disciples as Apostles. It all happens at a blinding pace, with Jesus clearly in charge of everything that’s happening.
Up until this time, 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. Here we have two separate groups of people trying to “take charge of Jesus.”
So far with Jesus in charge, he’s causing quite a stir. Everywhere he goes there are crowds that follow him. And they’ve grown so large and pressing that he and his disciples were not even able to 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. “He’s out of his mind!” they say. If we would translate it literally they were saying “He’s beside himself.” They go out to take charge of him. “If he doesn’t eat he’s going to get sick! He’s working way too hard!” Someone has to do something for him. They must be thinking. 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 come. They want to be in charge instead of him.
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 demon possessed!” they shout trying to discredit Jesus. But Jesus handles their claim by showing the illogic in what they say. A kingdom divided against itself can’t stand. Maybe today he’d say something like “no batter would pick up the ball to throw himself out at first base.”
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. Every few years you’ll find Jesus on the cover of Time magazine. It’s usually to report the work of the “Jesus Seminar.” This is a group of biblical scholars who say that Jesus didn’t say or do most of the things the bible tells us. What they are really saying is that they don’t like what Jesus says so they have to “take charge” and show that he didn’t say them. 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.
And Jesus “family” is still trying to take charge of Jesus, too. Guess what, I’m talking about us! We are no better than the folks who went out to “take charge” of Jesus in the crowed 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. But what we forget is that Jesus “tied up the strongman.” Satan may cause us trouble but Jesus has already done him in. He doesn’t have any power over us, unless we give it to him. When we worry we do just that.
Another way we try to “take charge” of Jesus is to reduce what he did to understandable categories. That is to avoid the cross of Jesus. To call point to him as an example for living instead of the Savior of the world. There’s a song that says “it’s a strange way to save the world.” And really it’s not possible for us to understand it. “The cross is foolishness!” St. Paul tells us. “God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” Really God is beside himself in Jesus hanging on the cross dying for us. Ours isn’t to understand it, only to believe.
Jesus family couldn’t take charge of Jesus, the scribes couldn’t take charge of Jesus 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. That’s the power of the same one who created everything. God’s house isn’t divided against itself, but working to save us by giving us forgiveness of sins. Jesus has actually opened God’s house up to people who believe in him. He’s open to forgive all sins and reclaim lost sinners.
Jesus took charge of our sin. He was the one who came and “tied up the strong man” to reclaim what was his. Jesus life, death and resurrection take charge of the sins that would make us beside ourselves. No one says it better than Isaiah. Isaiah 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Jesus says to us, “Charge your sins to me.” I’ve taken them to the cross, and to the grave and they don’t have to bother you any more. “I’m in charge here, not them, and not you.”
Do you want proof that Jesus is in charge? But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
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.