Sermon by Martin James 06.06.2021

Sermon by Martin James

6.6.2021

Mark 3:20-35

Tell someone there are billions of stars in the universe, and they'll believe you. But tell them the bench they are about to sit on has wet paint, and what will they probably do? They need to prove it. A lack of faith.

It seems that Jesus' family didn't have much faith in him - v21 - out of his mind. In fairness they were probably concerned with his welfare.

Today's gospel is in the form of a sort of sandwich. v21 then vvs31-35 concern Jesus' family. Then in the middle - vvs22-30 we read of his argument with the scribes.

Let's look at the middle first. And I don't mean it's the meat of it. It's more a matter of this conflict with the scribes being one of the reasons why Jesus' family was concerned about him. Another pressure for him.

So, the accusation in vvs22-30. This is one of many instances in the gospels where we read of people rejecting or challenging the authority of Jesus. The scribes were in a difficult spot. If they said that Jesus was healing people and also performing miracles in the power of God, they would have to believe in him. But of course they weren't willing to do that. It went against the grain and their own authority and reputations. So they said that Jesus was doing it with the help of evil spirits. In particular Beelezebul. That was probably a name for Satan himself. Whatever name it was, they, the scribes were accusing Jesus of using the powers of evil. Incidentally, although they criticised Jesus and levelled this false accusation against him, it's worth noting that they weren't doubting that he was casting out demons.

Anyway, to the accusation and how Jesus responds. v23b - how can Satan cast out Satan. One of Jesus's ironic statements. But with a real truth in it. He was effectively saying "come off it, a thief can't steal from himself”. And he goes on to explain this with an illustration of a divided kingdom and a divided house. vvs24-26:- 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.

No one can drive away evil by evil means. If a parent uses anger to try and stop the anger of one of their children, it's not evil as such. Of course it's wrong and can only be overcome with reconciliation.

As St Paul wrote in Romans 12:21:- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When Jesus talks about a kingdom divided against itself he is saying that it cannot stand. Same with a divided house. So, if that were the case with Satan, he would already have been destroyed.

Driving away Satan was of course Jesus's aim. Part of his mission. A battle against evil forces. And that of course is still going on and Christians share in that. But we must never forget that the battle belongs to the Lord.

Now we come to what for many is a difficult verse - v29: Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin. Effectively this means that such blasphemy is deliberately calling evil good and good evil. The scribes were guilty of this in the way that they attributed Jesus's miracles to Satan.

Blasphemy against the Spirit. As with any other sin that needs repentance. And you know that repentance is changing and turning from bad ways to good ones, with the help of the Holy Spirit. But if evil and good are the same in anyone's eyes, how can they change?

It's important to note that if anyone is afraid they might have sinned against the Spirit, the fact that they are troubled about it shows they are not guilty. Only anyone who no longer has a conscience can be guilty of that.

So, now to the outer part of our sandwich. Family. Yes, they were probably concerned for Jesus's welfare. Perfectly natural. So in that sense it's not so much what I called a lack of faith earlier on their part as more a matter of not understanding him. Somehow they heard in Nazareth 28 miles away from where Jesus was in Capernaum. So they decided to travel to him and presumably bring him home for some down time. They didn't understand what he had been called to do - John 7:5 for instance:- For not even his brothers believed in him.

People said Jesus was out of his mind. Is that any different to the way some people talk about him nowadays? Well, as Christians we know where we stand.

Yes, the people around Jesus that day said he was out of his mind. Many other Christians have had the same kind of accusations levelled against them. For example Paul - Acts 26:24. He was making his defence before the governor Festus, who suddenly exclaimed “You are out of your mind, Paul!"§

And also Martin Luther King in his "I have a dream" speech. How he spoke of his dream that people of all colours would be equal in the USA. His friends tried to persuade him to draw back from danger. Which of course he wouldn't and he paid the price with his life.ew

Now moving on to the last verses of the passage and we come to what a first glance is a strange, maybe unfeeling comment by Jesus. vvs31&32:- 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.” In saying that, Jesus wasn't rejecting his blood family. Of course we know for instance how he cared about his mother when he was on the cross. No, he was wanting to treat them as part of the much bigger family. In other words those who belong to him through faith.

There are two families we can belong to. The one into which we are born. Often called the nuclear family. Although that description can have an interesting meaning when there are family disputes or arguments. Explosive! And of course our natural - I prefer that word - family means a lot to us.

But we don't diminish that in any way when we also become part of God's family. We are here - the church family. Later on we will exchange the peace as part of the body. And all that is part of the assurance we can have as we grow together in God's family. Together we can grow in our faith. Together we can become more worthy in the Lord's sight. I don't mean a worthiness of our own, but one that we have because of God's love in us and for us.

In the reading we had from 2 Corinthians (5:1) Paul writes about our earthly tent, which will be destroyed. But he goes on to say how we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. So, as we are already part of his family, we have that ultimate promise and assurance.

Who are my mother and my brothers asked Jesus? We know that now in our natural families, for those who still have them. And we know it from being part of God's family, the church.

 

Martin James 06.06.21