Sermon Pentecost 2, Year B
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our brother Jesus Christ. Amen.
Unless your family is very unusual, you have at least one family member who has done something, let’s just say, unusual, or embarrassing in public, and seems not to care. Or they even think it is normal.
Have you ever done anything that embarrassed your family?
More likely, there is someone else in your family, not you, of course, who has a habit of doing things that embarrass the rest of the family. And you question their sanity and wish you could just get them home or at least get them to stop all the crazy talk.
In today’s gospel Jesus is the one who embarrasses his family. They are worried he might just have gone off the deep end. He has been going all over Galilee preaching and healing people. Now there is a big crowd following him everywhere.
Remember in those days, healing people meant casting out their demons. So there is a lot of talk about demons. Maybe one of them got a hold on him. Maybe that’s the problem.
Jesus is like a rock star. People won’t leave him alone. “Heal me next, Jesus!” “Heal my child, Jesus.” “Cast out these demons, Jesus.” The poor man can’t even get a lunch break. The crowds follow him everywhere he goes now. Their numbers keep growing and they are relentless.
His mother and brothers and sisters are following him, too. But they are not yet “followers” of Jesus. They are following him because they are concerned about him.
They know he must be tired. They know he isn’t eating regularly. Clearly, he is working too hard. That must be the problem. They came to get him and take him home for a rest.
That’s probably all he needs. That’s what they think anyway. In the meantime, the scribes have come from Jerusalem. They represent the religious establishment and they are concerned. After all, they are religious leaders and they cannot begin to do the things he is doing.
If the religious leaders cannot cure the diseases and cast out the demons like Jesus does, then they think he must not be acting with the power of God. It’s logical, to them. Jesus is acting outside of the accepted ways of doing things. He isn’t following the traditional rules.
Jesus is causing problems. It is dangerous for the people to get all excited about someone. It upsets the status quo. It upsets the religious leaders. It upsets the government. You can’t have crowds of people following someone around looking for miracles.
Jesus’ family members all think he has just gone off the deep end. They want him to come home for a rest. Maybe work in the carpentry shop for a while. Get back to normal. Forget about this casting out demons stuff.
The scribes have less concern for Jesus himself and aren’t as kind in their interpretation of what is going on. They accuse him of being possessed by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons, that is Satan himself.
When Luther explains the eighth commandment, “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”, he tells us we are to interpret our neighbor’s words and behavior in the best possible light.
Maybe that’s what Jesus’ family is trying to do. Their kindest interpretation is that he has gone crazy. The scribes are not interpreting Jesus’ words and behavior in the best possible light. They couldn’t put a worse spin on it if they tried. They say he is acting with the power of Satan.
Jesus answered the scribes with a parable. He shows how foolish their interpretation of the situation actually is. They definitely have the wrong idea. How can Satan cast out Satan? Why would Satan cast out demons? They are on the same side, after all. The scribes are the ones with the crazy talk.
A kingdom or a house divided against itself cannot stand. Jesus has a lesson for us as well as for the scribes here. You cannot achieve good ends with evil means. The end does not justify the means if the means are evil. History has shown Jesus to be right over and over. Evil will always produce evil.
Jesus drives the point home with another parable. The strong man must be restrained before his house can be robbed. In this parable, Satan is the strong man and Jesus has restrained him so that he can rob the demons from Satan’s house and free the people.
Then Jesus says something which must have further upset the religious authorities. He said that blasphemy could be forgiven. Blasphemy is speaking evil of God or slandering God. It was punishable by death on a cross. When Jesus was before the chief priests he was accused of calling himself the Son of God. This was a blasphemy, a capital offense.
Jesus said God could forgive a blasphemer who repented. He said the only unforgivable sin was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
This sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit requires some explanation, because what Jesus said is very scary. No one wants to commit the unforgivable sin.
Let me reassure you that anyone who is concerned about committing this unforgivable sin has not committed it. It has been defined as the sin of refusing forgiveness. It is the sin of believing that the power of your sin is greater that the power of Jesus to forgive.
It has also been described as the sin of calling evil good, and calling good evil. It is understandable that if someone believes the work of Jesus is the work of Satan, they cannot call on the name of Jesus for salvation.
Please be reassured that no where in the New Testament is there a case of someone who repents and is denied forgiveness. You are safe on this one. No one who repents can commit the unforgivable sin.
After he told these parables, his family tries to get a message through the crowd to get Jesus to come out to them. What he says next shows his real family values. Jesus says that everyone who does the will of God is is brother and sister and mother.
He isn’t saying this to exclude or disrespect Mary and his siblings. He is saying this to include the rest of us. He is saying we are his family. We are the sisters and brothers of Jesus.
Being in Jesus’ family means we are the ones who need to repent and be forgiven. It means we are the ones with the demons and we need our brother Jesus to heal us. Sometimes it means we are the ones who are questioning what in the world Jesus is doing, because it doesn’t make sense to us.
But being in Jesus’ family always means that we are the ones who are loved and chosen to be children of God. We are freed from our demons. We have the power of the Spirit to follow Jesus even when other people find our behavior unusual or embarrassing.
Because following Jesus leads us to the foot of the cross. And the cross looks like a sign of weakness and defeat to the world.
But for us, the children of God, the family of Jesus, the cross is the power of salvation.
Thanks be to God. Amen.