The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Mark 3:20 “And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. 21 When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses.’ 22 The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.’ 23 And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! 27 But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house. 28 Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— 30 because they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ 31 Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. 32 A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’ 33 Answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ 34 Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He *said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.’” (NASB)
Robert Reynolds arrived in Manila Philippines with the 34th Pursuit Squadron just a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Philippines were targeted next. After months of fighting, the Japanese overwhelmed the U.S. forces and six thousands American and Filipino solders were forced to surrender. Reynolds was one of them.
Reynolds endured the Bataan Death March, months of forced labor, malaria, near starvation, and 62 days in the hull of a prison ship in the hottest and most disgusting conditions imaginable. Once in a Japanese prison camp, he had to endure sweating heat and blistering cold, deprivation, daily cruelty, and even the mocking of local children.
After three years, something began to change. The air raid sirens fell silent. Work parties were canceled. The rumor was going around that the war had ended. As the ranking officer and leader of the prisoners, Reynolds demanded to know the status of the war. The prison camp commander admitted that the war had ended.
Immediately Reynolds and his fellow prisoners took command. They ordered the commander to leave the camp. They disarmed the guards. They took control of the prison.
The men who had been powerless to escape and to free themselves, were now free. The power and efforts of the United States military proved more powerful than their Japanese captors. Those who had been helpless to save themselves were now free because the enemy had been defeated by a more powerful and righteous army.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has done the same to our enemy. We were captives to sin, death, and under the power of the devil. Ephesians 5:8 tells us that we were once children of darkness, but now we have been made children of light.
The Old Testament lesson this morning tells us how it was that we came to be children of darkness. It was the temptation of the devil and Adam and Eve’s fall into sin that corrupted of human nature. There in the Garden of Eden, we were taken captive by the prince of this world. Genesis chapter three not only records the fall into sin and God’s judgment against it, it also contains the first promise of salvation.
Genesis 3:15 is called the proto-evangelion, the first good news. God said to the serpent, the devil “I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise Him on the heel.”
The Lord God said to the devil “I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed.” Enmity – hostility – a war. The Lord God would not let His creation be forever lost to His enemy. He declared was against sin, death, and the power of the devil. He put enmity between the woman’s Seed, Jesus Christ and the devil and his seed, his children.
The Old Testament lesson tells us what happened, why we became enemies of righteousness, and what the Lord God was going to do for us and our salvation. The Gospel lesson for this morning shows us two real life examples of what enmity between the Messiah and the devil and children of darkness.
From the opening days of Jesus’s earthly ministry His popularity among the common people soared. In Mark chapter three, Jesus returns to His newly adopted home and His base of operation, Capernaum. A large crowd followed Him home. We’re told that there were so many people, Jesus and His disciples could not eat. They were overwhelmed with a needy and excited crowd. But there were two other groups of people who did not share the crowd’s excitement.
The first group consisted of Jesus’s family and friends. They heard and saw what was happening and they were very concerned over Jesus. So much so that 21 “they went out to take custody of Him [that is, they were going to take control of Him and take Him away from the crowd] ; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses.’”
The members of His own household believed the Jesus had lost His mind. They either didn’t understand that Jesus was actually the Messiah, or they didn’t know meant to be Messiah, or both. Regardless, they were at cross purposes with God. They were trying to divert Jesus from the path set out for Him by His heavenly Father.
So also today. There are a great many so called churches, clergy, and church people who self-identify as Christians who think they know Jesus. They think they know what it means to call Jesus “the Messiah.” “Jesus, the say is a great moral teacher and example to us.” “Jesus is a political and economic reformer/socialist/communist.” “Jesus the teacher of life principles to make anyone successful.”
The news about Jesus’s preaching and miracles had reached the religious authorities in Jerusalem. They sent a delegation to investigate. After Mark records the response of His family, Mark records the response of the scribes to Jesus’s doctrine and works. They said of Jesus; “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:22 & 30) The scribes accuse Jesus of being an agent of the devil, possessed, in the service of the evil one, or maybe even the devil himself.
Jesus’s reply is theologically devastating. Jesus piles up one theological argument after another. Five in all.
(1.) ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?
(2) 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
(3) 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
(4) 26 If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!
(5) 27 But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.
The accusation doesn’t make any sense. It is nonsense. Not even Satan works against his own self interest. Jesus is the One who binds the strong man and plunders his house. Jesus takes from that which belongs to Satan, the children of darkness and makes the to be children of the Light by obtaining for them the forgiveness of sins.
28 “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
Jesus is the one who conquers the devil. He will take down the house of the devil the forgiveness of sins. All sins will be forgiven except one, namely “Blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.”
What does it mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? It means that a person rejects the Word of God–the Christ and the converting and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to remain in unbelief, to remain children of darkness, children of the devil, and to be hostile to the righteousness of God.
Jesus was even more blunt. 28 “ Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Jesus just told the scribes and those in opposition to Him that they are in fact the agents of the devil. They are guilty of what they accuse Jesus of being. They are guilty of the sin of Adam and Eve. They are trying to usurp the place of the Lord God and in so doing they are agents of the devil. Their sins are not forgiven, and are eternal.
In His response to the scribes Jesus wasn’t doing anything to allay the fears of His family. To them it looked like Jesus has lost His mind. No sooner had Jesus properly named the scribes as agents of the devil, when (v. 31) “His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. 32 A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’ 33 Answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ 34 Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.’”
We know the saying blood is thicker than water. It means that family relations are the strongest kind of bond between people. Jesus teaches here that there is something stronger than blood. There is a tie that is more powerful than earthly ties. In fact, there is something even stronger than the devil. It is the will and Word of God lived out in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
People of true Christian faith were once children of the darkness, children of the devil, born in original sin. But people of true Christian faith have been made children of Light, the children of the heavenly Father, brothers and sisters of the Son of God.
Blood is thicker than water, but in the economy of salvation, faith is thicker than blood corrupted by sin. People of faith are the ones who sins are forgiven and who are not held eternally guilty.
That brings us back to the Old Testament. The Lord God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;” but the promised continued, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Wherever sinful human beings are found, there also is the devil and his demons, and his children.
God has ordained this spiritual war. But the Lord God also determined the outcome. Jesus would be wounded, a casualty in this war. But there would be and is no doubt He is also the Victor.
Robert Reynolds and his fellow tortured prisoners were freed from temporal captivity and punishment by the power of the United States and sacrifice of other men and women.
There is a great captivity and a greater freedom. Christians are a people who have been freed from their sins, from this sinful world, and from the devil. The Promised Seed came to us through by the power of the Word and by way of the Virgin Mary. Through the Word and Sacrament ministry of the Church, we were made children of God. We are no longer prisoners, slaves of the evil one. God rescued us in Jesus and adopted us into His Trinitarian family.
Ephesians 1:4-6, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He favored us in the Beloved.”
“For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother” and this the will of God. That you believe in His Son Jesus Christ for the remission of sin. So you do and so you are, brothers and sisters of Christ.
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus. Amen.