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“We Are Family”

June 9, 2024 Preacher: Minister Thomas Houston

Scripture: Mark 3:20–35

June 9, 2024 Third Sunday After Pentecost The text is Mark 3:20-35. 

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[Jesus went home;] 20and the crowd came together again, so that [Jesus and the disciples] could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It has taken a relatively short period of time in Mark’s gospel to get to the point we find ourselves this morning; Jesus has returned home and is desperately trying to sit down to enjoy a peaceful meal.     

Not too long ago John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, and Jesus has called his first few disciples.  He has performed signs, healed a few suffering people, taught and preached; and just prior to when we join him this morning he has called the balance of the twelve of his first followers.  And immediately after what transpires this morning Jesus will continue in his mission and ministry, and the next several chapters in Mark will be dedicated to Jesus’ teaching through parables.

But the several interactions Jesus has this morning speak volumes about Jesus’ relationships with the many disparate groups he is inevitably bound to.  The characters in today’s gospel account are Jesus, his disciples, the crowds, his family, and the scribes who have made their way from Jerusalem to confront Jesus.  He has been attracting many people to himself, and not everyone for the same reasons.  And the different groups of people represent opposing forces; some who find Jesus’ message of the coming of the kingdom of God to be freeing and reassuring, while others want nothing to do with the gospel message, each for their own reasons.  The crowds of faithful believers want more of what Jesus has been teaching and preaching, while his family and the scribes want to totally shut him down. 

The crowds of people who have been following Jesus, the ones who have either witnessed or heard about his teaching and healings are so eager to be connected to him, are pressing in so closely that he and the disciples aren’t able to lift their hands to eat.  They recognize him for who and what he is; the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has come to free the world from oppression and restore them to a right relationship with God.  His earthly family; his mother Mary and his siblings want to control him, his words and actions.  Everything he is doing has provoked the authorities and the last thing they want is for him, and by extension them to be punished for what the scribes view as blasphemy.  His family have no understanding of what his message truly means, for they see him simply as their relative; the concept of an offspring or brother as God’s Son doesn’t enter into their thoughts.  As far as they are concerned what Jesus has been saying and doing just proves to them that he has, in fact lost his mind.  Rather than wanting to hear more of what he has to say, as the outsider crowds do, his family seeks to restrain him, to keep him from doing any more damage.  To himself, and especially, them.

Next we find the scribes, the religious scholars who have come all the way from Jerusalem, doing all they can to oppose Jesus at every turn.  So threatened are they by his message of the coming reign of God that they accuse Jesus of being in league with the devil.  They try to make their case of demonic possession, but Jesus counters them with a theological argument that nullifies their accusation.  The scribes are so determined to stop the burgeoning Jesus movement that they claim Jesus has an unclean spirit, the very same affliction that he has been curing others of.  The scribes have determined that Jesus is conspiring with Satan and that by this affiliation, they brand him as evil. 

The crowds who are following Jesus are certain that he is the Anointed One, the Messiah.  His family are afraid that he is crazy, and the scribes have determined that he is evil.  Three different groups of people, one Jesus, and three decidedly different reactions to the Good News he brings to the world.  The faithful crowds can’t GET ENOUGH of Jesus; his family and the scribes have HAD ENOUGH of him, his teaching and the message of hope, love, and mercy that he brings.  How can people possibly differ so greatly in their opinion of the same person and his message?  God-in-flesh; crazy person; evil, demonically-aligned unclean spirit; these are the ways Jesus is being described in Mark this morning.  And it all depends on what those around Jesus want to believe, in spite of what they’ve seen and heard.

We might be forgiven if we were to excuse the reaction of the scribes, even if the demon association is over the top.  In fact, Jesus proclaimed that equating his embodiment of the Holy Spirit of the divine with the unclean spirits of Satan was the only real unforgiveable sin that could be committed.  He condemned the scribes for this blasphemous accusation.  But after all, they were mostly concerned with holding on to their own power and we know how that can drive people to actions that are reprehensible.  Jesus’ condemning them sealed their eternal fate.  But I think the more hurtful behavior is that of Jesus’ mother and siblings.  While their to attempt to restrain Jesus to prevent him from further provoking the authorities may have even been well intentioned, assuming he was not in his right mind showed a definite lack of understanding of his true nature.

It seems that the outsiders, the ones who chose to follow Jesus have become the family that his blood relatives no longer felt comfortable being.  His earthly family are behaving as outsiders, not acknowledging his true nature and identity, while Jesus’ followers are now accepted as his mother, brothers, and sisters.

It’s important to note that even after this unfortunate episode Jesus’ relationship with his human family remained, especially with Mary his mother.  You will recall that as she stood at the foot of the cross Jesus said to John, “here is your mother”, and that he afterwards took her into his house as his own.  The love Jesus had for his earthly family never faded, even as he acknowledged that those who were not his kin were nonetheless also bound to him as workers in God’s kingdom.  So, in spite of all that has occurred in this passage, the desire for many to align themselves with Jesus and his ministry, as well as the opposite intention of others to distance themselves from him and his mission, what remains is Jesus’ adoption of any who would do God’s will.

This is where we come in, we who have acknowledged Jesus Christ as the Son of God and who have chosen to continue his work as his adopted kin.  At our baptism we were adopted into God’s family and as such been accepted as mother, sister, and brother of Jesus.  Ultimately, Jesus’ family is the faithful, professing church and her members.  Jesus said, “And looking at those who sat around him, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’”.  We must remember that when Jesus says these words to those gathered around the table 2,000 years ago, he intends them to be directed at us also.  And as we are bound to Christ as individual workers in the kingdom, we are also bound to each other, as members of the family of God.  And as such we are the individuals and the combined church and it is our calling, our duty, and our commandment to be the hands, and feet, and heart of Jesus.  There is work to be done if the kingdom is to be ushered in, and it’s up to us to do our part.  We who are the mothers, and sisters, and brothers of Christ Jesus.   

Will you pray with me?  Good, and gracious, and holy God, we yearn to be among the family of those who are called to do your will.  Strengthen us when we falter; when we grow too concerned with how the world views us; when others think we are crazy for following Christ.

Help us to remember that we are the mothers, sisters, and brothers of your Son.  And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One who cannot be restrained.  Amen.

God is Good, all the time.  All the time, God is GoodAmen.