Who’s Out of Touch? (Mark 3:20-35)
The Second Sunday after Pentecost (June 6, 2021)
I always love it when I hear someone insist they are free to think what they want to to think… to believe what they want to believe… or even to decide for themselves what is true and what isn’t true. My reply is, since when? You and I are no more free to decide what is real, what is true, what is right, then we are to decide what planet we live on… or what color we are… or what species we are … or even, dare I say it, what sex we are. Someone has already made these determinations for us. Ultimately, that Someone is not some political ruler, some societal elite, nor even, as in the case of wokism or the new critical race theory, some self-appointed arbiters of truth in the halls of academia or in the radical mob. Rather, the ultimate determiner of righteousness, truth and reality is our Creator, the LORD God of Heaven and Earth.
If this is not the case, then there is no way you and I or anyone could even make any judgments as to what is real at all. For you see, if we are all free to imagine our own truth, there would be no such thing as transcendent truth. Everything would be subject to the thoughts, opinions, and desires of whoever is in control. And that’s not freedom. It’s tyranny.
And, that, I’m afraid is where our society is today. If someone can force you to admit that you are a racist simply because you are white or to call them a girl, female, simply because they identify themselves as one, then how can there be any kind of common consensus as to what is real… what is true… what is right… what is sane!
In our text, we can see that even Jesus, the very Son of God, is here being judged, as our translation words it, “out of His mind.” You can only judge someone as being out of His mind, or out of touch, if you have an established and generally accepted concept of what being in one’s right mind is. Therefore, His critics, here members of His own family, have placed themselves in the moral and judicial high ground. In fact, they have usurped the very place of God! Now, that takes some nerve!
Jesus was, to be sure, exhibiting some rather unconventional behavior as far as societal expectations of a true Messiah were concerned. After all, we find Him not in some posh home with the elite of society nor with the religious establishment in the temple. He wasn’t even in the home of His family. Neither do we find Jesus marshalling troops of loyalists to take on the imperialistic Romans. Instead, we find Him among the hurting "masses." He is there literally being "consumed" by their demands. Jesus just gave and gave and gave of Himself, even it seems to the detriment of his own bodily needs.
Mark notes that Jesus came to a house, or as the NASB words it, "He came home." But the masses of needy would not leave Him alone. They clambered after Him for healing and for help. So intense was this thronging that Jesus was literally not even able to eat!
There were, and still are, some who think such behavior on Jesus’ part was foolish. Mark states that "those next to him" (NIV - "his family" NASB "his own people") , no doubt His disciples, when they heard about this, they said Jesus was literally “standing outside of himself.” That was the Greek way of saying He was “out of His mind!" Accordingly, they went out to Jesus, literally, to take hold of Him; that is, take Him out of the situation and bring Him to a sense of reality again. They thought they needed to do an intervention!
Jesus’ contemporary critics I’m sure would find some sympathizers among us today. Many also would be sure to quip: “If you don't take care of yourself you will be in no condition to help others.” And, yes, that might be true as far as it goes. But when it comes to the welfare of others, aren’t there simply some things worth expending oneself for? As far as Jesus was concerned, His mission to save sinners was worth the demise of even Himself.
According to God’s love and judgment, Jesus certainly was not out of His mind. His compassion for the needs of others was his food! One commentator wrote: "His pity is so great that He veritably gives Himself, exhausts Himself, in the service of His calling... He must labor while it is day for Him." (Ylvisaker, pp 208-209).
Much like Jesus' contemporary disciples, we who love Jesus might also find it difficult at times to comprehend Jesus' self-consuming love for the sick... the derelicts ... the weak; all the sinners of society. After all, we tend to want a clean Jesus not someone who dirties Himself in the assorted affairs of sinners. We want to protect Him from that dirt and pain His compassion might lead Him into. In fact, many, who claim to be Jesus' disciples today, don't want a bloody Jesus at all. It does not comport with their idea of a Savior. The cross is too extreme for their tastes. They want a Jesus who preaches love but is not consumed in love ... who heals but is not tainted with the sickness Himself. They want someone, who was a victim of the cross, but not someone, who in love for sinners, chose the way of the cross to atone for their sins. For you see, their self-concocted reality does not allow for there to be sin that needs to be atoned for. As far as they are concerned, there are just mistakes and inappropriate behaviors, nothing deserving of God’s condemning wrath, hence a need for Jesus’ death.
On top of this, we might be tempted to think: "Jesus can't possibly expect us as His followers to act in this same way; that is, to give up some of the amenities of life simply to help our neighbor... or to take away from our vacation time to do church work ... or to swallow our bigotry and minister to those different from us ... or to forego some of our own needs to tell the good news to others... or to give such percentage of our income as offerings for the financing of the proclamation that of the Gospel that we will not be able to afford some of those luxuries in life that we feel we need? Surely, Jesus wants us to make taking care of our own needs as a congregation be our priority.”
It becomes easy to think of our own personal comfort first and forget we are here to reach out to the lost of Miles City. We are here to be expendable for the sake of the Gospel. After all, reaching out to others is costly in our time and money; two commodities we would much rather keep for ourselves, thank you! Yes, we might intellectually acknowledge that supporting a Lutheran grade school, where the Gospel can be taught to the children of our community, is God-pleasing and life-saving, but, alas, we are hesitant to lend it our monetary support because it might involve sacrificing something for ourselves. Charity begins at home, right? That’s the sensible thing to do, isn’t it?
But, you see, being a disciple of Jesus has nothing to do with being worldly sensible… politically correct…or even fiscally conservative. Jesus is the God of the cross. As those redeemed by His cross, we are people of the cross. His cross is not only the means of salvation for us but it also necessitates a cross for us to bear in this life, as well. That cross comes in the form of having to be different... or being a square peg in a round world... or being labeled politically and spiritually incorrect!
“Take up your cross and follow Me,” Jesus said. He gave up His life to meet the needs of the masses. He was consumed for the world. So, it ought to be with His disciples. Our lives lived in Christ are not to be lived for self but for the sake of others. I know it sounds insane to our “me culture” but as those marked with the cross our lives are not to be lived as though we are storing up time and energy and wealth for ourselves, but to expend ourselves for the present and eternal welfare of others. Loving our neighbors as Christ loved us means sacrifice.
Not allowing Jesus to be who He is and to give totally of Himself for needs of the masses was not the only way Jesus was challenged to be worldly sane. Jesus had other “saviors” who tried to save Him from Himself. Mark says that "teachers of the Law" ( the religious experts) came down from Jerusalem toward Jesus. We can be sure this was not a courtesy call. They too came to straighten Jesus out.
The issue centered upon Jesus' behavior, most notably His casting out of demons. Now, mind you, the Scribes were not opposed to casting out of demons. In fact, they had established a whole ritual for doing so.
Jesus, however, was not following their established protocol. He was simply casting out demons by the authority of His own Word. Consequently, their fear, resentment, jealousy, and anger boiled over and they accused Jesus of being, above all things, in league with the devil. They called the Lord of life... God in Human flesh, Be-elzebul, a play on the name of the Philistine god Beelzebub that the Jews applied to the devil himself. The name means lord of filth (Ylv. p.210).
Such a charge was, of course, ludicrous as Jesus pointed out by telling a series of parables. He asked them how a kingdom that worked against itself could stand or how Satan could survive if he was casting out his own henchmen? Jesus insisted one must first bind up a strong man, if he has hopes of plundering his goods. Through the Word of Christ, God, of course, was doing just that; binding up the strong man, Satan, so that He could take away from him his goods; that is, the souls of people.
There was now, however, more than a mere misunderstanding about Jesus' ministry. By refusing to accept Jesus as God's Servant and not the devil's, these Jews were imperiling their own souls. As Martin Luther once commented, "By refusing to accept Him, they thrust aside the Kingdom of God, and their indictment against Him reacted upon themselves¼ In the Kingdom of God there are no half-way measures-either for Jesus or against Him. There is no middle ground. Every human being lives either for Christ against the devil, or for the devil against Christ: there is no neutral course (Luther)." (Ylv. p.212).
Accordingly, Jesus said to his critics rather bluntly, "I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."
The sin against the Holy Spirit is no ordinary sin. It is not simply breaking a commandment. It is not even sinning against the person of the Father, or the person of the Son, or even the person of the Holy Spirit. All such sins are atoned for in the blood of Christ and therefore can be forgiven. But the sin of which Jesus speaks of here is the sin against the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings the truth of Christ to bear in our hearts and lives through the Word of the Gospel. He brings sinners to faith in Jesus. But the intentional rejection of the truth of Christ in the face of the clear testimony of the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven.
One Lutheran commentator wrote: "...this terrible sin can be committed only by those who, against their better judgment, and in spite of the knowledge of truth and the testimony of the Spirit, which can not remain unnoticed, harden their hearts against the truth and against the influence of the Spirit and turn to deceit....This sin may not be committed in ignorance... All blasphemy against the Son may become Blasphemy against the Spirit when man steadfastly hardens his heart against the influence of the Spirit which is in evidence in the grace of salvation revealed in Jesus." (Ylv. p213).
When one commits this sin, he is no longer under the grace of God. He will not nor can he repent. God can do nothing further than to surrender him to the awful fate of the blasphemer. God withdraws His hand from him (Form. of Concord, S.D. XI.)
You and I must also heed this warning. We must not allow our own human reason and will to have things our own way and cause us to reject the clear testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ in His Word as much of what is advocated as politically correct or woke today seeks to do. Such blasphemy of the Holy Spirit forfeits salvation.
On the day of our confirmation, as well as every time we go the Table of the Lord, we confess before men the truth of Jesus Christ as we have come to know and believe in Him from the Holy Scriptures. But I must tell you, such a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ is not considered right nor sane by many in our society today. The pervading and predominant ideology calls for people to keep their faith and their religious beliefs to themselves and out of the politics and standards of society. After all, we are supposed to accept that all religions are of equal value... that if God is real than He has many names and is in the eye of the beholder… that the supreme arbiter of truth is science and/or government.
But by confessing our belief in the Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that Jesus Christ is our God and Savior in our flesh, we are saying “bunk” to the political correctness of our society and insisting that this Triune God is the Creator of all things… that He alone has established and still preserves the created order… that He has established the true laws of nature and that they are embedded in our very DNA… that the Truth about the Salvation of sinners has been revealed only in His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, and published for us in the prophetic and apostolic scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. By proclaiming that Jesus is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life, we are rightly saying that all other religions and teachings are false. By promising our fidelity to Jesus, we are denying all other saviors that daily seek to lead us away from the true God. By taking Jesus at His Word and eating and drinking His holy body and blood, we are not just remembering some historical fact, we are proclaiming that He gave and continues to give of Himself for us that we are truly made to live forever.
Like the Psalmist, as well as St. Paul, we are in essence saying to our culture and world, “I believe, therefore I speak.” and with Martin Luther, “Here I stand. I can not do otherwise!”
Aren't we glad Jesus is and works according the will and mindset of God and not as we humans think would be correct for Him! For if He were politically correct and truly woke, a mindset which is totally subject to all the sinful thoughts and will of Man and not the will of God, shaped by the falsehoods and aberrations of man, then we would still be in our sins and not be saved. Thanks be to God that Jesus thinks and loves according to His Father’s concept of correctness and rightness! So Who is really in His right mind? Amen.