Mark 3:20-35 (3 Pentecost B)

Some people thought Jesus was crazy. They were saying, “He’s beside himself.” You know, not playing with a full deck, elevator stopping a floor or two short. Lost his mind. Surrounded by a crowd of religious fanatics and weirdos, calling disciples, going around preaching the kingdom of God. His family was worried about him and Mary and the brothers came with a straight jacket to take him into protective custody.

I love that about the Gospels. They’re honest and tell the whole truth. It’s one of the earmarks of accurate historical narrative. You tell the bad parts along with the good. People who think the Bible was made up after the fact to push an agenda need to look again. If we were making this story up to win public opinion we wouldn’t put in this part about how Jesus’ own family thought he was crazy. Hey, if Jesus’ family didn’t believe him, why should we? No, if we were writing the Gospel, we’d throw in more heroics and personal interest interviews with Mary and his brothers and sisters saying things like, “We always knew Jesus was going to be famous when He grew up.” That sort of thing. But that’s not how it happened. Jesus’ family was worried about him and thought he’d lost his mind.

The religious types from Jerusalem had a different take on Jesus. “He drives out demons by the prince of demons,” they said. He’s in cahoots with the devil, with Beelzebul, the prince of the devils.

It’s hard to tell the difference between the crazy and the profound. Many great poets, artists, composers, and thinkers are crazy to one extent or another. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Van Gogh, Einstein. All of them drove with a wheel or two dangling into the ditch. People thought the apostle Paul was out of his mind for teaching that the whole Law of God was fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus. Some people thought Luther was crazy for banking on faith in Christ instead of works.

Crazy people are often very interesting, so long as they aren’t too dangerous. Crazy people are much more interesting than most so-called normal people who are mostly concerned with how green their grass is or what kind of car they drive or whether there’s algae growing in the hot tub. We don’t exactly throw the doors of the church open wide to the weird or insane, never mind the fact that they seemed to be drawn to Jesus like iron filings to a magnet. Crazy people tend to make the nice and normal people uncomfortable. That’s why we pack them away in institutions where they can be both out of sight and out of mind.

We don’t talk as much about demon possession today. Jesus deals with demon possession as He does any other illness. An unclean spirit is like a spiritual cancer or a virus. Something foreign that doesn’t belong there. It’s no reflection on the person, by the way. It’s like a disease of the soul. Jesus healed the sick and the demonized in exactly the same way. With a word, and often a touch.

It was those healings that caught the attention of the religious types. They recognized what was at stake. If you accepted Jesus’ healings as miraculous signs from God , then you had to accept His teachings as the words of God. And Jesus was teaching that the kingdom of God had come with His coming, and that He in fact was the Son of God in human flesh, the Messiah of Israel sent to do His Father’s will and save the entire world from sin, death, and the devil. It sounds crazy, but that is His claim.

And He had the miracles to prove it – healing the sick, the leprous, the demonized, the lame, the blind, the deaf, raising the dead. Those are the works of God, no question about it. And Jesus did them as only God in the flesh could do them. So, is He a demon possessed deceiver, in league with the devil? A stark raving lunatic who seems to be tapped into some mysterious spiritual power? Or is Jesus telling the truth? Is He actually the second person of the undivided holy Trinity?

That’s what’s at stake in today’s reading. It’s at the heart of what you and I claim to believe. Whether we think about it all the time or not, we’ve staked our whole lives, our eternal life, on this one man, a carpenter from Nazareth. We tell the world, “this is the One you’re looking for. There’s salvation in no one else. No one else is going to forgive your sin, raise you from the dead, give you eternal life. No one else died on a cross bearing the burden of your sin. No one else but this Jesus, whom his own family, at least for a moment, thought he was crazy.

You can see why the religious types wondered out loud. Jesus messed up their theology books. He messed up their whole religious system. It wasn’t supposed to work this way. Messiahs weren’t supposed to come from the poor side of town and hang out with rif raf. Messiahs were supposed to be strong, powerful figures. Leaders and mobilizers of men. Not itinerant rabbis with a rabble for a following. So the religious types looked at Jesus’ miracles, listened to His teaching, scratched their heads, and said, “He’s in cahoots with the devil.” That’s how he does all this stuff.

Can Satan drive out Satan? Can the devil defeat the devil at his own game? And if his kingdom is that divided against himself, he’s done for. No one can rob a strong man’s house unless he first binds the strong man. That’s Jesus’ work, in a nut shell. He’s the devil’s head-crusher, promised long ago in the Garden when God said to the serpent, “I”m going to make war between you and the woman, between her seed and yours. He’s going to crush your head, and you’re going to crush his heal.” That passage is refers to Jesus, who defeated the devil on his own turf by dying on a cross.

You talk about crazy, now that’s really crazy! Beating the devil by dying. Foolishness to the world of religion. Try to figure that one out on your own. We think dying is defeat. The doctors treat it as failure. Jesus makes it His victory. He binds the devil by being bound to a cross. He descends into our death to unbind our chains, throw open the prison doors, and bring us out into the light of freedom. He takes death into His own hands. Death – the devil’s trump card, the big win he scored over Adam and Eve when he got them to choose death over life. Jesus takes death and makes it His own. His victory. He won there, that very good Friday. He won. And we live forever by dying and rising in Jesus.

Now you understand, perhaps, how the apostle Paul could write to the Corinthians in his weakness and say, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away (we’re all dying at the same rate, minute by minute), yet our inner nature (which is hidden in Christ) is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary afflication (that is, all that we suffer in this life) is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” In other words, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” You see your life slipping away. You see disease and death gaining the upper hand. You see the church unraveling at the seems. You see the world going from bad to worse. You see Christians living in poverty, in persecution. You see the ministry of Christ appearing weak and powerless in a world that values power.

And Paul says we need to see things through a different set of lenses. “We look to not to things that are seen, but to the things that are not seen. The things we see are transient, temporary. The things that are not seen, that must be trust, believed, taken for granted, those are the eternal things.

You will get no proof other than Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If Jesus didn’t rise, He could very well be a lunatic or demon-possessed. But if He rose, (and the empty tomb, 500 eyewitnesses, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, along with 2000 years of church history all bear witness to the fact that He did) then what Jesus said must be taken seriously. The devil’s been leashed, his house ransacked, his prized possession – a world of sinners – has been carted off into the freedom of Jesus..

And if the world, the theologians and religious types, and maybe even your own mother, brothers, and sisters, think you’re crazy or even demon-possessed for believing it, welcome to the asylum. You’re in great company. They said the same about Jesus.

What’s even more crazy is that sins are forgiven gratis, free of charge. In fact, there aren’t any sins that aren’t forgiven in the one act of divine amazing grace on a good Friday two thousand years ago when the Son of God died.

Jesus says, “Amen. Listen up, I’m going to tell you something important, something you won’t want to forget. All sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.” Did you catch that? All sins and blasphemies of men. All bar none. Nothing so horrible, so stubborn, so persistent that Jesus doesn’t have it covered. Name your worst, Jesus has it answered for. All the crazy that we do to others and that others have done to us – forgiven, swallowed up in Jesus’ death. All the misguided, mistaken, goofy, and just plain dumb things that people have said about God. Forgiven in Jesus’ death.

So what can possibly go wrong? Nothing on God’s part. Only our refusal to trust it. “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” Or to translate it a bit more precisely: “he never has forgiveness” or “he does not have forgiveness forever.” To refuse the gift of Jesus and call His the work of the devil, now that’s unpardonable, unforgiveable. Not because it’s so bad, but it refuses to be given to.

As a professor of mine once put it, “The only sin that won’t be forgiven is the one that refuses to be forgiven.” You have the treasure buried in your backyard and you refuse to dig it up. And God keeps saying to you, “Go ahead. Dig it up. My Son died so you could have this.” And you say, “No, I don’t take charity. I earn everything myself.” And you push the gift back at God. You have the winning ticket in your hand and you refuse to cash it in. The UPS delivery man keeps knocking at your door, ringing your doorbell, wanting you to take delivery, and you keep slamming the door in his face and throwing the deadbold. The only unpardonable sin is the sin of refusing the pardon, and putting yourself in jail.

Maybe you wondered yourself sometime, late at night, “What if I committed that unforgiveable sin. Maybe I didn’t even know it. Could this happen?” Listen. All sinsand every blasphemy will be forgiven forgiven, done to death with in the death of Jesus. You can take that to the bank. Or more accurately, you can to that to the grave.

The religious types came close by saying that Jesus was in league with the devil. And look who gets it right. All those crazy people stuffed into that little house packed in so tightly they couldn’t even eat – fishermen and IRS agents and political operatives and diseased, demon-possessed humanity of every stripe. Jesus points to that cross section of broken humanity sitting around Him and says, “These are my mother, and my brothers, and my sister. These are my family.”

That’s right. Those who “do the will of God,” sitting around in a circle doing nothing but hanging out with Jesus and taking in his words. Not the religious with their hair-splitting theology. Not Jesus’ family who want to protect Him and keep Him safe. But that bunch of misfits who have nothing better to do with their lives but be packed like sardines into that little room with Jesus.

He calls them His family. He says that about you too. The world’s may call you crazy. And when you stop to think about it, it is kind of crazy to get up early on a Sunday morning when most the town is sleeping in or lounging with the morning paper. You gather together in a little house to sit at Jesus’ feet and to hear His word, to eat the Bread that is His Body, to drink the wine that is His blood, to pray, praise and give thanks to a God they cannot see for a salvation that must be believed.

Crazy? No, just faithful.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen

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