Was Jesus a Social Misfit
Sermon for June 10th, 2018
Based on Mark 3: 20-35
Loving and Gracious Lord: Open our eyes to see you, our ears to hear you, our hearts to know you and our minds to understand you.
Today’s scripture reading from Mark’s gospel is a really interesting one. It’s full of name calling, accusations of literally being in league with the devil, and an apparent disowning of family members! This was not one of Jesus’ better days!
So Jesus has come home, after having been round the countryside, the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, stops in villages along the way, back to Capernaum and finally home. He’s been choosing disciples, preaching and teaching, exorcising demons, forgiving some people of their sins and healing others. And his reputation has grown to the point where people follow him everywhere, he has so many demands on his time that he doesn’t even have time to eat, so demanding was the crowd had gathered at his doorstep. And he’s being harassed too!
Must have been quite a commotion, because even Jesus’ family comes out of the house and gets involved. Jesus is in conflict with the religious authorities, this is getting pretty serious. In fact so serious that Jesus’ family try to grab hold of him and restrain him. It was being said that he was ‘out of his mind’. Wow, Mark’s not pulling any punches, no politically correct language here: like he’s just misguided, or unique or different. Nope, Mark flat out says they thought Jesus was crazy. So very different and so contrary to the traditional way of living, his behaviour so “abnormal” they thought he was loony tunes. Only Mark’s gospel describes this event. Matthew and Luke, for whatever reason, don’t add it to their accounts of Jesus life. They write about the rest of the story, each in their own context, but omit the accusations of craziness and the involvement of his family members actually trying to restrain him. They too must have thought he was “outside of himself” which is how the Greek words directly translates into English. Or maybe his family was concerned that he was in a potentially dangerous situation, or they were feeling protective of him, or maybe they were trying “to get him under control, if not out of fear for his life, at least to remove their own embarrassment because of the rising public” scene. 1
Jesus was thought to be crazy, out of his mind; what with all the many healings, and you know, the commanding of demons and evil spirits to come out of people. And then there was that time when he brought Simon’s mother in law back from the brink of death. He’d been seen eating with sinners, hanging out with the less than the socially acceptable –the unclean–and forgiving their sins to boot! He’d countered the Jewish laws about the Sabbath – he actually told the synagogue leaders that the Sabbath was made for people not people for the Sabbath! Imagine the nerve! Jesus challenged their thinking and their laws, the very essence of what they did and why and how they did it. He was turning their world upside down! All this in just the first 3 chapters of Mark! What Jesus was doing was strange, unusual, different, never done before, beyond the pale. He literally lived and worked on the’ wrong side of the tracks’, and welcomed and encouraged “those people” to come to him, definitely living and encouraging others to live to the beat of a different drum, his drum.
Word of this upstart and his ways had come to the knowledge of the religious authorities, so they felt it necessary to come down from Jerusalem and put a stop to this fellow. The religious authorities were so threatened by Jesus’ words and deeds that as far as they were concerned, there was only one explanation — “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons, that’s where he gets his powers.” (Mk 3: 22 nlt)
Why possessed by Satan? Because they couldn’t possibly believe Jesus had the power of God. Why not? Because he wasn’t doing things their way! And they were the teachers, the authorities on God and how to do things the way God wanted things done, and to whom and with whom. They knew what was the right way; and their way was God’s way. Jesus was not adhering to the traditions, to the way it was always done, he was doing things differently, his teachings were different and it was as if he was flaunting it in their faces. This new way was disrupting the status quo. They were so concerned for maintaining the traditions and their place in it, maintaining the propriety of society, they couldn’t see that the Spirit of God was in their midst. Not only couldn’t they see the Spirit working in Jesus, they actually spoke against it, calling it Satan.
That is the blasphemy that Mark has Jesus is decrying, the denying of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ works, and in this story, in Jesus himself. Is this really unforgivable as the writer of Mark so blatantly states? For those living in the time right after Jesus death, who are desperately hanging onto a new way of living in the Spirit of Christ, being persecuted for following Jesus the Christ, to blaspheme against Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, I can see how this would have been the line in the sand and thought to be unforgivable, a way to eternal damnation. But, I have to admit, I’m not so sure. To forgive — this is the very nature of God, of Christ. To declare someone completely irredeemable, well, that’s not our job. Our job is to forgive as Jesus forgives us, and that’s best done with the Spirit of Christ guiding us. Because some things are really, really hard to forgive. It is God’s job to judge who is and who isn’t irredeemable, and I don’t think anyone is irredeemable unless they truly choose to be. And maybe that is the issue here, the scribes, the religious authorities and many others chose not to see what was happening right before their eyes; refused to believe that the power Jesus had to do these things could only come from God. And that was blaspheming God in Jesus.
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