June 10, 2018 – Pastor John McNeill
Mark 3:20-35 (CEB)
20 Jesus entered a house. A crowd gathered again so that it was impossible for him and his followers even to eat. 21 When his family heard what was happening, they came to take control of him. They were saying, “He’s out of his mind!”
C.S. Lewis quote: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Provocative quote. I’ve always liked it as a rather bracing statement challenging an easygoing, offhand response to Jesus.
Of course, Lewis was writing before the emergence of “The Jesus Seminar.” The Jesus Seminar is a group of prominent biblical scholars who have tried in a systematic way to identify which of the biblical sayings of Jesus are really, historically, likely to have been said by Jesus and those which were not said by Jesus and which may have been really said by Jesus.
I’m not a particular fan of the Jesus Seminar. I think their hardline skeptical starting point is questionable, but on the whole, I no longer simply accept the Jesus quotes of the gospels as direct historical words of Jesus, so I’m not sure we can be as definite as Lewis was about what Jesus said about himself.
In any case, Jesus himself was, no doubt as provocative as Lewis is in this passage from Mere Christianity.
And that provocative stance, made people wonder whether Jesus was out of his mind.
But here’s the thing: He is not out of his mind. He is in the Mind of Christ:
Will we live in the Mind of Christ, or will the Mind of Christ live in us?
The provocative question that comes to us as the church, community of faith, is whether we will be the earthly expression, earthly existence of God. And if we are going to truly be that, then we need to live this attitude of Christ which showed how to live the divine life, heavenly life, Godly life, Kingdom of heaven life here on earth. 1st century or 21st century.
To adopt the attitude of Christ Jesus is to empty ourselves of our minds – not out of fear or submission, but rather to connect with the ultimate force and power of the cosmos. For when we empty ourselves into the mind of Christ, as Jesus taught, we find ourselves: the selves that are founded on the love and compassion of God. This is the central point in the way of life Jesus proclaims in his life, death, and resurrection. It is a life of emptying oneself.
That is the mind we are to have in a world whose system does not embrace this mind. Will we live in a way that is out of our minds and in the mind of Christ?
Knowing that I would be preaching on this text today, several weeks ago Debbie Allen alerted me to a sermon by Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Curry gave the sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle:
I don’t want to be too quick to judge Jesus’ mother and the whole family. They had good reason to be concerned. We just read from 1 Peter a teaching that reflects what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). That’s crazy. In the Gospel reading from Matthew, read just a few moments ago, Jesus says, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). That’s crazy.
What the world calls wretched, Jesus calls blessed. Blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit. Blessed are the merciful, the compassionate. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst that God’s righteous justice might prevail. Blessed are those who work for peace. Blessed are you when you are persecuted just for trying to love and do what is good. Jesus was crazy. He said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who despitefully use you.” He was crazy. He prayed while folk were killing him, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” Now, that’s crazy.
We need some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God — like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something close to the dream that God dreams for it. And for those who would follow him, those who would be his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way? It might come as a shock, but they are called to craziness.
What comes across as crazy are exactly those attitudes, behaviors, and ideas that cut against the grain of ordinary understanding. Of course, sometimes such attitudes, behaviors, and ideas can be destructive, that is, demonic. But other times they represent the emergence of the very reign of God. The emergence of the way of God on earth.
22 The legal experts came down from Jerusalem. Over and over they charged, “He’s possessed by Beelzebul. He throws out demons with the authority of the ruler of demons.”
Jesus had special powers and special gifts. That much was clear to the people who encountered him. The question was: Did they derive from God or from the devil?
He was no ordinary person. Jesus’ opponents among the apparently sane and learned religious leaders maintained that his power derived from the devil.
23 When Jesus called them together he spoke to them in a parable: “How can Satan throw Satan out? 24 A kingdom involved in civil war will collapse. 25 And a house torn apart by divisions will collapse. 26 If Satan rebels against himself and is divided, then he can’t endure. He’s done for. 27 No one gets into the house of a strong person and steals anything without first tying up the strong person. Only then can the house be burglarized.
Jesus turns the tables. Suppose I am doing these things at the behest the devil. If that’s true, then the devil will not last long, because the devil’s house is divided. If that’s true, I’m turning the devil’s house upside down with my casting out demons.
Yes, Jesus had exorcised demons. But what’s going on is that in doing this Jesus is tying up the strong person. That mind of Christ is the opposite of the mindset of the devil: the mindset that seeks conquest, humiliating rivals, punishment. The mind of Christ lives in harmony with the way that God has put together the cosmos. The cosmos runs on love, not dominating power.
28 I assure you that human beings will be forgiven for everything, for all sins and insults of every kind. 29 But whoever insults the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. That person is guilty of a sin with consequences that last forever.” 30 He said this because the legal experts were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”
People have asked me about this with some worry. The short answer is that if you’re worried about this, you have the kind of tender heart that is not going to be guilty of it. If you worry about it, almost certainly you are revealed as someone who is not vulnerable to it.
This warning is to those who close themselves off from love, from cooperation, from gratitude, from grace and forgiveness. Those who close their hearts to the Spirit and scorn mercy. Those are the persons who are warned here. And ironically, these are just the persons who pay no attention to warnings.
31 His mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside and sent word to him, calling for him. 32 A crowd was seated around him, and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.”
33 He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”
We are in this together. Together with Jesus and together with one another.
Thanks to folks who work together.