The Third Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Mark 3:20-35

 


THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY IS A TYPICAL MARKAN CONSTRUCT, WHERE HE BEGINS WITH A STORY, THEN INSERTS A SERIES OF EVENTS THAT PUTS A THEOLOGICAL SPIN ON THE STORY, THEN WRAPS IT UP WITH A CLOSURE. IT BEGINS WITH JESUS’ FAMILY’S ATTITUDE TOWARD HIS MINISTRY, THEN MOVES TO HIS CONFLICT WITH THE SCRIBES, THEN CLOSES WITH JESUS’ REDEFINING OF THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF FAMILY. IT INCLUDES JESUS’ STATEMENT OF THE ONE UNFORGIVABLE SIN, WHICH A LOT OF PEOPLE FIND UNCOMFORTABLE AND CONFUSING.

AT THIS POINT, JESUS IS IN CAPERNAUM, WHERE HE HAD MOVED FROM HIS HOME TOWN OF NAZARETH. HE HAS CALLED TOGETHER HIS DISCIPLES, AND HAS BEGUN HIS MINSTRY OF HEALING AND CASTING OUT DEMONS. THIS CAUSED A GREAT UPROAR IN THE AREA AROUND THE SEA OF GALILEE. HUGH CROWDS HAVE COME TO HEAR HIM SPEAK AND SEE HIM HEAL ALL WHO ARE BROUGHT TO HIM. HE HAS INFURIATED THE UPRIGHT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE BY EATING WITH KNOWN SINNERS, HEALING ON THE SABBATH, AND APPARENTLY IGNORING THE RELIGIOUS LAWS BY PICKING GRAIN ON THE SABBATH. HE HAS CREATED SUCH TURMOIL THAT HIS FAMILY BACK IN NAZARETH HEARS ABOUT IT AND ARE EMBARASSED AT HIS WILD AND LAWLESS BEHAVIOR, THINKING THAT HE MUST HAVE GONE INSANE. THEY MAKE THE TWENTY MILE JOUNEY FROM NAZARETH TO CAPERNAUM BRINGING ROPE TO BIND HIM AND DRAG HIM HOME SO HE CAN HOPEFULLY COME TO HIS SENSES. FAMILY WAS EVERYTHING, AND WHAT ONE DID HAD AN EFFECT ON ALL.

LET ME GIVE YOU A PERSONAL EXAMPLE. AFTER A LONG STRUGGLE, I FINALLY DECIDED TO GO TO SEMINARY. I WAS ON THE LIST FOR PROMOTION TO MAJOR, AND HAD BEEN SELECTED FOR THE DEFENSE LANGUAGE INSTITUTE TO STUDY TO BE AN ASSISTANT ATTACHE AT AN EMBASSY ABROAD. WHEN I TOLD MY FAMILY I WAS GOING TO RESIGN AND GO TO SEMINARY, THEY WERE SHOCKED. WHEN I TOLD THEM I WAS GOING TO A LUTHERAN SEMINARY, MY FATHER WAS OUTRAGED AND DEMANDED TO KNOW HOW I COULD BE A SERB AND NOT BE ORTHODOX. HE REFUSED TO LISTEN TO ME, AND TOLD ME I WAS NOT HIS SON IF I DID WHAT I SAID I WAS GOING TO DO. I HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN MY FAMILY AND THE CALL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD. MY CHOICE WAS A DISGRACE TO MY FAMILY.

WHILE HIS FAMILY WAITED WITH ROPES IN THEIR HANDS OUTSIDE THE HOUSE HE WAS AT, THE SCRIBES FROM JERUSALEM ATTACKED JESUS DIRECTLY, CLAIMING HE COULD ONLY CAST OUT DEMONS BECAUSE HE HAD THE SPIRIT OF SATAN IN HIM. THE ILLOGIC OF THIS CLAIM WOULD BE LAUGHABLE IF IT WASN’T SO HORRIFIC. NOT ONLY DO THE SCRIBES NOT SEE THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN JESUS, BUT THEY CLAIM THAT HIS SPIRIT IS THE SOURE OF EVIL HOPING TO TURN THE CROWDS AWAY FROM JESUS. JESUS EASILY REFUTES THIS CHARGE BY SAYING THAT IF SATAN IS DIVIDED AGAINST HIMSELF HIS END HAS ALREADY COME. WHAT HE HAS BEEN DOING IS PLUNDERING THE HOUSE OF SATAN BY RESTORING THOSE WHO WERE BOUND BY EVIL, THUS HE IS STRONGER THAN SATAN BECAUSE HE IS THE POWER OF GOD HIMSELF. ALL SINS AND BLASPHEMIES WILL BE FORGIVEN FOR THOSE WHO REPENT, BUT TO CALL THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD EVIL IS THE ONE SIN WHICH CANNOT BE FORGIVEN. IT IS AN ENTRENCHED REJECTION OF THE LOVE AND GRACE OF GOD, SO THERE IS NO POSSIBLITY OF REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS. IF YOU ARE HERE, DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT; IT DOESN’T APPLY TO YOU. AS THEY SAY WHERE I’M FROM, “FUGEDDABOUTIT.”

WHAT WE OFTEN GLOSS OVER IN THIS PRONOUNCEMENT BY JESUS IS THAT HE IS REDEFINING WHERE SIN IS FORGIVEN. THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM WAS THE PLACE WHERE YOU WENT TO RECEIVE FORGIVENESS AND THE EXPIATION OF SIN. JESUS JUST DISMISSED THE ENTIRE TEMPLE CULT OF SACRIFICE FOR SIN, SAYING THAT GOD FORGIVES SIN, AND SINCE HE TELLS PEOPLE THEIR SINS ARE FORGIVEN BY THE POWER OF GOD IN HIM, HE HAS REPLACED THE TEMPLE AS THE SOURCE OF GOD’S MERCY AND GRACE. IT IS NO WONDER THAT THE SCRIBES WANTED TO KILL HIM.

NOW, IN TYPICAL MARKAN STYLE, WE RETURN TO JESUS’ FAMILY, WHO SEND WORD TO THOSE IN THE HOUSE THAT THEY WANT TO SPEAK TO HIM. WHEN TOLD THAT HIS MOHER AND BROTHERS AND SISTERS ARE OUTSIDE ASKING FOR HIM, JESUS’ RESPONSE IS TOTALLY UNEXPECTED AND SEEMS SOMEWHAT HARSH. REMEMBER THAT FAMILY WAS EVERYTHING; FAMILY DEFINED WHO YOU WERE AND YOUR PLACE IN THE WORLD. “WHO ARE MY MOTHER AND BROTHERS?” HE ASKS. THEN LOOKS TO THE CROWD SURROUNDING HIM AND SAYS, “HERE ARE MY MOTHER AND MY BROTHERS! WHOEVER DOES THE WILL OF GOD IS MY BROTHER AND SISTER AND MOTHER.” DID HIS MOTHER FORGET ABOUT THAT NIGHT OF ANGELS AND SHEPHERDS, OR WAS HIS LIFE SO ORDINARY UP UNTIL NOW, THAT EVEN HIS MOTHER THOUGHT HE WAS ORDINARY?

TO BE A PART OF A LOVING AND CARING FAMILY IS A WONDERFUL THING, BUT NOT ALL FAMILIES ARE LOVING AND CARING. SOME PEOPLE NEED TO GET AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE FROM THE DESTRUCTIVE AND HATEFUL CONDITIONS IN WHICH THEY WERE RAISED. THIS IS THE UNFORTUNATE RESULT OF HUMAN SIN. FAMILY IS NOT EVERYTHING, AND THE FAMILY DOES NOT DEFINE WHO WE ARE. GOD IS EVERYTHING, AND GOD DEFINES WHO WE ARE. AS REPENTANT SINNERS, WE ARE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO DO THE WILL OF GOD; TO DO MERCY, LOVE, FORGIVENESS, AND CARE FOR OTHERS. IN SO DOING, GOD IN CHRIST JESUS MAKES US A PART OF HIS FAMILY. GOD REDEFINES US AS BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF JESUS; THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD. THAT IS ULTIMATELY THE ONLY FAMILY THAT MATTERS.

I WAS EVENTUALLY RECONCILED TO MY FAMILY, AND, IN HIS LATER YEARS, MY FATHER WAS FILLED WITH PRIDE OVER WHAT I HAD, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, BEEN ABLE TO ACOMPLISH. WHEN WE OPENED THE NEW CHAPLAIN SCHOOL, WHICH MY BEST FRIEND MAL ROBERTS AND I BUILT, I THOUGHT HIS CHEST MIGHT BURST WITH PRIDE AS HE WAS WHEELED AROUND BY MY SERGANT MAJOR, AND ALL THOSE GENERALS CAME TO HIM TO GREET HIM AND SHAKE HIS HAND. YET NONE OF THAT WHOULD HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE IF I HAD NOT FOLLOWED THE CALL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND CHOSEN TO PUT THE WILL OF GOD BEFORE THE PRESSURES OF FAMILY.

REJOICE THEN THAT YOU AND I HAVE BEEN REDEFINED AS THE CHILDREN OF GOD BY THE WORK OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT. AS REPENTANT SINNERS, WE CONTINUALLY GATHER AT THE FEET OF JESUS, CLINGING TO HIS WORDS, AND DAILY BECOMING WHO GOD WANTS US TO BE. THANKS BE TO GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.
AMEN