2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 10, Year of Our + Lord 2012
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, Montana
Mark 3:20-35 and Genesis 3:8-15
Why does Mary think Jesus is crazy? Perhaps it’s just a mother’s concern over her son, working so hard, not eating, ruining his health. Maybe, but I suspect there’s more to it. Concern for Jesus’ health, sure, but perhaps also for their family name, and the strangeness of His sudden and overwhelming popularity, thousands and thousands of hurting people seeking Him out, for teaching and healing and hope. Where did this come from? Jesus seems to be taking on every bad thing that ever was. How could that turn out well?
Jesus is healing the sick, which raises the question, where does the sickness go? Is healing a task that drains the healer? And can it be good for Jesus to constantly be surrounded by sick people? Even more, Jesus is casting out demons, engaging evil spirits directly, commanding them to be silent, driving them out of their victims. It’s as if Jesus intends to bind Satan and take everything from him. That’s crazy. Who does that? Isn’t that just asking for all of Hell’s minions to gang up on you? Crazy.
And, all the while, Jesus seems to be purposely trying to enrage the Scribes, the religious leadership of the Jews. His popularity alone is enough to earn their jealousy. Wandering religious teachers are common enough, always room for one more. But there is no room for a wunderkind, no tolerance for a show-off who actually does visible good for people, healing and casting out evil spirits. Who does He think He is? As Jesus grows in popularity, the Scribes and Pharisees shrink, and they are not going take this lying down. And if that’s not bad enough, Jesus combines His miraculous powers with other unacceptable behaviors. Jesus associates with sinners, bad sinners, open public sinners, whom the Pharisees have designated as off limits to all good people. Jesus seems to seek them out, and welcomes them when they seek Him. He even goes to their houses to eat dinner. For a holy man, that’s crazy.
On top of that, Jesus doesn’t follow their rules for the Sabbath. The Scribes had piled lots of meaningless restrictions on top of God’s general rule that His people should rest and hear His Word on the Sabbath. According to the Scribes, healing lepers and cripples on the Sabbath is unapproved work, and so of course, Jesus does just that. Finally, Jesus appoints 12 disciples, and gives them authority to heal and preach and cast out demons. He’s starting a movement, threatening the status quo and the Scribes’ privileged place in society. That’s even crazier.
For Jesus’ family, this is all too much. We aren’t told exactly why they thought He was out of His mind, but we can see that Jesus seems to be taking on every bad thing there ever was, all at once, without regard to any earthly authority, without regard to the reprisals of Satan or Scribe, with no concern for personal risk, no restraint, an all out assault on sickness, evil, false teaching and religious oppression. It’s as if Jesus thinks He can undo every bad thing that came into this world through Adam and Eve. That’s crazy, isn’t it? I mean, how could one person try to undo all the devastation that our first parents caused, way back in Eden?
Oh, the sadness, the utter desperation of that moment, as the man and the woman hid in the Garden, suddenly afraid of the sound of the approaching Lord God. They should be like little children, who upon hearing Daddy pull up in the driveway, race screaming and leaping for joy, running to greet him with hugs and shouts and laughter, “Daddy’s home!” But not anymore. Now, the man and the woman are scared, hiding from God, for now they know evil.
Their understanding is not some analytical, detached concept of evil, but rather an in your gut, personal knowledge that evil is real, and that you are evil, that you are the ones who have ruined God’s good world, staining yourself, each other, and everything around you. Now the approach of God the Sinless One strikes terror in you, not joy. Now you know you are naked in your sin, shameful, dirty, and you are about to face the Holy One. What have you done? What will He do?
“Who told you that you were naked?” “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” God already knows, but He drags the answers out of them, making them confess. They double down on their guilt by trying to shift blame, but God does make them confess. “The woman, whom You gave me, she gave the fruit to me, … and I ate.” “The serpent tempted me, the devil made me do it, … and I ate”
The consequences of that horrible day are well known by every human being, even by those who do not know or completely reject the truth of Genesis. Everyone knows that we are dying, from our very first breath. If you are unsure of this, ask yourself when a baby for some reason can’t breathe, how quickly does the panic come? The inevitability of our last breath weighing heavily on the hearts of every descendent of Adam and Eve.
Everyone knows that childbirth is painful, and that women chafe under the leadership of men, men who fail in their duties and do not deserve the title, ‘head of household.’ Of course, men abdicate their leadership all the time. “Fine,” say men to their women, “you can have all those tasks of my calling, the calling to be the spiritual leader of the family, the calling to be husband, and father.” “I’m tired from scratching a living from the dust and thorns.” “Why should I care if you desire the headship God gave to me? I don’t want it.” “Only…, don’t think, woman, that I’m going to let you really be in charge.” “Oh no, God made me stronger, so that I could protect and serve you. But I’m going to use my strength to dominate you.”
The struggle between the man and the woman quickly spread to their children, so that now it is the most common of facts that brothers and sisters and neighbors and friends fail each other. There is still a great deal of potential in this world, so much good, that gets even better when we share it, we all know that. We so much desire to see good things happen, and be a part of them. But, so often, sadly and predictably, we ruin what could be, because we are selfish and want to grab it all for ourselves, ruining the good with our struggle and strife.
Persecution by Satan and his demons, lovelessness, sickness and death, the will to power, the desire to climb higher by stepping on others, all of these began on that awful day, and continue still. And now Jesus seems to be trying to fix them all, at once, by Himself. Of course his family thinks He’s crazy, out of His mind. After all, God is the One who declared all these judgments, on that dark day in the Garden. Who is Jesus to think He can reverse them?
But wait. Let’s keep the story straight. It is true that God declared all these judgments, all these consequences for the Fall into sin. But these are not His greatest judgment, nor even His first. None of these curses, under which we live and struggle and die, none of these are actually in our reading from Genesis 3 this morning. No, we only have the first judgment, the first declaration of God after the Fall, and this judgment is for Satan. “Cursed are you, above all livestock.” We tend to think this applies to serpents, and it does. But even more, the Lord is speaking to Satan, to the fallen angel who has successfully tempted God’s children to sin. Once the senior angel in all of God’s heavens, Satan, for pride, rebelled against God and was cast down from his privileged place. Now, says God, Satan is moved even lower, lower than the animals, given to eat the dust of decay and ruin, nothing left for Satan except to hate.
And hate he does. Having tempted the first man and woman, Satan now longs to destroy all their descendents. And he would, except for God’s promise. The Seed of the Woman, He will be your enemy, Satan. He will stand between you and my children. You’ll bruise his heel, Satan, yes, but He will come and bruise your head, a death blow to all your powers. I promise, says the Lord.
So, yes, it’s crazy for one man to try to fix all the problems in the world, unless that man is the Seed of the Woman, the promised Savior, coming to redeem all the children of Adam from their natural slavery to sin, death and the devil. Only one man could take on such a task, the Seed of the Woman, who is also the One speaking to Satan, the LORD Himself, made to be a man in the person of Jesus Christ. God is not crazy to try these things. The Son is sent by the Father to do just this. He is the One, the only One for whom it’s not crazy to try to fix it all.
And He has. This is the message of the Holy Spirit: in and through Jesus Christ, all the power of Satan to accuse you and enslave you for your sins is gone, vanished, washed away. The blood of Jesus atones for all sin. In His death your death is destroyed, and Satan is bound. In His resurrected life, you see your true life, with God, forever. This is the message of the Holy Spirit. Believe it.
Believe it, and don’t ignore it, for it is the message of the only Savior there is. If you reject the Holy Spirit’s message, you remain under the judgment of God against sin. But the Spirit declares Good News to you, of Christ’s victory, of your innocence, declared by God, of your inheritance with the saints in light. This is why Jesus says anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven – because only the Spirit of Christ has the message of free and full forgiveness. To ignore the forgiveness God the Holy Spirit declares is to call Him a liar, it is blaspheme Him, and it is to remain under God’s condemnation. You’d have to be crazy to do that.
But now, in Christ Jesus, craziness itself has been turned upside down. The World says it’s crazy to believe that God created the world in six days, but the Spirit reminds you that the One who raised Jesus from the dead can do whatever He wills. The World says it’s crazy to treat a microscopic baby in the womb as if it has the same value as any other person, but the Spirit says that He was there, at the conception of every human being, weaving life together, for His good pleasure. The World says it’s crazy to save yourself for your future husband or wife, to reserve intimacy until after God has declared you man and wife, and then to be faithful unto death. But the Spirit says that marriage is God’s gift, and the only safe place for enjoying His good gift of sexuality. The World says being too honest will cost you. The Spirit says the Truth will set you free. The World says get all you can. The Spirit says it is better to give than to receive, and that to serve your neighbor is to serve God Himself. Above all, the world says never admit your wrong, never confess your sins. But God says confess your sins to me, daily, and for Jesus’ sake, I will remove them from you, as far as the east is from the west. I will take your scarlet stains and make them white as snow.
Life God’s ways seems crazy, but the truth is that real, joy-filled living is only possible when we receive it as God gives it. These crazy ideas are the Way of God, who in Christ Jesus has conquered all our enemies. We’d be crazy not to walk in His Way.
We do not by our nature want to walk in God’s Way, the Spirit must lead us. Likewise, we cannot, by our own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel and enlightened us by His gifts, and so we know true wisdom is found in the foolishness of the message of Christ Crucified. And so with the Apostle Paul, we renounce disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, for that would be crazy. Rather, by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God, for God is our salvation. We’d be crazy not to cling to Him. Amen.