Third Sunday in Lent, Oculi, March 3, Year of Our + Lord 2013
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, MT
Reactions to Jesus: Marveling, Murmuring, and Menacing (Luke 11:14-29)
Vicar Jason Toombs
There are three kinds of reactions to Jesus: marveling, murmuring, and menacing.
Upon healing a person many in the crowd would marvel at the healing and the healer. Jesus has a healing ministry, through His Word and His touch people were healed. With His Word, He casts out a demon that was mute from a man and the man was now able to speak. The crowd marveled at what Jesus did for this mute man. But not all of them.
There were some in the crowd who murmured amongst themselves, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.” Murmuring is constantly something that followed Jesus throughout His ministry. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the priests, the elders, and even the Romans murmured in hushed tones about Jesus.
There were others who were menacing. They couldn’t accept that Jesus was able to heal people through His Word and they tested him, they wanted to see a miraculous sign from heaven. Later, others would be even more menacing, even trying to find a reason to have Jesus killed.
Marveling, murmuring, and menacing. These three reactions are still with us to this day. They are spoken of in hushed tones around us. People sometimes snicker and make fun of Christians who believe that God came down out of heaven and died for the sin of the world upon the cross. How can this be, they say. How can this be?
The Sunday School answer: Jesus. This is the churches message: Jesus. Not Jesús the gardner, but Jesus Christ. The betrayed, the scourged, the humiliated, the crucified, the buried, the resurrected, the ascended Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man. The whole Jesus is our answer.
Over the past few years the History Channel has rolled out “experts” who talk about Jesus at Christmas or Easter. They try to capture the ratings with such marvels as “The Real Jesus Christ” from 2007 which presented the idea that there was another early Christian group who knew about the “real Jesus” that St. Paul and the New Testament authors tried to keep silent. Or the Ancient Aliens piece that focused on the Ancient of Days, a piece of alien technology, which the Israelites stole from the Egyptian because it could convert dew into a bread like substance, manna, through a special algae. I’m not making this stuff up, I’ve seen the footage. These so called “experts” rely on antiquated research, outdated scholarship, and sheer blunders when they speak on the subject at the center of Christianity: Jesus Christ.
But this year a Christian group has put together a 10-hour mini-series on the History Channel, which begins tonight. This mini-series promises to cover the whole Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, including the life of Jesus. Many people will tune into this series because this series is said “to entertain and inspire the whole family!” Is that what Jesus is about, entertainment and inspiration? What do we need from Jesus: entertainment and inspiration or forgiveness, life, and salvation?
Jesus came forgiving people their sins and giving them life, not a better life, not a more abundant life, but eternal life. Jesus came with healing, healing the sick, the deaf, the blind, and the mute. The mute like the man in today’s reading.
Jesus cast out the mute demon from this man and some people in the crowd wanted a bigger sign from Jesus, a sign from heaven. The sign they wanted was standing in their midst: Jesus Christ. He came down from heaven, coming down as the babe born of Mary. But they couldn’t, and wouldn’t, accept this sign. They wanted a sign like Elijah gave on Mt. Carmel: fire coming down from heaven. They wanted to see with their own eyes the sign from heaven that happened at Jesus baptism: the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are My Beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). These people wanted a miraculous sign appearing in heaven to prove that Jesus was sent by God. And Jesus speaks to them, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah (Lk. 11:29) ... for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt. 12:40).
There are people today who want similar things. They cry out, “God, if you are real, do something to prove that you are real.” We sometimes feel like this, not believing that there is a God. Doubt sets in and the devil seizes on this doubt, gets us to trust in the doubt. Whispering to us that there isn’t a God who loves us, isn’t a God who is merciful, isn’t a God who is there. The devil tries to get us to cast aside whatever belief that we had, that we still have. Sometimes our faith is like a wick that is smoldering, still barely holding on while the devil tries to put it out. At this time it’s easy to look inward, to look to this faith, but that is always the temptation: to look to ourselves, our faith, anything but Jesus and His death and resurrection. Rather we should be directed back to God, back to His sure and certain Word, back to what He has done for us. In His Word, He has promised that He will never leave you nor forsake you, He will not quench the smoldering wick. He has given you Himself, He has claimed you as His own, and He promises that He is there for you throughout your life.
Jesus, God in the flesh, who was there for this mute man is accused of casting out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. That’s a neat trick, a demon can cast out another demon rather than join him in possessing a person. Jesus points out the folly to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?”
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” A kingdom, a nation, that is divided cannot stand forever. A church that is divided cannot stand forever. In recent years this has played out time and time again. In 2009 the ELCA had a vote and congregations left. In late 2010, throughout 2011, and even to this day many governments have been toppled throughout the Middle East in the Arab Spring: Egypt, Libya, and Yemen with other nations having protests and riots. These nations were divided against themselves, the nation stands, for now, but it has been laid waste through wars, violence, and bloodshed.
Households are broken up every day through divorce, violence, and abandonment. The household falls when husband and wife are constantly fighting, disagreeing with one another over everything. Sometimes one of them takes a break, going to a hotel for the weekend to let things cool off. A weekend turns to a week, then a month. Pretty soon they have decided that it would be better for them to part company and get a divorce to move on with their life. Households where parents and children are arguing all the time tend to split up when the children graduate from high school. They strike off on their own because they can’t live another minute under their parents’ roof. Divided households fall every day. Surely this wasn’t the way it was set-up to be.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” This is the way marriage was set-up, this is how it is supposed to be. But sin gets in the way. The sin of the husband, the sin of the wife, the sin of their children. Sin has a habit of getting in the way of things. It turns what once was holy, what is blessed by God, into unholy things. In marriage, with parents, with others, we are to repent of our sins against them and ask for forgiveness. We are sinners who can do nothing but sin. And we need forgiveness. We need to be forgiven constantly, daily, hour by hour, and moment by moment for all of our sins. And we should remember that we are forgiven sinners when someone comes to us repenting of their sins against us. We are to forgive them of their sins as we have received forgiveness for our sins from Jesus because of His crucifixion on the cross and resurrection from the dead.
Our crucified and risen Savior cast out the mute demon from the man and some of the crowd marveled. They marveled not only because Jesus has power over demons but also that He healed the mute man who could now speak. Jesus has cast out the mute demon which made this man mute. Now he was able to speak, speaking the good things that Jesus did for him. The man is there, marveling as Jesus speaks to the others who murmured and were menacing toward Himself. The formerly mute man, and those who with him marveled, hears everything that Jesus says and hears as the woman says, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!”
And Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” The formerly mute man, the woman, the crowds, and you hear the Word of God. And you keep it, you keep it close to your heart, you keep it in your ears and on your lips. You keep the Word of God every time you read the Bible, every time you meditate on God’s Word. You keep coming back to God’s Word every time you hear the forgiveness of sin, every time you remember your baptism where God has washed you clean of your sins, and every time that you receive the meal that Christ instituted on the night when He was betrayed.
Marveling, murmuring, and menacing were ways the crowds reacted to Jesus. People still marvel today when they hear that for their sake Christ died and rose again, defeating death and the devil forever. Others murmur saying that Christianity is wrong and something else is right. Still others are menacing who want to test God by requesting a great and amazing sign. They would rather be mesmerized by David Copperfield, Criss Angel, Penn & Teller or any street corner magician than hear how much God loves them by sending His only begotten Son.
No matter your reaction, your emotions, your intellect, Jesus has done everything in your stead, for you. In a few moments we will sing, “O Thou who, when we loved Thee not, Didst love and save us all, Thou great Good Shepherd of mankind, O hear us when we call” (LSB 569:3). We walk in Christ’s love, “as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2), walking with Him along the path of our life. And when life gets troubling we call out to Him and He hears us, forgives us, renews and strengthens us. Just as He cast out the mute demon from the man and the people marveled, we too marvel, marveling that He should die for our sake and forgive us.