Monday, June 8, 2015

Strong Man is Plundered

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
 Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
 Jesus' Mother and Brothers
31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers [2] are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-35 (ESV)
For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.
It’s a hard text, familial strife and houses divided. Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said that his gospel would tear families apart. That he did not come to bring peace but a sword. Here Jesus is at the height of his ministry. Crowds are flocking to him from all over, Jesus and his disciples don’t hardly have the time to recline at a table and eat in a civilized manner. The people are catching on that he is claiming to be a bit more than a prophet, and it sounds a lot like blasphemy. A person reading this text is really given the two options for the unbeliever in relation to Jesus. Not a good teacher, not a prophet, but if he is not God himself, the savior of the world the stronger man who has bound the strong man to plunder his goods, you and I and make us to be his brother sister and mother, then he is a lunatic or a charlatan.
There were many who like Mary in the house of her sister Martha did the will of God and sat at his feet to listen to him, who believed him and received him, who heard his gospel and saw him cast out the demons, heal the sick and make the lame to run. And to this day those united  by the bonds of his blood, born from above in the water and the word, these people share a familial love, they are brothers and sisters of Christ and therefore brothers and sisters, even mothers. A love that the world doesn’t understand, a love that can turn mother against daughter, son against father. And so we even have the very family of Jesus, Mary and his brothers.
It’s crazy to think on this, how Mary could have such a hard time believing. Perhaps here we get an idea of how impossible it is for us to do the will of God. This is what Luther gets at when he says in the explanation to the third article of the creed, “I believe I cannot by my own reason and strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or  come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, sanctified me with his gifts.” Here is Mary, who we praise in the Magnificat  as the most blessed of women, chosen to be the Theotokus, God Bearer as it is said, in the deep recesses of mystery this woman gave birth to God, gave birth to her own creator. We think it is amazing that she gave birth as a virgin, and it is, but that only served that greater paradox of time and eternity that occurred in the incarnation. And so willingly too. She was there when the wise men knelt in the grotto to pay homage to the God of Gods, she was  there to hear the words of Saint Simeon’s Song the first time it was ever sung. She was there when all the booze ran dry and Jesus changed the water to wine. You have to ask yourself. How? How can this be the one who thinks Jesus is out of his mind, who goes along with her children and says  we have to go get your brother, you know he was always a little touched in the head? What bewitchment causes the mother of God to doubt the word of her son?
Now perhaps we understand a little about this talk of strong men, and plunder. This is God’s creation. But we ought not ever doubt the power of the prince of the air, the prince of this world as Jesus calls him the destroyer, it was not complete tomfoolery when he offered Jesus all the kingdoms of this world. We do not fight against flesh and blood, Paul says in Ephesians, “but against rulers and authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” These forces of evil dominate this world, but not Jesus. He tosses them out of people as if they were nothing more than a ten pound sack of flour. And they say he uses the black arts, that it is by beelzebul that he does this. They accuse him, in essence to be one of the necromancing diviners of fortune that kneeled at marries feet in the grotto to worship the God suckling at her breast, the wise men as we call them that made their living in the black arts for the likes of Nebuchadnezzar. Men like Simon the Magician of Acts 8, or the seven sons of Sceva, and Bar-Jesus of Acts thirteen whom Paul Blinds, Jewish itinerants and rollers of bones who were famous for their work in the black arts. They say Jesus has an unclean Spirit, and this is how he does what he does. They know better, these scribes that have come down from Jerusalem about a 1000 feet above sea level to this town of Capernaum that is actually below sea level. They can hear the words of Jesus, the gospel preached to the poor, they can see the kingdom of God breaking in. But it is an affront to their own authority as shepherds of Israel, the authority with which they beat and abused the sheep rather than feed the sheep. For this reason Jesus says they are blaspheming the Holy Spirit the sin for which there is no forgiveness. Hardening their hearts against the gospel, turning away from forgiveness and refusing it so that they can hold on to their prestige, their pride, so that they can save their lives as they know it and preserve their empires of dirt and death.

But no, what is happening is a stronger man has broken in, Jesus, the Son of God himself has bound Satan and is plundering his house. The kingdom of God is in the midst of a hostile takeover of Satan’s dominions, and the treasure of the house is not silver or gold, diamonds or pearls for which slaves at the time could be purchased and for which they themselves could purchase their freedom. No, the treasures of the house are the slaves of sin, death and the devil, born as children of the wrath of God, under bondage to sin, people who never do the good that they would, but bad they would not. And this describes even Mary and the brothers of Jesus. People who cannot by their own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ their Lord and savior or come to him, but who then are called by the gospel. People of flesh and blood, us men and women. We are the treasures that Jesus comes to plunder, to take to be his, that the will of God would be done in our lives, that we would believe we have been ransomed and purchased with his holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death to become his brothers and sisters and mothers, purchased with his blood who fell in battle for us, only to overcome this world of death, and rise again to the new life in which we now walk because the treasure he plundered with his death is you, his brother, his sister, his mother. Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

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