March 14, 2010

Follow the Leader

Making sense of Jesus

Mark 3:20-35

 

Introduction: What do you make of Jesus? This is the big question. You can dismiss him as crazy. You can attack him as evil. Or you can worship Him as God. 

 

 

1. His family thought _____________________________________.  20-21, 31-35

 

 

 

  • Jesus’ family are those who ______________________________________.

 

 

 

 

2. The Jewish religious leaders thought ____________________________.  22-30

 

 

 

  • Jesus is _________________________________________________. 23-27

 

 

 

  • The eternal sin is _________________________________________. 28-30

 

 

 

 

3. Christians think ___________________________________________________.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 14, 2010

Follow the Leader

Making sense of Jesus

Mark 3:20-35

 

Opening:

          We’ve got three Sundays before Easter, and I thought it would be good to spend those Sundays thinking about Jesus.  Last summer we started working our way through the gospel of Mark—we called it “Follow the Leader”—and we’ll continue that again this summer, and for the next three Sundays.

          Today, we will read the story in Mark 3 about Jesus’ family coming to take him home because they think He’s lost his mind, and the Jewish religious leaders accusing Jesus of being in league with the devil.  They were all struggling to make sense of Jesus—something that many people are still struggling to do.  Why would they think Jesus was crazy or evil?  And why did some think He was God in the flesh?  We’re going to try to make sense of Jesus—that’s what we’re talking about today.

 

Offering and announcements:

 

Communion: Read Mark 15:15-59.

 

Introduction:

ILL: Many years ago, when Life Center was meeting in the little building on Mallon, a man came to church and told me that he was Jesus Christ and had a message for our church.  After talking with the man for a few moments, I decided he wasn’t Jesus.  He was crazy. 

Another time, a lady stood up in church with a message from God.  She was the Virgin Mary and President Ronald Reagan was the anti-Christ.  After talking with her, I decided she wasn’t the Virgin Mary.  She was crazy.

When someone makes astonishing claims, you have to decide if you believe them.  Are they telling the truth, are they lying or are they nuts?  At one point early in Jesus’ ministry, His family thought He had gone crazy and came to do an intervention and take him home.  And the Jewish religious leaders thought that He was in league with devil!  Everyone was struggling to make sense of Jesus.  Today, we’re going to look the story in Mark 3 and see if we can make sense of Jesus.

Mark 3:20-35 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”  Jesus’ family thought He was crazy and came to do an intervention; hold this thought.

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

23 So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. 28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”  The religious leaders from Jerusalem thought that Jesus was in league with the devil.  Now back to His family.

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

What do you make of Jesus? This is the big question. You can dismiss him as crazy. You can attack him as evil. Or you can worship Him as God.  Let’s take a closer look.

 

1. His family thought Jesus was crazy.  20-21, 31-35

          In the first two verses, Jesus’ family went to “take charge of Him” for they thought He was out of His mind.  The Greek word translated “take charge of” was used for arresting someone, forcibly seizing someone.  They were coming to take Him away, by force if necessary.  This is a family intervention—they thought their brother was off his rocker and they were coming to take him home, to safety. 

ILL: Some of you have done an intervention; it’s a common strategy when someone is addicted or involved in unhealthy behavior.  I’ve been involved in helping people set up an intervention for a family member who was alcoholic and still in denial.  You do it to help the person who doesn’t think he needs help, who can’t help himself.

Why would Jesus’ family think that He was deranged?  Mark tells us that the crowd was so large that Jesus and His followers didn’t even have time to eat—the demands were so heavy that Jesus wasn’t even stopping for meals.  Hearing this made his family think that Jesus had lost it.  Jesus was saying and doing some very extreme things; now He wasn’t eating.  That was the final straw.  His mental state was questionable; now His physical health was in danger; it was time for an intervention.    

          You might think that it was strange to do an intervention just because Jesus wasn’t eating.  But there were other behaviors that probably contributed to their concern.

  • Jesus had left a profitable carpentry business to be a traveling preacher.  No man in his right mind would leave the security of a good job and steady income to become a vagrant with no place to lay his head.  Security is a universally accepted value; Jesus ignored it.  If your son or brother told you he was quitting a good job to be a homeless preacher, you’d probably say, “Are you out of your mind?”
  • Jesus was obviously on a collision course with the power brokers of his day.  There are certain people that you don’t want to cross, because if you do, they will crush you.  No man in his right mind would openly challenge these powerful people.  Safety is a universally accepted value—be safe—Jesus ignored it.  If your son or brother told you that he was taking on the Mafia, you’d probably say, “Are you out of your mind?”
  • Jesus had called together a team of men, and it was an odd group: some fishermen, a tax-collector, a fanatical nationalist, a bunch of nobodies.  This wasn’t the A-list if you were interested in success.  No man in his right mind would pick a team like this!  The verdict of society—“what will people say”—is a universally accepted value; Jesus ignored it.  If your son or brother were associating with a group of losers, you might say, “Are you out of your mind?”

They thought that Jesus was taking risks that no sane man would take.  So they concluded, “He is out of His mind,” and they went to take charge of Him, to take Him home. 

          While they are on their way, Jesus has this encounter with the Jewish religious leaders—they accuse him of being in league with the devil. At the end of this encounter, Jesus family arrives to take him home (v. 31). They are standing outside the crowded house, unable to get in, so they send a message through the crowd, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”  What does everyone expect Jesus to say?  “Oh great, send them in!”  Or “Wonderful!  I”ll be right out!”  Instead, Jesus says a shocking thing. 

Mark 3:33-35 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

I said this is shocking because family was a huge value in Jewish culture (as it is in Christian culture). This wasn’t the way good Jewish boys treated their mothers and brothers!  Was Jesus renouncing His family?  No. While He is dying on the cross, Jesus makes sure that His mother will be cared for—He asks John to take care of her.  So He didn’t renounce His family and refuse all responsibility for them, but He redefines family.

  • Jesus’ family are those who do God’s will.

“Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”  There are a couple important lessons.

First, there is an implicit warning not to assume that you are a Christian because of who you are related to.  When Mark wrote his gospel about 40 years after Jesus’ death, Jesus’ brother James had been the leader of the church in Jerusalem and Jesus’ mother, Mary, had achieved an honored status.  If these people—Jesus immediate family who were revered by the church—could be left standing outside the circle, then none of us should assume we are in because we’re related to someone.  Being related to Jesus didn’t guarantee that you were in His Kingdom; being related to someone doesn’t guarantee that you’re in either.  Jesus said you are in the family because you do the will of God, not because you are born into it.  For many years, people thought they were Christians because they were born in America.  Many people still assume they are Christians because they were raised in a Christian family; they were born into it.  Jesus challenges that thinking.  You aren’t automatically a Christian because your parents were. 

ILL: My friend, Aydin, our guide in Turkey, told us that when his daughter was born, they had filled in the box on the birth certificate marked “religion” with the word “Muslim”.  He asked if they could leave it blank—not because Aydin has no faith, but because he wanted his daughter to decide.  They told him he couldn’t leave it blank; they wrote in Muslim.  Turkey is 99.8% Muslim.  If you are born in Turkey, you are born a Muslim.

It doesn’t work that way with Jesus, even though many people think it does.  You aren’t born a Christian because you are born in America or born in Christian family.  You have to decide to follow Jesus and do God’s will; no one can decide that for you.  God has no grandchildren; only children. 

Second, by redefining family as those who do God’s will, Jesus indicates there is a bond stronger than blood.  Our first and highest commitment is to Jesus, even before our family. We live God-first, not family-first.  Any loyalty other than God that is elevated to first place is idolatry. It is possible for family to become an idol—family is everything. While caring for your family is commendable, family idolatry is not!  Our first and highest commitment is to God.  This is why Jesus said:

Matthew 10:37 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Jesus first.  I love my family, but I’m called to love Jesus first.  And here’s a wonderful thing: the more I love Jesus, the better I love you.  It’s true in my marriage: the more I love Jesus, the better I love my wife.  It’s true in my family: the more I love Jesus, the better I love my children and siblings and mom and dad. Loving Jesus first and doing God’s will is the best thing you can do for your family.

          Jesus’ family thought He was crazy.

 

2. The Jewish religious leaders thought Jesus was evil.  22-30

          The Jewish religious leaders had an even less flattering opinion of Jesus.  “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”  They said that Jesus isn’t crazy; He’s evil.  He’s a devil. 

          Notice that these religious leaders do not deny Jesus’ power to perform miracles; they question the source of that power.  Rather than attributing His power to God, they attributed it to the devil.  They accused Jesus of being in league with the devil.  “He drives out demons by the power of the devil.” 

          Of course, the folly of that statement is obvious.  Why would the devil cast out his own demons?  Jesus pointed this out:

“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.

It was simply illogical to believe that Satan would empower Jesus to free those who were bound by Satan.  Jesus explains what was really happening in verse 27.

In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.

Rather than doing the devil’s bidding, Jesus was “robbing his house”; Jesus was plundering the devil.  He was setting free all those the devil had bound. 

1 John 3:8 The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

Jesus didn’t come to do the devil’s work but to destroy the devil’s work.  And the only way you can plunder a strong man’s house is to be stronger than the strong man.

  • Jesus is stronger than Satan. 27

Jesus was claiming to be stronger than Satan, stronger than demons, stronger than evil. Whenever Jesus confronted someone who was demonized, who was dominated by evil, Jesus set them free.  Every time.  There is not one story of Jesus confronting a demon and the demon winning.  Jesus won every time, and it was no contest.  The demons begged for mercy: “leave us alone; we know who you are.”  Jesus is stronger than the devil, and that power came from God.

Luke 11:20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 

The devil may be strong, but Jesus is stronger than the strong man.

Many people today dismiss Satan as an outmoded idea; but Jesus took Satan seriously, and considered him “a strong man” with a kingdom or house, and those under his control needed to be freed.  Many people are still in the grip of evil; Jesus came to free us.  It is interesting that Jesus didn’t engage in theological debates about the existence of the devil or the nature of evil.  Instead, He freed people who were in bondage.  We would do well to follow His example and by God’s power, confront evil where we find it and set people free.  Even though the devil is described as a “strong man”—Peter describes him as “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”—Jesus is stronger still and so we have nothing to fear. 

1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Jesus, the one who is in us, is greater and stronger than the evil one.  Jesus not only sets us free, but sends us into the world as His representatives to bring freedom to the captives.

          In this context, Jesus talks about the “eternal sin” which will “never be forgiven”: blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Mark 3:28-30 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. 30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”  

What is the eternal or unforgivable sin?  How many of you have wondered that?

  • The eternal sin is being wrong about Jesus. 28-30  Here are several things you should know about the unforgivable sin.

First, what is the eternal sin?  The unforgivable sin is to look at Jesus and see evil instead of good, to see the devil instead of God.  In other words, the eternal sin is being wrong about Jesus.  God comes in the flesh and stands in front of you—do you recognize Him as God incarnate, or reject Him as the devil incarnate?  What do you make of Jesus? 

Second, why would this be an eternal or unforgivable sin?  When a person is unable to distinguish good from evil, or God from the devil, he will not repent. He will be unable and unwilling to acknowledge his sin and need for God, so he will not turn to God for forgiveness.  Instead, he rejects God.  And when this attitude hardens to permanency, one becomes guilty of a sin that cannot be forgiven.  

Third, anyone who is worried about committing the unforgiveable sin, hasn’t.  Many worried people have asked me about this—people who feared that they had somehow committed the unforgiveable sin.  If you had, you wouldn’t care.  You wouldn’t be worried about it.  Like these religious leaders, you would be convinced that Jesus is a devil, not worried about your eternal relationship with God.  The unforgivable sin means you have a heart so hard that you could see Jesus and think He was the devil; you have lost the ability to tell good from evil; you have the lost the ability to care.

          Jesus’ family thought He was crazy.  The religious leaders thought He was evil.  What do you think?

 

3. Christians think Jesus is God.

          For two thousand years, Christians have thought that Jesus is God.  We have come to that conclusion based on the eye-witness evidence of those who knew Jesus and passed His story on to us.  Jesus made claims that only God could make.  Jesus did things that only God could do.  So His followers, from the beginning, came to the conclusion that He was God.

ILL: Does anyone remember the old television game show, “What’s My Line?”  Only the really old people!  Each week, three guests tried to stump a panel of celebrities.  All three began by saying, “My name is…Ed Weekly.”  One of them was Ed Weekly, the other two were imposters.  The panel then asked them questions which the guests tried to answer convincingly.  At the end of the show, the host asked, “Will the real Ed Weekly please stand up?”  To my knowledge, there was always one real Ed Weekly, and two imposters—two good liars.  There was never a real Ed Weekly, a liar, and a crazy person who thought he was Ed Weekly.  But that would have made for a great show, especially when they both stood up at the end!

When a person claims to be someone, there are only a couple possibilities: he is who he says, or he’s not.

ILL: If I told you that I was Joe Wittwer, lead pastor at Life Center, what are the options?  I am not or I am.

          If I am not Joe Wittwer, but claim I am, there are two possibilities.

  • It is possible that I am lying.  I know that I am not Joe Wittwer, but I am intentionally misleading you to think I am. 
  • It is possible that I am deluded.  I think I am Joe Wittwer, but I am not.

If I am Joe Wittwer, well…I am.

Those are the options.  Jesus claimed, in word and deed, to be God.  He either is, or He isn’t.  He is either lying, deluded, or God.  C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, put it this way.

I’m trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really silly 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’s the one thing we mustn’t say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’d either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he’s a poached egg—or else he’d 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 don’t let us come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He hasn’t left that open to us. He didn’t intend to.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), p. 56.

There are the options: Jesus is a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord.

His family, at this point in the story in Mark 3, thought Jesus had lost his mind.  Later, members of His family would come to believe in Him, but early on, they thought He was crazy.

          The Jewish leaders thought He was evil, in league with the devil.  They had him killed for blasphemy, because He called God His own Father, “making Himself equal with God.”  John 5:18  They decided Jesus was a liar, or worse.

          What do you think?  For 20 centuries, Christians have thought He was God and worshiped Him.