The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

2nd Sunday after Pentecost June 10, 2012

 

Mark 3:20-35 Functional Families

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

We may consider it putting the best construction on things.

* We say, "He comes from a dysfunctional family!"

In other words, "Give him some slack. He'll come around!"

Then again, we might say it as an excuse not to work on a given relationship.

* If so, we should know everyone is dysfunctional in some way or another.

Yes, even Christians.

* There's no perfect family. A basic review of Old Testament history will establish that.

* There's Cain and Abel, the first set of brothers ever created by God.

That didn't last. Cain murders his only brother Abel.

* And remember Jacob and Isau? They were quite dysfunctional if you ask me.

Jacob is favored by his mother, and Isau by his father. Jacob conspires to steal his

brother's birthright. And then Esau is resolved to murder his brother.

* And who can forget Joseph and the brothers he had to put up with.

He too is favored by a parent, his father who made him a coat of many colors.

What's more, he has dreams of his family bowing down and serving him. In time, his

brothers who are sick with jealousy and resentment sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelites.

* And yes we also have stories about sisters. There are the two daughters of Lot.

When Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire, they imagine that they will have to

repopulate the earth. So they get their father drunk and try to get pregnant through incest.

This is God people we're talking about! And times never change.

Apparently every last one of our families is dysfunctional!

* We may explain it by giving thought to the devil's primary objective in your life and

mine. Satan seeks to divide. He desires to divide us Christians against God and from

each other.

* And why not? He achieved with it Adam and Eve.

Our Old Testament reading begins with God confronting Adam who sinned.

* Without giving it a second thought he had listened to Satan's lies.

"God's not going to let you die just because you eat some fruit."

"He just wants to keep your eyes from being opened and knowing both good and evil."

"Sure, God talks big, but he doesn't really have your best interest in mind!"

* In the end, Satan succeeded in alienating Adam and Eve from their loving God who

simply wanted to care for them.

 

Zoom ahead in time to today's Gospel and we've got the same thing all over again.

* Picture it. Jesus has come to his home town. He's the promised Christ and therefore our

loving God and Savior. But Satan would have people question this.

* So he assigns demons under him to torment the local people.

Soon Jesus drives a demon out of a dumb man. And by the time we get to our reading,

Jesus has created such a stir that the crowds would not leave him or his disciples alone.

* On one side you have these people in need. They didn't necessarily care who Jesus was.

They just wanted him to heal their loved ones.

And on the other side you have these experts of the Law who had come all the way from

Jerusalem with the express purpose of catching Jesus in an unlawful act. [i]

* They already know how they'll spin things. "Jesus talks big and his actions are very

impressive. But he's not someone you'll want to hang around with."

"He is possessed by Beelzebul . . . By the prince of demons he casts out demons."

* That's when his family decided to get involved. In their opinion Jesus was in quite a

spot. The Scribes and growing masses of needy people were driving him over the edge.

Unless the situation simmered down soon, he was sure to go crazy.

 

Do you find it surprising? This was Christ's own family drawing this conclusion!

Apparently the Lord Jesus himself was dysfunctional!

* With little difficulty we see what Satan's motives were on this day.

What better way of destroying the faith of Christ's followers than giving them reason to

believe he was "losing it", or that the promised Savior was possessed.

You want this guy on your side? Is this what it means to belong to God's family?

* And we can be sure Satan's motives in the Church today are much the same.

As the story of Christ goes, so goes the story of his believers.

We may not label those of our household as"out of their mind", but we too have this idea

that our family can undergo only so much harassment by the devil and the world.

And then we're that broken family of God.

* What possible blessings can God have in mind for me after all my hurt and sorrow?

* My husband is dead already five or ten years now.

* I'm divorced and my children favor the other parent over me.

* I'm disabled and no longer able to provide as I used to for my loved ones.

* Or it may be that other member of the home we'll describe as dysfunctional.

* My son was recently diagnosed with bi-polar.

* My daughter or granddaughter is pregnant and she's not even engaged yet.

* At one time we were that solid Christian family everyone seemed to admire and respect.

And now look at us! We're pretty pathetic, aren't we?

* That's what Satan and the spreaders of his lies would have us believe. We're maxed out.

We've exceeded our limits. Having made it over the edge, we're yesterday's news.

* But you know what's really going on, don't you? Satan wants us, at any given instant,

to look at what God is working in our lives, and react: "This isn't good! This is scary!

Jesus does not have our best interest in mind!"

* Is it any wonder? If Satan should con believers about the Christ who's working miracles

in his hometown, casting out demons, we can be sure he'll do so with us.

 

But does it really make sense to point the finger at our Lord?

* After Jesus is accused of doing the devil's work, he responds.

"How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot

stand. . . If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand."

* It may have been one of those rare times when Jesus had no need to quote Scripture.

What the Scribes had asserted was not rational. The prince of demons uses someone

to cast out other demons?! Even Satan would not be so stupid as to undermine his own

efforts.

* No. The only role Satan had in this event was to spread his lies.

The Scribes were accusing Jesus of demon-possession. Actually, it is they who were in

league with Satan, for they hated both Christ and his Gospel. [ii]

 

Jesus makes his case, and exposes Satan's agenda. The devil wants us to take our eyes off Christ

who shed his blood for us that we might be forgiven.

* It's why our Lord continues with a warning concerning the most serious and costly sin

there is. "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is

guilty of an eternal sin."

* Unfortunately, people often misunderstand what this sin is about.

Over the years, for example, many have maintained that the sin against the Holy Spirit is

to despair, that is to lose hope in God for salvation.

* This would explain a conversation I had with a woman about 20 years ago in Michigan.

She wasn't a member of the congregation, but phoned the pastor's office because she was

extremely troubled. She went on and on about committing the sin against the Holy Spirit

and how she was therefore going to hell.

* Looking back on the incident, I believe she wanted me to talk her out of it.

And I tried. I explained that those who are troubled by a sin and sorry for doing it have

not committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. Rather, the only ones guilty of such a sin are

those who've hardened their hearts against Christ.

But nothing I said to her made any difference.

* Later it was evident to me that she was psychotic and was probably suffering from severe

depression. She was despairing, which is to say she was giving up.

But according to her delusional thinking she was giving up on God.

* The truth was she was sick, was giving up on life, and was feeling extremely guilty about it.

* Would you like to know what the sin against the Holy Spirit really is?

Despite what Satan would have us believe, it's not when you despair of your life,

believing it's becoming increasing dysfunctional. It's the sin of rejecting the Gospel of

Christ.

* You see the Gospel is the message about our Savior through which the Holy Spirit works

to give us forgiveness and faith. If someone rejects the Gospel, they reject the only

message through which the Holy Spirit is sure to work.

* Rejecting what Christ has done to save the world, such a person is surely lost.

 

We may consider it the ultimate goal of Satan: to end the Holy Spirit's work in our lives, to make

God dysfunctional when it comes to preserving us in the faith.

* So how do we escape such a fate? We do so through a renewed understanding of "God's

family" and what makes us functional as members of his family.

* Returning to our lesson we see the Lord's mother and brothers catching up to him.

Instead of interrupting, they send for Jesus who's now visiting with a crowd gathered

around him.

* He's been teaching the people about God and Satan and about sin and forgiveness.

Presumably, after instructing them about how one loses forgiveness, it's time to explain

how one gains forgiveness and is made an official member of God's family.

* So when Mary and his brothers show up, it serves as a perfect transition to what he'll say

next. "Who are my mother and my brothers?" Is it those who are of the same blood?

Is it those who have seen me grow in wisdom or mature from youth to adulthood?

* Then he looks at those sitting around him and says, "here are my mother and my

brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

* There's no missing the point. A functional family is not one who happens to share the

same parents or brother or sister any more than we enjoy the same health or are able to

keep our lives in one piece. Functional families are those in whom the Holy Spirit is at

work. By faith in Christ they are devoted to the same God.

 

Even so, in time, every Christian family may question how together they are. "Can my family

still operate properly despite how we're doing psychologically, emotionally, or financially?

In the end, Satan plays a role in producing what many would call dysfunctional families.

* However, he has no say in making us spiritually dysfunctional.

You see, Christ became dysfunctional for us. So that he might rescue us from sin and

death and the devil himself, the Lord humbled himself to the point of dying on a cross.

* So that he might take our place under God's Law, the Son of God put his powers on hold.

So that Satan may have no power over us as individuals or any power over our future,

Jesus became the good-for-nothing whom God should condemn to death.

* The result is that we belong only to God. We are a part of God's family and will

forever function in that family as God has called us to. The devil has no claim whatsoever

over us. "For I am convinced" St. Paul declares, "that neither death nor life, neither angels

nor demons . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our

Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

* Not even our aging bodies or our worsening mental health may deprive us of a place in

God's family and serving as his instruments for the benefit of others. Again from St. Paul:

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is

being renewed day by day. . . For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an

eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

* How could we even think of comparing this life with the glories of the next? In the

presence of our only God we'll get to serve as the Lord's family throughout all eternity.

 

Sometimes it's not possible to put the best construction on things.

It would seem it's our family that's become dysfunctional as a result of life's unexpected curves.

* Our son asks to move back in with us after his wife told him to move out.

* Our wife receives word she has a cancerous tumor that's inoperable.

* Our grandchild has been in an accident and we're to drive to the hospital immediately.

* And yet we may wonder how Satan could put the best construction on the words God

spoke to him in the garden. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between

your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his

heal."

* This was the first prophecy concerning the coming of Christ our Savior who would

redeem us sinners and restore God's family

* Yes. Satan would apparently get his way when Jesus went to the cross.

But the very blood by which the devil sought to divide us is the blood by which Christ

would make us one.

* And one means functional. So we do not lose heart.

The Lord has done more than "give us some slack!" He's given us a future in his family.

Here in his church, we may consider ourselves his brother, his sister and his mother.

 

Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

 



[i] Exegetical Notes - Gospel Tests - Series B, Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1978, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 7

[ii] Ibid.