“Out of Your Mind?” — Mark 3:20-35

Grace, mercy and peace be to you…

Our Old Testament and Gospel readings for today are like bookends to the story of God’s grace.    On one end… our Old Testament reading with the sad tale of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin … and the other end … in our Gospel reading, Jesus himself declaring the forgiveness of Sin He came to bring …

So… how do you cover all that in the time we have allotted this morning?  Good news!  We won’t.   But this we will do… we’ll pick up on the fact that what we’re talking about…. namely God’s grace … may end up putting us all in the boat of being said to be “out of our minds.”

Have you been accused of that?  If you’ve had a conversation about Adam and Eve and Creation as opposed to evolution with someone outside the faith … you may very well have earned being put in that boat in the mind of that person.

Perhaps in today’s language, and putting the best construction on it… they might have simply concluded that you are just badly deluded.

So, then.  Let’s take a look at our Reading and see how Jesus dealt with being in that boat … put there by those of His own family who were trying to intervene in what He was doing…

First, let’s think about this:  how do you respond to criticism?  Probably that depends a bit upon what you’re be criticized for, right?   If, say, I were being criticized on how consistently I hit a golf ball … I’d have to honor that criticism with a good deal of agreement on my part.

But if someone were to critique my love of God, or my commitment to His word… I might be tempted to take that a bit more personally and perhaps get a little bit … more emotional?

Well… look what Jesus was up against in our Gospel for today.  We have the local Jewish leaders bringing in the theological “hot-shots” from Jerusalem to take Jesus on…

They can’t explain away the miracles Jesus had been performing… they were supernatural events to be sure.

The problem was, if they were to allow that Jesus was doing these things by God’s power, they’d be cutting their own throats, so to speak.  And so… by the process of elimination … if God can’t be the power behind these miracles, then it had to be the Devil instead.

Jesus’ reply to that accusation is a model for us all.  He begins by using parables.   Parables that disclose a truth, but only to those seeking it.  Those blinded by their own agenda would only be confused.

The first parable asks them to consider that what they were accusing Him of was sheer non-sense.  A general doesn’t go around shooting His own troops.  If that were the way He went about waging a war … He’d soon be the last one standing.

That’s sort of a “Duh!”  But here comes the kicker.  The next parable is about a strong man’s house.  Is that God’s house?  No.  It’s Satan’s house.

Because what Jesus was doing by casting out demons … was plundering Satan’s house!

So, the truth the parable poses, then, is that in order for Jesus to plunder Satan’s house, He had already conquered the Devil, bound Him, so to speak …which is why He is able to wreak havoc on his kingdom.

So then, with the truth of the matter logically put forth in His parables Jesus gives His critics a warning.  But look at it carefully.   It’s a warning not issued in anger but in love.   Like a parent warning a child not to get too close to a cliff or running out into the street … It’s also a warning issued with a tremendous promise in it.  Listen to it again …

Jesus says… “all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.”   Really?  Yes, really!

That truly is the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross.   There is no sin that Jesus didn’t die for on Calvary … no sin too grave, no sin too often repeated, no sin too anything… not to be atoned for by His Innocent suffering and death.

That’s why … when it comes to the final judgement…. It’s not about our sins … it is about whose we are.    If we are children of God by faith… by His grace then, Jesus’ atonement has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.   And we stand before God in Jesus’ perfect Righteousness.

However … if God sends His holy Spirit our way in order to make us His Child… but we stubbornly and against better knowledge… resist the work of the Spirit in our heart … if we disparage God…

if we speak evil of Him until our last breath … then… we have ourselves to blame for forfeiting Grace… and the eternal consequence of being separated from God forever.

Now… the Pharisees were doing both.  They were saying Jesus was filled with an evil Spirit and they were saying that against their better knowledge.

Because of this, we hear Jesus here and elsewhere warn them that they are close to forfeiting grace … close …  because they are still alive… and because they are, repentance of their sin against the Holy Spirit is still an option…

This is why it’s said, that if you’re worried you might have committed that sin … you haven’t, because it is the presence of the Spirit Himself in your heart that brings that pang of conscience.   One author has written:  “Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not only thinking evil of God, but continuing to speak evil of Him until death.” (northwestern p244)

And so, only if that shoe fits … and the Holy Spirit has been indeed blocked or driven out by the hardness of our heart … then the result is we would care less, it would be the farthest thing from our minds.

Now… let’s look at what Mark tells us about the reaction of Jesus’ natural family to what He was doing, those on earth who were related to him.

First, let’s not get all hung up about whether Jesus had natural brothers and sisters or they were cousins or they were half-siblings as some believe.  That’s not what’s at issue here …

What’s at issue is that they felt that Jesus was out of His mind.  Why?  Because of His zeal toward the ministry for one … and probably also because of what they had heard Him say about Himself.

You’ve all probably heard the quotation from the author, C.S. Lewis, who grew up as a staunch atheist, but then became a powerful defender of the faith later in life.

He wrote that if you honestly read the Scriptures you will be faced with a decision.   You’ll have to decide if Jesus was really a raving mad man to say the things He did about Himself…  or …He was truly who He claimed to be … the Son of God.

Guess which side of that decision his family had apparently taken.   We hear it expressed…they claimed Jesus was out of His mind.

And that is a point of contact in this account for us.  You see, you and I are probably not going to go around casing out demons, so no one’s going to accuse us of doing so by the power of Satan.

However … when we walk the talk of faith… When we speak to others about our faith and trust in God.  Of our belief of Him creating everything we see…. of His forgiveness of sins … and of our certain Hope of a life in His Presence in the hereafter … well …

When we do those things … there are going to be those who might not say the words … but they’re still thinking… “you’re out of your mind”… or perhaps…  “you’re sadly deluded.”

This is the mindset we see in Jesus’ natural family who came to “seize” Him … which meant they had come to take Him away… to keep Him from doing what He was doing.  And that was simply… doing the will of God.   And from that, Jesus would not be deterred.

What would we have done in Jesus’ place?  Hard to say, perhaps … But look at how He responds to being told that His family is asking for Him.   He knows why they have come… out of misguided love and concern for Him.

And so … Jesus talks about family.  And He’s talking to people who have an intense, Old Testament, understanding of family, of clan, of kinship, tribe and nation all rolled into one.  Probably hard for us even to imagine how foundational “family” was for them in their day.

And here Jesus redefines THAT!  This is big.  Who is His clan?  Who are His Tribe?  Who are His Kin-folk … who are His real brothers and sisters … and even mother?   Those that are God’s Children.

He defines them as those who do the will of God … which is something that is impossible to do apart from faith.

Now… say you’re his family standing outside … calling Him to cut-it-out and go home with them.    And say you hear Him make this statement about who His family really is.

You can go one of two ways with that. First, you can conclude that you were right all along, He’s out of His mind, His words just proved it.

Or you can stop and pause and consider this really as an invitation to accept what He has said.

In a way, Jesus is putting C.S.Lewis’ decision before them … is He truly out of His mind … or is He really the Son of God who can look at people from other clans and other tribes … and call them … His family?  Because in God’s eyes … that’s who they truly are.

And so … back to our point of contact.   Do you think you have a chance of arguing an unbeliever into the faith?  Do you think you can muster enough scientific evidence to make the case for a Creator?

Do you think you can erase umpteen years of negative interaction with “the church” in three well worded sentences?   Probably not.

But you have something you can offer.   Hope.  Confident Hope.  For today, for tomorrow… and even yes … for eternity.    You can invite them to see what being part of your family is like.

Yes, we are simmers, but we love one another.  That’s in our DNA. It’s called the Holy Spirit.  And HE’s the one who will change that heart, as he has with all of ours.

Yes, to the world, it does appear that we are out of our minds.  Christianity is not logical or even rational.  And yet God would have all come to faith during their time of grace.

The irony in that is… His instruments to accomplish that are you and me.  And that is an honor.  And a joy to see when it happens.

We thank God for putting us in that boat… even if that means being labeled … out of our minds.

In Him, Amen.