Sunday, June 10, 2018

“Who Do You Say Jesus Is?” - The Sermon for SUNDAY, June 10, 2018 - Third Sunday after Pentecost

“Who Do You Say Jesus Is?”
by Rev. Daniel Habben
St. Albert, Alberta, Canada

3:20 ¶ and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke 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 his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.

Have you ever been mistaken for someone else - a movie star perhaps or some stranger’s long-lost cousin? How about being mistaken for a criminal? That happened to Pastor Taylor who used to serve at Mountain View Lutheran Church. We were coming back from conference one January when we were detained at the border because Pastor Taylor’s name and birthday matched a known felon from England. It took a while, but Pastor Taylor managed to convince the border guards that he was not that Brad Taylor.

No one here works as a border guard but we do need to make proper identification of others lest we throw our arms around a stranger in the mall thinking it’s someone we know. Embarrassing! There is one person in particular that we will want to identify correctly: Jesus. Get his identity wrong and you’ll be more than embarrassed come Judgment Day. So who do you say Jesus is? Some in our sermon text thought Jesus was a madman. Others said he was a double agent! Still others considered him family. Let’s find out how Jesus himself wants us to identify him.

The first identification attempt in our text comes from those who should have known Jesus best of all: his mother and his siblings. However, when they heard that Jesus was so busy teaching and healing that he didn’t have time to eat, they told anyone who would listen that Jesus was out of his mind (Mark 3:21). Mary call Jesus a madman? Perhaps that’s not surprising considering how we often think the same thing. “You want 10%, 20% of my income, weekly worship and midweek Bible class attendance? You want me to honor my parents who are so un-cool? You want me to keep my body for my spouse alone? Really, Jesus? You’ve got to be out of your mind!”

The thing is Jesus is out of his mind. He’s crazy about you and doesn’t want to lose you to Satan and to eternal damnation. Wasn’t that Jesus’ point when he told the parable about the shepherd who left behind 99 perfectly good sheep to go looking for the one lost sheep? Why didn’t the shepherd just cut his losses? Why spend the time and effort looking for an animal that had probably wandered off before? Or take the parable of the lost coin. There Jesus compared himself to a woman who gets down on hands and knees to find a coin she has lost. There’s nothing unusual about that but when the woman finds the coin she calls in friends and family to celebrate. I’ve often wondered whether that party cost her more than the silver coin was worth. It certainly would illustrate how our rescue from sin cost Jesus a price that makes us marvel he was willing to pay it: a painful death on the cross and rejection by his heavenly Father. So should it really surprise us to hear that Jesus willingly skipped meals to help sinners he had come to save? He seemed out of his mind because he had given his mind and his heart over to serving and saving lost souls. How comforting that thought is for you and me who keep falling into sin. It would be easy to believe that Jesus could never love us. But he does. He’s crazy about us. I’m glad Jesus is a madman or I’d be eternally lost, man, and so would you.

There were others in our text who thought they knew who Jesus really was. When the religious leaders saw Jesus cast out demons they said he did so by Satan’s power – as if Jesus was a double agent trying to make it look like he was from God by driving out these demons, but was really doing that to gain people’s confidence so he could later mislead them. You’ve watched enough spy movies to wonder if the Pharisees didn’t have a point. But Jesus hadn’t just cast out one or two demons; it was a regular part of his ministry. And he gave his disciples this power as well. How many times can you bend a piece of plastic back and forth before it snaps in two? Likewise how often could Satan afford to attack his own before they would snap?

Jesus wasn’t a double agent working for Satan. Instead he compared himself to a strongman who had come to bind Satan so that he could rescue those who had been held hostage by the prince of evil. The Apostle John saw that truth illustrated in our second lesson this morning (Revelation 20). There he witnessed an angel bind Satan for a thousand years. Jesus did that, not just by casting out demons, but by preaching the truth of God’s Word and pointing out man’s inability to save himself. He urges us all to put our faith in him. When we believe this truth, we are no longer held hostage to Satan’s lies.

Jesus’ little story about the strongman tying up the owner of a house so he can rob him of his possessions reveals again that he is not a madman. Only a madman would tie up the owner of a house and then sit down to eat and drink and flip through the channels on TV as if he was there to visit. No, if you’re robbing a place, you want to get in and get out as quickly as possible! Jesus always treated his ministry on earth with such focused intensity. Once Jesus told his disciples that night was coming when no more mission work could be done. Therefore it was imperative for them (and for us) to get to work and share God’s Word with those who don’t know it yet so they don’t end being eternally lost.

Because Jesus was intense about saving everyone – even those religious leaders who kept rejecting him, he issued a serious warning in our text. Jesus said that if the religious leaders continued to willfully reject his witness and all the miracles he had done, and if they continued to call his activities “satanic,” they would become guilty of the sin against the Holy Spirit for which there is no forgiveness. “But I thought all sins are forgivable, and in fact forgiven? What’s Jesus talking about here?”

Yes, Jesus died and paid for every sin. However we only receive the benefit of that forgiveness when we trust in Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to bring us to such faith. So if we keep rejecting him, we’ll never come to faith and never benefit from the forgiveness that Jesus won for us. Think of it like this. If a hiker carelessly strays off the trail and gets himself into a situation he can’t get himself out of, he should be glad when he sees the rescue party arrive to take him to safety. However, if he should rebuff their rescue attempts, there is nothing the rescuers can do but leave the stranded hiker to fend for himself, and of course, eventually die. The foolish hiker would perish, not so much because he strayed off the trail, but because he refused those who had come to rescue him. That’s also the nature of the sin against the Holy Spirit.

So here’s the application for us. Whenever we ignore God’s Word or even just treat it with a bored indifference, we’re telling the Holy Spirit to buzz off as if he’s a bothersome fly. But if he does that, we will lose our faith. And without faith in Jesus there is no salvation – only a fearful expectation of eternal wrath.

So far we’ve heard Jesus identified as a mad man and as a double agent. But how does Jesus identify himself? When word reached Jesus that his mother and brothers were looking for him, Jesus looked around and said: “Who are my mother and my brothers?...Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33-35). Jesus identified himself as family to all who do God’s will. God’s will is that we repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus for salvation. Jesus considers such people his own flesh and blood. Jesus literally said: “Whoever does God’s will [he/she] is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). In other words Jesus treats you as if you’re his mother or the only sibling in the world he has! It’s sadly ironic then when many insist that it’s better to offer prayers to Mary than to Jesus. The thinking is that Jesus wouldn’t turn down any of his mother’s requests so it would be better for us to ask Mary to pass along our requests to her son. But what does Jesus say? If you put your faith in him, you are a Mary to him! Go directly to Jesus yourself and share with him whatever is on your heart.

Of course this doesn’t mean that Jesus will give you whatever you ask for. Think of how Jesus treated Mary in Cana when shed indirectly asked Jesus to provide wine. Jesus flatly told her that his time had not yet come. Still, Jesus did do what was best for that wedding couple, and he did so in a way that was probably better than anything Mary had in mind. Therefore we too will go boldly to Jesus with our prayers but at the same time we’ll trust that he knows what is best and will give us what we need when we need it. After all, Jesus is family.

On my travels last week I saw one man approach another with hand outstretched say, “Hey, it’s been a long time. How are you?” The other man replied with a bemused smile on his face, “Sorry, do I know you?” Oops. It was a case of mistaken identity. The two laughed it off and went their separate ways.

There will be no laughing on Judgment Day, however, when many come up to Jesus and slap him on the back as if he’s been an old friend only to hear Jesus say: “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!” Is that what Jesus might say to us? That depends. Who do you say Jesus is? Do you think he’s a madman when he insists that you follow his Word and not just listen to it? Do you think he’s an agent of Satan as did the religious leaders of Jesus’ day? You would never dare say such a thing but do you treat coming to hear and study his Word as if it’s hell? Even if we have thought of Jesus in this terrible way he extends his hand of forgiveness to us. He assures us that he has paid for those sins. Jesus said in our text: “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter” (Mark 3:28). Believe it, for Jesus counts you as family. Amen.

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The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission. Sermon contributed by Pastor Daniel Habben on Jun 18, 2012.
Have you ever been mistaken for someone else - a movie star perhaps or some stranger’s long-lost cousin?

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