Mark 3: 20-30
With the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost still in mind, we’re hearing about the work of Jesus in the Holy Spirit and how it was misconstrued on one occasion as the work of Satan.
The story is going around that up in the Stanford Research Laboratories they have made an important change in procedure recently. Instead of using rats in their experiments they are now using attorneys. When asked why this change was initiated, the head of the lab said, “Well, there are two reasons: there are more of them available, and besides, we find that the students don’t get so emotionally attached to attorneys.” I’m not making a correlation between the work of Satan and the work of attorneys, but rather a connection between the illustration and the days of Jesus. There was evidently a high messianic expectation in Jesus’s day. Many came after John the Baptist because they thought he could have been the Messiah. A lot of false messiahs, a lot of expectations. Secondly, the duties of the scribes from Jerusalem included exposing the fraudulent messiahs and discrediting them publicly and breaking any emotional bonds the community might have with them.
The scribes who came down from home office, from Jerusalem, were so certain that whatever good Jesus did, he did through the power of Satan. He couldn’t possibly be doing the work of Yahweh, the work of God. They were so prejudiced against him that they couldn’t imagine Jesus doing anything God would approve of. Why would they think that? They believed they knew what God would approve of and what God wouldn’t.
I pastored a church where my leadership style had so disturbed a fraction of the congregation, they wanted me to leave in order to save the church. If I stayed, they believed the church would close. My opinion was that if they so wanted to save their church I’d just assume leave. I stood by the verse from Matthew 10 – “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. (10:14)” I did not wish harm for that church, and I did not want this to be about me and what I preached and what direction I wanted the church to go. Anyone looking from the outside in might say, “If you were preaching the gospel, what was the problem?” If someone were looking at the work of Jesus in the gospel of Mark, they might ask what the problem was the scribes had with him. Some religious folks do not want the gospel fully proclaimed in word and deed to everyone.
After this encounter with the scribes from Jerusalem, Jesus’s mother and brothers came to where he was. A crowd sat around him. He heard his kinfolk were asking for him. Jesus responded, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. (3:34-35)” He may not answer all your questions and ease all your concerns. My question then is why? Why is the answer he gives and the condition he leaves us not sufficient for us? He just wants us to be in relationship with him.
So much of this story is about relationships. The scribes believed Jesus was in relationship with Beelzebul because that was how he could cast out demons. His mother and brothers wanted him to leave the people surrounding him and come see them. Jesus’s relationship, however, was with the Holy Spirit because that was the spirit he carried and the means by which he cast out the demons, and he valued his relationship with those who did the will of God more than his relationship even with family.
Perhaps all of this leads us to the simple place of asking ourselves, “Are we doing the will of God?” The scribes of Jesus’s day were certain they were. The church I pastored years ago believed they were. Maybe even Mary and her sons believed they were. Jesus wanted a simple relationship with those who surrounded him, and, for him, they were doing the will of God. As we share in communion this morning, we’re doing the simple will of God by willingly coming forward to be in the presence of our Lord, simply affirming our belief in him, and receiving his grace and mercy. Thanks be to God.
Preached at Lincoln AL in Lincoln, AL, June 6, 2021