Trinity 2–10 June 2018 at Great Brickhill
Reading Genesis 3
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’
10 He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’
11 And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?’
12 The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’
The woman said, ‘The snake deceived me, and I ate.’
14 So the Lord God said to the snake, ‘Because you have done this,
‘Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.’
Reading 2 Corinthians
13 It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 5.1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Gospel Mark 3
Jesus accused by his family and by teachers of the law
20 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.’
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’
23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak 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 without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’
30 He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting round 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 round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’
Our journey—in the lectionary year B—takes us through the gospel of Mark. We have reached chapter 3, and in the beautiful weather of an English June we are suddenly confronted by a need to linger on the offence Jesus caused, and the reasons behind it.
The incident we are focusing on today has three competing groups of people:
1. The crowds who constantly swarm and press in on Jesus
2. His family, who are concerned about him
3. The Scribes—theological heavyweights come down from Jerusalem
At this stage—chapter 3—the crowds seem interested in what Jesus has to say and what he does. They want to hear and learn more. They express no worries and ask no questions—but are a constant presence that will in the end be manipulated by the Scribes among others and turned against him.
The second group is Jesus’s family. They have come to rescue him from the trouble and notoriety he has got himself in. His family think they are the ones who know him best. Their belief is that he is out of his depth, and that dangerous groups of people, such as the Scribes, and watching him and judging his impact on the crowds.
These people have the power to put an end to his teaching, or worse to put an end to his freedom and even his life. His family think he is “beside himself”—not in his right mind—the Greek is existemi [εξιστεμι]—the same word can also be translated as ‘insane.’
We the readers know he has been acting this way since his baptism by John the Baptist—his family members have therefore come to find him and take him away to a place of safety.
The last group is the Scribes. These are the experts in theology—come down from Jerusalem to investigate and make a judgement on what Jesus is doing. They recognise that a power is at work in him—but do not consider that God is performing a revival through him—instead they decide Jesus is an agent of evil—a servant of Satan.
In one sense, it was good that the Scribes took Jesus’s power seriously—and did not put his works down to magic, illusion or pronouncing him a charlatan. On the other hand, branding him a Satanic agent was deeply damaging.
Unlike the magicians in Egypt, who could replicate the ‘signs’ that Moses and Aaron performed—the Scribes could not match Jesus’s miracles, and so had to fall back on ascribing his power to a malevolent force.
Jesus in return accuses the Scribes on being blind to the possibility of truth—they blaspheme against the Holy Spirit—searching for every possible source of power except that of God’s renewal and forgiveness—healing, casting out demonic possession, freedom from guilt and sin, both to individuals and the people as a nation. Their minds are closed—they do not recognise the transformative power of God’s grace at work.
The response from Jesus is short and to the point. He does not address the accusation at length, but does point out the logical absurdity of saying that he is using Satanic power to act on itself. The powers of evil show no signs of loosing the bonds of oppression—the reign of Satan is dominant and ruthlessly unyielding. In reality, are the Scribes in thrall to the evil one themselves?
Jesus’s little parable is short and to the point. He likens himself to a burglar, who breaks into a house owned by a strong man who represents Satan. The possessions the strong man has plundered can only be taken from him by tying him up and neutralizing his power.
This rest of the gospel harks back to this little illustration. God in Jesus comes to displace the reign of Satan—to tie down and neutralize the kingdom of evil—a power that is not given up easily, but only by the transformative love of Jesus, so aptly illustrated by Episcopalian bishop Michael Curry at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle.
Jesus then turns back to the other protagonists—his family. He renounces their claim on him—family ties and love are not sufficient to divert him from his clear mission in the world.
So in this passage we have the start of the conspiracy against Jesus by various groups who eventually join together in a plot which leads to the cross. As we continue to read through Mark in year B of the lectionary, we can see how these attacks develop—how the conspiracies play out.
Jesus promises good news—but this is very different from comfortable news as his family found out. The reign or Kingdom of God that Jesus keeps talking about is not going to have a smooth ride—it is far from ‘business as usual.’ Amen
We pray for God to fill us with his Spirit. Generous God, we thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit. We ask that we may be strengthened to serve you better. Lord, come to bless us and fill us with your Spirit.
We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to make us wise to understand your will. Lord, come to bless us and fill us with your Spirit.
We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to keep us confident of your love wherever you call us. Lord, come to bless us and fill us with your Spirit.
We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness where there is division, sickness and sorrow. Lord, come to bless us and fill us with your Spirit.
We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to equip us for the work which you have given us. Lord, come to bless us and fill us with your Spirit.
We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to reveal in our lives the love of Jesus. Lord, come to bless us and fill us with your Spirit.
We thank you for the breath of your Holy Spirit, given us by the risen Lord. We ask you to keep the whole Church, living and departed, in the joy of eternal life. Lord, come to bless us and fill us with your Spirit.
Generous God, you sent your Holy Spirit upon your Messiah at the river Jordan, and upon the disciples in the upper room: in your mercy fill us with your Spirit, hear our prayer, and make us one in heart and mind to serve you with joy for ever. Amen.