and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 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. “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Wow is there a lot is these 15 verses. There are a number of directions where I could go this morning. We have had 2 high profile suicides this week with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. So we could talk about mental illness, depression. Why you might ask. Well because Jesus’ family h think that he has gone mad! Gone crazy. We could talk about families and the rejection of our faith by family members and how to deal with that. We could talk about what Jesus calls the unforgivable sin.We could talk about Jesus as an exorcist. We are going to continue to talk about Jesus as Rabbi. or we talk about Jesus as Rabbi in light of these things.
Not gonna lie to you, I have struggled with this sermon. Its is a tough text, especially where it appears that Jesus has totally rejected his family. and his teaching on an unforgivable sin, I always though all sins could be forgiven as long as we repent with a contrite heart and ask forgiveness.
So let’s do this let’s start by putting all this in a cultural and historical context, then we will search for meaning, then we will make an appropriation of this scripture in a way that can transform us if we allow it to do so.
Historical & Cultural Context
Historical & Cultural Context
Jesus is attracting some large crowds. So large in fact it prevents them from being able to eat! Jesus is attraction these crowds for a couple of reasons. First he performs some amazing miracles. He heals the sick, the lame walk, the bind see and demons are cast out. So a number of folks are following him because they just want to see what amazing thing he is goin to do next. For us this is reality TV to the nth degree! Man what kind of rating would Jesus get today?
Secondly, there was a large group of folks hoping to receive healing from him.
Third, there was a group that was following him because they wanted him as Rabbi. They wanted to learn from him. He taught like no other Rabbi and he was really taking to the religious leaders of the day. his move ment was a populist movement a movement of the common and rejected people of the culture.
Finally the last group were the religious leaders. We saw last week that they are really out to get him, to kill him even because he threatened their world.
There is a rabbinical writing called the Talmud. there are 2 of them the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud is considered more important than the Rabbis. The Talmud is commentary on the Mishnah we discussed last week. the Talmud is commentary on the oral law and other matters by the rabbis. What is interesting is how Jesus differs form these writings, although there are a lot of similarities too, the difference carry more weight in understanding Jesus’ relationship with his culture. The Talmuds were put into their current form between 400 and 600AD. bear with me I am telling you all this for a reason.
Jesus is mentioned in the in the Talmud. Let me take a second to tell you about that, because not only it is interesting, its important. The Catholic Church early in its formation, tried to wipe out both Talmuds. This was entirely anti semitic, and the were almost successful. Finally in the 15th century an Italian printer approached the Pope with printing copies of the Talmud's because they were in demand. The Pope provided him with a copy with all the references to Jesus having been removed! This was because the references to Jesus were bad. Hundreds of years later scholars discovered some un edited copies with the references to Jesus and his followers. one of these references, listen closely, said that jesus was executed, not for blasphemy as mark tells us nut for sorcery, or practicing black magic! Sorcery was punishable by death in the law. And this brings us to the text:
We are going to skip over the part where his family accuses him of goin mad, so much so they want to restrain him. We’ll get back to that. But its the scribes who have been sent to watch him that accuse him of black magic, of sorcery. That is he’s is demon possessed so he can cast out demons! This is a serious charge, a charge that carries the death penalty. The day is not going well for Jesus, his family thinks he is crazy, and he is being accused of sorcery and practicing black magic!
Although we have stories of other Rabbi’s healing and performing miracles, none about Rabbis casting out demons. there were other people that performed exorcisms and they did use chants and spells to do this. That is what Jesus is being accused of. of course we know he cast them out by simply speaking to the demon and basically telling them to get out. This is very different for the culture. This isn’t a shaman, or sorcerer doing this. this is a Jewish rabbi who seems to have authority over them!
Jesus quickly put them in their place with their accusation. Now, I need to point out that the scribes were outside the house making this accusation (just as Jesus family was) so these means the majority of the crowd, especially those in the house were on Jesus side.
In verse 23 it says jesus called the scribes in and put them in their place by using parables. (We’ll talk more about parables later in the series. Parable were not unique to Jesus it was a common method used by rabbis to teach.)
Jesus tells them a divided house cannot stand, so if Satan has risen up against himself, Satan’s end is near. The he tells this one:
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.
The church Fathers I think understand this one best. They saw Jesus as the one binding the strong man, who was Satan. And now Jesus has plundered his house! In other word’s Satan is finished. But, this is followed by those strong words of Jesus.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
There may be some of you this morning that are worried that you might have commited this sin. You haven’t, because in context what this is really about is calling the Holy Spirit evil. This is what the scribes are doing. They are blind to the Spirits work in casting out the demons, they say Jesus is casting out demons with a demon thereby calling the HJS a demon! Chance are that you have never intentionally called a evil good. Jesus in no way suggests that blasphemy makes repentance impossible. He is giving a very dire warning to the scribes! I like what St. Augustine said about this passage: It is not that this was a blasphemy which under no circumstances could be forgiven, for even this shall be forgiven if right repentance follows it.
Ok, let’s go on to the next hard saying of Jesus in this section. We already now that in verse 21 his family thinks he has “gone out of his mind” and that they went out to restrain him! It says they were standing out side and then sent one of them inside to call him. before we get to Jesus response, let’s take a second to understand what his family was doing.
In a way this was an intervention. Jesus was bringing shame on his family. In an honor shame culture, you never wanted to get above your raising. In the Hellenistic world it was the fates that put you where you were in life. Unfortunately this philosophy was present in the Jewish community as well! Jesus was an un educated craftsman. Rabbis were educated men from the upper class. They were Pharisees or sadducees, they cam from religiously and politically powerful families. Culture did not allow Jesus to challenge them! This “haughtiness” of Jesus getting above his raising brought them shame. He must have been crazy to leave his craft and family to embarrass them so. So it wasn't that his family were evil in what they were doing, like the scribes. They thought they were doing what was best for the family and for him, before he got into real trouble!
But like the scribes, Jesus puts them in their place as well. he says the disciples that do God’s will are his family! Notice that he include women in what he says, sisters. This statement would have been shocking culturally for many reasons, but including women! Women didn’t follow rabbis! This is a sermon for another day.
Now we do know that Jesus did not reject his family. he is making a teaching point. he honored his mother, in fact in the Gospel of John he asks the beloved disciple to take care of his mother. We have two letters in the New testament from his brother James and Jude, so we now he did not reject his family.
I hope I have answered those two difficult question about the sin against the Holy Spirit and what jesus says about his family. Where I am going this morning is transformation. Are we the family and scribes or are we the ones that do the will of God. Do we really believe Jesus is who he says and demonstrates he is or is a curiosity that we would really like to be like, but we say its impossible. Is jesus an embarrassment to us, like he was to his family or is he really the Son of God?
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
He was more than a Rabbi, he is our savior. Are you just trying to do the things he says, or is Jesus in your heart changing the way you think and live, transforming you into holiness?
I don;t know about you, I can’t do what he says on my own. I have to have that great resurrection power in my life. As a disciple I have to go to the cross with him, for he bid a person to come and die.
I died to Jesus in that bunk and my life has never been the same. Are you dead or alive?