Sermon: Second Sunday after Pentecost (6/7/2015)

GRACE, MERCY AND PEACE are YOURS this day from GOD our Father through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

The text for our consideration is the Gospel according to St. Mark read just a few moments ago, In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.

HE IS OUT OF HIS MIND! Just who does He think He is?! He can’t be thinking straight. It must be all those people following him. They’ve built up this mythology – made Him bigger than life.

Ok, sure, some strange things happen when He’s around – healings, exorcisms, and the like. Certainly there’s something odd about him. But he wasn’t able to do any of those things in His home town. He wasn’t able to heal many when He came home to visit Nazareth. No wonder Mary and Jesus’ brothers come to take him away.

On the other hand – you would think that, of all people, Mary would remember the whole Angel, virgin-birth thing. Why does she seem to have forgotten the whole shepherd and wisemen thing that she treasured up and pondered in her heart. Why doesn’t she remember why she and Joseph named Him Jesus – a name meaning “YHWH SAVES”? And the words of the Angel, “HE will save His people from their sins.” Surely she must remember!

But those thoughts seem hidden from her mind – banished for now behind some 30 years of regular life in the world as it is… 30 years of raising Jesus as just another of her children.

Even the miracles weren’t able to jog her memory and convince her. Sure, he laid his hands on a few sick people and he healed them. But these weren’t enough to awaken the memory of the amazing things happened at his birth.

So, are WE really supposed to believe that this man – separated by nearly 2,000 years of this world continuing as it has with no visible signs – no outward wonders that this Jesus is anything special or unusual somehow fulfills God’s Word? Are we really supposed to believe, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon [him?]” That YHWH has annointed HIM to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, free the oppressed? I mean – really – why should we believe Him when He says the year of the Lord’s favor has come? Have you seen the world? Sickness, disaster, wars, violence, hatred . . . I know – I know – when He walked this earth, he raised a few people from the dead – he’s cure a few people of their diseases – but certainly he’s not alone in that. In our day we have CPR and we have antibiotics – maybe he was just well versed in the methods of his day.

I mean – when His own family thought He was nuts – those who knew him and grew up with Him, are we really to be blamed for being a bit skeptical? Why must WE to believe He has come as our Savior?

No reasonable person – especially those who REALLY know Him – can believe what is claimed about Him. We need evidence – we need facts. PROVE TO US WHO YOU ARE, Jesus!

Of course – there may be another explanation. Especially when you consider the way He opposes the religious leaders of His day. God put these men – the elders and chief priests and other leaders into their offices. God gave THEM the responsibility of teaching The Law and explaining the Prophets. And THEY say it is unlawful to heal on the Sabbath – and to associate with sinners and be tainted by tax collectors. They look down on Jesus – surely these authorities of God’s Word must know God’s will.

And yet, Jesus doesn’t even hide the fact that He disagrees with them. He heals people right in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He stands up to those who sit on Moses’ seat – quoting the Scriptures back and winning every debate. Jesus recognizes their authority. But He confronts the God Given leaders of His day – and shows that they misunderstand and misinterpret Moses and the Prophets. He tells the people to listen to these men when they teach God’s Word, but not to follow their example – never mind the fact that it was because they lived contrary to the Word they taught.

Doesn’t his opposition to the rulers and leaders given by God – in itself – prove that He can’t be from God? Doesn’t it mean there must be some other explanation for the miracles and wonders He works?

After all, He stands in opposition to so much of the order of things in this world. Therefore – since He opposes the way the world works — He must stand in opposition to the god of this world.

So, if you’re given to think about spiritual matters – it’s a small leap of logic to think Jesus must at least be in league with the prince of demons – Bi’el-zebul – or even fully possessed and controlled by the enemy of God.

Now – all of this would make perfect sense – all of this would be good, sound, logical reasoning – except for what’s recounted for us in our Old Testament lesson. If the religious leaders of Jesus day had only known and understood the Scriptures – as was their God given duty – they may have been spared their foolishness. Likewise, if Jesus’ family knew and understood at the time of our text what they later came to know and believe after His resurrection from the dead – they may have been spared confusion and embarassment of coming to Jesus house in Galilee with a straight-jacket to take Him away.

And all of them SHOULD have known! Because Moses and the prophets had long foretold it. All of it is contained right there – in the 3rd chapter of Genesis. In those verses, God clearly reveals that the world has been turned upside down – that the prince of the power of the air who rules this world – the one who guides and governs so much of the affairs of men is not the Almighty God and creator of the universe – and, of course, “the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.”

The world was turned upside down when Adam rejected the Word of God and listened to the sweet enticing words of of the serpent spoken through Eve. Now, all that seems good and right and proper according to human logic and the reasoning of the world is captive to the corrupting influence of the father of lies.

In our text, he’s called Beelzebul – the ancient world called Him Baal-Ziblu-Artsi – The Lord and prince of the earth. And beginning that fateful day in the Garden of Eden – a real place – with a real Adam and Eve – He has held sway over human reason and logic – even over the political order and institutions and governing authorities and society and culture.

That is why the world is and remains so topsy-turvy. It’s why humanity succumbs to every irrational perversion of God’s created order.

Oh, indeed, God is the creator of all things and he created them “very good” – but the poisonous venom of the father of lies who rejected his place and corrupted himself now infects every aspect of human endeavors – so that what is right seems wrong and what is wrong seems right.

One stronger than Adam came along and subdued him and the evil foe became Baal-Ziblu-Artsi – The lord prince of the earth.

The means of his victory was to disarm Adam of the only weapon He had – He stole from Him the word of God by sewing the seeds of doubt and confusion in the mind of Eve. Using even that primitive culture – with only two people, Adam became bound up by his love for his wife and his love for the things of this world and became willingly subservient. And in this way, the devil carried off the precious goods that God had placed here and we became bound under His dominion and control.

So in our day, we ought not be surprised when the Political institutions that God has established as an extension of the family to provide safety, stability and security in society are corrupt. Those that walk their halls are Adam’s seed – born in his fallen, corrupted image and unless they are born again from above, they are devoid of fear, love and trust in God.

The institutions they oversee should be institutions that protect and defend the lives of the most vulnerable. But the perverse logic of a fallen corrupted world holds sway over the thinking. It has already convinced many that there is not only a right to murder in the name of personal autonomy and self-fulfillment and now prominent philosophers and respected thinkers in our age are declaring that those who are vulnerable and would require greater resources to care for have an OBLIGATION TO DIE and not burden the rest of us with their care.
just as we ought not be surprised by the chaos in the institutions of this world, we ought not be surprised when we see individuals rebel against the God who knit them together in their mother’s womb – the God who in the beginning created them male and female; who decreed that a man shall leave his father an mother and cling to His woman and the two shall become one flesh.

We ought not recoil in horror when we see the world promote and honor as heroes those who seek to live opposite of the way our loving creator designed them to live – going so far as to reject how God had knit them together in their mothers womb and express their own idea of who they are.

For we will never understand the chaos of this world until we clearly understand and realize – Adam sold all humanity under slavery to perversion and lust and every rebellious act. And as much as we try to deny it, as slaves to sin, apart from God’s work of rescue and salvation, we human beings are not strong or capable on our own to overcome this slavery.

We need the work of someone outside to crush the head of the serpent that holds us under bondage to someone to overcome the power of sin for us. We need Jesus to release us from the hold of Beelzebul in this mad-mad-mad-mad-world. And we need the work of the Holy Spirit to guide us and guard us and lead us through this life.

For Jesus is a man stronger than the the one who bound Adam under sin. Born of a virgin – He is the seed of the woman who entered into our world to crush the rule and authority and power of that crafty serpent – to overcome the one who made Himself the Lord and Prince of the earth.

And though His heal was bruised as He suffered death and torment and was placed into the tomb, He didn’t remain there. He has risen from the dead and lives and reigns over all things – and has poured out His Spirit through His Word and Sacraments so that we know and believe in all He has done for us.

If he were merely a crazy zealot – confused and drawn up in the messianic fervor of His day we would have no reason to hope. If His followers merely made up stories about Him faith in Jesus would have died in the 1st generation as those that knew the truth – especially the 12 – as well as many of his half-brothers would have renounced the faith rather than be brutally murdered for their proclamation of the Good News that Jesus, who died and was buried, rose victorious over death and the grave – and that there is salvation in Him.

BUT – His perfect life – His sacrificial death – His resurrection and ascension testify that this Jesus is the real deal. The later testimony of the 12 and even Jesus’ own family – like James – the head of the church at Jerusalem – and Jude – who wrote one of the New Testament Epistles – men who themselves once thought Jesus to be crazy, came to believe and trust in Him.

The words of those who are out of their mind seldom come true – and those who oppose God and do works of evil do not rise from the dead. Christ Jesus declared numerous times what was foretold about Him through the Scriptures – He will be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and on the third day He will rise again from the dead. And this He did. And He continues to live and reign over all things, binding up the strong man of this world under chains until that day when He shall return in glory to judge both the living and the dead.

And upon us through His Word and His Sacraments, He pours out His Holy Spirit – that Spirit with which He was anointed – All who have this Spirit are made to be his family – His brothers – His sisters. This is why it is impossible that those who reject the work of the Holy Spirit – who refuse to allow Him to work and call Him evil – cannot be forgiven. For it is only the Spirit who convinces us who Jesus is and that forgiveness is in Him. If we reject this Spirit – we will never know or trust in Christ.

But that is how the world likes it. So, as the world did to Jesus – even as His own family did to Him – it tries to convince itself that those who follow Jesus are themselves crazy – out of their mind and are deceived. In its hatred of what is good, and righteous and holy about Jesus, the world will also hate us – call us bigots – call us haters – claim that we are the devil incarnate – and will reject the work of the Spirit who has given us life and hope in Jesus.

But we need not fear the world. We need not fear their words or their works. Let them bring their worst. Let them call us names – let them threaten us – let them resist as they will.

And let us pray and receive God’s Word – so that by the power of the Holy Spirit – not our own strength or our own power – we would do the works and will of God as we turn to them in love – praying with our brother Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

For just as we were before our Lord rescued us – they are deluded, they are confused – they are confounded. The strength of sin and the delusions of the enemy are great – it caused Mary to, for a time, forget the Angel who visited her and all that happened at the miraculous birth of Jesus– to forget the shepherds and the wise men and even to have hidden from her mind the meaning and reason she and Joseph called her son Jesus. The enemy was able to keep the religious leaders of Jesus day in darkness – hiding from them the truth and the meaning of the words they knew so well. If these people – with all the grace and mercy shown through angelic messengers and a thorough knowledge of God’s word could not overcome sin the devil’s delusion – we and the people of our day have no hope apart from the work of God in our lives.

Along with us – those who remain under sins delusion need the strong medicine of God’s Word that carries with it His Spirit. Only He is able to convince us of our sin and Only He can bring us to repentance. Those who are lost and deluded need to hear the Good News that points them to their savior, Just as we constantly need to hear that Good News point us to Him.

We need to constantly be reminded that the one whose heal was bruised as He was raised up on the cross to crush the head of the serpent –> the one who rested on the seventh day and rose again from the dead on the first day of the week. The one who sent His Apostles to proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come – and comes to us through the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins won by Him.

This man, declared by His family as out of His mind – declared by the leaders of His day as possessed by Beelzabul – proved to be neither. Instead, He proved to be the only help and only hope for sinful man – Only He provides release from our captivity to sin and our bondage to evil. And may He do for all what we trust and believe He has accomplished for us.

In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.

AND – May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and keep your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.

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