A House Divided
Text: Mark 3:20-35
Proper 5, B
Maybe it's a husband and wife that no longer get along. Or a teen-aged child in open rebellion against her parents. Maybe it's the fear and mistrust between the masked and the unmasked, the vaccinated and the un-vaccinated or something as simple as that one topic everyone knows is forbidden at family gatherings. Whatever the case, we have all likely felt the tension of a house divided. Jesus certainly did.
20Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind." His own family sets out to restrain Jesus – like in a straitjacket. They come all the way from Nazareth. He is making them look bad. He is embarrassing himself and the family name! "He is out of His mind." "He has lost His senses." They want to protect Jesus from Himself lest He begin to believe the hype others are beginning to spread. In a word they are afraid He has become deluded!
How often do we find ourselves thinking the same way? Embarrassed by Jesus in front of our friends, having what He says or does disturb our well-crafted sensibilities. Having His words and teaching undermine our hard-won respect or authority or sense of self-worth? The religious leaders of Jerusalem certainly felt this way. This Jesus was dividing the house of Israel and at a time when they needed a unified front against the Romans! That is why they felt the need to similarly come down and restrain Him.
22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." These Scribes set out to restrain Jesus' growing popularity. They come all the way from Jerusalem. He is making them look bad too. He is drawing too much admiration from the people, and to much anger from those who are sure they know better!
So to show His madness they spread the story that He can cast out devils because He is working together with the devil. They can't deny the power (they just saw it at work in the synagogue curing souls and casting out demons) so they must impugn the motive. It is still a popular anti-Christian tactic to this day. Note that they make two claims: He has Beelzebul and by means of the rule of demons He casts out demons. With this two-pronged attack they are hoping to divide Jesus from those who might otherwise seek His help over theirs. So how does Jesus respond?
23And he called them to him and said ... "How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. Here we see with a beautiful touch how Jesus graciously invited the scribes to come and sit with Him. These men who said awful things about Him are not cast out but brought in to point out their illogical thinking, to remind them of what He had done, to preach the Gospel directly to them and to warn them of their great danger.
"How can Satan cast out Satan?" Jesus is about to show how absurd their story is. The doctors of the law were accusing Jesus of devil-possession. In actuality it is really they who are in league with satan for they're the ones spreading lies about Jesus. But their lies are not even logical. satan would never fight himself or his kingdom would be destroyed. If a household of people are divided among themselves, they will destroy themselves. We've all seen it at work in families, in congregations, and even in communities and countries. Notice that they do not and cannot answer Him. Simple logic makes all the motives at work here abundantly clear. But then Jesus shows His true motives again, when He continues with this good news for friend and foe alike.
27But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. This is where Jesus shows us just how good He really is! Jesus has bound satan and is plundering his goods already! That means you and me dear friends. And the demon possessed man in the synagogue, and the scribes attacking His character! He is taking back what the devil won by trickery and lies and temptation. He is reuniting the household of God once divided by sin and death. Just as promised in the very beginning in Genesis 3. Where sin cast us from the Garden of Eden and brought us into the house of death and the covenant of the devil. Where this sin kept us bound together with him against God … now in the long-promised seed of the woman that house of sin is divided and it is come to its end. The children of Adam and Eve are being rescued and the family of God's people is being brought home and restored.
And this can only come about as God's own house is torn apart. Father and Son at odds over the cross. Jesus removed from the love of the Father to pay for the sin that splits God and Man. Father and Son divided by sin so we might be reunited by His blood. The God-head divided by death so that we children of Adam and Eve might have eternal life restored in His glorious resurrection. It is a promise that changes lives completely, both for those who find comfort under it, and sadly, for those who flat out deny its truth.
28"Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-- 30for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit." The problem of the sin against the Holy Spirit is really a topic in need of its own sermon, but suffice it for now to say, that in essence, it is nothing more or less than a member of God's household not wanting to have anything to do with his or her family. Their place is set, the invitation in hand, the love well-known and understood, BUT for reasons that only make sense to themselves, be it fear or false piety or submission to a false authority, this grace is seen as an affront not to be tolerated. They will have no part of it. They would rather call evil what they know to be good. They would rather walk away in indignation than sit down and receive in love.
And the saddest part is that it is never God's desire that His family should be divided or lessened. The invitation remains, the place will never be filled by another. God's love cannot be taken back. Like the father of the prodigal son, He remains while there is even the slimmest of hope, waiting and watching and calling for His ever growing family to come and sit with him. Remember this as you hear the final section of this story of the house divided.
31And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." 33And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."
Jesus is not belittling human relationships. Nor is He dismissing His own flesh and blood. He is not so deluded or demon-possessed as all that, no matter what motives others might want to paint him with. What Jesus is showing here is, however, that there is a bond which is more important than blood-relations – blood-bought relationships. He will not be restrained from gathering His full family back to himself. Even if He foolishly chooses to gather people like you and me. Family may be measured in genes, but it is treasured in love. Members of a family practice love. And love heals divisions, leading to closeness.
That is the picture which Jesus is drawing. In every interaction, every word, every miracle that binds and robs the great deceiver and destroyer. With His own blood He will show the value of family in God's eyes. His family. We family. Gathered in His home, at His call, to receive His gifts and blessings, let us rejoice that not even sin, death or the devil can truly divide this house. For this family is united in Christ to eternity!