Like the Movies
What a difficult text. Because of when it comes up in the Church Year in relation to Confirmation, Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday, I haven't preached on this in 24 years. I don't miss it. There is so much going on, and it's all connected. But how? Then it hit me. It's like the movies. The operative word being like.
"The Perfect Storm" is a 2000 movie about a combination of events that produced the perfect storm on the northeast coast in 1991. Our text is the imperfect storm. It begins with three verbs in the imperfect tense which means to be in the process of doing something. The text opens with Jesus' family, the teachers of the law, and Jesus Himself speaking in the imperfect tense. It's a storm of imperfects. His family was saying, "He is out of His mind." The delegation from Jerusalem was repeatedly saying, "He is possessed by Satan." And Jesus was continually saying parables to them.
Picture this imperfect storm. There is a cacophony of voices; there is chaos and confusion. Jesus' family saying He was out of His mind was overrunning the church leaders' saying He was possessed and in the midst of this Jesus was speaking parables to them. That's not quite true. Before Jesus started speaking He called His enemies to His side, those accusing Him of being devil possessed, so He could speak to them directly.
Do you call your enemies to your side? Do you go the extra mile to reach them? I don't; Jesus does. He continually speaks parables, heavenly stories with earthly meanings, to prime the pump, to reach those He could from a way they wouldn't be expecting. If someone says, "You're possessed by the Devil," I respond, "O no I'm not" in a loud voice. I don't call them aside. Jesus did.
This text is just like the movies. Not "The Perfect Storm" but an imperfect one, and it's like the movie "Stand by Me." That's a 1986 movie. It's not based on the 1961 song but a 1982 book. The title, however, is taken from the song not the book. Our text is like themovie Stand by Me. It's stand by Him.
The word stand, both in the Greek and English, stands out in the parables Jesus was speaking to them. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Satan opposed to Satan cannot stand. This is where our text gets tricky and why the Holy Spirit says Jesus is speaking in parables.
Whose house has been shown to be divided against itself in our text? Jesus'. It's His family that was repeatedly saying things such as, "He is out of His mind;" "He is out of His mind you know;" "surely you can see that He's out of His mind." It Jesus' family that the insert translates, "went to take charge of Him." That is more forcefully translated "take into custody, arrest, apprehend, seize." The extended family even brings in the big guns. Jesus' mother and brothers to do the deed.
Yes, Jesus' house is divided against itself right now, but it still stands. Our text is preceded by Jesus choosing 12 apostles and commissioning them to preach His kingdom and to cast out demons. Jesus has just gotten a 12 fold increase in force against the kingdom of Satan. His family may be against Him or not understand Him, but He has another family, another house, that is on the same page as He is with the power of His Word and His power to cast out demons.
Though it appears Jesus' house is divided, though it appears the family repeatedly saying He was out of His mind has emboldened the church leaders to say He was possessed by a demon, nevertheless stand by Him. Why? Because His house is still standing while Satan's is falling down around him. That is another parable remember almost all parables have an unexpected, usually over the top, twist to them. Jesus in effect says that even though Satan's house isn't divided against itself "his end is come." Jesus doesn't say that in the past tense as the insert has it "his end has come" but in the present, right here and now, tense. And Jesus introduces the phrase with a "but" to show the sense I did. "Satan's house isn't divided, but his end is come."
The insert begins the next sentence with Jesus saying, "In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house, etc." Their "in fact" is a clumsy way to translate another "but" which links this sentence to the last. Satan's house isn't divided against itself but his end is come, but his house is plundered. And then what a parable Jesus starts telling. One stronger than the Devil himself enters the very lair of the Devil, ties him up, and carries off his possessions. Jesus shows He's the one doing this by releasing people from the devils that held them captive.
But this is a parable. This tying up and carrying away in a mighty fashion isn't how Jesus rescued anyone. O yes with raw power He cast out devils against their will howling as they went. But He won't rob Satan's house by might, will He? Nope, after living such a perfect life not even all the devils in all the world could find one thing wrong; after never, ever doing what you and I always do fear everything more than God, using the name of God as an exclamation point rather than a prayer, hearing God's Word only when it's convenient after never doing any of that, Jesus was handed over to Satan and the powers of darkness.
Run Jesus; escape Jesus. Don't take that beating; don't take that whipping; don't put up with that spitting and name calling. Why if You just save Yourself everyone will believe in You. If You just come down from that ugly cross everyone will know You're God. But the way Jesus ties up Satan is by taking God's Law out of his hands. Satan can't accuse you of breaking a Law of God if Jesus kept it in your place. Satan can't demand you pay with your body and soul for sins that Jesus already paid in full for. By Jesus perfect life and His bloody, damned death, Jesus tied up Satan. So you're the one who is to run; run from Satan's house out into the fresh, free air of God's kingdom.
What? You're not running. I told you; this text is just like the movies. It's the imperfect storm and it's stand by Him, Jesus. Ah, one more movie is needed. Not "Gone with the Wind" but arrived by the Spirit. Do you see how quickly Jesus goes from talking about the strong man being tied up and robbed to talking about the Holy Spirit? Think that's a non sequitur? When God appears to say something that doesn't follow what He has said before, it's because we haven't really gotten what He said before. You know that getting no dessert isn't a non sequitur to not finishing your beans, but you're child thinks it is.
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit brings the full, free forgiveness of not just all your sins but all your blasphemies. You blaspheme when you are confronted with a tragedy and say God isn't fair or loving. You blaspheme when you think of Holy Communion as ordinary bread and wine. You blaspheme when you don't hold God's Word and preaching sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Jesus by His holy life and guilty death paid for the full and free forgiveness the Holy Spirit brings you, and that full and free forgiveness carries off Satan's possessions which are guilty sinners.
As you're running away from Satan's house based on the forgiveness that has arrived by the Spirit, you can trip real quick on the ominous words "never be forgiven" and "guilty of an eternal sin." First, the unforgivable sin is not blasphemy against the Person of the Holy Spirit as opposed to the Father or the Son. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity that none is behind or before the Other makes blaspheme against any of the 3 Persons of the Trinity the same sin. The sin Jesus speaks of is recognizing the operation of the Holy Spirit and calling it evil. It's calling the forgiveness of your countless sins that arrives by the Spirit evil.
Jesus goes from speaking a parable about Him rescuing sinners from the House of Satan to speaking of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit takes what is Jesus and applies it to sinners. You're salvation is not gone with the winds of sin, gales of death, or storms of the devil. The Holy Spirit releases a flood of forgiveness in the waters of Baptism; the Holy Spirit through the Words of Absolution provides a windbreak from the gales of death. And by the Body and Blood of Jesus in Communion the Holy Spirit rescues from the Devil's storms.
The forgiveness, the life, the salvation paid for by Jesus arrives by the Spirit as sure as baptismal water has touched your body, as sure as Absolution has vibrated your eardrums, as you're as you have tasted Jesus Body as Bread and His Blood as wine. The Spirit is here for you in these things. The Spirit will defend you, protect you, deliver you in these things. Waste no more time in wondering how this can be. Instead delight that it is.
Take a lesson from those safe and secure from the storms of life because they are seated by Jesus. See how Jesus' mother and brothers are contrasted with those seated around Him? The seated ones are in a totally passive position but they are doing the will of God says Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus mother and brothers are said to be "standing outside," and they have come not to get something from Jesus but to do something for Him, rescue Him from Himself. The crowd at Jesus' feet is doing nothing for Jesus but through the Word they are receiving His good gifts and Spirit.
It's like the movies. How many times are things different than what they first appear to be in a movie? Jesus appears to be losing it all as family says He's out of His mind and foes say He's demon possessed. But it's Satan's house that is really falling and Jesus has come to tie him up and pull you and me out before we're caught in the collapse. He does this by means of His Spirit operating in things that are weak and easily overlooked. The Spirit brings us not just out of Satan's collapsing house but into Jesus' house even into His very family. That's not like the movies. That's better. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Third Sunday after Pentecost (20150614); Mark 3: 20-35