Divided and Reunited

Proper 5B

It is often said and thought that family is what best ties together and remains strong together. While for many families this is true, what we see something different in the Gospel of Mark and that which is true for many of our families. They are fine living with each other, there is even great care and concern for each other. But in the midst of Jesus’ first miracles and calling disciples, great crowds were gathering family doesn’t quite see eye to eye.

Jesus wasn’t this well-known figure or name, yet. Other than the little event at the temple when He was 12, where we see He is wise and yet submits and honors His parents, He was merely a son of a carpenter. So for this family, they just wanted their quiet little lives in the village. They thought Jesus now was about off His rocker, not the scribes from Jerusalem but His own family and household. It’s one thing for outsiders to not understand you or criticize you, but to hear from your own family adds an entirely different dimension.

But how would you react? Just previous to this reading Jesus goes about healing lepers, those with deformations in their hands, and casting our demons. People are falling at His feet and proclaiming Him to be the Son of God and then appointed 12 guys to be His disciples. Because quite honestly, those are not typical things that happen even amongst people of great strength and ability. The crowds were great, their quiet lives no longer quiet, so much so they didn’t even have time to eat; and now, the legal team of scribes had come to confront Him.

There are reports in Jewish writings that state the reason for Jesus’ death was because He practiced sorcery and lead the people of Israel away from the Lord. Even one of the early church fathers, Justin Martyr who died in the year 165, notes that Jewish scribes record Jesus as a magician and sorcerer. That’s what was being said. There was fear that Jesus was summoning demons and going to cause more of a stir than a little game of Bloody Mary or Charlie-Charlie video and starting an occult. Quite honestly, Jesus’ family probably thought they were saving Him.

But Jesus does not go in with them and stop preaching. His miracles, His preaching, were not from the devil. It would make no sense. The one who is here to cast out Satan, the one driving demons out, not enhancing the devil’s power and authority, is not from Satan. There was a real healthy perspective of Satan’s power, one which is often lost today. C.S. Lewis noted that the more one is under the devil’s power the less they are aware of it. It has been quipped that the devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he does not exist. Satan cannot and will not cast himself out. He will only seek to destroy, but his time has an end.

Perhaps you have heard the illustration of the ship’s captain seeing a faint light in the dark night at a distance.  He ordered the message sent – “Alter your course 10 degrees south.”  A message quickly returned – “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”  A second message was sent – alter your course 10 degrees south – I am the captain!”  The reply came quickly – “Alter your course 10 degrees north” – I am seaman third class Jones.”  The ship’s captain immediately sent a third message – fully intending to invoke fear and submission – “Alter your course 10 degrees south – I am a battleship.”  The final reply abruptly settled the matter – “Alter your course 10 degrees north – I am a lighthouse.”

Like the captain of this ship – Satan would alter the direction of your life in Christ.  He uses many voices in the world to direct you to change course – sweet voices – strong, socially respected voices – even a voice on the inside. He will seek to make you even think that the good and gracious gifts of God are evil. The voice Satan uses would make us sure and certain of our own reason and strength which jump around like a boat on waves, convince us of our own perspective as right, and ignore the solid rock and light that is God in His Word.

It’s what He has been doing from the beginning. God says, don’t eat this or you will die. Satan says, no you won’t. What God calls very good and unites, Satan intrudes and divides. He divides us and tries to have go against God in His Word, to doubt God’s Word as true, to think that what God says and gives is not really for our good. Even still today, when we hear the Gospel Satan would divide our hearts by telling us we are unforgivable. He pushes us to think that God’s Word is restricting and bigoted rather than freeing and foundational for life. Even looking at the Lord’s death on the cross, Satan would have us think is evil and terrifying.

For no one can go a strong man’s house and plunder his goods. He must first be bound up. Satan is indeed strong, he has great power. That’s why we are to flee from Satanic arts, for even when the videos and games seem harmless they invite the demons to enjoy their presence with you. Truly, as Luther says, the devil is closer to Christian than your shirt is to you. He seeks you to destroy you, to divide you against God. So we pray, Our Father, deliver us from the evil one, that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not lead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. We need deliverance. Satan must be bound for our freedom, for our life. The devil would divide us and hold us captive against God.

Though Satan would seek divide God’s kingdom, God provided the promise of the Savior, to keep the kingdom together, to keep us with Him. He who is mightier binds up the strong one to take what is rightfully His. For we are not created to be under sin and death, but united to God in Christ. Jesus comes not working alongside Satan as the scribes claim, but driving him out, binding him up, to take what is God’s with Him, to claim you as His own. God’s kingdom not divided but united by Christ who comes to restore us to our Father in heaven. Jesus is the strong man who binds Satan in order to set us free. Jesus now plunders Satan’s stronghold in order to carry off those who were His in the first place, you whom He created and redeemed.

We are not left for dead and divided from God, but you are promised and given life. As we are tempted to divide against God, to self-justify our sinful action, we are not divided but forgiven, brought back to Him and all sin is forgiven by the death and resurrection of Christ. No longer do you have need to hide in shame from God. Christ Himself even tells you so today, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and all the blasphemies they utter…”

Then we hear about the one, “but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” The point not so much to fear this sin but proclamation of what the unforgivable sin in fact is. Not that we are okay with all other sins, but that they are forgiven. This sin not forgiven because it rejects the forgiveness it offers. To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit would be to remain in persistent unbelief of that which the Holy Spirit brings. We’ve heard it over and over again, the work of the Spirit is to call you by the Gospel, enlighten you with His gifts, sanctify and keep you in true faith in this Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One, from the seed of the woman who suffered and died for you, forgives your sins, and risen from the grave gives you life! Reject this and you reject the forgiveness He brings and the life He offers.

This is no fairy tale or cleverly devised story nor is it some kind of game. Your sin leaves you in hiding, separated from your Lord. Sin divides the house. Jesus has sought you out, He has come to you by taking on your flesh. You still hear His voice in the Word made flesh. You are forgiven. He is here and gives Himself to you. Our Lord binds up and plunders and brings you to Himself, united in the Father’s kingdom.

That even as the world and sometimes our families would scoff and mock, we know that we are family in Christ. That even as others mock and laugh that you would come to receive His Word and feast on His gifts, you can come not divided but united. In the lingo of the battleship and the light house – when Satan seeks to invoke fear and alter your course in Christ with his temptations and accusations, you may not respond “I am a lighthouse.”  You are not so solid and sure and strong.  But you may respond – “I am clothed in Him who is the light of the world!”  “I am fed by Him who is the Bread of Life.”  “I am forgiven by Him who is the resurrection and the life.” 

That’s also why Jesus teaches you to pray every day and prays with you not only “Deliver us from the evil one” but also – Amen!”  That is – “Yes Lord, it is so!”  “Yes Lord I believe that You are the Mightier One who has sacked Satan’s house and rescued me!”  “Yes Lord, on the strength of Your work in me as you gather us together in Your Name – I leave here today a free from sin, death, and the devil.” United to Christ Himself who binds up the strong, the proud, the unclean, and plunders us, brings us to Himself and gives His death and resurrection as He unites Himself to you in baptism and unites Himself to bread and wine and gives you His body and blood. The Lord’s house is not divided, He comes to unite you and give you not an unclean spirit, but a clean heart, restored and united with Him as brother and sister in God’s house.

In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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1 Response to Divided and Reunited

  1. What a comfort this is after the doings of last week.

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