Mark 3:20-35

June 7, 2015 by Ken Dale

Our scripture reading this morning comes from early in Mark?s gospel. Jesus has been baptized by John, has healed and preached and has a multitude gathered at the seaside to hear him. Jesus has also called, appointed, and given authority to cast out demons 12 disciples. Our lesson today begins that he went home and of course a crowd gathers and his family gets defensive ? wants to restrain him because people are talking! The word is ?he has gone out of his mind.? The religious authorities of the day accuse him of being possessed by Beelzebul ?which meant ?lord of dung? ? not good, and that ?by the ruler of demons, he casts out demons.?

I love it ? Jesus is so quick sometimes! His response to that charge is ?How can Satan cast out Satan?? ?If a kingdom is divided against itself it cannot stand.? ?If a house is divided against itself, it cannot stand.? ?If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand.?

In this early episode in the life of Jesus he is so different people are saying that he is out of his mind. How often do we find ourselves, in some way, doing that? How quick we sometimes are to judge or draw conclusions without understanding. The understanding of what is ?normal? is based on understanding ones? self as the norm ? so people that are different are ?not normal? or ?abnormal.? But think about it ? we are all different in so many ways and we need to accept those differences, embrace them, as we better understand one another. When we understand another who is different ? and know why they are the way they are or who they are ? we can love them as God would have us love each other.

The theme for this sermon came to mind well over a week ago and since then two illustrations came to me about our need to understand and appreciate each other and embrace differences. The first was Kathy?s grandson Corbin who is on the autism spectrum. He is an amazing little guy. He is now in kindergarten and has been reading for a couple of years ? no one ever taught him ? he just can. But like other kids on the spectrum Corbin is very literal in his thinking and living. That?s very important to know. His teacher who knows and understands him told him one day, get three crayons and color. So Corbin got three crayons, held them together in one hand, and began to color on the paper. He did just what he was asked to do ? and the teacher?s response was ?well, you got me on that one!? In his wisdom he acknowledged that it was him, not Corbin. Another teacher, with less understanding on how a child with autism thinks may have had a different and less positive response.

About a week ago Kathy and I were channel surfing on the television one night and landed on America?s Got Talent. They had a young man on there who was a comedian. His story was that at a young age he got hit in the throat by a baseball/softball and ended up with a pretty severe stutter. But he took that terrible incident of his life that made him so ?different? and embraced it and made it part of a comedy routine ? the example that struck me was when he talked about how no one would ever hire him for a voice on a GPS ? by the time he got out the words ?turn right here? ? you would miss the turn! He was so good Howie Mandell hit the ?golden buzzer? which I guess automatically puts you in the finals or something. It was amazing what he was doing with this great challenge in his life ? it was inspirational. It was only appreciated when you knew more about him ? when you understood him and why he was different and what he did by embracing it.

Where did our minds go this week when we saw Bruce Jenner now Caitlyn Jenner ? did you try to imagine the experience that she has been living through and how it must be for her now? Are we willing to listen enough to try to understand the differences between us?

Those who attached Beelzebul to Jesus because he and his message were so different actually embodied the evil of which they accused Jesus. How do we picture Satan? That personality with the horns and a red tail? Or is it the name for that demonic power that is actively engaged against God?s compassionate and reconciling love? That power that causes us to hurt ourselves and others and ultimately God.

The clash between Jesus and the religious authorities is just beginning in Mark?s gospel ? but they respond to his being different with accusations and negatives instead of understanding. That is not following Christ. I found the point captured in a wonderful way in the words of one commentator who wrote: Living out the form of discipleship Christ bids us to follow means a new solidarity with all of humanity. It requires that we learn to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. It asks us to live into the densities of human joy and suffering. It calls us to find ourselves precisely in our willingness to give up our self-absorption. This is a demanding task, requiring a willingness to follow him into new solidarity with God?s whole family. (Don E. Sailers, Feasting on the Word, Barbara Brown Taylor p. 120).

So may we, perhaps with help from the power of prayer, be willing to know and understand others instead of judging without knowing. May we be open to weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice ? and in so doing ? yes, follow Christ into a new solidarity with all of God?s children ? with God?s whole family.