Saturday, June 9, 2018

Year B, Pentecost 3, Mark 3.20-35, That Crazy Jesus

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, Amen
Were Jesus to come to us today, there is a good chance we might not recognize him, and perhaps, we might even view him as evil, or at least misguided.
Those who are convinced they know him the best may in fact not know him at all.
At least that’s the Biblical witness.
That’s what happens time and time again in the Gospels.
And today’s Gospel lesson is the epitome of that.
He’s out of his mind. . .
That’s the concern of Jesus family, and who better to know him than his mother and brothers and sisters.
This Jesus they did not know.
There were two things that had come up that particularly concerned them.
Jesus was casting out demons.
And those very same demons were declaring Jesus to be the Son of God.
His popularity had spread to the point that he couldn’t even eat, the demands from the crowds being so intense.
I find this a bit humorous.
That Jesus’ family seeks to intervene at this point.  “Jesus, you need to take care of yourself.  Eat!”
But actually, as we go deeper into the lesson, there is a greater concern.
Namely, that he has gone mad.  Out of his mind.  Crazy.
“He has Beelzebul.”
The devil’s gotten into him.
The theme throughout the Gospels is that more than any other group, the religious leaders of Jesus day were most concerned about him, and most convinced that he was not of God.
The Messiah?
No, not this one, for he was a threat to them and all they held dear.
"He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons."
“Beelzebul” means “Lord of the House” and is used by the scribes to refer Satan, as the Ruler of the Demons.
They are quite convinced that what Jesus is doing is not good, but evil.
And his family, likewise, is deeply concerned.
Jesus’ rebuttal of their concerns is strong.
“”Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" —  for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
To see good as evil and evil as good, is unforgivable.
That’s what Jesus means here.
If we believe the Holy Spirit to be demonic, we have crossed the line.
Who is Jesus?
Would we know him if we saw him?
 And if we met him, would we too think that at the best he’s gone out of his mind, at the worst, is possessed by the devil?
And is it possible, that we who above all people should be most familiar with him, may in fact be unable to recognize him for who he truly is?
In First Corinthians, the thirteenth chapter Paul writes:
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.”
Therein lies the problem.
We see Jesus, in a mirror, dimly.
What that means, I believe, is that as we try in all of our religious fervor, to understand who Jesus is, we see a reflection of ourselves.
During the last couple of centuries one of the theme’s that has dominated Biblical scholarship is “the Quest for the Historical Jesus”.
People want to know Jesus for who he truly is.
But what happens, every time, is that the “historical Jesus” they discover bears a striking resemblance to themselves.
We want to see Jesus, but looking through a mirror dimly, we see instead a reflection of ourselves.
On a most basic level, this phenomenon is evident in how Jesus has been traditionally portrayed in portraits. 
The most familiar paintings of Jesus are from the Italian Renaissance, and Jesus is portrayed as an Italian.
In the Scandinavian churches I grew up in, it was common place for Jesus to be portrayed as white.
If you go to Africa, or the orient, Jesus is portrayed as being black, or oriental.
We imagine Jesus as a reflection of ourselves.
But it goes much deeper than the outward appearances.
The Jesus we believe in is a reflection of who we are.
When conservatives seek out the historical Jesus, they end up with a conservative Jesus.
When liberals seek to understand who Jesus actually was, he predictably, is quite liberal.
People who a moralistic see Jesus as a great teacher of morals.
People who are political activists see Jesus as a political revolutionary.
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.”
We cannot avoid seeing our own image as we try to look through the mirror to see Jesus.
And that is our heresy, that we see Jesus as a reflection of ourselves.
It is as bad as seeing Jesus as the devil.

The temptation now for me, is to conclude this sermon by telling you who Jesus really is—and in so doing simply do what I’ve been talking about, that is, casting Jesus in my own image.
That’s the struggle.
Another way to  state this is that we, in all sincerity seek to conform our lives to Christ, but too often in doing so, conform our image of Jesus, to ourselves.
If I try to tell you who Jesus is, you will probably learn more about who I am, than who Jesus is.
Uff da.
But I’m foolish enough to at least try to cast some light behind the mirror.
What can we say about Jesus, and who he is?
The first thing is simple.
He is not us.
Our human inclination is to see Jesus as a reflection of ourselves, when in fact we are to become a reflection of him.
And he is wholly other.  He is not out of his mind, but rather beyond our comprehension.
Secondly, Jesus is far more spiritual than he is religious.
What drives Jesus is not religious devotion, to the law, for example, but a powerful sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit within him, and a oneness with the Father.
Jesus’ holiness is rooted not in what he did, but the relationship he had with the Father.
“Abba”, “Father”, that is how he addressed God and it says much about who he is.
Thirdly, Jesus cares for the least of these.  Compassionate.  Forgiving.  Loving like no other.
This is in stark contrast to who we’d like Jesus to be.  Too often we’d like Jesus to “kick butt”, that is to confront and condemn those people who differ from us. 
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Jesus is a healer.
A teacher.
A friend.
There are many other things I suppose we could say, but the most important of all is this:
If you want to see Jesus for who he truly is, you need to look away from the mirror, and toward the cross.
It is in the suffering, in the dying, and the rising from the dead that we see Jesus.  The Crucified One.
And it is this Jesus that comes to us anew, around this table every Sunday.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
It is in the breaking of the bread that we see the crucified and risen Lord.
Jesus.  His body, his blood, given and Shed for you.
On final note:
A few weeks back I had a moving experience during the communion.  As I looked out, one of you had put down the hymnal, and with hands folded was intently focused on what was happening here at the altar.
It was a reminder for me, at that moment, that this was an incredibly holy thing that was taking place.
Here, in the breaking of the bread, the pouring of the wine, we see Jesus.
We see Jesus.
Stand in awe and deepest reverence.
And know that God is with you.

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