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June 9, 2024

Family Intervention

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary Category: Biblical Scripture: Mark 3:20–35

The Third Sunday after Pentecost

June 9, 2024

 Mark 3:20-35

 “Family Intervention”

Family intervention – these words conjure up awkward and difficult conversations with loved ones. Some of you know firsthand what this looks like in confronting a family member whose life has become out of control, endangering not only themselves but those around them. Or when a family member needs to make a difficult change in life. Maybe you’ve been the one who has had to do the confronting, or maybe you’ve been the one who has needed to be confronted. Either way, there are often very strong emotions as well as very strong words involved in such a situation. It’s never easy and can be quite painful. The goal of a family intervention is to help the individual realize the destructive path that he or she is on, and agree to getting help to reset their life. Sometimes family interventions succeed and accomplish this very thing, but other times they don’t succeed for a variety of reasons. Today’s Gospel begins with a family intervention. Jesus is busily engaged in preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God. Crowds of people flocked around him, even when he was at home. It got to the point where he wasn’t even able to eat. The members of Jesus’ earthly family were understandably concerned about his well-being. Mark’s account here is blunt: “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:21). Jesus’ own family didn’t understand fully who he was or what he was doing. They felt compelled to step in and rescue Jesus from himself – for his own good, they thought. All of this becomes a teachable moment for Jesus to speak about a house divided, the sin against the Holy Spirit, and how whoever does the will of God is a member of Jesus’ family. We’ll look at each of these three aspects in today’s message, which is entitled, “Family Intervention.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

First, there is Jesus’ teaching on a house divided. The religious leaders, who were dogging Jesus’ every step and watching for any opportunity to take him down, said that Jesus’ ability to cast out demons came through demonic powers; through Beelzebul, the prince of demons. The name Beelzebul literally means “lord of the flies,” and is a mocking distortion of Baal, a god of the Canaanites (see 1 Kings 18:1ff.; 2 Kings 1:5ff., et. al.). That’s a pretty serious charge to make. Jesus replies that Satan cannot cast himself out, otherwise his kingdom would be coming to an end. He would be a house divided against himself. Jesus himself came to bind that strong man and plunder his goods. That is the purpose of Jesus’ life and mission: to take down that strong man, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan (Revelation 20:2). This is the one who deceived our first parents in the Garden of Eden, and plunged all that God had created into a downward, deathward spiral. Jesus’ life-giving death upon the cross, his sacrifice of himself, is the very thing that has reversed the curse. Jesus is the very fulfillment of that promise in today’s Old Testament lesson (Genesis 3:8-15), spoken by God to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Jesus, the seed of the woman, true God and true man, has crushed the serpent’s power. He has bound the strong man. He has set us free.

Second, there is Jesus’ teaching about the sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus begins with a solemn affirmation: Ἀμήν (Mark 3:28). Unique to Jesus, “’Amen’ denotes that his words are reliable and true because he is totally committed to do and speak the will of God. As such, the Amen-formulation is not only a highly significant characteristic of Jesus’ speech, but a Christological affirmation; Jesus is the true witness of God” (The Gospel According to Mark, by William Lane. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974; p. 144). The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is “an expression of defiant hostility toward God… blasphemy against the Holy Spirit denotes the conscious and deliberate rejection of the saving power and grace of God released through Jesus’ word and act” (Ibid, p. 145). This is serious business, of course. At times, I have encountered people who are concerned that they have committed the sin against the Holy Sprit in their own lives. They are often anxious and fearful about this. Perhaps you have struggled with this yourself. At such times, it is not the Law, but the Gospel, which must be applied to wounded consciences. Anyone who is concerned that they have committed the unforgivable sin and have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, almost certainly has not done so. Paul’s words in today’s Epistle lesson (2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1) remind us of the faith struggle that we have in this life: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self  is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Finally, there is Jesus’ teaching that whoever does the will of God is a member of his family – his brother and sister and mother. Jesus’ earthly family were still concerned about him. They were standing outside and couldn’t get close to him, so they sent word to him inside. We get the impression that they still wanted to have that family intervention, and take him with them whether he wanted to go or not. We are not told that this ever happened. What we are told is that Jesus used this as a teachable moment to redefine family from a kingdom perspective: “’Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:33-35). When we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we enter a new family, the family of faith. Washed clean through the waters of holy Baptism, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus our Savior, we are joined to Jesus and to one another in the bonds of faith and love. In a powerful way, our gracious God has intervened in our lives to make us members of his own family. And so we are led by the Holy Spirit to do the will of God, not because we have to, but because we want to. It is as St. Paul writes: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

That is the best family intervention there can be. Amen.  

other sermons in this series

Jul 14

2024

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: Mark 6:14–29 Series: Lectionary

Jun 23

2024

Do I Know You?

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: Mark 4:35–41 Series: Lectionary

Jun 16

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The Automatic Seed

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: Mark 4:26–34 Series: Lectionary