Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, January 21, 2022
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The Spirit's Work

Mark 3:20-35

 In John 3, which we studied last Sunday, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit:  “The wind blows where it will, so it is with the Holy Spirit.”  In other words, the Spirit’s work is unpredictable, uncontrollable.  We cannot dictate where or how he will act.  And his work may sometimes even be troubling to us.  

 The Spirit’s work in Jesus was causing his family to become concerned.  Verse 20 says that he and the disciples were so busy tending to the needs of the crowd that they weren’t even finding time to eat.  Maybe his family was simply concerned that he was not taking the necessary time for his own well being.  And certainly, sometimes, people who are engaged in God’s work neglect their own self-care.  

 But I think there’s more to it.  I think they were questioning his sanity.  Jesus is not fitting the mold of what people “are supposed to do.”  He left his home and his family.  He quit his job to go out on the road as a traveling preacher.  Those are not conventional “career moves.” 

 And maybe worst of all, he is on a crash course with the powerful religious elites.  He is on their wrong side and is doing nothing to get on their right side.  He’s spending a lot of time with the “wrong kind” of people:  Tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, the demon-possessed, and so on.  

 He has gathered a group of disciples around himself.  Some of those disciples are women.  That was unconventional in his day.  In modern terms, we might say that he has “gone and joined a commune.”  Or possibly we might even say, “He has started some kind of cult.”  

 Very often family and friends get concerned when we get “crazy ideas” from God.  I mean, it’s fine to believe in God and all that, just don’t go overboard.  Quitting your job?  Overboard.  Selling your house and worldly possessions?  Overboard.  Moving to China or Yemen or New Guinea?  Way overboard!  As if God’s Spirit never leads us to make such “crazy” decisions.  

 Perhaps his family is also concerned what will happen to them.  If the religious leaders are out to get Jesus, then an accusation against him will also make life difficult for his family.  

 And that’s just what the religious authorities do.  They claim Jesus is demon-possessed, which was frequently associated with insanity.  Furthermore, they claim he is casting out evil spirits by the power of Satan.  They accuse him of being in league with the devil and practicing sorcery.  A common understanding of exorcism in the ancient world is that you could cast out evil spirits by calling on the name of a higher power.  In this case, they say Jesus is calling on Satan to do this work of exorcism.  They can’t deny his ability to do these things, so they question the source of his power.  

 By the way, the accusation of sorcery or leading people astray from God was enough, under Old Testament Law, to condemn Jesus to death.  Since Rome didn’t give them the power to enforce capital punishment, they probably couldn’t do that, but at the least, they were hoping such a charge would discredit Jesus.  

 Jesus points out that the charge doesn’t even make sense.  A house that is divided is doomed.  You can only rob a strong man’s house if you first subdue him.  Well, we know that Jesus subdued Satan in the wilderness by triumphing in the face of temptation.  And Jesus has demonstrated his authority by driving out evil spirits.  

 We also know why they made this charge against Jesus:  They were jealous of him and his popularity.  He had healed the sick and cast out evil spirits.  He had preached a message of repentance and called on people to turn from their sins.  But he had also broken their rules.  He had healed on the Sabbath and ate with sinners.  He had challenged their authority.  And he was still popular with many, so they were jealous.

 But Jesus tells us that there was more going on here than simple jealousy, more at stake than his reputation versus theirs.  There is a question of truth at stake.  They are opposing the Holy Spirit, who brings the truth of God into the hearts and minds of human beings.  And Jesus says they are blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is a sin that will never be forgiven.  

 Sometimes that part concerns us.  Is there a sin that God cannot or will not forgive?  If so, how can I be sure I haven’t committed it?  Well, as I once heard, if you’re worried about it, then you haven’t committed it.  

 The issue is that these men are so hard-hearted that they absolutely refuse to acknowledge the truth.  They refuse to see the work of the Holy Spirit.  If we live in the darkness long enough, eventually we lose the ability to see.  And if we reject the truth long enough, eventually we lose the ability to recognize truth.  

 Why is this sin unforgiveable?  Because those who commit it will not repent.  There is no forgiveness without repentance.  And there is no repentance without a sense of our own unworthiness.  And we cannot feel unworthy if we cannot see the goodness and beauty of Christ.  The unforgivable sin is to be so hardened against God that you refuse to see his hand at work.  You call his work the work of Satan.  

 They probably didn’t take that very well.  

 So far we’ve talked about how the work of the Spirit can cause others to question what we’re doing.  It can cause some to reject his work.  But the Spirit can also do good things.  And one of the best things he does is to make us part of the family of God.  

 Jesus’ family by birth comes looking for him.  But Jesus says, “My family is those who do God’s will.”  Jesus’ family by birth, at this point, was opposed to him.  But his true family was already “with him.”  

 What makes us the family of God?  

 First, we have shared experiences.  We have all experienced the goodness and joy of new life in Christ.  Second, we have shared interests.  We are committed to growing together in faith.  Third, we have shared obedience.  We want to do what God asks us to do.  And finally, we have a shared goal:  We want to see the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  

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