3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
I was born in Billings, Montana. At the age of 11 my family moved up to the Flathead valley. This coming week I will be attending the district pastor’s conference in Billings, and in preparation for the trip I called an old friend of mine who still lives in that town.
Talking briefly to my friend stirred up many memories of my childhood in Billings. I even went on Google maps and looked at my old house. Even though it has been painted different colors, with fewer trees in the yard and a garage that wasn’t there before I moved, I still recognized the home and street where I grew up.
The house is on a corner of the street so we had plenty of sidewalk and yard in which to play. We would race our Hot Wheels® and ride our bikes. Other kids in the neighborhood would come by with their toys and bikes to play. One day a neighborhood kid brought by his newest toy; the Evel Knievel Dare Devil motorcycle with action figure.
You see, Evel Knievel was daring and did dangerous things. Watching him attempt his motorcycle jumps was exciting and scary at the same time. Every stunt became larger and more risky. It seems to me that he failed his jumps about as much as he succeeded. One thing that was agreed on by most everybody I ever knew was that Evel Knievel was crazy; he was out of his mind.
I sometimes wonder what people thought about Jesus in his day. We have the Holy Scriptures to tell us that the rulers of his time were certainly concerned about his preaching of the Gospel. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and high priests were also frightened of the dissent he was causing among the people. Earlier in the gospel of Mark, the same chapter 3 of our reading this morning it tells of Jesus healing a man who had a withered hand.
Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.
Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him. [Mark 3:4-6]
Jesus was extremely daring. He dared to speak the truth. Jesus stood in front of thousands of people and openly defied the Roman magistrates, governors and all the false gods of the populace. Jesus, for lack of a better word, performed many signs and miracles and the Apostle John tells us, “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him” [John 12:37]
But what of his disciples? What about his family? What did they think of this Jesus?
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” [Mark 3:20-21]
Jesus had just appointed his twelve disciples, his inner group of followers, of whom he would give extra teaching, the authority to preach and the authority to cast out demons. [Mark 3:14-15] Thousands of people were following him from all the cities and the regions across the Jordan. [Mark 3:8-9] He had been healing and preaching forgiveness of sins.
This was too much. Jesus was causing too much of a commotion and those in power did not like having their applecart upset. The ruling Jews sent a teacher of the law from Jerusalem for some damage control. The man is becoming too popular; we must find something to ruin his reputation.
Much like our politicians today, the teachers of the law did their best (or would it be their worst?) to bring down this Jesus. They said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”[Mark 3:22] To this, Jesus speaks the truth; he even tries using logic to refute this stupidity.
“How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.” [Mark 3:23b-26]
It made no sense. No one recruits followers by saying, “I’m a fake, don’t believe anything I say or do.” No one gains believers by sabotaging one’s own efforts. You would have to be out of your mind.
Yes, Jesus is daring, but he is no devil. Who among us would dare to give up his life to save another? As the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5:
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:7-8]
This is what Jesus did for us. Knowing that he would be killed a most violent humiliating death on a cross; Jesus Christ gave his life for the life of all. “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death –” [Philippians 2:8] Jesus Christ took our sin upon his shoulders and bore that sin into the grave. Taking on the very nature of a servant, he made himself nothing.
The prince of this world is Satan. He is the strong man in the house of death but Christ bound Satan in his own house and robbed him of his ill gotten gain; our souls. Yes, Jesus Christ raised himself up out of the tomb, out of death, out of the house of our Adversary and has brought us back home to our Father in heaven.
This was the most daring act of God; to send His only Son into the very jaws of our enemy to redeem those who were lost in sin. The house of Satan can no longer stand. His kingdom is divided against itself and cannot continue. Try as he might, he cannot keep us from our loving God and Lord.
We spend quite a bit of time in our lives calculating risk. We analyze our daily tasks with the idea of performing these tasks safely. We weigh the danger against the benefit. In some instances we sacrifice need or want because the risk is too costly. Sometimes we must stop and force ourselves to calculate such risks, but most of the time we do it innately.
I am here to tell you now, that there is no danger in telling others of the salvation of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Your life is no longer in peril. Satan and death can no longer kill you. You do not have to be a daredevil to tell the good news to all people.
We all believe in one true God. St. Paul writes:
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [2 Cor. 4:13, 15; 5:1]
Nothing can be done to this earthly shell that will affect our heavenly bodies in our heavenly home. If we succumb to our fears of this life, we have succumbed to Satan. If we do nothing we become devils under control of the Lord of Lies.
Therefore dare to speak as we believe. Dare to speak the good news. Dare to baptize all nations in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Dare to stand before the Devil and say, “You cannot stand! Your end has come!”
You do not need a fancy costume or a cape to defy death because the Holy Spirit is with you always. You need not eloquent repartee to convey what every child knows; “Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so.” Jesus Christ has overcome all things for you. The Holy Spirit is now in you.
In the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans:
[Yet] in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:37-39]
With the love of God and the Communion of the Holy Spirit, we cannot remain silent. I dare you to try.