"Plundering the Strong Man"
June 7, 2015
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
East Rochester and West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
And the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
“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.”
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Has your family ever thought that you were crazy?
I’m not talking psychiatric hospital type of mental illness;
I’m talking just plain nuts!
I know mine has.
My high school age bedroom had posters
of Farah and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon,
While my stereo blasted
Black Sabbath, Queen, and Aerosmith loud enough
for all the neighbors to
“What are you? Nuts?” my mother would yell up the stairs.
I changed majors from engineering to mathematics,
Transferred from Clarkson to Elmira College,
And ended up going to seminary.
“Just what were you thinking?” I can still remember my father asking.
Coming home from Good Friday services
and deciding to drive through the night with Nicholas
to Washington DC
to see Saturday’s Sabres game,
turn around and drive home in time for Easter sunrise services?
“You’ve got to be out of your cotton picking mind!” Cynthia responded.
I can’t tell you how many times
I answered the ambulance pager or fire siren
Completely ruining family celebrations or picnics.
“What are you; crazy?” I’d get, with the accompanying eye-roll.
Yes, my family has thought that I was crazy,
Probably still do on occasions,
And deservedly so.
Guilty, as charged.
How about you?
If your family has ever thought that you are crazy,
Then you stand in good company;
Not only with me,
But with Jesus, too.
Jesus’ family thought he had lost his mind.
That was the report from some people, anyways.
They must have been convinced that Jesus had lost it
More than simply being a little foolish
one night out on the town
Or that Jesus engaged in some old-fashioned shenanigans.
This wasn’t a “boys will be boys” kind of crazy.
Mark reports the family went out to restrain him.
They brought straight jackets with them,
The whole nine-yards.
It gets worse.
Someone blew Jesus in to the religious authorities;
You know, the local seminary faculty,
And they came to visit and conduct their own expert investigation.
I’m not saying it was a family member that blew the whistle on Jesus,
If they were willing to capture and restrain Jesus,
They were certainly in deep enough to get him a professional assessment.
Now there are some Bible and family values for you.
Let’s NOT focus on the family.
To think of family members turning on a loved one in such a way
Is just about enough to make me sick.
Up to this point in Jesus’ ministry,
He’d been calling disciples,
Healing the sick
And casting out demons.
Jesus had even appointed his twelve apostles
To proclaim the Good News and to cast out demons all on their own.
What made the meat taste funny and the potato salad smell bad
Was the fact that Jesus was so focused on
While Hollywood has made quite a name for itself
With movies about exorcism,
Let’s face it;
The Church comes up a little queasy at the thought
Of crazed, bug-eyed, super-strong, demon possessed people, spewing pea soup.
The results from Jesus’ forcible restraint
- at the hand of family members -
And the results from his professional assessment
- by a panel of experts from denominational headquarters –
“He has Beelzebul,
and by the ruler of the demons
He casts out demons.”
The scribes claimed Jesus had a demon in him
and was casting out demons.
Think about this for a moment.
Jesus was a demon who cast out demons?
That’s their best assessment?
Can you see the recursive, flawed nature
of this so called “professional assessment”?
“How can Satan cast out Satan?”
“If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.”
(Mark 3:23, 26)
Evil, demon possessed people don’t do good
for other evil, demon possessed people.
Evil people tie up a strong man,
A demon possessed man,
In his own house
To rob him blind.
A demonic robber isn’t going to set down
And help his victim call 911
And wait for the police to arrive!
Think about it!
For centuries this passage from Mark has been misunderstood.
An incorrect reading of the Greek,
And the hidden, ulterior motives of Church leaders and scholars,
Led to the false teaching and false doctrine
That suicide was the only unforgivable sin.
This is not the case.
Suicide is terrible, tragic, painful, ….
Suicide is a whole lot of things.
But Jesus here
Is not saying that suicide is an unforgiveable sin.
In fact Jesus isn’t even bringing up the subject.
What he is saying
Is that anyone who claims that Jesus
Has an unclean spirit
Commits an unforgiveable sin.
If one calls Jesus a demon,
What can God do for them?
What mercy can God extend
for someone who equates Christ with an evil spinning demon,
other than to watch and wait like the prodigal’s father?
God has a history of extending free will to His creation,
Even to the point of paying the price for the Fall.
Free choice cost God his only Son.
Human kind wasn’t going to redeem itself.
One could say
God paid a huge price for our ability to spout off opinions on Facebook,
Pop off at board meetings,
And whine until we each get our way.
But to say that Jesus is evil?
That’s a bridge too far.
There isn’t even much God can do
Until that individual their free will decision
To repent, return, and make a better choice.
Jesus casts out demons.
He isn’t one.
Jesus casts out demons in his time,
And he is casting out demons in our time too.
Through the gift of his Holy Spirit,
God is at the vanguard of casting out demons in the world today.
Demons are those who do evil just because they can.
Demons are those who intend to break God’s laws,
To violate God’s will,
To oppose God’s ways.
God is at the tip of the spear opposing evil and casting out demons today.
Where do you find evil lurking and demons playing today?
(wait for responses: ISIS/ISIL caliphate, Al-Qata,
Ferguson, Boston Bombings, Political Corruption, etc …)
How about the demons
that claim to speak for the will of God,
yet, have a motive of the flesh?
Claiming to speak the will of God
Is a dangerous habit;
One that I would encourage great caution.
Who can make this claim?
What does Jesus say about speaking the will of God?
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asked.
“And look at those who sat around him, he said,
‘Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’”
The brother, sister, and mother of Jesus
And they love their neighbor.
They not only speak LOVE.
They do LOVE.
Speaking the will of God is one thing,
Doing the will of God is a lot harder.
Doing the will of God means
we help stop the bleeding when our neighbor is in crisis.
Doing the will of God means
we restore our neighbor when they need help to get set back on their feet.
Doing the will of God means
we love our neighbor enough to partner with them,
to become co-developers with each other and with God
to develop this world into God’s Kingdom.
A word to the wise:
Love your neighbor.
Love in the name of Jesus because we are his mother and brother and sister.
Loving is DOING the will of God.
Loving is ABIDING in Christ, and he in us.
Only when you and I have been loving God and neighbor for a lifetime,
Then and only then,
Dare we even consider to attempt
To SPEAK of the will of God.
Join me in tempering the tongue.
Slow down the rush to judgment,
And, for heaven sakes,
Season all things with love.
Has anyone ever made the claim
That you are just plain nuts?
If you have like me,
Then you’re in good company.
We’re in the same company as Jesus.
If we are thought of as nuts anyways,
Let’s be crazy enough
To love the demons of this world
Back into the grace and love of God,
And to do it
- to love each and every one of them –
All in the name of Jesus.
Cast out demons.
Love the hell right out of them!