Monday, June 11, 2012

Sermon for Pentecost 2: Jesus the Burglar

+ Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 10th, 2012 +
Series B, proper 5 - Gen. 3:8-15; Mark 3:20-35

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

            The enemy advanced. The other side scrambled to cover their flanks. Retreat! Run away! As quickly as the fight began, it was over. The white flag appeared. The enemy triumphed. The deception worked. No, this was not the civil war predicted by Lincoln’s famous “house divided” speech of 1858. Although Lincoln got the idea from today's Gospel reading.
            It was the temptation heard ‘round the world: “Did God really say?” Satan led the revolt that brought enmity, pain in child birth, sweat, suffering, thistles, sin and the curse of death. And Adam and Eve defected, joined the rebellion bringing us down with them. Dust you are and to dust you shall return. God’s creation once proclaimed: “Very good” was turned upside down: Brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, creatures against their Creator – a cosmic house divided. Now all of history bears the scars of our civil war (GNR).
            Jesus’ own house was divided. The healing, teaching, casting out demons. “He’s out of his mind,” they said, “a few books short of the Torah.”  In a way they’re right. The way Jesus spoke; the things he did; he was either a lunatic or the Yahweh in human flesh. And if it weren’t for His resurrection from the dead, we’d probably think Jesus wasn’t playing with a full deck either. It’s crazy to call God your Father, except in the most symbolic sense, unless, of course, it’s true.

            And that’s when the Scribes joined the battle cry: “He is possessed by Beelzebul and by the prince of demons he casts out demons.” It’s the ultimate OT insult: you don’t like what someone says, call ‘em the devil. In the OT Beelzebul was a Caananite god, the lord of the flies, the god of dung. A crass euphemism for the ruler of death. Eventually it became another name for Satan.   
            That’s what the Scribes are accusing Jesus of – not that he’s crazy; he’s in league with the devil, sold his soul like some country song. Might make for great television but it’s most illogical.  “How can Satan drive out Satan?” Divided kingdoms don’t stand. Divided houses fall. If Satan is actually opposed to himself, then his days are over.”

            The truth, however, is just the opposite. Jesus did not join the devil’s ranks. His arrival answers that warning flare fired in Genesis 3:15; Jesus fulfills the promise God gave in a curse to Satan, “I will make enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and hers. He will crush your head and you will crush His heel .”
            Gen. 3:15 is the great “I shall return” of the OT. God promises to do what fallen man could not do. Jesus is not the one in league with the devil; Adam and Eve were; and we so are we.  The devil may have made victims of us, held us hostage. But we’re guilty of treason too; In Adam we have spiritual Stockholm syndrome – so blinded by the devil’s enticing offers that we forget who he really is and what he’s done. “Fast bound in Satan’s chains we lay.”

             And that’s why Jesus, the rightful King, lands in enemy occupied territory.  Jesus comes for you. To your rescue. To save you.  A great invasion. Bethlehem is the beachhead. The wilderness temptation is a key battleground; and skirmishes break out all over: casting out demons in Capernaum, Galilee and Gerasene. Jesus is on the move, headed toward Jerusalem to the cross, the last battle.
            Jesus dies the same way he is born: in humility and utter helplessness. “What a kook! He must be crazy. So weak; how foolish,” the world cries out. But the foolishness of God is wiser than men. And the weakness of God is stronger than men and the devil. So, this is Jesus’ battle plan: “bind the strong man” and plunder his goods.
             Jesus does what we are unable and unwilling to do. Jesus the Burglar comes in human flesh, ties up the devil, storms the dragon’s lair and reclaims you, his rightful treasure. We’re the plunder the divine Thief carries off after He’s tied up the strong man. We who were once dogs, rebels, and sinners are now Jesus’ greatest treasure in the cross.
            Salvation is a hostage rescue effort. We were held captive to sin and death. Christ breaks into our world, overpowers our captors, and takes us along with Him in His death and resurrection to live in freedom. We’ve been pulled out of an eternal hostage crisis by the stronger man, the rescuing hands of Jesus, who reaches out to you from the cross, grabs hold of you in the water of Baptism, in the preached Word of Christ, at the table of His Body and Blood, and he tosses out the lifeline of faith, embracing you in His death.

            Death, sin, the Law, Satan – all did their worst. But on the cross, Jesus was doing his best. For there on Good Friday God’s house was divided against itself. Father against Son. God against God: “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus innocently assumed all our sin and was repelled by the Father’s holiness. Jesus was forsaken and abandoned in our damnation. His hands still bear the scars of our civil war.
           And here’s the blessed irony. This civil war did not bring God’s house to ruin. It made His house stand. Restored the Kingdom. Jesus has robbed hell of its power, Satan of his accusations, sin of its guilt and death of its sting. For this division of Father and Son on the cross removed the division between God and us; our sinful sedition was quelled by the blood of Jesus. And because Jesus was forsaken on the cross, you are now members of his family. The death of Jesus is the exorcism of the world. Satan is cast out. Death lost its grip. Jesus is loosed from the tomb and you are free, loosed from the chains of sin and death.

            Speaking of loosing, the word Mark uses here for forgiveness means loosing; whenever sins are forgiven, sinners are loosed, your chains are broken, and you are freed.
            “All the sins and blasphemies of man will be forgiven…All is forgiven. I died for it all,” Jesus says.” How many sins? All. How many people did Jesus die for? All. Which one of your sins isn’t paid? None. What a kook! That's outrageous. Crazy. Throw your worst at Jesus, and He says, “Forgiven.”
             Why does Jesus say this? “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
            We’ve probably all asked ourselves at some point: Did I do it? How will I know if I did? You’ve probably heard both pastors say this before, but it’s worth repeating: If you’re worried about it, you haven’t done it.
            What’s Jesus saying then? Remember that the religious types were saying that He had an unclean spirit. They were calling both Jesus and the Holy Spirit unclean and rejecting His work. They refused to receive what Jesus was giving them. That’s the sin against the Holy Spirit – knowing the work of Jesus and refusing to be forgiven anyway, refusing to receive what the Spirit wants to deliver to you from Jesus.
            The unforgivable sin isn’t unforgivable because it’s so big and bad. Jesus can deal with big and bad sin, and big, bad sinners. The unforgivable sin is unforgivable because it wants no part of forgiveness. And that’s just downright crazy, foolish even.

            So, if you’re worried about that sin or any other sin; there’s no better place to be than the house that Jesus built, his Church. Here the binding and loosing of sins continues in the Office of the Keys. Here the devil is cast out in Holy Baptism. Here the will of God is done for you in His Word and at His Table where all yours sins are forgiven.
            You won’t get any help from the world out there.  Your neighbors might say you’re a few onions short of an animal style burger or maybe you have a demon too. Invite them to church anyway; they just might say yes. Share the Gospel with your neighbor. There’s always room in Jesus’ house for more family members. Love your enemies. Pray for them. Pray for unbelievers. Care enough to share the Good News with them.
            No surprise, you won’t get any help from Satan. Coming to church is like listening to a Pirate Radio station; you’ve snuck behind the enemy’s lines to hear God’s Word and you’re taking part in the King’s great campaign of sabotage (C.S. Lewis, MC). No wonder he works so hard to keep you away.
            And your old sinful nature certainly isn’t any help either. The best thing to do with your Old Adam is to drown him. That little brat in us needs to die, daily in Baptism. What better way to do that than to receive forgiveness, read the Word, pray with your family, receive the Lord’s Supper weekly.
            Here with your family in God’s house. It’s like one big, weekly family reunion. Who are Jesus’ brothers and sisters and mother? You are.

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.   

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