Sunday, June 7, 2015

Second Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Mark 3:27
Theme: Master of Satan

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ, our Lord, tells us that the gates of hell will not prevail against His kingdom1. The assumptions that lie behind His words are not to be taken lightly. Christ offers this reassurance in the face of the formidable power of evil. Satan is a serious foe. Sin and death are brutal enemies. They don’t entertain the idea of negotiation and they take no prisoners. Christ has come to us as the resurrection and the life2 and victor over sin, death, and Satan. What are we to make, then, of today’s accusation that Jesus was in league with Satan?

To ears that have been thoroughly accustomed to hearing reverent things spoken about the name of Christ, these demonizing claims may seem audacious. Beelzebul refers to Baal-zebul3, meaning ‘Baal is prince.’ Baal was the name of one of the most prominent idols in ancient Canaanite religion. Baal was called upon for a wide range of fortune-telling and occult activities and was regularly sacrificed to. The history of Baal worship was long and is well-documented. The Jews are here accusing Jesus of being possessed by the spirit of idolatry and working in alliance with Satan Himself.

But if Jesus is casting out demons and freeing people from bondage to his ways how can He be in allegiance with Satan? The devil would then be undermining his own efforts. Such a suggestion does not follow sound logic. In reality, Christ is in the process of dismantling Satan’s scheme of domination. Jesus describes Himself as the stronger man who has now breached the devil’s security and is plundering his house. He then proceeds to label this claim as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Christ works by the Spirit of God and to demonize Him is to equate the spiritual works and goals of Satan with those of the Messiah. This is a grievous sin. Jesus calls it an eternal sin which is not forgiven.4

It’s been said that if you are worried about committing the unforgivable sin, then you haven’t actually committed it; because if you had you would have no interest in the question. The deceitful nature of the human heart should cause us to pause before attempting to simplify the matter too much. We always like a guise for our desire to go on sinning. These words of Christ are forthright and the context shows no evidence of exaggeration. When the Holy Spirit and His means are continually, steadfastly, and willfully rejected the opportunity for the forgiveness of sins is obstructed. We have absolutely no assurance that the Holy Spirit will circumvent His appointed means. If baptism is rejected, Holy Communion is despised, and the hearing of God’s word abandoned, faith has no avenues to be sustained and the soul is in grave danger.

Undoubtedly that’s why Jesus singles it out as being so ominous. It’s notable that at this point in Jesus’ life His own family thought He was out of His mind.5 They came to take Him home, presumably to protect Him and their own reputations. Jesus essentially ignores them emphasizing the doing of God’s will. The world will always have an agenda. Its agenda will always be driven by the desire for self-promotion and self-indulgence. It entails the quest for power, money, popularity, prosperity and security.

Pursuit of the agenda involves practices of dishonesty and inequality. The agenda is based on human measures of value. The principles which allow this agenda to be pursued may in some measure agree with God’s will. A certain order and stability is needed in society to allow safe pursuit of goals. Both God and the secular government want a level of peace and order in society. But the unbelieving world will only promote the acquisition of things that are self-serving. The church always maintains a critique of the world’s agenda in some measure. Otherwise, we would be in denial that we live in a sinful world.

When the church capitulates fully to the agenda of the society at large, then it ceases not only to offer constructive criticism, but fails to transform people by catechizing them in the truth of Holy Scripture. Eternal salvation is ultimately at stake. The church must be steadfast in its proclamation of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ regardless of its popularity or results. The Word of God transforms without the aid of human embellishment or the deterrent of human corruption. The church’s call is to integrity and diligence. Because the world’s agenda is relentless and continues to push until checked by God’s judgment, we can, as Christians, have no misgivings about our task. Those segments of Christianity which condone or promote unbiblical agendas such as those of evolution, homosexuality, abortion and other things contrary to the word of God, have forsaken their mission to be salt and light in the world. They cannot in the same breath claim to serve the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In human terms, we may be very lonely, yes, even harassed and mocked when taking our stand on the truth. We may feel increasingly isolated from the ideals and pursuits of society. It’s a reality we had better get used to. Trends are pointing to an intensifying intolerance of the convictions of the Christian faith. The perception that Christianity- despite particular convictions distasteful to the post-modern mind- is generally a positive influence on society is no longer widely held.

But we have the assurance with which Paul speaks of, “Am I trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”6 Only God’s opinion ultimately matters. And as Christian fathers and mothers, bosses and employees, grandchildren and retires, as trusted friends, we have a great accountability regarding the integrity of our faith. Our Christian faith is never a purely private affair. We may influence countless people by never uttering a word. The Bible says, “You are the salt of the earth.”7 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”8

The Christian, who speaks and lives the truth, speaks with the greatest authority and has an incalculable influence. This is so because the Christian speaks and lives with the authority of Christ. We should always stand in awe of and never underestimate that power. Precisely because we understand that power is not our own, it gives rise not to arrogance but humility within us. Those who have been granted the greatest authority are in need of exercising the greatest humility. In proportion to one’s power and influence must be the diligence to avoid abusing that power. A leader is not a greater sinner than the common person when he or she falls- only likely to affect many more people. A Christian is a frail vessel carrying a great authority. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit.

We may sense a growing coldness from the world. But the apostle reminds us of the holy companionship we have. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.”9 The world always has an alluring call. But we know the Master’s voice. “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.”10Jesus Christ has plundered Satan’s house. His death and resurrection have robbed the devil of His power. He has been bound by the cross. He has been put on notice. He knows his time is short. The same death and resurrection are the power by which you live. You are His baptized. You are His chosen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After Pentecost
7 June, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 See Matthew 16:18 2 See John 11:25
3 See 2 Kings 1:2 4 See Mark 3:29
5 See Mark 3:21 6 Galatians 1:10
7 Matthew 5:13 8Matthew 5:14
91 John 1:3 10John 10:27-28