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LSB Proper 5B Sermon – Mark 3:20-35

June 11, 2015

June 7, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Jesus’ work in the early stages of His ministry involved many awesome deeds. He performs various miracles that draw people’s attention: casting out a demon from a man in Capernaum’s synagogue; healing people with various diseases, including leprosy; making a paralyzed man walk. As news of Jesus’ acts spread throughout Galilee, it became common for the places where He went to become gathering points for crowds. That is the initial statement in today’s Gospel Reading: “Then [Jesus] went into a house, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.”

Jesus’ appearance in town causes the people to gather outside the house. His relatives have also been noticing what He’s been up to. But when they hear more about what has been taking place, they come to the conclusion that Jesus has become deluded, possibly possessed: “And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of His mind.’” That thought about Jesus is an attempt to explain what He was doing. But it is rooted in a thinking which does not believe that Jesus is divine or that He carries the LORD’s authority. Instead, their thoughts attempt to identify Jesus’ actions as an expression of something sinister.

It might surprise us to hear that this is the way that Jesus’ family was thinking. But as the Gospel Writer also notes, not only were Jesus’ kinfolk thinking this way about Him. Some other characters had shown up to render their verdict about Jesus and His works: “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of demons He casts out the demons.’” Their statements declare Jesus to be a sort of sorcerer, someone who is in league with Satan.

That accusation leads Jesus to use a number of analogies or parables to explain His work. These point out the fallacy of the accusations leveled against Him: “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 is coming to an end.” Jesus’ words poke away the foundation of the objections made against Him. It doesn’t make sense for Satan to empower someone to work against himself. Why would the prince of demons give someone the authority to remove people from the clutches of his demonic hordes? Why would the LORD’s Great Adversary deliberately free people from his grip?

Jesus’ response also gives a positive explanation of what was taking place in Galilee. He tells it in a parable: “But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.” Jesus notes that His work is a way of binding Satan and taking away what the Usurper had wrongfully gained. He has come as One who is stronger than Satan, who can wrestle with him and prevail, who can strike a great blow against the ruiner of creation.

Jesus’ presence in the world fulfills the primordial promise given after the Fall into Sin. You heard that promise spoken by the LORD God in the aftermath of the man and woman’s eating of the forbidden fruit. He addressed the Serpent who had deceived the woman: “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” And the LORD God foretold the end of this Serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The LORD God promises to raise up someone from the woman’s line who will prove to be the victor over her cause for ruin.

That divine promise spoken of old is what Jesus fulfills in His ministry. It is accomplished in part through the miraculous acts He did in Galilee. Jesus strikes blows against the Serpent by casting out demons and forgiving sins. This isn’t done by Beelzebul’s power. This isn’t the work of the prince of demons. No, it is the way that the Prince of Life, the Stronger One who followed John the Baptizer, begins His assault against Satan. That assault reaches its culmination with the great act of redemption that Jesus performs years later in Jerusalem, when He brings judgment against the ruler of this world through His crucifixion and resurrection. Then the strong man Satan is bound, left powerless, stripped of his great weapon of death. And mankind is brought back into the LORD’s holy presence.

This is what Jesus came to do. But His assault against Satan has not ended. It is repeatedly continued. Remember what Jesus had been doing in Galilee: taking people from Satan’s grip and bringing them forgiveness and healing. That act is alluded to in the Gospel Reading: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter….” Forgiving sins of the children of men is what Jesus performs now. That is what you have come to receive on this day.

You have gathered because of the promises that have been made concerning Jesus’ work. You recognize Him not as a sorcerer or someone who has an unclean spirit. No, you acknowledge Him to be the Lord, the One who struck the Serpent’s head for your benefit. You know that your connection to Jesus’ death and resurrection has changed you from being sinners who must fear the LORD to being His redeemed people. You rejoice that Jesus has triumphed over the prince of demons and freed you from bondage to sin. You come to where He has placed His words of forgiveness, life, and salvation that bring this freedom to you.

This understanding of Jesus makes Him the object of your prayers. The example of that is seen in the Psalm of the Day: “Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my please for mercy! If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared.” Those words sound very similar to the Confession of Sins at the beginning of the Divine Service. They aren’t statements offered by those who are hiding from the LORD’s presence. But they are the words spoken by those who have heard the gracious news that the LORD has fulfilled His promise of redemption for His fallen creatures.

You are the people who have been rescued through the Stronger Man’s work. Jesus’ actions taken against Satan have delivered you from his grip. Jesus has bound Satan and plundered his ill-gotten gains. The Adversary cannot accuse you of guilt and say that is not forgivable. For Jesus’ words declare: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter….” The Serpent cannot say that he is all-powerful and that no one can defeat him. For Jesus’ says: “The Serpent has a bruised head. I’ve dealt the crushing blow to him.” The Deceiver cannot say that you are of no value to the LORD and must eternally be separated from Him. For Jesus states: “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” And the greatest act of doing the LORD’s will is to believe in Him whom He has sent.

Your fate has been changed. You are freed people. You are redeemed people. You are holy people. It’s because of Jesus’ work done for you. It’s because Jesus has taken the fight to Satan on your behalf. It’s because the divine promises made have been fulfilled. You are no longer cowering people afraid of the LORD. You need not try to cover up what you’ve done. You don’t have to come up with ways of trying to conceal your shortcomings or blame them on someone else. Instead, you can admit them and put them before Jesus, saying that you have problems that only He can deal with and that you know that He has dealt with them. And this moves you to be thankful for the benefits that Jesus has brought to you.

Paul’s statement to the Corinthians describes you who have been led to believe that He is the Stronger One whom the LORD sent to redeem you: “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, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. 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.”

The benefit of the LORD’s graciousness given through Jesus is manifold. The curse of going down to the dust will be reversed, so that you are brought up from it. Jesus has bruised the Serpent’s head, so that it has been defanged. The separation between God and mankind has been overcome, so that you are His children, Jesus’ brothers and sisters. A clean spirit dwells in you, so that the unclean is removed. All of this has been done because “with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.” And that is what the LORD has shown to you through the Stronger Man Jesus.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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