devotion July 4, 2014

Good Morning, and Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July!

When we were in Israel, we went out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The captain raised the American flag and played the Star Spangled Banner – It was a moving moment, honoring our flag half way around the world! But then, aren’t there many of our soldiers fighting over there, half-way around the world? Prayers for them today.

Mark 3:20 – 30

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.’

Jesus and the disciples have returned to Capernaum, but the crowd follows, and crowd in on them so much that they can’t even eat. They are coming to see Jesus, to be healed, to have demons cast out – and Jesus, apparently, does as much as he can, but they do not allow him even a break to eat. And word gets back to his family that he must be crazy – constantly healing people and casting out demons! And the scribes who had come down from Jerusalem to see what was going on were saying that he was possessed, that was why he could cast out demons!

Jesus says, essentially, that is absurd! Why would Satan cast out his own demons? That would divide Satan’s house and a house divided against itself cannot stand! Don’t we quote that one out of context all the time – we say it in relation to all sorts of organizations, even nations, but Jesus was specifically answering a charge, saying that Satan would not divide himself. He uses these words as a parable, to respond to those who say he is possessed. But then he continues – that would be the end of Satan, and this he follows with another parable.

One cannot rob a strong man’s house while he is guarding it, but the strong man must be surprised and disarmed, or tied up, before his house can be plundered. Have you wondered as I have what in the world this meant? The Commentary I consulted (the New Interpreter’s Study Bible) gives two possibilities: first, the “strong man” may represent Satan, and Jesus’ actions will bind Satan – rather than working with Satan, Jesus is plundering his realm; or, second, the parable may relate back to the previous statement, that Judas Iscariot would betray Jesus – when Jesus’ was “tied up” (arrested and crucified), the forces of evil would plunder his house, scattering the disciples. Honestly, I would go with the first explanation; the second seems to be straining a bit for meaning!

Now, Jesus says that blasphemes against the Holy Spirit are grievous sins. He is, of course, implying that those who say that the things he is doing through the Spirit are being done by Satan are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. He even says this is an unforgivable sin! Remember, however, that one technique Jesus used, as did most of the wandering teachers or rabbis, was what we call “parabolic hyperbole”. Sometimes a point is intentionally exaggerated, to make the point! So – what Jesus means is that speaking against the work of the Holy Spirit is grievous and not to be taken lightly. What he does not mean is that anyone who has done this can never be forgiven throughout eternity!

This story involves another of Mark’s “intercalations”, or “Markan sandwich”, one story within another, linking the two – we have left the story of his family to talk about the scribes – tomorrow, we come back to the family.

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