C.S. Lewis wrote of Jesus, “One of three things is true, He is either a lunatic on the level of somebody who thinks He’s a poached egg, or He is a liar at such a calculated and clever and extreme level as to probably be unequaled as a purveyor of deception, or He is Lord. But…said Lewis…forget the patronizing nonsense that He’s a good teacher, that’s not an option.
Has anyone here every done any whittling?
Do people still do that?
It’s when you take a block of wood, or soap, like we did in school, and you start chipping away from it.
At first it’s just a big hunk of something, and when we start whittling, we don’t always know what it’s going to turn into.
So we whittle away and carve off the pieces and edges that seem ordinary, working down to find the shape we like locked inside the block of wood, or soap, or whatever we’re carving.
Whittling is just what many are tempted to do with Jesus.
We look at our God like a block of wood, and we may not have a “real image” in our own minds, but all the same we start cutting away and shaping what seems undesirable to us, so what’s left is not the whole God, but the God that we want.
By smoothing out the rough parts, knock down the sharp edges, we sculpt OUR Jesus until He’s mild and tame.
He’s the Jesus that fits into our tiny little box. He’s comfortable.
But in our reading today, Jesus doesn’t allow comfortable as an option. He sharply confronts His adversaries, casts out demons, warns of the unforgivable sin, and then proceeds to give seemingly a cold shoulder to His own family members who are trying to reach Him.
He doesn’t seem to fit the typical nice, friendly picture we often have of Jesus.
Instead here we run into a roughness and brutal honesty about Jesus that is somewhat more than most expect.
There verses have some tough stuff in them, and like other parts of the bible, it might be easier to just pass over these verses and find other passages with Jesus’ more tender moments with children, or with the healing of the sick, or the forgiving of a sinner.
It might be easy to just skip this and move on. Find the parts that are a little more comfortable. But that would indeed be missing the whole point.
And it’s once again why I’m not skipping any parts of the bible. We’re reading the whole thing, word for word, chapter by chapter.
Do you guys know what the lectionary is? The lectionary is a standard list of readings that follow a three year cycle. It’s designed to cover major readings from the bulk of the bible to be read in churches.
It’s supposed to help us cover the bible, but it doesn’t. So I don’t use it exclusively. It leaves whole books off the list all together.
And even more so than in the past, the lectionary now includes many edited texts.
Do you know what I mean by edited texts?
You often will see it when a bible verse is printed somewhere with (…) somewhere in the middle. That (…) means something was taken out of the middle of the verse, or the passage.
And the passage will be written like this …. Galatians 3:1-3a, 5, 7b-9.
And if you go back and see what was taken out, invariably what was removed dramatically changes the meaning of the passage.
Why would someone do that?
Because in doing so we are whittling down God. The verses, or parts of verses that we put (…) didn’t fit. We don’t want them in there anymore. So we took them out.
And this whittling down is being done for a number of reasons.
One of the reasons is some brilliant folk out there are thinking we need to “market Jesus”, in the most favorable light. Make Jesus easier to swallow, and people will flood back into churches. Doesn’t work! The most stable churches today are the ones who present Jesus in a a conservative and literal, biblical way.
Another reason for whittling down Jesus is that we like the idea of a God made in our own image, which is the exact opposite of what the bible says. But a God made in OUR image is one that we can be comfortable with. He’s just like us, so He can be a pal.
Now, YES, we are like Him, but he is unimaginably greater, and to turn that around is simple idolatry.
Turning God into something that He isn’t and redefining Him into the God we want to worship. And then putting him up on a shelf like the household idols of times past.
But reading here we see Jesus won’t conform to our wishes, nor will His Word be bent for our desires.
We can’t make Him fit what we want, and without editing the verses, we cannot whittle Him down.
Like C.S. Lewis wrote, we have to pick.
He is Lord, Lunatic or Liar. And if you pick the truth, that He is Lord God, we must love and worship and serve Him on His terms with no editing, so soft sell.
Writer Eugene Peterson warns “Every omitted detail of Jesus, so carefully conveyed to us by the Gospel writers, reduces Jesus. We need the whole Jesus. The complete Jesus. Everything He said. Every detail of what He did.”
So we can’t reduce Jesus or omit His Words, whittle them down. We need them all, even and especially the words that challenge us, ruffle us, or unsettle us.
Some of the crowds here weren’t quite ready to accept Jesus as He was presenting Himself. Maybe even some of us are uncomfortable with some of Jesus’ bolder confrontations.
But Jesus isn’t worried about challenging us, taking us out of our comfortable places, he’s concerned about the state of our hearts, and like it or not, he tells it to our hearts just like it is.
Mark 3:20-34 [from the New Living Translation – NLT]
20 When Jesus returned to the house where he was staying, the crowds began to gather again, and soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat.
21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.
22 But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”
23 Jesus called them over and said to them by way of illustration, “How can Satan cast out Satan?
24 A kingdom at war with itself will collapse.
25 A home divided against itself is doomed.
26 And if Satan is fighting against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive.
27 Let me illustrate this. You can’t enter a strong man’s house and rob him without first tying him up. Only then can his house be robbed!
28 “I assure you that any sin can be forgiven, including blasphemy;
29 but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. It is an eternal sin.”
30 He told them this because they were saying he had an evil spirit.
31 Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived at the house where he was teaching. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them.
32 There was a crowd around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”
33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “These are my mother and brothers.
35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
As the Gospels move toward Jesus’ crucifixion, the confrontations with Him grow increasingly heated and more numerous, as they test Jesus, try to trap Him, spy on Him, find fault with Him, and eventually begin plotting for His death.
In this passage the teachers of religious law denounced Jesus in the strongest terms they could find, calling His works of healings, and casting out demons the work of the devil. They said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul (spoken as Beelzebub),” and ” by the prince of demons He casts out the demons!”
Beelzebul was the name for an idol the Philistines worshiped in the OT. The name of that word meant “lord of the house”.
But the Isrealites mocked that name changing into “Beelzebub” which means “lord of the flies” or more literally “god of dung”.
So Jesus’ enemies say He is possessed by this Beelzebub, the devil. In other words, Jesus is not of the father, but of Satan.
And Jesus says doing that constituted the one and only unforgivable sin.
Attributing the power and majesty and miracles and wonder of Jesus, not to God, but to Satan.
You don’t need to raise your hands but how many here believe that Jesus is indeed Lord?
Do we all consider ourselves followers of Christ, the one and only Son of God, and believe the words of the bible?
If that’s true for you, rest assured, you have not, and cannot, nor ever will commit the unforgivable sin.
I say that because I know some people worry about that.
We worry because even Christ followers sometimes speak against God, or even reject him, during a difficult times in their lives.
Or perhaps in their thoughts, they fear that somehow they may have indeed sinned against the Holy Spirit, and worry that they might be excluded from forgiveness and eternal salvation.
But the mere fact that someone thinks about that, or worries about that, means the Holy Spirit is alive and well within you.
The unforgivable sin Jesus talks about is not a sin committed by His chosen ones, even ones who have have strayed away.
And it’s not even necessarily a sin committed by the non-believer.
Because if that is you and you’re here this morning, God is still waiting for you, and since you are seeking Him now you have not blasphemed the Holy Spirit. For you there is still hope.
No, Jesus is instead talking about people who have not only denied or refused to believe but their hearts have hardened to the point that they actually attribute God’s work to Satan.
The unforgivable sin is committed by those unfortunate ones who will NEVER believe. And they don’t just say bad things about Jesus, they actively believe God’s work to be the product of demons.
They are the ones who call Jesus a lunatic on the level of someone calling himself a poached egg.
To soundly reject Christ from birth to death, and blaspheme the Holy Spirit by “explaining away” His power, giving it to the powers of evil instead. That’s unforgivable.
A person who lives that life has no hope.
And Jesus is being that harsh and that truthful with the people in this reading.
Now. Don’t get this wrong. He did not say that with a glad heart. He was upset, and angry, and saddened that they were making such a choice.
But for these teachers of religious law, Jesus knew their hearts, and knew they would never accept Him as Lord, and that was the unforgivable sin.
C.S. Lewis was concerned that there were too many people who are even today saying about Jesus was something other that He is.
Some say, even today, that He was just a good teacher, that He was a noble, moral leader, that He was a religious revolutionary, that He was a man of immense compassion and great wisdom. That he was this compassionate and kind nice guy.
But Lewis says that being just that is not possible!
As soon as Jesus claimed to be God, He eliminated Himself from all those other categories.
God is so much more than that, and to call Jesus, a nice and wise teacher, is to whittle down God.
So maybe then, by calling Himself God, Jesus was a lunatic.
He thought he was God is because his mind didn’t work right.
Like the guy in the mental institution lying in bed saying over and over again, “I’m Napoleon, I’m Napoleon, I’m Napoleon.”
And the guy in the next bed says, “Who told you that?”
To which he replies, “God told me”
To which the other guys says with authority….. “Oh no I didn’t.”
There’s the joke “If you want to meet Jesus, go to the State hospital, there are dozens of Jesus’ there”.
And that’s true, there are lots of mentally ill people who think they are Jesus, but they are not.
There are people not in the hospital who run cult groups who think they are Jesus.
Maybe Jesus was just like one of them. Just another nut with a crazy story.
How could people know for sure?
Surprisingly, it seems some of Jesus’ family weren’t so sure. We read in verse 21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.
Now we don’t know exactly what “family” this is. Certainly it wasn’t his mother. Mary knew exactly who He was. The angel told her before He was born, right? He’ll be the Son of the Most High, the Holy Child. She knew she was a virgin. She knew He was her Savior, that’s her Magnificat. She knew.
But others in the family tried to do what a lot people do when they are embarrassed by someone. Wisk them away!
So how do we know he wasn’t a lunatic, out of his mind?
First. Lunatics don’t heal sick people, raise dead people and scare away demons. Lunatics don’t speak the way Jesus spoke, think the way He thought. Lunatics don’t usually make much sense. They act erratic and unpredictable. And that wasn’t Jesus.
Lunatics don’t tend to bring comfort. Lunatics generally are rather frightening, and yet children often gathered around Jesus. Lunatics aren’t marked by kindness and mercy and compassion. Lunatics tend to want to draw attention to themselves, and yet Jesus was humble, and tried not to make a scene.
So it’s clear he was sane. But maybe just a really good liar. People have argued that too.
Well, on that count liars don’t claim to raise the dead, and then actually do it. And they certainly can’t raise themselves. Liars are the kind that are found out, and revealed. And yet not once could anyone prove Jesus wrong. When He said something, he spoke with authority, because he was right, every time, about everything. Liars don’t build trust and faith in people, and yet Jesus did. He said, “take these fish, and these loaves, and feed them…..and it happened.” He wasn’t lying.
So if he’s not just another wise teacher, he’s not a nut case, and he’s not a compulsive liar, who is he?
For those in the know, there is only one option left.
He is who He claimed to be. He is God, virgin born, incarnate, with a sinless life, with power over the physical world, and power over the spiritual world, power over life, power over death, power over creation. He is Lord.
“This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
That is the truth from God’s own mouth.
Today we begin the Advent season. In the weeks again, we celebrate His coming, his birth, the commencement of God’s ultimate Good News.
The prophets knew who he was. The angels knew who he was. The shepherds knew who he was. The wise men knew who he was. The King knew who he was. Mary knew who he was.
They all knew who he was, and is.
So there it is….Liar, Lord, or Poached Egg?
Jesus made the people in today’s reading make a choice.
Choose wisely. To choose wrong is the only unforgivable thing.