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"One God, One Humankind" Third Sunday After Pentecost - June 9, 2024

Last week in the Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus and the influential Pharisees got into it. If you’ll remember Jesus left them speechless and seething with anger, willing to team up with their declared enemies, the Herodians to take Jesus down. We are only in chapter three of Mark, and already Jesus has upset and made mortal enemies out of two mighty groups, the religious Pharisees and the political Herodians. Now another powerful group, the legislative scribes, or the Sanhedrin are coming for him. And they come in hot! They level an accusation of the highest order against him, they accuse him of being in league with a prince of Satan, a Beelzebub. Basically, they are saying that Jesus is using black magic, he’s nothing but a wicked sorcerer. The goal is the same as that of the Herodians and the Pharisees of course, the goal is to discredit Jesus and his countercultural teachings and so preventing him from endangering their position of power. And of course, the comfort and luxury this power provided them with. Far from trying to calm and smooth the situation over, offering no diplomacy, Jesus escalates the situation. Why only a prince of darkness, why only a Beelzebub, let’s go straight with Satan himself. Go big or go home I guess, maybe there was just a little American in Jesus after all? Then he conjures up a surprisingly violent image. He has broken into Satan’s home, into Satan’s kingdom. He has then overpowered Satan and tied him up in order to rob him blind.

Forget about being in allegiance with a minor evil entity, Jesus is dealing blows to evil itself. This image of Jesus’ ministry is only supported and evidenced by people being set free from evil demons, being made whole and a part of society again. Jesus has taken their lives back, out of Satan’s kingdom and into God’s kingdom. Satan has no interest in freeing people from his influence, only Jesus does AND has the power to do so. That is quite the response to the Sanhedrin accusation. But Jesus is not done with them just yet. Oh no. He says that there is no sin that could keep him, could keep God from offering forgiveness and wholeness and healing and relationship with God once again.

No sin but their sin. Because they are surrounded by these people that are healed and restored to wholeness, they are witnessing life-giving miracles and in their willful ignorance and wish to remain in power, they blinded themselves to the Holy Spirit, they are blind to God’s actions in the world and instead claim a sort of demonic possession is at work. This stone hearted blasphemy against the Holy Spirit itself even Jesus, even God cannot heal you from.

Let that sink in. That is a rousing response. This is a technical knockout in round one to the Sanhedrin. People who have heard him, just like the ones who heard Jesus go toe to toe with the Pharisees must have been on their feet with excitement. They may not be sure exactly about what is going on, but whatever this Jesus character is saying and doing is big! Change is in the air. But being the poster child for this kind of sweeping cultural change is dangerous business. It gets you killed. It’s no wonder then that Jesus’ friends and family are worried sick about him. I mean, he’s not even eating right anymore. The crisis between him and this third powerful group of enemies is bookended on both sides by the friends and family who worry about Jesus and his response to them. And in this distanced exchange between Jesus and his human family, the Gospel of Mark shows just how far and vast His revision of society goes. In the society and culture of the first century, family is everything. It is your life. Your identity, your responsibilities, any stability is tied into the structure of your family. Without family, you are nothing. Being shunned is a fate worse than death. So, when Jesus confronts even this most basic of realities in their world, the reality that family comes first, there can be no doubt left that whatever the reality of God’s kingdom looks like, it is nothing like the society and culture we humans build. For one, there is no hierarchy, no one is more powerful than another in God’s kingdom. Notice how in the text Jesus’ family is his brother, and sister, and mother. There is no mention of a father. Now, of course we know that God is his Father, but Jesus’ human family has a father, Joseph. And as real as the fact that family always comes first is, it is just as real that the father is the only authority in the family. Always. By simply completely omitting the authority figure from this picture of family, the Gospel shows us this reality of God’s kingdom, it shows us that there is one God, and there is one humankind under God. None of us are above one another just as surely as none of us are above God. The hierarchies we put in place on this earth, the powers we make and grant and withhold, the authority we claim or must surrender to, it was not created by God or even with God’s approval. Because that kind of pecking order simply does not exist in God’s kingdom. Nothing we have, nothing we do, nothing we say can make us God’s favorite or least favorite people. Nothing we have, nothing we do, nothing we say can make God side with us over another. It is only our admission of faith, our putting God first that has any influence on our relationship with God. We are asked to surrender to God, no one else. Not even family. You know that saying “blood is thicker than water”? I really don’t care to know the number of people that these words have abused. They have been used to force and coerce people into miserable lives full of abuse and neglect. But actually, they come from what Jesus says about family here.

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

See, the full saying is this: The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. Whatever the ties we have with our family look like, they are nothing compared to the blood that binds us to God.

Now, please understand I am not advocating abandoning your family! And please celebrate Father’s Day next week! My kids and I certainly celebrate Cory! I am saying though, that if your family has abandoned you, you are nonetheless always loved by God and God’s family. We are your family. I am lucky, my family does come second only to God. I prioritize my family because I believe they are God’s gift to me. And because just like in God’s kingdom, we are not all blood related. My family has grown into a beautiful village of my brothers and my sisters and my mothers, all of us united in God our Father. There is one God. And there is one humankind under God. No other reality matters more. Not countries, not wars, not politics, nothing “real” this world claims and commits to can outlast God’s reality. There is one God. And there is one humankind under God. It is the only reality worth committing to. Jesus teaches us this in how he dealt with the religious, political, and legislative powers that be in the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Sanhedrin. And He teaches us this by loving all of us as His brother, sister, and mother. There is one God. There is one humankind under God.