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two houses

Mark 3:20-35

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wednesday of the First Sunday in Lent
St. Paul's Lutheran Church  
Wellston, Oklahoma

Wed, Mar 16, 2011 

There are two houses in the Reading from Mark: the house of satan, and the house of Jesus.  We will belong to one or the other of these houses.  Will it be with satan, or with Jesus?  The right answer is obvious.  No one in their right mind chooses the father of lies over the One who is Truth.  No one chooses death over Life.  No one chooses the lord of darkness over the Light of the world.

Yet the issue is not really a matter of choice.  The Pharisees were, in principle, totally opposed to satan.  But they said something that made them friends of satan: They said that the power behind Jesus' casting out demons was none other than satan.  They looked at the work of the Holy Spirit in the actions of Christ and said, "This is the work of evil."

My friends, this is the unforgivable sin.  It overturns God's whole plan of salvation from the very beginning.  In the Garden of Eden, God promised that the Seed of woman would crush the evil serpent's head.  Then Jesus came, smashing away at satan, driving out demon after demon as He made His way to the Cross and the open grave where He dealt the death blow to satan and his evil kingdom.  That is the one and only plan of salvation by which mankind is saved.  If that plan is rejected, if someone says that Christ's work is full of the stink of satan's evil, then they are indeed lost for all time.

This is not so much because it is blasphemy against Christ.  He says that blasphemy against Him may be forgiven.  But it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that is unforgivable.  If someone sees clearly the plan of God's salvation for mankind in Christ through the means of grace, yet says that this is not the work of God, but the work of darkness, then they have committed this unforgivable sin.

This is not something that a Christian can accidentally or casually commit.  So you need not worry that you may commit the unforgivable sin without realizing it.  This is done only in a stubborn and deliberate rejection of all that Christ and the Spirit do.

The work of Christ continues today in Word and Sacrament as satan's kingdom is crushed and lives are cleansed from sin.  If that work is called the work of satan, then what other way of forgiveness can there be?  If the Holy Spirit's work in the means of grace is rejected, then what other means are there to receive faith?

Ironically, in the very act of accusing Christ of being the friend of satan, people commit themselves to being friends of satan.

But it is worse than that.  We are all conceived and born in the house of satan.  We all need the exorcism of Christ's Baptism to drive the devil out of us.  Our sinful flesh and every act of disobedience we do declare that we deserve to be in that house of darkness and death.

But Christ has plundered us out of the house of satan.  He broke in and bound the strong one who guarded that house.  The strong one is satan, who is much mightier than we.  But Christ is infinitely stronger than that ancient snake.  Christ wrestled satan on the Cross.  Just when satan thought he had won by killing Christ, satan was conquered.  For the death of Christ is the release of the prisoners and the plundering of treasure from satan's house. We are the treasure that Christ won from the dragon's clutches.  He bound that ancient dragon and carried us off to be in His House, His Church.

Now that we are in His House, we are His brothers and sisters.  All who listen to His life-giving Word are the family of Christ.  We gather around Him like the people crowded into the house in Galilee.  We have the living Christ in our midst no less than the crowds did.  Let us be careful to listen to Him, since His Word is eternal life.

Let us not be like Christ's earthly family.  They thought that He was out of His mind, because they saw Him working so hard at His teaching that He could not even eat a meal.  They evidently thought that this ministry of the Word was impractical and dangerous, and Jesus must be crazy to keep on teaching this way.

So they came to bring Jesus into custody. They stood outside the house, calling for Him.  By the way, the Greek word for being crazy literally says, "to stand outside," as in, out of one's mind.  Ironically, in the act of labeling Christ as one who "stood outside," they were "standing outside" the house.  There is a hint here that anyone who thinks that Jesus is foolish or crazy makes himself foolish or crazy.  You cannot oppose Christ and still remain wise.

We know that at least some members of His family eventually turned back to Him in faith.  May we also, when we have been foolish, turn back again to the wisdom of our Lord.

May we never speak against His ministry of the Word as if it is foolish.  May we never hold His teachings at arms' length from ourselves to judge whether they are right or wrong.

This was the first temptation, when satan asked Eve, "Did God really say not to eat the fruit?" In the same way, satan may whisper in our ear, "Did God really say that homosexuality is a sin?  That can't be right.  Did Christ really say that He is the only way of salvation?  That's arrogant.  Did Christ say that sex outside of marriage is wrong?  That's unloving."

When people listen to satan, then they will always hold the words of Christ at arms' length to judge them.  In their mind, they are not really judging Christ, but the earthly teacher who speaks the Word.  Yet satan is so clever that he will never let the person see that they are really passing judgment on Christ.  Eventually, if satan is successful, people will reject both the Word and the Savior who comes in the Word.  Then they will not belong to the House of God, but the house of satan.

Who are the people who face this danger? They are you and me.  We hear Jesus speak to us, but satan is always trying to tempt us to reject the Word.  The devil loves to whisper in our ear that we are so smart.  We know better than that old, dusty book.  Those were old-fashioned ideas.  This is the 21st century.  Time for a paradigm shift!  The devil loves these kinds of words.

May the Lord protect us against the voice of the ancient serpent.  By nature, we want to listen to his voice and be free of God's Law.  We have been disobedient and disrespectful towards the very King of the universe, the Almighty, the Maker of the heavenly hosts.  We have tried to pass judgment against Him.  We have tried to ignore or twist the rules of His House to suit what we want to do.

May the Holy Spirit continue to bend our unwilling knees in repentance.  May He smash us to bits with the hammer of His Law, but then raise us again through the precious Gospel of Christ.  For when we feel the heat of the flames of hell that we deserve licking at our feet, then we feel the true value of the Cross that has rescued us from death.  When the burden of sin weighs heavily on us, then the lifting of that burden makes us breathe a sigh, a gasp of relief.  For the sweet grace of the suffering and death of Christ has erased the rebellion inside us.  His Blood floods our dark souls with His light, because He has forgiven our sins and given us eternal life.

For we do not deserve to be in the House of God.  We are the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the adulterers, the liars, the drunkards, and the thieves.  We are the vile dregs of the earth.  That is why we crowd around Christ to hear the beauty of His voice as He declares to us the forgiveness that He has given us, and the sonship that is ours by adoption.

In His precious Name, the Name above all names.  Amen

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