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Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 5)

Genesis 3:8–15; Mark 3:20–35

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 2, Proper 5, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jun 7, 2015 

The reading we just heard from the Gospel according to Mark takes place early in Jesus public ministry.  He has been traveling about proclaiming the gospel of God, (Mark 1:14) and miraculous signs accompanied His teaching.  The news about Him has traveled and He has become very popular.  As we recently heard, when He came home from His travels, the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. (Mark 3:20)

With popularity comes criticism.  The religious authorities sent representatives to keep an eye on Jesus to see if He was going to be a problem.  It didnt take long for envy to attack.  Soon after Jesus began teaching and healing, the Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:6)

We heard more about that envy in todays reading from the Gospel according to Mark.  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. (Mark 3:22) The miracles of Jesus are so public and so well known that His enemies cannot deny them.  Instead, they try to discredit them.  They accuse Jesus of working His miracles in league with demons.  They literally say that Jesus is able to cast out demons because He Himself is demon possessed.

Of course their accusations make no sense whatsoever.  Demons may be pure evil, but they are not stupid.  Why would they fight against themselves by driving themselves out of people?  Jesus said as much when he called them to him and said to them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. (Mark 3:2326)

Jesus went on to teach about what it truly takes to defeat Satan.  No one can enter a strong mans house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Mark 3:27) Satan is indeed very strong.  Only One stronger than Satan can plunder Satans household and rescue those held captive by him and his demons.  That one is Jesus.

The plundering of Satans stronghold is important to each and every one of us, for as we say in the rite of baptism:

The Word of God teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own. We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation. But the Father of all mercy and grace has sent His Son Jesus Christ, who atoned for the sin of the whole world that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

So Jesus teaches that He is the stronger One Who binds Satan and delivers us from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.

But how is it that we were already under Gods condemnation even at conception?  The answer to that comes from the words we recently heard from Genesis.  In todays Old Testament reading we heard about the results of Adam and Eves sin.  Satan had pulled his old one-two punch.  In the temptation, he had made the sin look pleasurable.  After the sin, he had laid on the burden of guilt.  Adam and eve now saw God differently.  Before, He had been the beloved creator.  Now, He was the terrifying judge.  Adam and Eve had not merely cursed themselves with their sin, but they had cursed all of creation.

Never the less, even as God announced the result of sin on the serpent, He also announced the hope of salvation.  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. (Genesis 3:15) With these words, God promised a savior a strong man who would bind Satan and free us from our captivity. 

The promise of the head-crushing seed passed on from generation to generation from Adam and Eve to Seth down through the generations for thousands of years.  From time-to-time it looked as though the seed might be wiped out, but God protected it and kept His promise.  The Old Testament contains the history of God at work protecting that seed through the years.  When the time was exactly right, God kept His promise by taking on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary so that Mary gave birth to the God-man Christ Jesus.

Jesus is the offspring or seed of the woman who bruised the serpents head.  The words of judgment on the tempter in Genesis are a word picture of the victory that Jesus will have over the tempter.  They are also a word picture of the price that Jesus will pay in order to gain that victory.

The bruised head and the bruised heel become fulfilled in Jesus on the cross.  At first it seemed that Satan had the victory.  When Jesus died, it appeared that the tempter had crushed the head of the seed.  But then Jesus rose from the dead and showed that He is indeed the head crusher.  Satan tried to spread his venom into Jesus heel on the cross, but Jesus prevailed and crushed his head.  Jesus is the strong man who binds Satan in order to set us free.

Jesus now plunders Satans stronghold in order to carry off those who were His in the first place those whom He created.  The death of this world was the pathway to eternal death, but now it is the pathway to eternal life.  He restores those who were His.

Sadly, there are those who are slaves in the house of Satan who do not want to leave.  They reject Jesus offer of eternal freedom.  When Jesus binds Satan and offers to carry them to safety and freedom, they say, NO! For reasons that we cannot understand, they reject the work of the Holy Spirit they reject the forgiveness that Jesus offers to them for free.  This is what Jesus was talking about when He said, Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin (Mark 3:2829)

Jesus has already earned forgiveness and eternal life for everyone.  He sends the Holy Spirit to work faith in people and then deliver forgiveness through that faith.  Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit rejects that gift of faith and that gift of forgiveness.  Jesus has earned forgiveness for that person, but when the Holy Spirit offers forgiveness that person says, NO!  Take that forgiveness away!

People ask the wrong question when they ask, How can a loving God send people to hell? The right question to ask is, Why would anyone reject Gods gift of eternal life?  Why would anyone choose eternity in hell rather than eternity with a God who loves them?

The Bible does not tell us why some people reject Gods love why some people reject Gods forgiveness why some people choose eternal death when the Holy Spirit wants to give them eternal life.

When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, He bound Satan.  Now He plunders Satans stronghold in order to free all who were enslaved to sin.  He sends the Holy Spirit to work faith and to offer the forgiveness of sins through that faith.  With the forgiveness of sins comes salvation and eternal life.  We are redeemed!  Christ has conquered Satan and He freely shares His victory with us.  Amen

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