October 25, 2023

Crazy or Demon-possessed?


Prayer for Illumination:

God of Word and Wisdom, as we turn to the scriptures, may we hear Your voice calling us to deeper faith and truer devotion. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen

“Whom do you like more, mommy or daddy?” From when we’re young, we are thrown into a situation to take sides. Recently, I’ve been asked, “Which one is your favorite daughter among three?” Sometimes we can choose to be neutral, but most of the time we decide to choose either this or that. It can be sports teams to cheer for or political parties to vote for.

When my family first moved into our current house, our neighbour came over to say, ‘Hi’. We told him that we moved from Toronto. He then asked, “Do you like the Maple Leaves?”

I was puzzled as to why he suddenly asked us if we liked "Maple Leafs". I’m not a big sports fan, so in my ignorance, I thought that he was talking about the huge maple tree in our yard. So I pointed to the tree, “The maple tree?” He seemed speechless to my dumb answer.  My husband, knowing what he was talking about, answered, “I don’t watch hockey games much.” At Thomas’ answer, he seemed very satisfied. In fact, he is a deeply loyal Canucks fan. His attitude was like, “If you cheer for the Maple Leafs instead of the Canucks…”

"Our team", "our party", "our belief", and "our system", can go so far that it sometimes brings violence and war. We witnessed it very closely during the 2020 US presidential election process. And, the current Ukraine & Russia War and Israel & Hamas War.

If a person doesn’t hold the same view or vision or belief system, then we tend to see it as if the person is wrong, and the person is considered an enemy or a threat to our team. “Are you with us or against us?”

In today’s Gospel reading, we see a similar dynamic playing out in that all these different groups of people - the crowds, the religious leaders, and Jesus’ own friends and family. They judge Him against predetermined religious or socially agreed rules and norms. Because Jesus was not within the bounds of their rules and didn’t conform to them, they treated Him as if He was demonic or a lunatic.

Last Sunday, we studied Jesus' claim, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” After the Sabbath, many people from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan came to Him and crowded over Jesus, trying to touch Him for healing.

In the verses immediately preceding today’s text, Jesus went up to a mountainside and appointed the twelve disciples, His core group. These twelve apostles were chosen so that “they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” For the next three years, the twelve had become more than His disciples; they became His friends and brothers.

V 20 of today’s text says that Jesus and his disciples entered a house. Upon hearing Jesus’ arrival, as usual, a crowd gathered. So many were making demands on him that there wasn’t even time for Jesus to eat.

V 21 is controversial. The NIV and our Pew Bible, NRSV say, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Some other translations state that it was Jesus’ friends or His own people who came to lay hold on him.

Whether it was His family or friends, they wanted to “rescue” Jesus from the multitude of people because they thought that He was not in a good state of mind. They might have planned to take Jesus home, put him to bed, keep him quiet for a while, and then see if all this talk about forgiveness of sins and the kingdom of his Father abates.

Just then, the teachers of the law from Jerusalem said that Jesus was performing all these astonishing things like casting out demons and healings, by the power of Beelzebub. Basically, they were accusing Jesus that He was using devil tricks to impress people.

In other words, the reason the demons listened to Jesus was that they were in the same team as He was, and recognized Him as their commanding officer, so to speak.

Jesus confronted their slander with a story, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Jesus’ argument to the teachers of the law was that a kingdom that has conflicting purposes with itself will fall. Any household split by infighting will tear itself apart.

Satan's goal is to destroy, not to heal; Satan would not cast demons out of a person in order to promote Jesus. Why would Satan cast himself out, since his aim is to destroy God's kingdom, not his own kingdom? His primary purpose is to obscure the truth, to kill and steal and devour (John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8). How successful would he be if he went around helping Jesus cast out demons?

The teachers of the Law were just trying to find reasons to shame and oppose Jesus because He posed a threat to their religious system. They were trying to find anything — even as ridiculous as accusing Him as demon-possessed — that would prove them right and Jesus wrong.

Jesus then told them, “No one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house” (V. 27). Jesus refers to Satan as the “strong man” and to Himself as the One who enters the house and plunders the place. Of course, before his territory is “plundered,” Satan must be disabled.

Jesus was not in alliance with Satan, as the teachers of the law argued. Jesus had come to the earth, to what is essentially Satan’s “house” (1 John 5:19), in order to bind Satan and plunder his possessions, which are the souls of men - us.

However, the teachers were rejecting the grace of God - God’s great redemptive work revealed in Jesus Christ. They were rejecting it by attributing Jesus’ life-saving ministry to the power of the devil. They weren’t just doubting the identity of Jesus but rather denying who Jesus truly is.

The funny thing is that the evil spirits knew who Jesus was. V 11 says, Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before Jesus and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!

Even though the teachers had seen what Jesus had been doing with their own eyes, they willfully denied and rejected Jesus Christ. To those who were stubborn and wilful of sin, Jesus said, “You are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus declared their willful blindness to be unforgivable. Their blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was their rejection of God’s grace.

V 31 says, that while Jesus was still in the house, His mother and brothers came and asked for Him. Jesus usually uses parables or asks questions out of a particular situation. At that moment, Jesus asked a rhetorical question to the crowd. “Who are my mother and my brothers?

Looking gently around everyone seated around him, Jesus said, “Right here, right in front of you—my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus was not publicly denouncing His family because they did not fully grasp who He was and misunderstood Him as crazy. Jesus was teaching the crowds that those who obey God’s will are His family - His adopted family, while those who restrain Him from His mission are blasphemous and unforgivable.

In fact, His half-brothers, who were skeptical and misunderstood Jesus’ ministry, became faithful followers of Jesus. James became one of the key leaders of the Jerusalem Church and wrote the Epistle of James, which starts, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude, who wrote the Epistle of Jude, identified himself, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.”

None of the people around Him really understood who Jesus was and what He was doing. He faced criticism from His own friends and family and the religious leaders because He was somewhat revolutionary.

He brought new interpretations of the Law of Moses. He hung around with the sinners; He broke the Sabbath rules; He flipped over the tables of the moneychangers and drove out the cattle and sheep that were supposed to be used for sacrifice in the Temple. No wonder, many thought that He was odd, crazy, demonic, and a rebel.

What would you think of Jesus if you were there 2,000 years ago? What about if Jesus were here today? Jesus and His teachings were certainly not like any other religious leaders and their teachings back then; Jesus probably is not going to be like any “normal” Christian now.

Jesus would hang around with ‘the marginalized’ - the outcast, the homeless, the mentally ill, the addict - those you want to avoid. He may spend much more time in the downtown Eastside than in any church.

Friends, by Jesus’ blood, we became brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister, and mother.” What is God’s will? Discriminate, judge, hate, look down on, or ignore others who are ‘different’? OR accept, respect, and love others as they are?

If Jesus were here today, He would probably ask us, “Are you my sisters and brothers?” “Paul, do you love your neighbors? Rick, do you obey my Father’s will?”

Let us remember that what makes us a family is not our skin color, language, culture, preferences, point of view, how long you’ve been a member of the church, how much you know about the Bible, BUT the blood of Christ we share and our obedience to the will of God.

Look at the people beside you, before you. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you see Christ in them?

Friends, believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, and Love your neighbors as you love yourself. That’s the will of God. And all those who do the will of God are your brothers and sisters in Christ.


Let us pray.

Father God, You created each of us fearfully and wonderfully. You called us when we were still sinners, accepted us as we were, and still love us as we are. And You want us to be united in Christ Jesus Your Son. But we, instead of loving one another, take sides, hurt others, and abuse our power. Forgive us, Lord. Holy Spirit, fill us with Your power and help us to respect and love others who are different from us. In the name of Jesus who died on the cross to take away our sins.  Amen.