The Gospel of the Good News

Genesis 3:8-15

Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Mark 3:20-35

Before we look at today’s Gospel reading, let’s see what preceded it. In the first 6 verses, Jesus heals a man who’s hand was withered and useless. The key verse is four: Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silentNIV

Jesus does not make a big deal of this event, except for the question. In effect, he was asking, ‘how can it be wrong to do good?’

In verses 7-12 we see Jesus healing many people by the lake. Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” NIV This prepares us for what follows.

He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demonsNIV Jesus was able to drive out demons and now he gives that authority to the Twelve, yes, including Judas.

And that leads us to the crowded house—likely Peter’s—and Jesus being accused of being in league with the devil. The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying that he was possessed by Beelzebub, and that he drove out devils because he was in league with the prince of devilsPhillips Jesus could have been more derogatory and called the scribes stupid for such inconsistent statements. ‘Why would the devil want anyone to drive out his demons?’

Let’s look at two different versions of this segment.

I assure you that human beings will be forgiven for everything, for all sins and insults of every kind. But whoever insults the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. That person is guilty of a sin with consequences that last forever.” He said this because the legal experts were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”  Common English Bible

“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and all the abusive and blasphemous things they say;but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit and His power [by attributing the miracles done by Me to Satannever has forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin [a sin which is unforgivable in this present age as well as in the age to come]”—[Jesus said this] because the scribes and Pharisees were [attributing His miracles to Satan by] saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Amplified Bible

I don’t often use the Amplified Bible but it is helpful here. God, through the Holy Spirit, drove out demons from people. Jesus points out that Satan had nothing to do with it. Giving him credit instead of the Spirit of God is the worst sin a person can make. God heals, Satan enslaves.

Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit in today’s reading in this way. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanentPhillips

We in America have the misfortune to live in the end phase of an empire. The end phase is always characterized with greed, over consumption, and the rejection of religion. That is over simplified, but this is not a critique of the history of the USA. The question for Christians is how to be followers of the Messiah in such a time.

We must reject the prosperity gospel, for example. It always leads to the downfall of those who practice it. Jesus was not here to bring wealth to the poor but to bring life to the poor. Life comes from God alone.

As Jesus said in Matthew 11:4-6—Jesus gave them this reply, “Go and tell John what you see and her—that blind men are recovering their sight, cripples are walking, lepers being healed, the deaf hearing, the dead being brought to life and the good news is being given to those in need. And happy is the man who never loses faith in me.” Phillips

With his background we should not be surprised with Jesus’ words in Mark 3:34-35. And looking at those who were sitting around him in a circle, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” NET

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Nicodemus

Photo by Joel Mott on Unsplash

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.” MSG

Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Congress and Supreme Court of Judah. The Sanhedrin had spies follow Jesus, they sent members to test Jesus, and eventually they put Jesus on trial. Yet, Nicodemus does not seem to be a part of that effort.

Bede, in the Eighth Century, had this to say. Nicodemus was one of the many who believed in Jesus, and therefore he came at night, and not during the day because he was not yet illumined with the gracious heavenly lightACCS John was fond of including just that kind of imagery; still being in the dark, Nicodemus approached Jesus in the dark.

Nicodemus alone approached Jesus when there were no crowds. This exchange has the appearance of a genuine wish to understand Jesus, not to try to trip him up. Yet, the phrase, we all know, suggests that others, perhaps many others, among the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin realized that Jesus was in some way connected to God.

What it suggests is that the Pharisees and Sadducees recognized Jesus as a great teacher and man of God, but his teachings upset their understanding of the world. They saw him as a threat to their comfortable positions. So, man of God or not, he had to stop the nonsense; only teach things they already believed.

Imagine Nicodemus returning home after this exchange, he has a new vision, perhaps a new understanding. I see him unable to sleep as he ponders Jesus’ words. I think he did all he could to keep up with Jesus and to better understand his teachings. We know that he saw Jesus on the cross and took upon himself the dangerous obligation of providing a grave for him. We learn nothing else about him in the NT, but I like to think he joined the followers at or after Pentecost.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right againMSG

Let us praise the Son first of all, venerating the blood that expiated our sins. He lost nothing of his divinity when he saved me, when like a good physician he stooped to my festering wounds. He was a mortal man, but he was also God. He was of the race of David abut Adam’s creator. He who has no body clothed himself with flesh. He had a mother who, nonetheless, was a virgin. He who is without bounds bound himself with the cords of our humanity. He was victim and high priest—yet he was God. He offered up his blood and cleansed the whole world. He was lifted up on the cross, but it was sin that was nailed to it. He became as one among the dead, but he rose from the dead, raising to life also many who had died before him. On the one hand, there is the poverty of his humanity; on the other, the riches of his divinity. Do not let what is human in the Son permit you wrongfully to detract from what is divine. For the sake of the divine, hold in the greatest honor the humanity, which the immortal Son took on himself for love of youACCS So wrote Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople in the Fourth Century.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence