3rd Sunday after Pentecost – B LSB #’s 869, 615, 689
Text – Mark 3:28-30
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, & whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” – for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
THE ETERNAL SIN
I was visiting at the county jail, in Rugby, ND, & as we were discussing the ways in which God had blessed one of the men there, one of the other inmates started scoffing & laughing: “God & the Bible, all that stuff’s a crock. It’s just a bunch of myths & fairy tales. Where’s God? What good has He done you? You are in jail!”
That 2nd inmate is an obvious example of unbelief, & most of us in the church seldom encounter unbelief that blatant, because we don’t hang out with that sort of person. It was rather surprising to me because even at the jail, it was the 1st time I’d had the opportunity of talking to someone that willing to outright condemn God & Holy Scripture.
Listening to this man, you quickly find out that he’s very intelligent & not afraid to speak his mind. However, he lacks the fear of the Lord that brings wisdom according to what Scripture so clearly teaches. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to talk to him because of his honesty. He wasn’t playing games trying to convince the “pastor” that he’s actually a good guy.
Yet, beneath all the facade of his gruff attitude, it seems that he really was interested in learning what our church teaches. That’s actually a lot more than I can say for many so-called Christians I have known. As C. S. Lewis wrote, many Christians seem to have been inoculated with just enough religion to keep them from getting the full-blown variety.
The unbeliever at jail wasn’t afraid of sin because he did not believe in it. Many
Christians though also live their lives without fear of sin; at least of certain sins – ones like failing to keep the Sabbath day holy, or failing to hold Scripture sacred & gladly hear & learn it. Those sins bring no fear to many Christians I know, & it hurts to watch them recklessly endanger their spiritual lives in that way. At least the inmate at the jail was honest about it, & willing even to discuss it openly. In only two one hour sessions, he asked me far more questions about theology than a lot of church members have in 19 years of being a pastor.
I don’t believe that’s because those other people already know everything they need to, & given their general lack of interest, their actions prove them no better than a rank unbeliever, locked up in jail.
Unbelief is an insidious problem. It creeps into even the lives of baptized children of God. It sneaks in & when we’ve been seduced into thinking everything is okay, when we’ve become complacent & disconnected from our Lord, then it strikes with a vengeance. Its victims often have no idea where to turn, because they are no longer familiar with God.
For 8 years, Sally had been the Romero family pet. She was only a foot long when they brought her home, but she grew & grew until eventually reaching a length of 11 feet & weighing 80 pounds.
One day Sally turned on 15 year old Derek & strangled the unsuspecting teenager to death. Police said that the Burmese python was quite aggressive, hissing & reacting when they arrived to investigate the boy’s death.
Sin, is like that snake. When a particular one first enters our lives, we think of it as harmless, almost cute. Yet, it doesn’t stay small. Sin has a way of growing, & though we think we can handle it, in fact, it begins to handle us. And it always leads to death; sometimes physical but often to emotional death.
If sin & unbelief are not confessed & forsaken, they will bring spiritual death. That’s why James warned us that sin, when it’s full grown, brings forth death. His purpose in saying that was not to spoil our fun, but to preserve our lives & the fun that God alone can give. The fun that our heavenly Father gives is the true joy, peace & contentment of being in Christ.
Are you living your life in Christ, connected to Him daily? Have you drifted away, unnoticeably? Is your Bible in mint condition? Is the snake growing in your life, waiting for that opportune moment to strike for the kill? When is it that a Christian crosses that line from belief to unbelief? How close are you to that line?
Most of us are closer than we care to know. I don’t believe there’s that much difference between you & me & the inmate who was scoffing about fairy tales in the Bible. Today’s gospel lesson speaks of Jesus’ own family thinking He was out of His mind. If His own family thought that, it shouldn’t surprise us to find ourselves in the same boat.
What kind of priority does the mission of your church take in your daily schedule? Or, does it seem ridiculous that God should expect you to make painful sacrifices in order to serve Him? Does God’s command to worship Him every Sunday seem like a fairy tale? Maybe that inoculation against the effects of true Christianity has taken hold in your life.
Even though you may be a Christian, unbelief still exists in your heart. The seed is still there, waiting to be watered, waiting for the opportunity to grow & take over your soul. Have you been taking for granted the forgiveness of your sins? Have you been abusively taking advantage of Christ’s death through an unfaithful life?
The pastor at my home congregation once attended the funeral of a young man who’d been living life in the fast lane. His priest said that he knew little of the man because he was seldom in church. This man’s life ended on a fast note, crashing into a train while leaving 91 feet of skid marks on the road behind him.
The danger of ignoring God, & continuing in your sin is that when you live your life that
fast – & you suddenly realize you are heading for a train – 91 feet of locked up brakes is not enough to turn your life around. Unbelief can take over your soul, & eventually, God gives people over to their sinful desires. He will only brook rejection for so long.
Where do you stand today? Is God just a crock in your life? Do you believe His promises are nothing more than fairy tales? Are His laws just the words of some kind of self-righteous control freak?
The teachers of the law, in the Gospel reading, claimed that Jesus was casting out demons by the prince of the demons, rather than by the Holy Spirit. It was some kind of set-up to deceive people. No one could truly drive out demons. That idea was only a myth. As such, those teachers were blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
That sin is eternal because refusing to accept the Holy Spirit means that you’ve rejected God’s means of grace. Yahweh has chosen to create faith in a person’s heart only through the work of His Spirit. As long as you reject that Spirit, you remain in unbelief. No man is able to come to faith of his own accord, & without faith, a man is truly dead.
Thus it is at the end of the gospel reading as Jesus’ family comes looking for Him again. Jesus answers, “Who are my mother & my brothers?” Here they are, as He points to those seated around Him, intently listening to His words & following His teaching.
They believe in Christ as their Savior, unlike His mother & brothers, who consider Him crazy, & unlike the Pharisees who claim that Jesus is in league with the devil. They are lost in their unbelief & will remain there as long as they continue to reject the work of God’s Spirit.
The same is true today of anyone who rejects the Spirit God. Our Lord has promised to send Him through the preaching & the teaching of His Word, through the waters of baptism & through the body, blood, bread & wine of His Holy Supper. That Spirit, working through those
means, teaches you who Christ is. Who is this Jesus? That’s the main theme of the book of Mark. As of the 3rd chapter, the Pharisees & Jesus’ own mother & brothers cannot answer that question accurately. Jesus rejects them as His own. They are guilty of that eternal sin called unbelief.
Though you have been brought to faith through the power of God’s Word & God’s baptism, you can fall away & Scripture records that such a person is worse off than before they were ever converted. That’s a fearful thought, & entirely opposite of God’s will for His children.
This morning, Jesus is pleading with you to gather around Him faithfully, listening to His Word & partaking of His body & blood for the strengthening of your physical & spiritual selves. He’s calling you to forsake your sinful desires, to persevere in the race to the crown of life. He’s gone there ahead you. He’s defeated the powers opposed to you.
But, He does not treat you like a slave & control your obedience. He allows you to respond willingly to the love that He’s shown you. He guides you, He protects you & He blesses you, all out of love for you – His creation. He’s awaiting you at the final resurrection, & He has already guaranteed you a room in His mansion. Will you believe?
Don’t wait until the train of death is only 91 feet away. Jesus has already sacrificed His life. Will you believe that the blessings of Jesus are more than a fairy tale? Amen.
Then is our comfort this alone that we may meet before Your throne; to You O faithful God, we cry for rescue in our misery. Amen. LSB 615:2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet