A House Divided? 

A House Divided?

Pastor Mitch Coggin June 9, 2024 Pentecost 3B

In today’s scripture, Jesus returned home, however, he wasn’t able to get away from the crowds. The crowds followed him. The frenzied crowd included his supporters, both Jews and Gentiles, who wanted to get close to the man who possessed power over sickness and demons. Then there were the scribes who had traveled 100 miles to accuse Jesus of the things they thought were irregularities in his ministry and to accuse him of being Satan himself. And then there was also Jesus’ family. They wanted to bring him home because they were afraid for his safety. They wanted to protect Jesus from himself and others.

Jesus’ response to all of them is to speak in parables. Jesus begins by saying, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, the kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, the house will not be able to stand.” The parables are about division and the results of this division within us and among us. Those who confronted Jesus were accusing him of the division. He is putting the magnifying glass back on them as a way of helping them see their blindness to what God is doing.

This is a story of conflict, confrontation, and accusation. Jesus paints a picture of who is on the inside of what God is doing and who is on the outside of understanding God’s activity. The crowd was too focused on labeling as evil what they didn’t understand or what threatened them. Jesus was trying to help them to look beyond their own resistance and give them the opportunity of reimagining who was the community of God. Jesus’ intention was to build “the New Community” – the Kingdom of God that is among us and within us.

When Jesus was informed that his mother and brothers and sisters were outside, his response was unexpected. He explains that the community of God and the strength of that community extends family relationships. The community of God are those who are drawn together as Jesus said, “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus’ actions and his message challenge the very nature and presence of evil in the world. He challenges us to take a look within. The scribes were well intentioned because they were trying to protect the traditions of their faith as they had experienced them. Jesus’ family was well intentioned because they were trying to protect Jesus, whom they loved. Both the scribes and Jesus’ birth family’s purposes were to protect and take care of the institutions and persons they loved.

In one of popular columnist Jack Knox’s essays, he wrote that one of the great lessons of life is that being well intentioned shouldn’t be confused with doing the right thing. Those who confronted Jesus with good intentions failed to see within themselves the fear, resistance, and blindness to what God was doing that caused them to hurt themselves, to hurt others, and to hurt God.

How might we be more honest in recognizing the things within us that keep the Kingdom of God at bay?

The Genesis story is another part of the creation narrative. God had told Adam and Eve, the Hebrew names for humankind, that they could eat from any tree in the Garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why would God forbid them from eating of this tree? Isn’t that what God’s people are supposed to want; to know the difference between right and wrong? The problem isn’t their desire to know the difference but their attempt to gain that knowledge through a shortcut, apart from God.

In her book Wholehearted Faith, Christian author Rachel Held Evans writes about these verses, It’s not a story about how humans lost their worth; it’s a story about how humans lost their innocence. And most importantly, it’s not a story about how God turned away from creation but rather a story about how God , in God’s relentless way, moved toward creation while giving people the freedom to make choices, to test boundaries, to rebel, to wreak havoc, to grow up. In the verses we read, God is walking through the Garden in the cool of the evening looking for them and calling, “Where are you?” Humankind is hiding in the Garden, ashamed and afraid. God approached them not to shame or punish them; God came to them out of concern and love for them. Once he found them, they began to unravel their tale of why they were hiding. All they found out was that they were naked. As my Old Testament seminary professor Clyde Francisco taught, “If all they learned from eating the forbidden fruit is that they were naked; really, was it worth the trouble?”

Rachel Held Evans continues, Perhaps the story of Adam and Eve isn’t about a single moment– a great “Fall” that explains the origins of evil and the presence of death in the world– but rather about the many moments in which human beings face a choice between independence and interdependence. It serves as a warning…that autonomy is overrated. trying to go it alone, without the wisdom of our Creator, leads to shame and exile, desecration and death. Adam and Eve wanted autonomy without the wisdom that comes with knowing what God wanted and desired for them. We have a choice between independence and interdependence, between autonomy and wisdom.

This is also a narrative about how Adam and Eve responded to one another. When God questioned what they did, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. This is a perfect example of not being responsible for themselves or for one another. When we cast blame, we try to protect ourselves instead of taking responsibility for ourselves. Better yet, could we take responsibility as a community rather than point out individuals or circumstances with whom we disagree?

Retired Seminary President Craig Barnes explains that the tree of knowledge was the only part of the garden they were not to touch. He says there can be 999 things in the garden that we can have and enjoy and participate in any day but where do we pitch our tent? Are we acting like the garden belongs to us? How do we recognize where God is already moving and open ourselves to that Spirit?