“Lunatic, Liar, or Lord”      Mark 3:20-35                 January 28, 2007



We’re back to Gospel of Mark after a two month break.


Someone has said that the Gospel of Mark is an invasion.

   The Son of God invades our world and challenges our perceptions

   about what God is really like. 


And everyone who encounters him must decide

   whether to trust their eternal destiny to him or not.


Before we get into this passage.  Want to give credit where credit is due.

   Dr. Tim Keller’s sermon on this passage was excellent.

   Lots of the things you hear from me today, including outline, got from him.


INTRO:  When you hear the name CS Lewis, you probably think of Narnia.

But Lewis, as you know, did not just write children’s books.

   One of his most famous is Mere Christianity

   which presents and defends the Christian faith. 

Even though Lewis was responding to objections against Christianity

   during his time—first half of the 20th century—

   his arguments are still fresh today.


Most Englishmen during Lewis’ time—

   and many scholars he rubbed shoulders with in Oxford and Cambridge

   would say that Jesus was a great moral teacher.

He was like Buddha or Confucius or Mohammed.

   In fact, he was probably the greatest moral teacher—

   but he was not God.  Just a great man whose teaching we can learn from.


In Mere Christianity Lewis proposed a famous argument against

   this commonly held idea that Jesus was a great moral teacher.

His argument was this: 

   If you look at what Jesus said about himself,

   then you cannot call him a great moral teacher.

In fact, you only have three options.

   Let’s read Lewis’ words themselves—printed in bulletin on Meditations page.


“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell.  You must take your choice.  Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”


These three options:  That Jesus was either a lunatic, or a liar, or the Lord

   is called the trilemma.  One of the great arguments in Christian apologetics.

Lewis was the first person who articulated this—

   but he got it right out of the Bible.

In fact, you can find it here in this passage in Mark.

   In this passage there are two false views of Jesus.

   And then Jesus speaks and says who he really is.


But notice—as we study—this is not just an interesting intellectual exercise.

   Your view of Christ, and your response to him has eternal significance.

Do you accept Jesus’ testimony about himself, and the testimony of Holy Spirit?

   Or do you reject him?  That’s the challenge of this passage—all Mark.

Passages like this in Gospel, where we see Jesus challenged—

   are intended to encourage your faith,

   and cause you to commit yourself afresh to following Him.


I’d like us to look at this passage under two headings.

   1.  False views of Jesus.   2.  Who Jesus says he is.

   And then we’ll see what difference this makes in your life.


MP#1  False views of Jesus

There are two in this passage. 

   verse 21, His family said, “He is out of his mind.”

   verse 30, Teachers of the law said, “He has an evil spirit.”

Why did they say this about Jesus?

   They were trying to make sense of the things that he was saying about himself.


Jesus repeatedly called himself “the Son of Man.”

   The “Son of Man” is a divine figure in Daniel 7

   who comes on the clouds of glory to judge the world at the end of time.

Jesus said that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.

   All sins committed are really committed against me, I can forgive.

Jesus said that the Son of Man was Lord of the Sabbath.

   Jesus was saying, all your rest, meaning and acceptance in me.


If your next door neighbor always saying things like:

   I am going to come at the end of time and judge all things.

   Your eternal destiny all depends on me and your faith in me.

   You would think he was crazy.

But if people started following him, hanging on his every word—

   then you might decide that he was evil, trying to trap them.


Nobody who heard what Jesus said about himself called him a great moral teacher.

   If they didn’t believe he was Lord, they thought he was insane or evil.

But many did believe.  And these were not superstitious people.

   They were Jews, who had a high and holy view of God through Old Testament.

They were the least likely people on earth

   to believe that God would become a man.

But they believed because Jesus’ life and character matched his claims.

   And of course, it was ultimately his resurrection

   that confirmed he really was the Son of god.


People today don’t say that Jesus was a lunatic or liar.

   It’s not that they have accepted him as Lord,

   but the view that Jesus is a great teacher has come back in a new form. 

In CS Lewis’ day it was that Jesus was a great moral teacher.

   People don’t like morals today. 

Now people say:  Jesus was a great teacher of self-fulfillment.

   Came to tell us that we all have the divine within.

You won’t hear that view in Cullman, but it’s the party line in academia.

   If you ever hear the media quoting an “New Testament scholar” will be this view.

   Gets into the mainstream in popular books like the Da Vinci Code.


To have this view of Jesus, you have to get rid of the Gospels.

   They do it by saying that the Gospels are legends written by church leaders

   after Jesus’ death to consolidate their power in this new religion.

The real Jesus is buried under all of the legends of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

   Some of the things in the Gospels he really said, like:

   “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”


But he never claimed to be God.  He never made moral judgments against people.

   Never condemned sin.  Never talked about hell and judgment. 

All that was all put in there by the early church leaders to get power over people

   by making them feel guilty and need the church for forgiveness.


You can’t get rid of the Gospels by calling them legends.  Three reasons:

1.  Gospels were written too early to be legends.

All the Gospels were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses.

   You can’t make up legends when there are still eyewitnesses.

These church leaders who were supposedly trying to consolidate their power

   by making up things about Jesus, would have been immediately discredited.


Do you remember the Swift Boat controversy during last election?

   John Kerry made claims about what had happened in Vietnam 30 years ago.

   These men stepped forward who said, that’s not what happened, we were there!

Mark was written 30 years after Jesus’ death.  Other Gospels in following decades.

   In one of Paul’s letters he mentions that over 500 people saw Jesus after risen,

   and that many of them were still alive when Paul wrote letter.

Impossible to write legends about public figure few decades after death.


2.  Content of the Gospels is damaging to the early church leaders.

   If they were writing it to consolidate their power—did a lousy job.

Just look at this passage.  Jesus brothers thought he was insane.

   Tried to take charge of him.  Trying to arrest him, have him committed.

After the resurrection Jesus’ brothers did believe in Him.

   Brother James became the leader of the Jerusalem church.

If Gospels written to consolidate power of early leaders,

   would they have chosen to put this detail in the Gospels?

The leader of Jerusalem church did not believe Jesus was the Son of God,

   actually thought he was crazy and tried to have him committed.

And you know that all of the apostles—are shown as petty, dull, cowardly.

   There is a much more reasonable explanation—

   they are a record of what happened—not propaganda.


3.  Details of the Gospels consistent with historical writing.

The Gospels are not written like legends.

   Written with all sorts of historical details, true to life details.

   And you can’t call it a historical novel. 

Novel was not invented for another 2,000 years.

   CS Lewis once said:  People who claim that the Gospels are novels

   have simply “not learned to read.”


The modern version of Jesus the teacher of self-fulfillment doesn’t hold water.

   The Gospels are not legends to support the leaders of the early church

   by making people feel guilty and dependent on them for forgiveness.

The Gospels are credible, early, historical records of the life of Christ.


So we’re back to the trilemma.

   Some who saw him said he was insane, other said he was evil.

   Now let’s get to the exciting part, let’s see who Jesus says he is.

MP#2  Who Jesus says he is

Of course, he says that he is the Lord—but it’s so much more rich than that.

Jesus responds to these two claims made about him with some strange words.

   “How can Satan drive out Satan? . . . “No one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off

   his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man.  Then he can rob his house.” 


Mark tells us that this was a parable. 

   What Jesus was saying is that this world is like a kingdom or a castle

   that is dominated by a strong man—an evil warlord.

In this castle are possessions that this strong man controls—

   Jesus is talking about people.  About us.


He is saying that the world is in bondage to the devil and sin.

   But that he has come, not to teach people how to be better individuals.

   But to rescue them by destroying the evil that holds them in bondage.

In claiming this for himself, Jesus was tapping into the deepest and oldest prophecy.

   Genesis 3:15, at the Fall, when seemed that Satan had won, enslaved race.

   God said to Serpent, One day, man born, seed of woman, will crush your head.


Whole Old Testament is just a development of the prophecy—

   preparation for coming of the divine/human warrior

   who would rescue mankind from the dominion of the strong man, Satan.

Of course Jesus came to teach us—but before he can teach us—has to rescue us.


And how did he do it? 

How did he bind the strong man and plunder his possessions?

   By allowing himself to be bound and plundered.  By going to the cross.

   That was the only way for him to defeat evil and save us at the same time.


If Jesus had some with a sword and started swinging—

   he would have had to destroy us all—because of the evil in all of us.

The human race is captive to the evil one—but we are willing captives.

   And so to destroy evil by judgment would have meant our destruction as well.


So Jesus, the mighty one, the divine warrior of prophecy—

   stronger than Satan, stronger than sin, stronger than death—

   allowed himself to be bound and plundered on the cross because he loved us.

The Judge received divine judgment as the penalty for our sins.

   In that way, not only was evil destroyed, but we were saved.

What difference does this make for your life?  Two huge things.

First, it means that the evil one cannot harm you.

   He’s been bound and plundered by Christ.

   No matter what comes against you, it cannot do you eternal harm.


At the end of first Harry Potter book, Lord Voldemort, evil lord shows us.

   Commands one of his servants to kill Harry Potter.

But when he tries to grab Harry, he cries out in pain, his own skin burns, blisters.

   Harry realizes that for some reason, evil can’t touch him.


Later he asks his good teacher Dumbledore.

   Years ago, Lord Voldemort tried to kill you.

   Your mother gave her life to save yours.

“Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark—not a scar, no visible sign.  To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, it will give us some protection forever.”


What evils are you facing now?

Is something external coming against you

   financial trial, hostility of someone at work?

Is something closer to home coming against you—

   storm in family, marriage?

Or perhaps it is something even closer—

   emotional turmoil, depression, struggles with a besetting sin?


Your hope not in a teacher of self-fulfillment who teaches you have divine within.

   It’s in the divine warrior of prophecy.

He gave his life in love for you to bind the strong man.

   His love has put a mark on you.  Evil cannot get a grip on you.


And although you will surely suffer in this life—just as Jesus did—

   the worst that comes against you cannot do you eternal harm.

So lift up your face.  Look to the cross.  Take heart.  Fight the good fight.

   Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. 


Second, this means you have a totally different way of fighting evil.

When someone wrongs you, what do you want to do?  You want to hurt him.

   You want him to feel the pain that he has caused you.

   You want to fight evil by spreading evil.

But if you believe that you were in such bondage to the evil one—

   that Jesus the divine warrior had to give his life to rescue you—

   that gives you the ability to fight evil in a totally different way.


Charles Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship, was at the graduation ceremony

   for inmates in a Texas prison who had completed an 18-month Bible class.

   Witnessed something amazing.: 

As an inmate approached me for his certificate, out of the corner of my eye I saw a tall, stately woman rise from her seat among the visitors.  Her name was Mrs. Washington, and she swept to the front, wrapped her arms around the inmate, and declared to everyone, “This young man is my adopted son.”   The place was electrified.  I saw hardened criminals and tough corrections officials with tears in their eyes, for they knew that this young man was behind bars for the murder of Mrs. Washington’s daughter.   Arriving at this moment had not been easy for either of them.  Ron Flowers had maintained his innocence during 15 years in prison.  Then he joined a Prison Fellowship program that helps offenders to confess their wrongs and make restitution to their victims, and for the first time he admitted his crime and prayed that his victim’s family would forgive him.  On her side, every year of Ron’s sentence Mrs. Washington had written angry letters to the parole board, urging them to deny him parole.  But the same week that Ron confessed, strangely, Mrs. Washington felt an overwhelming conviction that she was to forgive the man who had murdered her daughter.  She then tracked Ron down to express her forgiveness.  Their tearful embrace at the graduation ceremony was the climax of a series of what can only be called miracles.  Only the supernatural grace of God could bring together a murderer and his victim’s mother; only the resurrection power of Christ can create love where there once was hatred and revenge. 


If you believe that Jesus is just a good teacher—

You will find yourself thinking: 

   I’ve obeyed Jesus’ teaching.  I’ve done everything right.

   I’ve raised my kids right.  I’ve treated my spouse right.

   I’ve run my business right.  I’ve lived right.

How can this person treat me like this? 

   And even if you don’t lash out, you’ll fantasize.

   Some day he’ll be sorry.  Some day she’ll get what’s coming to her.


But if you believe that Jesus is who he says he is—

   the one who came to bind the strong man and plunder his possessions—

   and when you see that you were one of those possessions, reclaimed.

Only then will you be able to respond with grace when you are wronged—

   and try to rescue those who have wronged you by bringing them

   face to face with Jesus Christ. 


Is there someone who has wronged you who you have been hoping

   will feel some of the hurt he or she has done to you?

There is a new way to fight evil because of Christ.

   Pray for the person’s blessing.  Bless and do not curse.

If Jesus had come swinging the sword—you would be gone—

   but he came to rescue us from the dominion of darkness—

   by allowing himself to be bound.

In so doing, he made us who were once his enemies—his family and followers.