Here Are My Mother And My Brothers
August 23, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
When A Defiled Spirit Comes Out
1. The first half of today's gospel reading was this odd kind of story, which Jesus had given to a crowd of people. "When the defiled spirit came out of the man, it wandered the desert and sought a place to rest, but it did not find any. So, it says, 'I'll go back to the house I left.' When it goes back, it is an unoccupied house, it is swept, and it has been put in order. So, it sets off and brings with it seven other spirits worse than itself, and goes into [the person], and settles down. When that happens, the condition of the person afterwards is worse than before. Even the people of this evil generation will become like that," (verses forty-three through forty-five).
2. A defiled spirit coming out of a man, roaming around the desert, and coming back with its friends is a subject that is hardly familiar to us today. In a modern person's ear this will be heard as a truly strange story. But then again, don't you get the feeling that some how or other you can understand what Jesus is trying to say? Something bad leaves you and the situation improves temporarily. But it's not for long. The next thing you know, you are right back where you started from. No, it is anything but the place you started from, it has gotten worse than before. Isn't that a likely story [you've heard or been in]?
3. For example, [suppose] there is a man who just argues with others. He's the type who always stores up anger in his heart. He always has ill will against the other guy. Let's suppose there is such a person. But, he comes to church, believes in Jesus, and then he starts to think, "Hey, I can't be storing up my anger and ill will against others. I gotta be more Christian, be calm, and be at peace with everybody ..." He tries his best to be humble about it and drive the anger and ill will from his heart. It ain't right living with a dirty heart filled with this bad stuff for others. I want to live with a nicer heart. Thinking like that, making my best effort, I will be successful in driving this out of me to a certain extent. After a while, time passes with him as a calm man. The people around him say, "That guy has changed! Hasn't he!?" They are happy about it.
4. But, unfortunately, it doesn't last long. Against his better judgment he loses his temper over something or other and ends up insulting someone. Then, having gotten angry, he feels lousy and thinks, "It's nothing to worry about. It's okay ..." Controlling myself is turning out to be foolish. After all, I was born to be this way, I'm ill-fated to be this way. Or maybe, the environment I was raised in was not good to begin with. From the start, my parents were bad. My teachers back in elementary school were bad. He starts to think one thing and the next like that. Then, one day he realizes, my situation is worse than before. It seems as if [this spirit called] "Anger" that was supposed to have left me has brought [his] friends named "Despair" and "Self-pity" with [him].
5. We could probably come up with several things similar to this. One person might try to drive out jealousy. I can't go on just comparing myself to others. I shouldn't get jealous of others, but just live as myself the best I can. This person will try to live thinking along these lines. Another person might try to drive out anxiety and worry. I'm gonna stop worrying and thinking only of the future. To begin with, worrying itself is a lack of faith, right? So, if Christian me goes around wearing a gloomy face, I won't be much of a witness, will I? This other person is thinking this way. It's going to be pretty much the same with any bad habit. Regardless of the bad habit, prior to doing anything, you will first have some one thought come to mind. You will try to drive out that thought as hard as you can. You will give it your best shot to not think about it, to not have it come to mind. Thus, you try to tidy things up by driving out the bad the best you can.
6. We feel that we are successful to a degree when we make an effort to drive out the bad and make a clean heart for real. But, it never lasts long. Don't you agree? Fail one time and you're back to where you started. Worse, it'll happen that while we blame ourselves for having failed, different bad thoughts fill our hearts, and then the situation becomes more and more worse off than before. Thus, this strange story of a defiled spirit coming back and bringing its friends with it may unexpectedly be a familiar experience for somebody [after all].
7. Upon telling this story, Jesus also said, "Even the people of this evil generation will become like that." Jewish society back then, which Jesus was looking at, looked just like this, the same. The Jews of Jesus' generation, in particular, all the Pharisees found in the text just before this, wished to drive the evil out of themselves, to drive the evil from their daily lives, and to live purely both religiously and morally. Generally speaking, they hated what was defiled or unclean. They would not associate with Gentiles, who lived unclean lives. They would not do things like eat with company who did not try to observe the law. Generally speaking, their highest concern was to be pure, ritually clean. But, Jesus says, they claimed they drove the defiled out and swept up, but then they came back bringing friends worse than they ever used to be.
8. As a matter of fact, when we read further into this gospel, this fact becomes clearer. On the inside of the persons who tried to be clean by driving the defiled [spirits] out and by putting a distance between it and themselves, the friends of the defiled spirit settled all the way in them, while [the humans] did not even realize it. This becomes clear in connection to Jesus. The list of things in them included jealousy, hatred, malice, bloodlust, etc. Ultimately all of these things would come gushing out against Jesus. Indeed already at the beginning of this chapter, it is written that "The Pharisees left to discuss how they might murder Jesus," (verse fourteen). And no, it's not just them. Incited by the elders of the people and the chief priests, the crowds would soon come to shout out, "Crucify him!" This is what [we find] inside the people who were seeking ritual purity and ceremonial cleanness. [We find] the friends of the defiled spirit.
9. Don't you think that [his] driving the defiled [spirit] out as best as he could and making the effort for that purpose seems like a good thing to do? What's more, [he] not only drove it out, but swept it and put things in order. Don't you think making an effort like that is a pretty good thing to do? But Jesus says, it was like an empty house, swept and put in order. Bad things filled it again, and it got worse than it was. What should one do then?
To Not Make The Heart An Empty House
10. Then Matthew continues with the talk at verses forty-six and following. "When Jesus was still talking to the crowd of people, there was something that his mother and brothers wanted to say and were standing outside. At that point, a certain person said, 'Look, sir. Your mother and brothers want to speak with you and are standing outside.' But, Jesus answered that person, 'Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?' And pointing to the disciples he said, 'Look! Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brothers, my sisters, and my mother.'," (verses forty-six through fifty).
11. At first glance, the part about "The defiled spirit coming back" and this episode [about his mother and siblings] do not seem to be related. In fact, in The Gospel According To Luke, [each part] is written in different chapters. However, Matthew deliberately wrote them by connecting them with the words "When Jesus was still talking to the crowd of people." And today we were led to read it as connected from verses forty-three to fifty. We must think about why this is so.
12. I suppose the first impression we may get from this story is probably that "Jesus is one coldhearted man." "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" It's just as if he were saying that, for that matter, the ones standing outside are neither my mother nor my brothers. But, Jesus did not say this while looking at his mother Mary and his brothers. That's not what he did, rather he said it to the person who had told him that they were standing outside. Taking this a bit further, it wasn't for them, [that is, his family members], to hear. "Pointing to the disciples he said [it]" as a challenge. That is to say, this is a statement which the disciples had to hear. They are words given on behalf of the disciples. There were a number of scholars of the law and Pharisees there as well. In their presence, Jesus pointed to the disciples and said, "Look! Here are my mother and my brothers," (verse forty-nine).
13. In other words, if I may express it with some elaboration upon it, in essence, the Lord said, "The ones here right now are my family. They are the same as flesh and blood relatives, indeed, they are my family more important than [my birth family]. They are the family that is doing with me the will of my father in heaven." The disciples had to know how Jesus saw them. It is the same for us too. We have to know how Jesus sees us, the church. What is essential for us above all else is recognizing that Jesus is saying about us that "You are my family." And [it is also essential] as Jesus' family, along with Jesus, that we live willing to do the will of the heavenly father whom Jesus has shown to us. We are to live seeking to do the will of the heavenly father, who has loved us and sent his only son for us. All of this is very important. If we leave this out, but think only of trying our best to drive the defiled and bad things from our hearts, and sweeping and putting things in order, then we won't be doing too well.
14. Isn't that just the way it really is? Don't you think it is more important to live thinking that "I am called a brother by Jesus. As Jesus' brother I am living in order to do the will of the beloved heavenly father. What in the world will [I] be able to do, with respect to these persons? How shall I do what pleases the father in heaven?," rather than going with all your might to clean up and drive the anger, resentment or jealousy against someone out of your heart? As long as I keep having those thoughts and feelings, even though I may fail more or less, and even though there may be times when I end up angry again, I will be able to start over again from there. And I will be able to live seeking for the fulfillment of the will of the heavenly father. -- Because the heavenly father is the father of Jesus Christ who has sent Jesus Christ for us, and he is the one who forgives us our sins, and revives us anew and afresh. As long as we're willing to do the will of the heavenly father as Jesus' brothers, our hearts will not turn into vacant houses. Christ and the heavenly father are in them. Therefore, if a defiled spirit comes out, there will be no room for it to come back with its friends and for worse evils to settle down in [our hearts].
15. We can certainly say these things in regard to other various kinds of bad habits. Furthermore, I think we can make the same case against things like worrying. For example, you get sick. At that time, when you tell yourself don't worry about the future, don't get all anxious, and you try your best to drive worrying out, you just might start worrying about yourself, that you're unable to drive the worrying out. Instead of all that though, it is surely more important to think, "I am being called a brother by Jesus. As Jesus' brother I will live to do the will of the beloved heavenly father. In this condition now, what in the world will I be able to do? With respect to those around me, what kinds of things can I do, which are pleasing to the heavenly father?" It is possible then, that, at that time, the next thing you'll know, your worrying has left and it cannot come back bringing its friends with it.
16. In regard to the story about the defiled spirit coming back, Jesus said, "The people of this wicked generation are becoming like that too." Therefore, the main message is that we should live with an identity that is different from "the people of this wicked generation." We should live with this awareness as Christ's disciples, as Christ's brothers, as persons who live in order to do God's will. We are being called to live as this kind of person.