We now begin the longest season of the Church Year, the season of Pentecost. During the season of Pentecost we will read significant passages of the Bible which will show us what God is like, what humanity is like, and God’s response to sinful, rebellious humanity (a hint: judgment, but grace and mercy in Christ).
Genesis 3:8-15: Today’s First Reading shows us the result of humanity’s rebellion against God – shame, blame, guilt, and punishment; yet, with God, there is always hope, as we will see at the end of the reading. In the passage the man and the woman decided to be like God, to determine for themselves what is right and wrong, good and evil (humanity hasn’t changed a bit, we still do the same). They took and ate the forbidden fruit, and separation from God and eventual death resulted. What a sad image as we hear of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, looking for the two humans, but they were hiding because they were guilty and ashamed. Notice that when caught they compounded the sin by blaming someone else: the man blamed the woman (and God, “The woman whom you gave to be with me…), the woman blamed the snake and the snake was cursed. What a heart-breaking account. Often we are tempted to blame Adam and Eve in the garden, yet if we do, we are acknowledging our guilt, but doing what they did – blaming someone else. Yes, we are part of a fallen humanity, but we are also by nature sinful and unclean. We need a Redeemer.
Notice in vs. 15 the enmity between humanity and the tempter in the form of a serpent. We struggle against temptation and sin, and all too often we fail. But notice the word of hope here: “he shall bruise your head…”; even this early in the Bible we see a glimmer of hope, even by Genesis chapter 3 there is hope that a Rescuer will come, Someone Who will crush the head of the tempter. That One is Jesus. At the right time Jesus would come to do battle with sin, death, and the devil, and in His death and resurrection He would defeat all forces in opposition to God and by grace through faith give us eternal life. Notice God’s love even in this passage where sin and death held sway.
Psalm 130: The psalm is a psalm that the pilgrims would sing as they made their way to Jerusalem to go to the Temple. Notice the anguish in the voice of the psalmist, he knows his guilt and shame before God, and seeks God’s grace. He knows that unless God is merciful and forgives there will be no hope. The psalmist realizes that God is filled with grace and mercy, and will forgive, therefore he is hopeful, and encourages the people of God to also be hopeful.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will see our sinfulness and our need of forgiveness. Thankfully the Lord has sent the Holy Spirit Who enables us to not only see our sinful self, but more importantly to see the holy and righteous Jesus, Who took our sinfulness upon Himself, giving us His righteousness in Baptism, a gift to be received by faith. When you are struggling with sin and guilt, look to Jesus and be forgiven in Him.
2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1: The Second Reading is a passage that is summarized in vs. 15, as we read that God gives us His grace and mercy. Our response? Thanksgiving, to the glory of God! Notice the things for which Paul, and his readers, give thanks: the resurrection to eternal life with Jesus, renewal of our inner self each day, triumph over our daily afflictions, eternal hope in the Lord as He makes us new in Christ. When life grinds you down, look up in hope to Jesus Who will restore and refresh you as He forgives and gives the hope of eternal life with Him.
Mark 3:20-35: Why does Jesus do the things that He does, is He out of His mind, as some were saying? Is He possessed by the prince of demons, as others were saying? But that could not be, because if Jesus was possessed by evil, then when He drives out evil He would be at war with the evil supposedly possessing Him. Why does Jesus do what He does? He is filled with love for humanity, so much love that He will take on our sinful nature, while remaining sinless, and then taking our sin and its consequences to the cross where He will break the power of sin, death, and the devil in His death and resurrection. Jesus is motivated and driven by His redeeming love for us. What motivates and drives you? May it be the love of Jesus!
Also, this passage contains a section that causes concern among the people of God – the unforgivable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit. Some Christians become alarmed, wondering if they have committed this sin. This sin is on-going rejection of Jesus as Lord and Savior, a sin a person can repent of at any time before they die. The unforgivable sin is to reject Jesus as Lord and Savior and then die in that rejection and unbelief. A good guideline is: if a person is fearful that perhaps they have committed the unforgivable sin, then they have not. Someone who is committing this sin wouldn’t care if they have committed it or not. Keep in mind what Jesus said in vs. 28 – all sins will be forgiven the children of man; and we have forgiveness for all sins in Jesus – trust Him!