Third Sunday after Pentecost: Mark 3:20-35
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the Spirit of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” They are looking for safety, Adam and Eve, which is perfectly reasonable. They want to be safe, just like any one of us. They have sinned, spat in the face of God, consorted with his enemy, and now they must face the music. Of course they are looking for safety—they should be—it is simply a question of where to find true safety.
Well Adam isn’t very good at hiding. God finds Adam hiding among the trees in his designer fig leaves. But then Adam has another idea: he comes out from behind the trees and hides behind his wife. Even though he was the one given to guard the garden, he blames her for (what Saint Paul calls) his sin (1 Timothy 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:22). But it’s all just fig leaves, really.
This is the plan that everyone always seems to have! When was the last time someone confessed to a scandal before they were basically forced to? Our first line of defense, the first safe-haven we seek is always blame-shifting. In fact, social psychologist Jonathan Heidt (The Righteous Mind) has shown that our minds do this automatically. Without even thinking, we immediately begin to rationalize and self-justify; we go right for the fig leaves.
But from Eden we learn that there is no true safety in blaming someone else. It might feel safe to justify ourselves, to think of all the ways that it wasn’t our fault, but God is not fooled, and deep down neither are we.
What if we tried something else? What if the safety we long for is found, not in hiding from God, but in hiding with him? Not in clever self-defense, but in staying and listening to the word of God, and doing his will?
The story Saint Mark tells in his gospel is in many ways a tale of two houses (of two safe-houses). It is a story of strongholds and guardians; a story of where one finds true safety. Is it in the house of Jesus, or some other house?
When we meet Jesus today, this question is in the air: Is Jesus to be trusted or not? How safe is he, really? He casts out demons, but by what power? His teaching is fresh, incisive, bold—but also sort-of crazy. At what point do you call the men in white coats?
These are questions for us. When we feel unsafe; when we lack comfort or confidence in God; when what Jesus is doing seems crazy, will our sin, like Adam’s, drive us away from God? Or will we hide with him instead?
That is the question for Adam and Eve, for the Scribes and for the crowds, and for the family of Jesus himself. Where does one find true safety? Where does one bury their face? Where does one hide?
The story Saint Mark tells in his gospel is a tale of two houses, two hiding places. One is the house of Adam, a self-made house of fig-leaf construction, where man hides from God and Satan slithers in. The other is the home of Jesus himself, where he gathers his new family close together. And already in Mark’s gospel Jesus has been hard at work building his house and filling his house by plundering the house of Adam.
Adam fled form the sound of God in the garden, but let us draw near. Let us hide with God, and not from him, in his presence, in his Son. Adam hid himself by blaming his wife. Let us be more bold. Let us confess our sins in articulate confidence; and let us speak to God for one another—not against.
This is a good gospel to read in the season of Pentecost. Pentecost is the day the church is founded. The Holy Spirit falls on the disciples and makes them a spiritual house where the body of Christ dwells. He gathers them tightly, having the same spirit of faith according to what has been written (2 Corinthians 4:13). It is a house founded upon the concrete deeds of Jesus: his birth and baptism, his crucifixion and resurrection and ascension. By these he has bound the strong man and plundered his house, gathering all people to himself.
In this, God shows Adam was wrong. Adam thought God would bring judgement and death, and he did. But Adam was too young, not wise enough to realize that death is not an end. Jesus shows that for God, death is the beginning. In Christ, death itself has been made safe for us. Even if this earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building from God (2 Corinthians 5:1). In Christ, death is how God brings his saints to their rest with him.
After all fear and uncertainty, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God. In Jesus, in his house, in his death and resurrection, and now after Pentecost, in his Church, God has made for himself a home in Christ Jesus, a safe place for you and for us all.