Exminster Methodist Church
Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email exminstermethodists@yahoo.co.uk, Minister: Rev Ben Haslam, Telephone (01392) 256716

Letter from Revd Ben Haslam

If you think about kinds of things Jesus said and did, then perhaps it isn’t really surprising that his own family thought him mad. One who claimed to be one with God, came out with statements such as ‘I am the bread of life’ and so on, and claimed to be able to forgive people their sins was not an ordinary teacher. We can disregard one thing many have said about Jesus, namely that if you take away all the miracles, all the questionable supernatural stuff, then you can take him seriously as a great moral teacher. Someone whose basic message was that we should all love each other – that’s the essence of it all. The problem with that is this: Jesus didn’t just offer moral teaching. Jesus also made claims about Himself, which gave Him the authority to teach as He did. ‘I and the Father (God) are one’ was one such claim (John 10.30). Jesus performed miracles, and when He did so, told those watching that they were witnessing the power of God at work. His miracles, moreover, were signs that the Kingdom of God was advancing, and that He Himself was the means by which it would arrive. These are massive claims to make and there is only one question that matters: is Jesus right or not?

This brings us to this week’s gospel reading, Mark 3. 20-35. A crowd is milling around Jesus, attracted by the astounding things He is doing. Some nearby scribes, seeing an opportunity to pour scorn on Jesus’ ministry (as they feel threatened by it), make the shocking claim that Jesus can only perform miraculous signs because He is, in fact, possessed by satan. Jesus neatly questions the logic of this, before making a terrible pronouncement of His own, namely that, whilst He was in the business of forgiving sins, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven. This has caused anguished soul-searching for many down the years, but what Jesus had in mind was not so much a particular sin which, having been committed, put the sinner beyond the reach of forgiveness forever. No, He meant that if you were so far gone in your anti-God frame of mind that you even ascribe the power of God to the devil, then there really is no hope for you. If you are dead set on a certain path, then God won’t force you to turn and take the right one. He respects your free will. Stark as this message is, there is good news! You can’t, as many people seem to have thought over the years, commit ‘the unforgiveable sin’ by accident! If you have chosen the path of life, opened up for you by Jesus, then you can rest secure. The fact that so many have chosen that path, and having chosen it, began for the first time to feel they were truly ‘coming home’, suggests that the claims that Jesus made, outrageous though they must have sounded to many at the time, are true and are to be trusted. Which would you rather have? A respected teacher of morals, revered certainly, but not very much different from every other great preacher down the ages, or a Saviour with the ability to impart divine power, new life and healing? The former is what many would have you believe Jesus to be. The latter is what He actually is.

God bless, Ben