2010-06-27 (am) Mark 3:31-35 Being Jesus’ Family—By Doing God’s Will
Is it just me or is this passage just a wee bit shocking? Come on, this is not the response we’d expect from Jesus, is it?
But what’s going on in this passage? Well, like the parable of the prodigal son, there are two groups, those Jesus considers his family, and those who are is biological family, but who are not his family.
When you think of the brothers in the story of the prodigal son, who is the true son? No, it isn’t the brother who stayed at home, it is the brother who truly came home. It was the one who really realised who his father was, and where true life, true happiness came from. It didn’t come from carousing, partying and hanging out with immoral people, it came from being with the Father.
The people who were with Jesus, we don’t know their hearts, but Jesus did, they were the ones who were seeing him for who he really is. They recognised his authority. They were willing to submit to it. They were at Jesus’ feet, in a position of humility, receiving from him what he was giving.
Contrast that to Jesus’ biological family. They were coming as people in authority. In verse 21 we read that “they went to take charge of him, for ‘he is out of his mind’” (Mk. 3.21). They came to take charge of him because they were his family, they were his siblings, his mother. Jesus had to listen to them; Jesus had to come to them, simply because of who they are. They’re his relatives. He should deal with them on their terms, not his.
Jesus embarrassed them. He was doing all these strange things; he was getting into trouble with the Pharisees. He was making some bold claims about himself, even going so far as to say that he was God’s son. This was silly. The Pharisees were claiming that Jesus was possessed by a demon. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that demon possession isn’t something you want to have in your family. It probably kept you from being invited to the Rabbi’s house for bagels.
This is the problem. Jesus wasn’t behaving as they expected him to behave. They knew who he was. Sure, he was a good guy and all, but he was Jesus. He was familiar. He was family.
And so they come to fetch him. They come to sort him out. They come while there’s still a chance of preserving some dignity to the family name.
So, arriving at the house, which was chock full of listeners and Pharisees accusing him of being possessed by Beelzebub. Pssst. “Hey you! Umm, we’re Jesus’ family. We’ve come to take him away. We’ve got a specially padded room for him. Just go and tell him that his mom and brothers are here. He’ll come right away.
So the guy, whoever it was, goes into the house. Presumably, he was a listener, but we don’t really know. But given the stuff going on in the room, the miracles being performed, the teaching with authority, the rapt audience, the fuming Pharisees, it took a bit of courage to get to Jesus and interrupt him.
It’s possible that he didn’t actually make it into the house. It’s probably quite likely, given it was so jammed packed, that the guy just whispered to the next closest guy, “Hey, Jesus’ family is here, they want him to go with them, pass it on.”
And so it goes until there’s a few people near Jesus who hear the message, and say, “Jesus, your family is here. Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you. Hey Jesus, it’s your mom, you’d better go. Hey Jesus, your family is here, you’d better do their will.
When Jesus was 12, he did. He submitted to Mary and Joseph’s authority, he left his father’s house, the temple, and he obediently went with them.
But not anymore. Jesus is on his own, he’s doing is Father’s will again, and he’s not going to be diverted. Jesus has his eyes set on the goal, on the cross. And he will not be moved.
No amount of cajoling, no amount of family guilt tripping, nothing can move him from the task that is laid out before him.
What is Jesus here to do? He has come to seek and save the lost. He has come to save his people from their sins. He has come to heal and forgive. He has come to preach and teach and tell the truth to many. He has come to die. No one can move him from his path, not even his family.
How does Jesus respond? He asks a question. He often does this. It works to get people thinking. Have you given thought to his response? How would you have responded? Do you think you would have gone out to your mom and dad? Or would you have simply said to the people, “that’s nice, I’ll be out in a bit.”
But not Jesus. Jesus, after all, came to preach and teach. And that’s what he does. “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
No ifs, ands or buts about it, this is a very, very strange question. You can almost hear those nearest to Jesus say to themselves, “Is this a trick question, or what?” The people outside are his mother and brothers!
But no, Jesus refers to those who were sitting around him, his disciples, and others and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus includes those inside, and for now, excludes those outside. Biologic relation is unimportant. Spiritual relation is what matters!
Those outside, by their actions were indicating that though they were biologically related to Jesus, spiritually, they were not related to him at all.
In fact, we could say that Jesus’ response is a typical response for him. Consider Nicodemus. Jesus tells him, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. And Nicodemus takes him literally, not spiritually. Same with the woman at the well. Lady, if you knew the one you were talking to, you’d ask him for something to drink. Again, she took him literally, not spiritually. Same with the disciples after the woman went into town to tell everyone about Jesus, they said to Jesus, “Eat something!” Jesus said, “I have food you know nothing about.” They asked themselves what grocery store he went to. They didn’t realise that Jesus was talking about spiritual food. Another example is Jesus as the bread of life, the 5000 who were miraculously fed by Jesus didn’t see the spiritual quality of Christ, they wanted more physical food, and when Jesus said they would have to eat his body, they left.
There’s a saying, blood runs thicker than water. But there’s something thicker than blood. It is the spiritual connection Christ offers. To those who were seated before him, Jesus looks at them and says, these are my brothers and sisters and mother.
Do you think they caught the significance of his words? I’m sure some of them did! I’m sure if not then, maybe later, they looked back and said, “Remember what Jesus said in that house that day? Yes! Yes, we’re his brothers!”
Jesus has taken down the barrier that stood between us and God, and has replaced it with spiritual relativity—not Einstein’s relativity, but the becoming of relatives of God.
Those disciples, except Judas, proved their spiritual kinship with Christ. How do we know? We know because they did God’s will.
Yes, they all abandoned Jesus on the night he was betrayed, Peter denying him three times. But Jesus, full of grace, welcomed them back and restored them. And then, when he ascended into heaven, when he sent the Holy Spirit, those same trembling disciples became dynamos in the market. They preached Jesus Christ crucified, boldly. They no longer ran away, but rather ran after God’s will, each one giving up his life for Jesus.
Even Jesus family, became more than mere biological relations. They exchanged their biological relationship with a spiritual one. Jesus brother James wrote one of the books of the Bible. Mary demonstrated her faith in her son by her actions, even though in this instance, she was wrong, just as she was wrong to bother Jesus at the wedding in Cana.
But what about us. If we were to put ourselves by Jesus all those years ago, where would we be? Would we be disbelieving Pharisees, wanting to see more signs, more truths to make us believe? Would we be Jesus’ family, telling him to protect the family name, telling him what to do and when to do it? Would we be among the crowd, wondering about this guy, marvelling at his authoritative teaching? Would we be among the disciples, learning and listening and submitting to Christ?
We don’t have to travel back in time. We can imagine Christ speaking naturally to us this morning. Hear him, “Who are my brothers and sisters and mother?” Does he indicate to us, gathered in this house, this house of worship, does his hand sweep across the whole room? Does he indicate just a few? Do you hear him saying, “here are my mother and my brothers, these ones, those who are doing God’s will are my brother and sister and mother.”
Where are you today? Ask yourself, “am I spiritually related to Christ?” Ask yourself where you are in the crowd. If you’re not in the inner circle, if you’re doubting like the Pharisees, if you’re wondering like Nicodemus, if you’re trying to put Jesus under your thumb, under your terms, like his biological family, move yourself from the outside to the inside.
Jesus is welcoming. You don’t have to do anything first. Simply accept him as your saviour. Trust in him; believe in his promises to make you God’s very own, to forgive your sins. Then, receive him as Lord.
And bow down to him, and do his will. What is God’s will? Keep his commandments. A new command I give unto you that you love one another. Love God, love your neighbour. Look outward, not inward. Focus on others, not yourself. Be like Christ, who though he is in very nature God, did not count his equality with God something to be taken for granted, but humbled himself, took on human flesh, became a servant, became obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Are you wondering if you’re in? Are you wondering if you’re a part of his family? Then look at your life. Examine it, how do you feel about sin? How do you live? Are you living to please God? If so, then you’re in! No, you can’t do this perfectly, but is that what you’re living for? If so, you’re in! If not, then repent, confess and believe! Receive God’s presence, receive adoption as sons of God, then participate in the Holy Spirit’s transformation of your life! Seek to glorify God in every part of your life! Amen.