Summary: In our passage, Jesus will use a family misunderstanding to give us greater understanding of his life and work.
Mothers, have you ever wondered what it would have been like to have Jesus for a son. At first thought, it would seem wonderful. Just think, a child – a son, no less – who doesn’t misbehave. He never lies to you; he does all of his chores; he doesn’t get into mischief. What more could you want in a child?
On the other hand, the glimpses that we do get make you think it wouldn’t be all that easy to have such a son. There is the time he disappears in Jerusalem for three days. His father and mother look frantically for him. They finally find him in the temple courts discoursing with the rabbis. Luke tells us the conversation between mother and son:
His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-9).
That would have satisfied you, mothers, wouldn’t it? “Oh, yes, silly me. Well, are you ready to go home?” Somehow I think not.
Then there is the time Mary attends a wedding and finds Jesus there with his disciples. Apparently she is aware of the special powers of her son, so that when the host embarrassingly runs out of wine, she refers the problem to him. Jesus responds to his mother this way: 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” No doubt Jesus would have not been rude to his mother, but he does make it clear to her that he did not appreciate the request. Mary, as a good mother will do, ignores him and orders the servants to follow his instructions. But the story shows that as obedient as Jesus might be as a son, he had no qualms about objecting to her requests.
It may be a joy to raise a good son; but it is an arduous challenge to raise one who is divine. The reason is not that he may do something wrong, but precisely because he will always do the right thing. Even mothers will agree that they don’t always do the right thing or think the right thoughts. What will inevitably result is a…well, let’s call it a misunderstanding. In our passage this morning, Jesus will use one of these “misunderstandings” to give us greater understanding.
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Mark is picking back up from verses 20 and 21. Let’s read those again. Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” They are concerned about Jesus’ welfare, evidently worried that his ministry has caused too much stress for him. I suppose they traveled from Nazareth to Capernaum, about a 25 mile trip on foot.
They finally arrive, and, just as they had heard, Jesus is surrounded by a crowd in his home. For whatever reason, they don’t go in themselves, but send someone in with a message to let Jesus know they are waiting outside. And that’s it. We will not hear from them again for the rest of the gospel. I make this point simply to remind us that Mark’s interest is not where our interest would be. We want to know what happened. Did Jesus go out to see his family? We don’t know. I think he did because he elsewhere speaks of the importance of showing honor to one’s parents, but Mark doesn’t care to tell us. Maybe he doesn’t know. His point, though, in including this story is not to give a human interest story on Jesus’ family relations, but to teach us about our relations with Jesus and with God.
Verse 32, the message is delivered: 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” Jesus responds:
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus is not rejecting his blood relations. He is not being a rebellious son. What he is teaching is what it means to belong to the kingdom of God. He is always taking opportunity to teach about God’s kingdom. Here he teaches the type of relationship one is to have with him in the kingdom, as well as how one gets that relationship.
Consider first the type of relationship. Our bond to Jesus is to be as strong and intimate as the bond between the closest of family relations. That’s the point of using the terms brother and sister and mother. He is not saying that people will have different relations to him. “Some of you will be equal to me as a brother or sister and some over me like a mother,” but rather, “All of you will be tied to me as tightly as siblings are to one another and children to their mother.”