Mark 3: 31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
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.”
It seems to me in this passage we have two very human dynamics at work, neither of which tend to show the best of our characters.
The first concerns the delights and trials of family. Quentin Crisp (a writer, raconteur and actor of the 20th century) once wryly commented, “Only the family gives as much need for courtesy, with as little reason to do so.”. Family models, family systems have long been the study of sociologists and therapists, they provide much work for social scientists and the like. Let it be noted strongly that Jesus was a part of such a family with all its blessing and all its challenge. Sometimes in an attempt to protect Mary’s Virginity, Jesus’ siblings have been erased from the story or their significance reinterpreted. Those of us who think often with love and adoration of Jesus’ Divinity must beware of downplaying, overlooking his full blooded humanity… and thank God because, as the early church father Athanasius argues “”For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” Our rescue, our salvation, our healing depends on Jesus as real and thorough man.
The second dynamic expresses the tendency most have to claim some special knowledge of a celebrity, some esoteric influence with the powers-that-be. The awful practice of name-dropping is an example of this malady (as the Queen once said to me!!!). And I will confess to the few who hear and read this that in Philadelphia I reveled a little in having a table at a very popular restaurant and the ability to secure seats for friends even though the restaurant was fully booked. Sad, isn’t it?
But I believe we see this unfortunate process in today’s passage from Mark. Jesus’s family take up a position outside the house (the Greek word suggests they are standing firmly, resolute, immobile); and when they send someone into to speak to Jesus on their behalf, they send the messenger on a defined mission as someone sent by a superior to an inferior. They “call him”, or rather they “summons” Jesus and await his dutiful response.
There are sadly many in the church who have thus persuaded themselves that God loves all people but especially… (and here you fill in the blank). Racism, prejudice, bigotry is in part built on the assumption that for someone to feel special there must be someone else less special. Oh church people, learn and learn and learn again what the people of God had to learn… (Deuteronomy 7:7) “7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 It was because the LORD loved you.”
It must be noted that Jesus does not spring into action, he does not rush to comply with his family’s demands but rather he stays… and he stays amongst the crowd (and the word means the mob, the common people, hoi polloi). And as Jesus looks around at the mob (v.34) he does so closely observing them, with a sweeping compassion, looking with a high personal involvement”. This is no cursory glance at the mob but the look of the Shepherd that nurtures faith, hope and love.
The lesson for the family, and the mob, is not that Jesus’ love is limited, preferential, restrained but that His love is such that all who are near Him, follow Him, respond to Him are now included in “the family”. What a tremendous message to absorb in this time of isolation.
Today’s passage ends as Jesus offers a challenge to all “his family” by birth, by discipleship –
Do God’s Will!
The Greek word for “do” suggests manufacture, construction not the simple rehearsal, reaction to a simple, single command. Here we see the beautiful, challenging, glorious truth that the Lord Almighty seeks to co-operate with us in building the Kingdom wherever the Kingdom is to be built.
And, finally, the word for “will” used in verse 35 is only twice used of man in all the Gospels. And to discover this divine will is not to uncover a book of rules, regulations and commandments to which we can refer when uncertainty reigns. But rather to discover this divine will is to so to love God that we begin to know, to sense, to feel what He wants determined by grace and love and respect.
It may even be this simple… as we intentionally spend time with Jesus in Scripture, prayer and conversation… we may more easily know, and want to know, WWJD (what would Jesus do?)