“And his mothers and brothers came, and standing outside they sent word for Jesus to come to them. And a crowd was sitting around him and said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and have been looking for you. And he answered them and said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those sitting and listening to him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my sister, my brother and my mother.”
There are many television shows that have been based on family. Some that I can think of at the moment have been: Dallas, Family Ties, Full House, The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days, and more recently, The Crown, Young Victoria, and even the suspenseful Curse of Oak Island. The family is the sub-theme that creates such drama.
In Jesus era family was sacred, as sacred as Jewish national symbols such as the food laws and the Sabbath. Breaking ties with family would be deeply offensive. Think of the prodigal (wasteful) son and his older brother who so deeply offended their father by wanting him dead and gone so they could inherit his land and assets.
In Western culture, a family is often dispersed. Some families have children scattered throughout the world. I have often lived at good distances away from my parents and my brother. Of course, I visited during holidays and special occasions, but work or study prevented me from living any closer. From what I understand, this kind of separation wouldn’t be typical in the ancient world of Jesus and the Jews. So, when Jesus doesn’t respond to the message from his mother and brothers immediately we are seeing Jesus upstage a national symbol of his time, a symbol on par with the Sabbath and food laws and other sacred symbols that distinguished a Jew from the rest of the world.
The message Mark seems to be giving here is unthinkable to a Jew. Jesus is clear that God is cutting ties with any descendant of Abraham that doesn’t do the will of God. Although God has made many promises to restore Israel to its former political glory these promises aren’t without caveats. God is creating a new family out of the old one. Those who do the will of God will become that new family Jesus is speaking of here in Mark 3:31-35. Recall the selection of leaders (apostles) in 3:7-19. The creation of a new nation and definitely a new political era was upon the Jews.
This is the will of God. Those sitting and listening to Jesus and absorbing his teaching about the kingdom of God were being given access to this new family through their understanding and belief. Mark is making it clear to readers that if you want to be a part of God’s family the first we need to do is listen to what Jesus has to say about it.
There were plenty of Jews, a majority, in fact, living as if they were part of God’s family in Jesus’ day. Did God want each and every one of them to be a part of the new family? Of course. This was God’s greatest desire. He loved the world and didn’t come to condemn it. Yet, the way to become a part of that family was being explained by a Son of that family. This may seem strange to a Western world where a family isn’t as sacred as it was to the Jews of Jesus’ era. People in Western culture are often taught that the development of the individual is far more sacred and we even see families sacrificing the family ideal for the “success” of one member of the family.
Do our teaching and our churches reflect more of what Jesus was teaching or what the West is teaching? Are we preaching, teaching, and writing more about Jesus establishing a new family, God’s family? Or, are we preaching, teaching, and writing more about a Jesus who sacrifices himself to perfect the individual?