We Are Family

Mark 3:31-35
31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

For the vast majority of my adult life, I have lived a great distance from my parents and brother. Such is the life of the church worker in most cases. And the makeup of my family is such that I never had a biological sister. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have women in my life whom I do indeed consider to be sisters. God has graciously blessed me with a small handful of women whom I unashamedly call “sister”. They couldn’t be dearer to me if we were born to the same mother. In this brief reading, we find that Jesus is redefining who He calls “family” and this is an important distinction, for we are included in His definition.

Mark’s description of this interaction between Jesus and the people around Him is very telling as to His attitudes about family. His biological family members are “standing outside” while the crowd is in the house with Him. This speaks volumes about the relationships He is forming with His disciples. Mark has informed us in the previous chapters that Jesus’ mother and brothers are concerned for His sanity and the path that His life seems to be taking. This places them on the outside of His will and His mission. As Jesus looks around the room, He sees people who are seeking to follow Him and align themselves with Him. These He calls “family.”

(In the light of this text, we do well to remember that Jesus’ brothers and mother most definitely do indeed get into His will, it just takes them longer. I have always been somewhat surprised that Mary is included in those who are “on the outside” in this text, but I do understand her reluctance to see Jesus following this bizarre and ultimately deadly path.)

Virtually every culture—and especially cultures in the Middle East—values family/relatives/tribe over those who may (simply) be friendly or likeminded. As the saying goes, “blood is thicker than water.” Jesus stands this truism on its head. For him, water—the water of Holy Baptism? —is thicker than blood! His understanding is played out later in the Gospel in two places: Jesus makes preparation to eat the Passover with his disciples, not with his biological family, as the Law requires because the disciples are his real family. And the women are told to go to “his disciples and Peter,” not to his mother and biological brothers, with the news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This point can hardly be overemphasized.
Voelz, J. W. (2013). Concordia Commentary: Mark 1:1–8:26. (p. 269). St. Louis, MO: CPH.

So, with these words, Jesus opens admittance into His family and revolutionizes what it means to live in that reality. How many of us see ourselves as brothers or sisters to the King? I know that people toss that reality around rather freely but I don’t think the truth of that situation has much impact for us and the way we live. The Son of God looks around the room and declares that you are His relatives with all the rights and privileges that come along with that position. You are part of the inner circle. His blood bought our place in that circle and now it’s time to live that way.