MAIN TEXT: MARK 3:31-35
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
The gospel of Mark is short, but it is the first of the four gospels to be written. This earliest gospel has historically been neglected compared to the more detailed accounts written by actual apostles (Matthew and John). However, Mark has become the primary source of information about the ministry of Jesus. Since the ancient world had no more than a 10 percent literacy rate, Mark intended for his gospel account to be read orally – rather than for private study or silent reading. Mark therefore does some masterful and descriptive ancient storytelling.
This Gospel account does not focus much on what Jesus said, but rather on what Jesus did and who He was. Mark 8:27-30 is a key point of the Gospel. “Who do you say that I am?” Mark’s strategy is to show us the failure of people to understand the nature of Jesus’ mission. The disciples failed to grasp the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish. The religious leaders couldn’t get past their self-righteous indignation that Jesus messed with their status quo and broke their rules. They were not seeing Him for who He was. Over the last few weeks our texts have shown us that even Jesus’ family failed to grasp who He was and was confused by what He was doing.
Our text takes place once again in the home where Jesus’ was staying (Peter’s mother-in-law’s house). This home likely had a new roof since the last time Jesus was there. (Mark 2:4)
The place is once again crowded (verses 20 and 32). This time, instead of a paralytic man and his friends, Jesus’ family is outside (verse 31). Usually family would be inside and the crowds would be on the outside.
Jesus uses the moment to give us a glimpse into the kingdom of God and draws parallels of family and who is an insider and who is an outsider.
Physical descent does not make you a part of the family of God.
At some point a message is relayed to Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” (verse 32). Jesus’ response catches us off guard, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (verse 33). This must have been shocking to the family-centered culture of that day as well. His answer is not exactly an insult to His family but it wasn’t a great affirmation either.
Jesus is making a point. He redefines family. Jesus is saying that blood relationship cannot claim privilege in His kingdom family. This comment (along with verse 35) has implications. They are:
- No physical family connection is necessary to be in God’s family.
- No particular racial or cultural background is necessary.
- Being a part of the family of God is the ultimate family in which to belong.
- The family of God is a spiritual reality and not a physical one.
The family of God joins together zealots, tax collectors, thieves, murders, liars, cheats, legalists, self-righteous religionists, those dealing with adultery, addictions, same-sex attraction, and all kinds of other sinners just like you and me.
This is a profound teaching about union with Christ. Those who assume that they are close to Jesus should think again; those who assume that they are far from Him should take hope. These verses should make the comfortable uneasy and encourage the dejected.
When Mark wrote this (40 years after Jesus’ death), Jesus’ brother James had assumed the leadership of the church in Jerusalem and His mother had attained a very honored stature. If Mark is willing to put the “holy family” to the test, no one can presume to be “in” with Jesus apart from faith, commitment, and obedience.
This should challenge everyone who grows up with the trappings of Christianity: baptism, Christian homes, church attendance, charitable giving, a moral lifestyle, or a Godly heritage. These great things do not make you an insider or family with Jesus.
Finding Jesus interesting and helpful does not make you a part of the family of God.
In verse 34, the room is overflowing with those who were attracted to Jesus. They loved His miracles and exorcisms. They loved the show and what He could do for them. Mark never puts “the crowd” in a favorable light in his gospel. He makes it clear that crowds do not follow or stay for the long haul.
Jesus looks around the room at those who sat around Him. Most likely this included the twelve (Judas too), scribes, Pharisees, Herodians, those healed of demon possession and disease, and others who were simply curious.
Today people embrace Christianity and Jesus for different reasons and agendas. Some reasons are good and others are bad. Some want Jesus; others want what He can do for them. Some follow for who He is; others follow for what they make Him out to be. Many want a God that can fit into their world, wants, plans, priorities and preconceived notions. Some use Him to validate their political agendas and ideals. Some love the moral life and want to call others to their same ideology.
To be clear, Via Church is not proclaiming an ideology – we are proclaiming Jesus. We are not calling people to an ideology – we are calling people to Jesus through repentance and obedience. “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-30).
If you are a part of the family of God, you will do the will of God.
In verse 35, Jesus makes a clear and simple blanket statement concerning who is a part of the family of God: “whoever does the will of God”. Luke 8:21 records Jesus’ response this way, “those who hear the word of God and do it.” Obedience is a sign of a relationship with God. Once repentance brings us into faith, our new relationship in the family of God is far superior, far stronger, far more satisfying, far more demanding, and far more dear than even the sweetest of human family relationship. It is an eternal relationship that is marked by unshakable grace, and those who receive such grace are marked by humble obedience.
The “will of God” is critically important throughout the New Testament:
Acts 13:22, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 6:6, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Peter 4:2, 1 John 2:17. True disciples are with Jesus and do the will of God. Anyone can be an insider who sits at Jesus’ feet and does the will of His Father, and no one can be an insider who does not. Those who believe in Jesus and do God’s will have a relationship with Him that is closer than the blood relationships between parents, children, and siblings. We are bound to Jesus by mighty mystical cords that cannot be broken.
If you feel shut out, alone, in need of community, Jesus’ words are good news. Jesus knits His followers into a family that transcends human family boundaries!
There is room for you in the family of God!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 31-35
How is Jesus’ response to His family good news for Gentiles? For sinners?
How is finding Jesus “interesting” or “fascinating” insufficient for inclusion in the family of God?
How does Jesus’ statement about doing the will of God fit together with the fact that one comes into right relationship with God only through faith?
How does Jesus’ statement about His spiritual family being those who do the will of God function as motivation for world missions?