Who Are My Mother And My Brother
By Elson Robinson
Key Verse: 3:35
“Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
In last week’s passage, the religious leaders were seriously faulty in their teachings and conduct. These men had great knowledge of the law. However, while they had great knowledge, they lacked the understanding needed to go with it. While they understood the letter of the law, they missed the heart of the law. They used the Sabbath— a gift from God for man’s benefit— as a tool to condemn others. They were called to love, to serve and to guide the people in the ways of God. But they abused their office. They used a man with a shriveled hand cruelly to entrap Jesus on the Sabbath. It’s no wonder Jesus passed the torch of faith from these men to his disciples. These Apostles, under Jesus’ tutelage would be the shepherds for God’s suffering sheep.
Let’s now turn our attention to today’s passage.
God’s family is made up of countless men and women. His love for us is immense and abounding. But even so, we are not here to do whatever we please with our lives. We have a purpose. God has a plan for us. He has given us work to do. During his time on earth, Jesus had many things to do as part of fulfilling his purpose. As part of his purpose, Jesus had the work of the gospel to do. He taught the Gospel and lived by it. Today, we will see examples of how Jesus did this.
Jesus had a very prosperous ministry on earth, but it was not without its challenges. Some challenges came from obvious sources and some from unexpected sources as people reacted differently to the gospel. Some people welcomed it with open arms, whilst others’ reaction was outright hostile. One such group was the religious group. You would expect such men to welcome Jesus as well as the work he was doing. But it was clearly not the case. They proved themselves enemies of the gospel work time and time again. They worked against the very God they professed to love and serve. There was another group of people who also reacted in a negative way to Jesus’ work. That was his own human family! But their reasons were different than those of the Pharisees. Jesus’ own family didn’t have a problem with Jesus, like the Pharisees did. In fact, it was just the opposite. Nonetheless, they would have impeded the gospel work. Their actions came out of a misunderstanding of spiritual work. Today, we will look at the gospel work— what the Gospel work entails. We will also look at the resistance Jesus faced to the Gospel work he was doing. And finally we will look at how Jesus dealt with all this opposition.
Let us read verses 20-21: “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” Jesus was ever busy in his ministry. In Mark’s account of this passage, Jesus is in a house. After working hard all day, he is trying to get something simple as a meal. But he is unable to because of the crowds. In the days before his ministry started, Jesus probably had a greater deal of time to himself. No doubt he was ever compassionate, but he didn’t have to contend with such crowds. Now, however, these people flocked to him like sheep without a shepherd. Their spiritual leaders didn’t treat them in the way their vocation demanded. Those leaders were not real spiritual shepherds at all. They failed to properly address the people’s needs and take care of them. But now things had changed! Jesus was on the scene! And Jesus was behaving the way a true shepherd should. Jesus is the good Shepherd. Of course, people would flock to him.
But here’s the question! How would Jesus deal with the inconvenience of crowds upon crowds flocking to him? What’s more, he was not the only one who had to contend with this large crowd. His disciples were there with him in the thick of things. Amazingly, Jesus didn’t send these people away. Instead, he and his disciples went without food for the sake of the crowd. He didn’t even send the crowds away so that his disciples could rest. The spiritual leaders of the time were found to be unworthy of their office. They were selfish men who exploited their position for their own gain. Their ways and teachings had become corrupted and led the people down the wrong path. Therefore, Jesus was now raising a new generation of shepherds for the people— A group that would truly love his flock. He did not want to raise a bunch of hired hands, who would tend the sheep from 9-5, or according to their own convenience. Jesus didn’t say to himself “let me send these crowds away so that my disciples could enjoy their meal, otherwise they might get turned off by the crowd!” Instead, Jesus showed his disciples firsthand what the gospel work would entail. It was a sacrifice! It was a commitment! It was love in action!
Jesus literally immersed his disciple into the work of God. They got to see and experience from Jesus’ example that God’s work required self-sacrifice. It was an experience and lesson they deeply needed. Some people today have a misconception that the Christian life is all peachy-keen— as if it’s all a bed of roses. They think they just accept Jesus and it’s all glorious from there. But, the reality is different. Eventually a time will come when they will be called to show Jesus’ love— to exercise sacrificial love as they serve God’s will. Many stumble at this point— complaining that “after all, what’s that person done for me”? But where would we be if Christ had said: “these people haven’t done anything for me so I would rather read a scroll today than give of my life for them”! We have to learn from Christ just as these disciples did when given such opportunities. We have to learn how to give with a sacrificial heart. Remember those who loved you when you were still a wondering sheep in need of love. Remember how powerful that act of love was in your life; and with a thankful heart, give others the benefit of experiencing that sacrificial love through you. Doing God’s work and showing Christ love is a labor of the heart well worth the sacrifice. A sacrificial heart is needed as we make that Journey to grow as Jesus’ disciples.
But this level of sacrifice was not common place. In fact, some people thought it was outrageous! Some thought that Jesus’ sacrifices were just simply too much! Read verse 21: “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.” Did Jesus family know that Jesus had God’s calling in his life? Of course! We remember Mary who was told by an angel who Jesus is and what he would do! His family reckoned that Jesus’ life would entail some degree of sacrifice. But when reports got back to them about the extent of his work, they were stunned and bothered at his seemingly hectic lifestyle. They saw that the Gospel work was so demanding that Jesus had to go without lunch while serving a big crowd. They may have pondered: “What was going to happen to Jesus if he continued the way he was going. What was he thinking! He suffers yet he continues!” They probably thought he was being taken advantage of. He must be out of his mind! All that’s left now is to go and take charge of him. The family needed to stage an intervention!
But that was not the end of those who thought something was terribly wrong with Jesus’ Gospel work. Read verse 22: “And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’” While Jesus’ family sought to help Jesus, the religious leaders sought to destroy him. Why? Before Jesus came on the scene, the people looked to the religious leaders for guidance first and foremost. Their position among the people put them in the spotlight, and they loved the benefits and prestige that such positions granted them. Now with Jesus around, their fruits or lack thereof was apparent. The people flocked in droves away from them to Jesus. So, they tried to discredit Jesus. They insinuated that the good works Jesus was doing in casting demons out of people was the work of a man possessed by the devil. But they were lying to themselves, as well as lying to the people. (John 3:2)
How did Jesus respond to their slander? Let us look at Jesus’ response in verses 23-30. According to Jesus, the work he was doing was actually destructive to the kingdom of Satan. Jesus was tearing down Satan’s stronghold. He was crushing Satan and his work. Jesus was the one binding strong-man Satan. He was robbing Satan’s house of its possession which are the countless souls held captive. As Jesus preached the Gospel and blessed people, he was weakening Satan day by day, blow by blow, soul by soul. Especially now that Jesus was raising disciples to do the same Gospel work he is doing, Satan’s kingdom would be doomed! So how could Jesus be working for Satan, as these people were accusing! Jesus did not only explain how ridiculous this is, he followed it up with a stern warning. He wanted them to realize how serious it was to slander the life giving Gospel work. Jesus was clearly doing God’s work through the power of the Holy Spirit. But they were attributing his work to demons! It was not as if they did this in ignorance. They were deliberately calling the Holy Spirit’s work the work of Satan. They should have never let it get this far. They should have accepted Jesus’ work as God’s hand at work. Then they should have repented of their sins and put their faith in Jesus. They needed a change of heart that comes only from humbling one’s self before God and coming to Jesus in faith. Otherwise, they would be sinning against the Holy Spirit.
Once again, the author Mark turns our attention back to Jesus’ family. Look at verses 31 to 32. The intervention crew had finally arrived. Jesus’ family didn’t have any malicious intension toward Jesus and the gospel work. They were neither hostile nor malicious like the religious leaders. They knew that Jesus came from God. But they didn’t fully understand the nature of the Gospel work he came to do. Out of their concern for Jesus, they sought to rescue him from the hard shepherd’s life. Their intentions were good, motivated by love. But their perspective of God’s work was wrong. Had they succeeded in rescuing Jesus from his routine shepherd’s life, they would have hindered God’s work.
This is a very good lesson for them and us to learn! The life of sacrifice as we live a shepherd’s life is not a burden but a necessity. If Jesus’ own human family could not accept this level of Jesus’ sacrifice now, how could they appreciate and accept Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice later! How would they accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the world? His family totally missed Jesus’ purpose and the nature of the Gospel work. Their view of the Gospel work at this point was still immature and lacking. So Jesus helped them very personally to understand his level of sacrifice as a shepherd.
In verse 32, Jesus was alerted to his family’s presence. For a family member, one is likely to go the extra mile. We would be more willing to give of our time, resources and selves for a family member’s sake. Even on a basic level, we care for each other needs. There are general benefits to be found in being a part of a family. For example, access to a family member is usually guaranteed. It may have been expected that Jesus would set aside whatever he was doing and go out to his family. But Jesus did not do this. Instead, he used this opportunity to teach everyone there an important lesson. What did he ask? “Who are my mother and my brother?” Look at verse 34 for a response. “Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’” Jesus was declaring that he was already with his family. He was declaring that he considered these people very much a part of his family. And as family, they mattered! They had every right to his attention and love. He was not saying this to insult or to snub his physical family. Rather he was helping everyone realize God’s own perspective on family. In the eyes of God, family is not limited by sharing the same blood.
Who then does Jesus consider his family? Read our key verse again, verse 35: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Those who do the will of God were his family. In other words, those who had come to him to listen to the word of God, that they might keep it in their hearts. It is those who loved the word of God enough to obey it. These, Jesus said were his family. This was a declaration we too must accept. Those who do God’s will are part of Jesus’ family. These words were welcome words to those who had come a long way just to sit at Jesus’ feet and be around Jesus. To be part of Jesus’ family, we must do his will.
Today’s passage centered on certain aspects of Jesus’ Gospel work. We saw Jesus leading by example and exhibiting an import quality of serving God. In following Jesus, we must let go of selfish ways and embrace the sacrificial life. As Jesus had once said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” We saw sources of opposition of doing Gospel work. We saw the dangers of rejecting the truth and its result. We also saw that it is important to do God’s will in order to be a part of Jesus’ family. May we all take these words to heart as we live out God’s purpose in our lives. Amen.