Family Matters

Mark 3:35 – “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.”

Jesus faced opposition from both likely and unlikely sources.  The religious elites, such as the scribes and Pharisees, were constantly troubling him and criticizing his work.  Mark’s Gospel explains that opposition also came from his family (3:20-21, 31-35).  The story is structured like a “sandwich” – Jesus’ issues with his friends and family surround the account of accusations against Jesus (22-30). Mark used this method of storytelling to point out that opposition to Jesus is a serious matter.  Both stories contrast the difference between those who embraced Jesus’ teachings and those who rejected them.

Jesus’ family and kinsmen (the word “friends” used as an expression for relatives) sought to prevent Jesus from continuing his ministry to needy people (3:20-21).  Jesus entered a packed house where a large crowd demanded his attention.  He and his disciples had taken no time to eat or to care for themselves.  So dedicated was Jesus that to some he looked like a crazed religious fanatic.  “He is out of his mind,” they said.  Jesus had not ceased his ministry efforts from place to place, and his family had come to “lay hold on him” and arrest his activity.  They could not make it through the crowd, so they sent someone to inform Jesus that they had arrived (3:31-32).  Jesus refused, but not because he renounced his family relationships. Natural family ties were important, but real kinship is a spiritual kinship that prizes the will of the Father (33-35).

Families divide over the matter of Jesus.  Some families are embarrassed by the lifestyle and worldview of dedicated Christians within their family. Some parents wish their children were not so dedicated to Jesus so they would not burden their schedule with visits to church.  There are families with children, some who are in ministry and some who are in misery depending on their lifestyle choices.  There are some families with awkward gatherings because the fools and the wise are at odds with one another.  Those who do not understand the Christian lifestyle and biblical worldview will see Jesus’ followers as people who are religious fanatics.  Their opposition, though seemingly more mild in comparison to that of the scribes and Pharisees (3:22-30) is no less dangerous or inconsequential.  In their own way and for their own reasons, anyone who opposes Christ is in danger of the ultimate sin that leads to their eternal destruction (3:28-29).

The will of God is to believe in Jesus Christ and enjoy a peaceful relationship with God through him.  Those who have been forgiven of sin and reunited with the Father will obtain a cherished relationship that changes their priorities.  Their relationship with Jesus does not disintegrate their family relationships, but it will distinguish which relationships are focused on fulfilling God’s will and which ones are not.  The tension should not be placed on the ones who value their relationship with God; the problem is with those outside of the crowd of Jesus’ followers who need to find their place at Jesus’ table.  Jesus wants the “outsiders” to become “insiders.”  His statements were an indictment against those who were not spiritual members of his family. In essence, he beckoned, “Come join me in here!  Join with all those who love God!  Sit down with those who love the Father’s will!  Then we will all enjoy sweet fellowship together as a true family.”

A few considerations:

First, Jesus still wants the outsiders to become insiders.  Show them that following Christ is the greatest relationship because the Father’s will is to bring peace to all families (Genesis 12:1-2, Romans 5:1).

Secondly, natural ties to family members who do not follow Jesus will never be as strong as relationships with those who do.  That realization can be quite painful.  Jesus told Peter that anyone who has experienced the severance of relationships for Jesus’ sake would receive a hundredfold of family members in this world and in the world to come (Mark 10:28-30).

Thirdly, stay faithful to Jesus.  You never know what God will do as you adhere to a Christian lifestyle.  Spoiler Alert: Many people in Jesus’ family eventually believed in him, though it took the resurrection and ascension to convince them (Acts 1:13-14, see Matthew 13:55).  One became the pastor of the church in Jerusalem and another wrote an epistle (James and Jude, respectfully).  Love God and love others…and be patient. If you sow patience you will reap endurance (Hebrews 12:1-2, Isaiah 40:31, Romans 5:3-5). Endure opposition with the gracious invitation for others to join you.  Your life can become the guide that leads people to Jesus.


Daily Reading: Mark 3:20-35
Bible Reading Challenge: 10 Days on Discipleship

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