31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Mark 3:31-35 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, Jesus dealt with the Sanhedrin delegation’s hardness of heart and refusal to see what God was doing directly in front of them. In today’s text, we see the rest of the story begun in verse 21 – Jesus’ family arrives on the scene from Nazareth.
Going back to verse 21 for a moment, we remember that Jesus’ family was worried about Jesus, and thought He had lost touch with reality. He was not eating, probably not sleeping, and was defiant and in trouble with the religious authorities. Besides being an embarrassment to the family, Jesus was on a collision course with serious trouble.
When Jesus’ family arrived, the house was still packed with people there to hear Him and be healed by Him. Jesus’ family were not able to get near Him because of the crowds. Jesus’ family likely caused a commotion, calling out Jesus’ name. When they could not get Jesus’ attention, His family members sent word via the crowd that they were waiting for Him outside the house (v. 31). The message from Jesus’ family traveled through the crowd, and those sitting at Jesus’ feet likely interrupted Jesus and let Him know His family was waiting outside (v. 32).
Let’s stop and consider what the cultural norm would be at this point. Jesus’ family (specifically, His mother and brothers) had just walked eight hours from Nazareth to Capernaum. They were likely tired, hungry, thirsty, and dusty from the trek. The normal Jewish response would be to honor the guests – invite them in, give them a place to sit down and rest, have someone wash their feet to refresh them, and give them something to eat and drink. In a nutshell, the cultural norm would be to show them hospitality.
So what does Jesus do? In true rabbinic fashion, Jesus uses the opportunity as a teachable moment and asks a question: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (v. 33). Jesus was not having a psychotic break; He knew exactly who the people were outside the house.
Jesus then answers His own question. Mark records that Jesus looked around the room, most likely at His disciples and others seated in front of Him, as He pointed to them and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” (v. 34). Jesus is re-defining His “family”.
Jesus goes on to explain His statement: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus’ family was no longer His family of origin, but those who humbled themselves before God and obeyed the Lord.
While Mark does not record the reaction of the crowd in the house or Jesus’ family of origin still standing outside, this likely sent a shock wave throughout everyone. God’s Law (the fifth commandment) said that children were to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). The only reason that God’s Law allowed for not honoring parents were cases where the parents or family members were not obedient to God, and to honor the parents would be to dishonor God (Exodus 32:25-29, Deuteronomy 33:8-9). John records another incident where Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:3-10). This incident in Capernaum was not the only time that Jesus’ family didn’t understand His ministry and calling.
Was Jesus disobedient to God’s Law? Was His rejection of His family of origin’s attempted intervention and His lack of hospitality toward them sin? No. In fact, Mark does not tell us how this story ends. We cannot read too much into this story’s ending either way. In fact, later on, Jesus quotes the fifth commandment to honor parents (Mark 7:10), citing both Exodus 20:12 and Exodus 21:17.
What looks on the surface to be Jesus’ rejection of His family of origin is actually Jesus’ invitation for them to join God’s eternal family, the family that Jesus is forming. And what is the entrance criteria? Obedience to God’s will. And what is God’s will that Jesus was preaching? Repentance and faith.
Notice Jesus’ inclusive statement in verse 35. Not only did Jesus include HIs mother and brothers, but He also specifically called out his sisters as well. In a time where women were treated more like property than equals before God, Jesus once again sent shock waves throughout the crowd by His acknowledgment and full inclusion of women in His offer.
As we wrap up this section, we see two groups of people that should have fully embraced Jesus, His teachings and His miracles both reject Him outright. The Sanhedrin delegation accused Jesus of being demon-possessed, and Jesus’ family of origin thinks that Jesus has lost his mind and needs rescuing. Neither of the two groups’ assumptions are true.
And yet, Jesus graciously offers the way of true life to all, to be part of God’s larger eternal family that transcends genetics and gender, time and space.
And His offer of eternity to those in the Capernaum house so long ago is still His offer to us today.
If you have not accepted Jesus’ offer to be part of His family, what is stopping you?